In Arts & Entertainment

Dean Jensen tells the tale of Daisy and Violet Hilton

Daisy and Violet Hilton are shown as two adorable little girls, black hats, brown curls, powder blue dresses with matching socks, black shoes and playing a pair of golden horns on the cover of Dean Jensen's newest historical biography. What's more interesting is that they are joined at the hip, literally.

Jensen currently runs his own contemporary art gallery -- the Dean Jensen Gallery, 759 N. Water St. -- and this is his third book dealing with historical figures.

"I spent about seven years on (this) book, three or four years doing the research (and) the rest of the time developing the manuscript," Jensen says.

This time around, he has recounted the tale of the Hiltons who were conjoined twins as well as actresses and dancers in "The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins."

He's also made sure to let people know this is a biography, complete with pictures of the sisters, and not a novel.

"A lot of people who have already read the book tell me the work reads like a novel," Jensen says. "I like that observation. I did, in fact, try to cast the story so it unfolds like a novel."

The story begins at the beginning of the Hiltons' lives together, a birth to an English family in the early 1900s. Their mother was disheartened by their birth, forcing her to let them be adopted by the midwife that had delivered them.

However, their new mother saw dollar signs because of their unique birth. The girls would soon travel the world with an act that involved dancing, singing and playing music, subsequently making them famous.

"Daisy and Violet were a sideshow (carnival) attraction only in their youngest years. They were major theater entertainers from the time they were 17," Jensen says. "Indeed, they were the highest paid entertainers in the mid-1920s, earning $4000 a week. They had headline billing over such major stars of the day as Eddie Cantor, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Bob Hope"

But their fame didn't stop them from wanting to be normal. They didn't stay in the limelight for long either. Their biggest, and probably best remembered, performance was an appearance in the movie "Freaks." Although, they were also known for their love lives with short relationships and marriages.

"There were at least two reasons why their fame had diminished by the '40s and '50s. First of all, they were no longer the beautiful young ingénues they were in the '20s when they made their theater debut," Jensen says. "Secondly, because of a change in social and cultural mores, it gradually became unseemly for the public to gawk at people with deformities."

The end of the story is an appropriate one: An explanation of the Hilton sisters' final years and deaths.

"The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton" is currently available in stores.


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