Leona Dare (1855-1922), one of Encyclopedia of the Exquisite‘s brightest stars, is someone you should know. She was a circus queen in the late 19th century, thrilling audiences across Europe and around the world by going up in a hot-air balloon, then dangling below it from a trapeze and performing acrobatic tricks. How great is that?
Her love life was tempestuous—and litigious. Her costumes were beyond. And her jaw was iron-strong. Below the hot air balloon she clung to life by clamping her teeth around a special apparatus and hanging there. Occasionally, she held the equipment in her teeth while someone else held on for dear life. That is, until one very unfortunate day when Leona’s strength gave way and her performance partner, Monsieur George, plummeted to his death. Gasp. Apparently, that was part of the twisted thrill of watching old time acrobatics.
Here, an excerpt from Dare’s New York Times obituary, May 25, 1922:
“Leona Dare, Acrobat, Dead: Noted for Daring Exploits on Trapeze Hanging from Balloon
SPOKANE, WASH., MAY 24—Mrs. Leona Dare, who risked her life many times in making balloon ascensions in various parts of the world, is dead here at the age of 67, after an illness of four months.
Mrs. Dare entered her dangerous profession as a girl. She possessed a scrapbook containing clippings in many languages, telling of her expolits. She once drifted over London, England, hanging by her teeth from a pendant on the trapeze, it is said…”