obsessed with alma

Circus performers have featured before at the Gimcrack but they’re an interesting subject so let’s look at another one,  Con Calleano

“The world’s greatest tightwire artist was born at Lismore, New South Wales, on 26 December 1899, the third of the ten children of an itinerant showman and boxer, Cornelius Sullivan and his wife, Vittorine, the grand-daughter of an Aboriginal. The family changed their name, and by 1918 ‘Colleano’s All-Star Circus’ was touring Queensland. Con mastered the feet-to-feet somersault on the tightwire – something previously considered impossible, because the performer cannot see his feet until after they land on the wire.

As well as starring in circuses here and overseas, Con was a stunt double for Charles Boyer in the film Flesh and Fantasy. His nephew, Bonar Colleano, followed in his uncle’s show business footsteps and became an actor performing in nearly 30 films before his sudden accidental death in 1958.

Several British stars of the silver screen have taken part in a fund-raising match for the family of American actor Bonar Colleano.

The 34 year old actor was killed in a car crash at Birkenhead, Liverpool, in August. He left a wife, actress Susan Shaw, and three-year-old son Mark.

Singer Alma Cogan kicked off the game, which also included actors like James Mason, Sid James, Stanley Baker and Alfie Bass.

Alma Cogan and friends found here

Alma Cogan was a pop star in the fifties and sixties who died from cancer at the age of 34. It’s been rumoured that she had an affair with John Lennon, that she was gay, that she had been raped when young, that she was a sexual enigma….. most of the rumours were refuted in a book written by her younger sister, Sandra Caron, who also had to contend with the attentions of a stalker.

“In the years that followed, Sandra became haunted by the obsessive behaviour of some of her sister’s more extreme fans. She was affronted when one of them, Stephen Woods, a former schoolteacher from Lancaster, who never met Alma, sent money to Bushey Cemetery to restore the star’s grave, without permission from the family.

In November 2001, when Sandra unveiled an official Heritage Foundation plaque to Alma outside their former home at Stafford Court, where they entertained The Beatles, Woods attempted to fund the cost of the memorial.

This offer, and a further one – to buy up 250 seats at the tribute luncheon that followed at Grosvenor House Hotel, at a cost of E12,500, provided he was allowed to control the event’s publicity and choose the person to unveil the plaque – was refused.

Woods, now employing the alias of Miles Furlong, took out another paid advert in The Stage. This one published Alma’s former ex-directory telephone number, the number of her passport, which he had in his possession, the registration number of her car, and the site and number of her grave.

Another Jewish Alma who attracted stalker-like attention was Alma Mahler. When her love affair with artist Oskar Kokoschka ended, he remained obsessed with her.

“He contacted dollmaker Hermine Moos to assemble a life-sized and anatomically-correct replica of his former lover, in order to fill the void in his heart. After several months of correspondence, during which he sent copious notes, paintings and sketches as to how the Alma-Puppe was to look, Moos delivered the finished Doll.

Despite Kokoschka’s initial excitement, apparently the replica left him sexually unsatisfied, so the Alma-Puppe was simply employed as a life-model, which garnered him some thirty pen-and-ink drawings.

Unfortunately, the Alma-Puppe met with a tragic fate, as one evening, at a party that Kokoschka held in his studio, he became quite drunk, and broke a bottle-of red wine over its head.

read more about Kokoschka’s specifications regarding the alma doll here


Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 7:50 am  Comments (32)  
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  1. ‘Gordon Burn takes Britain’s biggest selling vocalist of the 1950’s, and turns her story into an equation of murder and celebrity. It is a work of extraordinary daring … An amazing feat’ So says The Times’s blurb on the back of Burn’s work of fiction, ‘Alma’. I can’t remember much about it except that I enjoyed it – now I’ll have to read it again. I think your reference here is the only other time that I’ve heard of her. I do so love your blog, Nursie!

    • Apparently she was really popular, maybe daddyp remembers her? I’d like to read Burn’s book too, though I don’t think her sister liked it… sad that she died so young. And that stalker sounds really creepy.

      • Ærchie remembers her – – –

  2. Like you, I’ve always been enthralled by the talent of circus performers. Especially the tightwire artists and the new breed of Cirque du Soleil talent. It’s an amazing, breathtaking thing of beauty!

    • I like the quirky circuses too Scott. Like Circus Bizarre and Jim Rose’s

  3. I do remember Alma Cogan although her heyday was a bit early for me – she had quite a high profile. I vaguely remember the speculation about her sexuality which was boringly churned over in the media after she died ……

    • I knew I could rely on you 😉

  4. Never heard of her but very interesting indeed….

  5. I can’t even begin to imagine the thoughts that go through these obsessed stalker’s minds…

    (Not that I’d want to, mind you.)

    • Stalkers are the lowest of the low (and yes, my stalker, I’m talking to you)

      • Sorry – did you say something Nursey? – tee hee

  6. i’ve been out with some “…sexual enigma…” ‘s. Grace and Marjorie Enigma, from down the street. wonderful girls…

    • Apparently they speak very highly of you too

  7. “Con was a stunt double for Charles Boyer… apparently the replica left him sexually unsatisfied.”

    By taking these phrases out of context it is implied that Con didn’t know how to roll through an exaggerated French inflection. This is completely unfair, as doubling Boyer satisfactorily is not as easy as it sounds.

    Stan Dinn

  8. the name “Bonar” for a boy is almost enough to get me to reverse my neutering from a few years back…

    • and here’s me pronouncing it with the emphasis on the second syllable….

  9. So is this Oskar fellow credited with inventing the first Real Doll?

  10. What songs did she sing that were popular. Never heard of her.

    • If you click the link on her name, there’s a list of songs in the article. She was singing in the fifties bearman, I think that’s a little before your time?

  11. I am going to hire you to be by research assistant

  12. Oh my, thank you for that Alma Mahler site. I am something of an Alma fan but had not seen that.

    What a disturbing fellow Oskar was…

  13. Yes that is rather obsessive of Mr.Kokoschka and a bit scary to boot. I saw a documentary of men who have “life dolls” and treat them as if real. They pay thousands for them.

  14. Not only do I fear circus clowns, but dolls freak me out as well. This is the double whammy.

  15. Interesting post as always (though the link at the bottom appears to be dead?)

    We’ve had a few stalkers prowling about in the woods at times. Mellors has been ordered to shoot them on sight of course, but I distrust the fellow…

    You just can’t get good help these days.

    The King

    • I wonder what happened to the link…… I’ve put up a new one. You’ll probably like it King Willy, it’s got some interesting dolls on it

  16. ‘broke a bottle of red wine over its head’?

    I dread to think what would have happened to the real Alma if she’d stayed with him!

    That red wine doesn’t half leave you with a bad headache.

  17. I remember Alma Cogan….she was a jewel in her day! Slightly smokey voice but with clear diction and a ‘trill’; there was national mourning on her death.

    • thanks for your comment Affer. do you have a blog?

  18. I like OK’s paintings, interesting to hear about the doll.

    I always thought Alma C a very romantic sort of woman.

  19. Sarasota, FL is a big circus town, with Ringling Brothers getting its start here and Circus Sarasota drawing huge crowds every year. I’m not a huge fan of the tiger & elephant shows but hold the tight rope walkers, flame throwers, etc. in the highest regard. What a life that must be…so much concentration and dedication, not to mention some sauciness behind the scenes.

  20. this is way so spooky… ‘Way to the Stars’ was on TV here on Sunday morning (teen and I saw it come on and switched it off!) but my mum was talking about it that afternoon when I went to visit her. She said to me ‘there was an old film on this morning called ‘Way with the Stars’ and there was this actor Bonar Colleano in it .. he was such a handsome man quite heart throb of the time and he was over here doing some performance and died in a car crash on his way to Chester (which is on the way out of the Queensway tunnel out of Liverpool).. you know who I mean he was dark and slightly Jewish looking’ of course I had no idea who he was until now ….

    • Spooky indeed. I bet your mum remembers Alma Cogan too


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