Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

MASTER regurgitator

That's right, folks, Hadji Ali was more than just an amateur regurgitator: he was a consummate pro. The video above is from a 1927 Spanish-language Laurel and Hardy movie, Politiquerias; it highlights Ali's most famous vaudeville act, which was described in an ode to the dedication of vaudeville performers that was a part of Karen Abbott's Gypsy Rose Lee biography American Rose:

Consider how many times Chaz Chase, the ‘Eater of Strange Things,’ consumed lit matches in order to make the trick appear effortless, or the practice schedule of Hadji Ali, the master regurgitator, famous for swallowing a gallon of water followed by a pint of kerosene. After his assistant set up a small metal castle a few feet away, Hadji Ali spat kerosene in a six-foot stream and set the structure ablaze. He then opened his throat and, with the aim and velocity of a fire hose, purged the water and killed every flame.

I was seriously sad to come to the end of this book. If you like Gypsy, or even just strange people doing strange things, pick it up. Structural and stylistic deficiencies aside, it is fascinating, and there are plenty of little gems that will make your eyes bug out in disbelief. (Including an inference from Morton Minsky about Gypsy and her monkey Woolly Face that is, in the words of a friend, "seriously lurid.")