Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago
Who Are the Hilton Twins?
Who Are the Hilton Twins?
Who Are the Hilton Twins?
THE INFAMOUS HILTON TWINS
A Look at These Real-Life Side Show Superstars
Side Show, currently running on Porchlight’s mainstage, is based on the lives of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. It’s a fascinating look into this beautiful and talented duo who were among the most popular entertainers of their day. But what’s their story? Read on.
The twins were born in February of 1908. Their mother, Kate Skinner, was an unwed barmaid in Brighton, England. Twins ran in Kate’s family; however, when Kate saw that her daughters were conjoined, she was horrified. Begrudgingly, Kate named them Daisy and Violet and she refused to feed or interact with them. She sold the girls to Mary Hilton, a pub owner and midwife, shortly after their birth.
A word about their anatomy. The twins were born in an era where few conjoined twins survived to adulthood. Daisy and Violet grew to be 4’9″. They had completely separate organs and were bound together by a “ribbon of flesh” – that is, a small strip of skin that only loosened as they got older.
Mary Hilton’s pub was called “The Queen’s Arms.” This was where the girls spent their early years, viewed by the public for a price. Mary billed the girls as the “Brighton United Twins” and it is recorded that the twins’ earliest memories involved strangers poking at their “connection.”
As the girls grew up, Mary administered their careers, eventually meeting a balloon salesman named Myer Myers. Myers married Mary’s daughter, Edith, and proceeded to assist Mary in her management of the sisters’ careers.
Mary Hilton died in 1919, leaving Myers in control of the sisters. Myers kept a notoriously tight rein on the twins – they were not allowed to have boyfriends, interact with other side show performers, or have access to their own money. With the help of lawyer Martin J. Arnold, they eventually filed a lawsuit against Myers in 1931. They won, earning their freedom. However, as Daisy and Violet had been very sheltered, they didn’t necessarily know how to manage their finances or careers. The pair went through a series of managers, some of whom stole from them or deserted them.
After vaudeville lost popularity – in part due to the rise of motion pictures – the sisters unsuccessfully performed in burlesque. They had men (and, reportedly, women) in their lives from time to time, affairs, and short marriages. The most famous of these was that of Violet to dancer James Moore; their wedding ceremony was at the 1936 Texas Centennial, and attended by thousands. Both parties later dismissed the marriage as a publicity stunt.
When they could no longer perform, Violet and Daisy moved to the American South. First, they lived in Florida, working at a fruit stand. Their last years were financially difficult and spent their last years working in a supermarket in Charlotte, North Carolina. The two women died at 61 years old on January 4, 1969, of complications from the Hong Kong Flu.
DON’T MISS THEIR STORY COME TO LIFE ON THE STAGE!
Side Show is extended through October 25
playing at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont
BABES IN ARMS IS A FINE, FUN START
TO THE PORCHLIGHT REVISITS… SEASON
Some Tickets Still Available for Tonight’s Third and Final Performance!
Best known from a series of films starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, and featuring the popular songs “Where or When,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Johnny One-Note,” and “The Lady is a Tramp,” Babes in Arms is the story of a group of teenagers who set out to prove their mettle to the local lawman – by putting on a show, of course!
Get your tickets to Porchlight Revisits…
Babes in Arms now!
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