The entertainment industry is full of eccentric characters. But throughout history, a handful have set the quirkiness bar much higher. These unapologetically oddball characters are also among the people who were major influences in American culture. Say what you will, eccentric entertainers know how to hold people’s attention.
Fans of the weird, go to great lengths to delve into the strange brains of their favorite out-there entertainment idols. If you’re a collector of curiosities, there are historical documents for sale that once belonged to some of the most well-known and infamously quirk entertainers. Or you can buy a lock of their hair, teeth or even breath (seriously). Of course, there’s also tons of related merch that you can use for décor.
For all those geeks who want to design a mancave or office with a twist, take inspiration from these quirky entertainers:
The undisputed father of weird is Phineas Taylor (BT) Barnum. If the name sounds familiar that’s because he founded the Barnum & Bailey Circus. In the 1800s Barnum turned weird into a serious revenue stream by becoming the world’s leading purveyor of curiosities and spectacle.
Barnum’s specialty was freak shows. He traveled the globe looking for people who were unlike anyone else on the planet. Siamese twins, bearded ladies, mermaids – nothing was off limits when it came to putting on a show. Barnum even once arranged a public autopsy and charged 50 cents for admission.
The man died for magic. That shows real dedication to a weird craft. Harry Houdini became famous for his magical, death-defying (until it wasn’t) feats. But he also lived a very eccentric life for the times.
Houdini developed an interest in magic when he was a child, and even though it wasn’t a conventional profession he pursued it with vigor as a young man. A strange mindset must run in the family because Houdini’s brother was also a magician by trade. Houdini is now a pop culture phenomenon whose name is synonymous with magic and mystery.
Few people realize how wonderfully weird Walt Disney was. He really thought about things on a different level than other people. Which is somewhat obvious given the entertainment empire that he created.
Disney was known for being a bit of an introvert who loved to people watch from his apartment above the firehouse on Disneyland’s Main Street. He was also extremely particular about odd details right down to the number of steps that trash cans had to be from hot dog stands in his theme parks. There are even rumors that Disney had his body cryogenically preserved, but there’s still no evidence his body is in a deep freeze.
Pee Wee Herman (a.k.a. Francis )
Watching about 30 seconds of Pee Wee’s Playhouse will tell you Paul Reubens is far from conventional. His Pee Wee character, a man-child in a high water suit with a very identifiable laugh and penchant for dancing to the song Tequila, is one of the most quirky characters ever created. Ruebens himself was also known for his antics off the camera (who could forget the embarrassing indecent exposure arrest).
Ruebens was among the first to create live, real world environments that looked like a cartoon complete with talking furniture. It took a really imaginative, strange brain to come up with an entire world where just about anything was possible.
Given that Paul Rueben is such as quirky character, it’s no surprise the weirdest director alive made his feature film directorial debut with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. That’s right, we’re talking about the creepily cool Tim Burton. In that first film, you could tell Burton was thinking way outside the box.
Over the decades, Burton has continued to mesmerize viewers with films that feature eccentric sets in worlds that are far different than our own. Burton has credited his strange upbringing for his interest in everything weird. He’s described his childhood as “every day was a science fair”. His mother Jean was also known to be a quirk person who once owned a cat-themed gift shop.
Oddly enough, Burton was sacked in 1984 by Disney after he created the short film version of his movie Frankenweenie. Disney execs thought it was too dark and scary – guess they didn’t know Burton very well when they hired him. If Walt Disney himself were still alive things may have panned out a little differently. But things worked out for Burton since he got the opportunity to direct Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure the following year.
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