For forty years this book begged to be
written but Roland Butler, a modest individual, consistently refused
to allow it. Several offered, but the crusty old fellow insisted he
was "Nothing but a good circus press agent tryin' to do a job".
He claimed there was nothing
newsworthy about him and stubbornly refused interviews, but his
peers put him atop his profession, where he belonged.
Butler gave us the saucer-lipped
Ubangis, the giraffe-necked women from Burma, the man who performed
atop a ten-storey buggywhip, the man who walked on his forefinger, a
child prodigy at the xylophone, and a group that "shakes dice with
death at dizzy heights."
He promoted Goliath, the sea
elephant; Lotus, the blood-sweating hippopotamus; Modic, the great
old elephant, and five babies billed as "The only family of African
pygmy elephants that ever set foot on this continent. Not babies,
but full-grown middle-sized tuskers, the most curious proboscidean
creatures ever captured." Later they grew up.
Butler's greatest achievement in
promotion was converting a household pet raised in Brooklyn and
fondly known as 'Buddy' into "Gargantua the Great, mightiest monster
ever captured by man; most fiendishly ferocious brute that breathes
- the world's most terrifying living creature".
This is Gene Plowden's fifth book
about the circus. He and Butler were close friends for 27 years.