Michigan Legends: The Inspiring Tale Of ‘Dolly Dimples’
Dolly was 'The Entertaining Fat Girl' from a circus sideshow. Until a health crisis turned her around.
Celesta Geyer was born Celesta Herrmann in Cincinnati, OH to a family that loved to eat. By the time she was 18, she weighed over 300 pounds. After getting married to Frank Geyer, she moved to Detroit, where she visited a traveling circus in 1927, at the age of 26.
When she stopped by the sideshow, she pointed out to her husband the she weighed much more than Fat Lady on the bill did. Over 50 pounds more. The Fat Lady with the circus agreed, and legend has it, she told Celesta that if people were going to laugh at her, they might as well pay for the privilege. The proprietor offered her a job on the spot.
Since her husband was out of work, she took the job and began impressing the sideshow crowds not only with her size, but with her ability to sing and dance, and impersonate notable national talents of the time like Kate Smith.
She was soon billed as "Dolly Dimples -- The Entertaining Fat Girl". Eventually she landed a job with the prestigious Barnum and Bailey Circus and was well known for her ability to entertain beyond just being fat.
But being obese has its downside. When she was 49, and now weighing 550 pounds, "Dolly" suffered a massive heart attack. The circus doctor was blunt. "Lose weight or die, " he told her.
"He gave me a list of meats, fruits and vegetables with their respective caloric values and suggested that I plan my meals to suit my needs," Mrs. Geyer wrote in her book, Diet Or Die: The Dolly Dimples Weight Reducing Plan, which is still available today. "As he talked to me, I told myself that I would stay within the limits of his prescribed 800-calorie limit, no matter what. With this determination I dedicated myself."
So she lost weight. Lots of weight. The 4 foot 11 Geyer dropped over 400 pounds and became known for something else: dieting.
She became one of the biggest dieting gurus of the 1950s, wrote books on the topic and did talks and TV shows on the topic.
Here's an old newsreel of Celesta promoting her new found skill of healthy eating.
Celesta Geyer lived to the ripe old age of 81, dying in Florida more than 20 years after her husband died.
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