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Skelton, Redlocked

(18 July 1913–17 September 1997)
  • Robert L. Gale

Extract

Skelton, Red (18 July 1913–17 September 1997), actor and comedian, was born Richard Bernard Skelton in Vincennes, Indiana, the son of Joseph Skelton and Ida Mae Skelton (maiden name not known). Although 1913 is commonly cited as the year of his birth, some sources say he was born in either 1906 or 1910. The father, a clown and roustabout in a traveling circus, died of drink before Skelton was born. The boy and his three bullying brothers were raised in poverty by their overworked charwoman mother. At age seven, Red, as he was called, was a paperboy and sang for extra pennies on the street. He also held other menial jobs. At twelve, while performing in a medicine show he accidentally fell off the stage and broke some bottles, delighted the crowd, and was promptly hired to go on summer tour in Indiana, Arkansas, Illinois, and Missouri. His routine featured pratfalls, but he also sang in blackface. At fourteen, he quit school to work on an Ohio and Missouri river showboat doing monologues and singing and joking in blackface, toured with an ...

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