He died this morning. I heard the news through my friends from the Sideshow Gathering. Here's the announcement from the World of Wonders Sideshow:
Ward Hall, THE KING OF THE SIDESHOW, was a larger than life showman. He lived a life so full of amazement and adventure that it has filled 3 published books, graced the stage of Carnegie Hall, and is immortalized in the Circus Ring of Fame. Ward Hall brought joy and wonderment to the lives of literally thousands upon thousands of people who saw his shows on circuses, carnivals, and theaters. His creativity and talent were limitless, and he will be forever remembered by all his friends and fans. World of Wonders is truly honored to carry on his legacy, so his show and his spirit can continue on the midways. We open today at the Cumberland County Fair in Fayetteville, NC with extremeley heavy hearts, but know that Ward would insist "the show must go on". We love you Ward Hall.
It’s a balmy summer evening. You’re at the fair, strolling down the midway...bright lights, brilliant colors, loud music. The aromas of deep-fried food...oh, so tempting! You hear the fast-talking men offering to show you gadgets you’ve seen on TV. You see rides that twist and turn you in every direction. Over here...giant signs...world’s smallest woman, five-legged cow, giant killer snakes, right here, right now, alive on the inside!
And then you see it...a big tent with a hundred-foot line of giant banners along the front. There’s a stage there, with a woman draped in a giant snake that covers more of her than her clothes. There’s a dwarf sitting on a milk crate, waving a couple of flaming torches, sticking one in his mouth. There’s a man, too. He looks so normal, so grandfatherly, he seems almost out of place, except for the sequined coat and top-hat. He’s talking on a microphone, and a crowd gathers, drawn by his voice. Nobody can walk by without stopping to listen.
The closer you get, the better you hear him. The better you hear him, the more you have to hear him. You MUST listen! He describes the wonders inside the tent as depicted on the banners,…mummies, sword-swallowers, pain-proof women, midgets and human immensities! They’re all inside! You have to buy a ticket! You have to see for yourself! Your friends and neighbors are already there, and now’s the time to go!
“It’s the Sideshow! It’s the Museum of Oddities! Strange, Odd, Unusual Acts and Attractions from all over the world, gathered together for your education and entertainment, right here, right now!”
Thank you, Ward, for so many dreams.
A bit of everyday magic has gone out of this world.
|Ward Hall, from the World of Wonders announcement post|
UPDATE, September 4, 2018: Here is the official press release regarding Ward Hall's passing.
MASTER SHOWMAN WARD HALL PASSES
Legendary showman, Ward Hall, passed away on September 29th, after a prolonged illness at the age of 88.
Born in Trenton, Nebraska on June 21st, 1930, Hall moved to Denver as a young teenager where discovered The Billboard magazine, and was immediately hooked, faithfully reading every week's addition.
In 1946, he joined Daily Bros. Railroad Circus, where he started his show business education. Staying on the circus for three years, he performed in the sideshow, juggled, did wire walking, worked a lion act, and most importantly, learned to pitch and make a bally, which is what he would become most well known for.
In 1950, he bought his fist carnival sideshow with his partner Harry Leonard from Freer's United Shows. Hall's circus sideshow toured with many major carnivals; Cavalcade of Amusements, William T. Collins Shows, Rod Link's World of Pleasure Shows, and many more covering the Midwest through the early 60's. Hall and his partner then framed a show called the Pygmy Village.
In his career Hall was connected with over 15 circuses such as Circus Vargas, Kelly Miller Circus, Toby Tyler Circus, and many more.
For 7 years he was partnered with Nate Eagles, producing the sideshow for the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden.
Hall moved to Gibsonton in 1966, and partnered with C.M. Christ to form a new company to produce a state fair sideshow for Gooding's Million Dollar Midway, where they stayed for several years. The company continually grew to the point in the late 70's where they had 4 state fair sideshows and 8 grind shows with 70 employees. These shows played all the major fairs; the Ohio State Fair, the Minnesota State Fair, the Wisconsin State Fair, and just about all the major fairs east of the Mississippi.
Hall also produced a special show for R.B.B.B Circus for special engagements, and for 2 years at Circus World in Florida.
Hall wrote 3 books, and wrote and produced 3 stage musicals. He produced a 2,500 seat tented theater show called WONDERCADE, appeared in 4 movies, and was featured on many T.V. shows and documentaries.
Ward was President of the I.I.S.A. in 1974 and 75 due to the unexpected passing of his predecessor. His President's Banquet and Ball was the most elaborate and exiting of all time, and is still talked about today.
He spent 14 years on the board of directors of the O.A.B.A and was board member emeritus of the I.I.S.A.
Ward Hall was inducted into The Circus Ring Of Fame, the I.I.S.A. Hall Of Fame, and the O.A.B.A. Hall Of Fame.
In 1981, Hall produced 12 shows for the Ohio State Fair when they made it a pay one price at the gate, and that year it jumped to being the number 1 attended fair in the nation. Also at this time, Hall operated 2 permanent wax museums on the sea shore resorts in New Jersey.
Hall was a prolific story teller, but one true story he never told anyone, as he felt they would not believe it, was that on April 22, 1994 he appeared in, MC'ed, and sang in a one night show at Carnegie Hall called "Circus Blues." He also made an appearance at Lincoln Center, and 4 trips to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington to produce shows for their spring celebration.
He was a member of the C.H.S., C.F.A., O.A.B.A., S.L.A., and I.I.S.A.
In semi-retirement the last few years, his show company was sold to Thomas Breen, who keeps the tradition alive today.
Ward Hall lived a full and happy life, and passed away peacefully in his sleep.
He is survived by his partner of 53 years, C.M. Christ.
There will be a Celebration of Life at the Showmen's Club in Gibsonton, FL in the middle of November, 2018.
In lieu of flowers, you can make a donation in his name to The IISA Museum of the American Carnival.