Monday, August 11, 2008

Siamese Twins -Daisy And Violet

The Hilton Sisters were born in Brighton, England on 19 February 1908, joined at the base of the spine. They were rejected by their birth mother and were 'adopted' by Mrs. Mary Hilton and her husband, whom the girls were instructed to call "Auntie" and "Sir." Over the course of the next several years, the girls were taught to sing, dance, and play the clarinet, piano and saxophone, while Mrs. Hilton amassed a sizable fortune exhibiting the girls in Europe and the United States. When the twins were 8 years old, the Hiltons relocated to San Antonio, Texas (hence the inscription on the postcard). When Mrs. Hilton died, her daughter Edith and her husband 'inherited' the girls, became the new "Auntie" and "Sir", and allegedly worked the twins like virtual slaves while pocketing for themselves every penny the twins earned.

In 1931, the girls were named in a divorce suit — which was probably just a publicity stunt and an attempt to squeeze some money from the twins. It was through contact with the lawyer who defended them against this claim that Daisy and Violet learned of their legal rights and sued their managers for separation. They won the suit against Auntie and Sir, and received a compensation sum large enough that the girls could have lived comfortably for the rest of their lives. For a while they lived happily in a house designed for them by Frank Lloyd Wright, throwing lavish parties and generally enjoying the freedom that had been denied them for so long. Despite the difficulties in obtaining a marriage license in most states (as they were conjoined, most states interpreted marriage to either twin as an act of bigamy), both girls married and divorced in the 1940's.

The Hilton Sisters were among the highest paid sideshow performers in history, earning up to $5,000 per week during the height of the Great Depression. They appeared on stage with performers such as Bob Hope and Harry Houdini, and on film in Tod Browning's Freaks (1932), and in the excruciatingly terrible bio-pic Chained for Life (1950). Sadly, a string of lovers treated the twins just as badly, financially speaking, as had their former managers. Ill-equipped professionally or emotionally to manage their own affairs, the Hilton Sisters gained and lost several fortunes.

By 1962, with their appeal waning as quickly as their bank account, the Hilton Sisters were touring drive-in movie theaters to promote the re-release of Chained for Life . When they reached Charlotte, North Carolina, their manager abandoned them and the girls remained stranded there. They worked for several years in a local grocery store - one working the register while the other bagged, and later as produce weighers. Apparently, Daisy and Violet kept such a low profile that many customers didn't even realize the girls were conjoined!

Around Christmas of 1968, one of the twins contracted influenza and quickly infected her sister. When they failed to report for work or answer the telephone on 6 January 1969, the grocery store manger notified the police, who broke into their rented home and found the twins lying dead over the heating vent in the hallway. The Hilton Sisters are buried under a marker inscribed "Beloved Siamese Twins."

In 1997, a Broadway musical about the Hilton Sisters' lives called Sideshow debuted and quickly folded, despite initial warm reviews.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails