At the turn of the 20th century an exotic Chung Ling Soo was enchanting Western audiences with the mysteries of the East.
For behind the Orientalist facade lurked William Ellsworth Robinson ( 1861-1918), the Asian beauty by his side?, his wife Dottie.
In May of 1900, William E. Robinson took up the persona of Chung Ling Soo, so sincere was he in maintaining this charade that apparently he never spoke in English again. At least not until his last words, but we’ll get to that…
The decision to adopt the stage name Chung Ling Soo was quite deliberate.
So great was the fame of Ching Ling Foo, the REAL Chinaman ( I know it is terribly confusing), that Thomas Edison felt the need to expose his trickery.
Perhaps part of Robinson/Chung Ling’s plan was to “coat-tail” on Ching’s genuine fame. I don’t know, but a rivalry was set across Europe.
Both seemed to benefit from the competition, Chung Ling Soo engaging in flashier and flashier acts.
One such act was a macabre twist on the Boxer Rebellion.
Johannes Hermanus Barend Koekkoek
The final performance of this bizarre trick would be at London’s Wood Green Empire, March 23rd 1918.
This ended Chung Ling Soo’s vow to not betray his true identity; his last words in his mother tongue:
“Oh my God. Something happened. Lower the curtain.”
A true showman to the end!
Much of the myth around Chung Ling Soo is difficult to verify, I was unable to gather info concerning Dottie the “slant eyed maiden” ( I can’t believe they got away with saying that!) for example. But I did stumble upon this silly clip narrated by the wonderful Boris Karloff, it’s great fun.
I hope you have enjoyed this post, my dear friend Madame Pamita, Sideshow Entertainer Extraordinaire suggested i might find Chung Ling Soo of interest.
She was correct.
Thank you Madame Pamita.
Pirate Jenny… I mean Madame Pamita.
Thank you, enjoy the week.