Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The Jewish Giant
On Monday, I referenced this famous Diane Arbus photograph of Eddie Carmel, "The Jewish Giant." BB reader Christopher Washer pointed me to a terrific Sound Portraits profile of Carmel, who died in 1972. The documentary was produced by Jenny Carchman, who first say the Arbus photo as a little girl and couldn't get it out of her mind. From the description of the program, titled "The Jewish Giant":
The Jewish Giant began with Jenny's search to uncover a story that has remained a secret for 25 years. Eddie was normal sized until he became a teenager, when he began to grow uncontrollably (he suffered from acromegaly, a then-incurable condition resulting from a tumor that had developed on his pituitary gland). According to The Guiness Book of World Records, Eddie grew to be 8'9". As an adult, the only work he could find involved exploiting his freakishness. He starred in B-grade monster movies (The Brain that Wouldn't Die), made two 45 records ("The Happy Giant" and "The Good Monster") and was billed in the Ringling Brothers Circus at Madison Square Garden as "The Tallest Man on Earth." Eddie died in 1972 at the age of 36 in Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. His coffin was custom made.
The Jewish Giant is a story of suffering, of not fitting in, of the body betraying itself, and of the bizarre life-twists that can subsume a family. It's a story about what it's like to be a regular person looking at the world from inside a not-so-regular body.