Frick and Frack
Frick and Frack were two Swiss skaters who came to the U.S. in 1937 and joined the original Ice Follies show as comedy ice skaters. "Frick" was Werner Groebli (April 21, 1915 – April 14, 2008), born in Basel. "Frack" was Hansruedi (Hans Rudolf) Mauch, (May 2, 1919 – June 4, 1979), also born in Basel. Frick and Frack were known for skating in Alpine Lederhosen and performing eccentric tricks on ice, including the "cantilever spread-eagle", created by Groebli, and Mauch's "rubber legs", twisting and bending his legs while skating in a spread eagle position. Only a few skaters have successfully performed the duo's routines since.
Michael Mauch, the son of Hans, once described the origin of their names: "Frick took his name from a small village in Switzerland; Frack is a Swiss-German word for a frock coat, which my father used to wear in the early days of their skating act. They put the words together as a typical Swiss joke."
Frick and Frack found fame with the Follies, a revue promoted by Eddie Shipstad and his brother Roy, which began in 1936 and ran for almost 50 years. They also reached a worldwide audience when they began appearing in films, including the Monogram Pictures production Lady, Let's Dance in 1944. Their association lasted so long, and they were at one time so well known, that their names became a household term in many languages.
Frick and Frack skated in the Ice Follies for many years until Hans Mauch (Frack) contracted osteomyelitis. He retired in 1953, and died on June 4, 1979 in Long Beach, California at the age of 60. He had been married to Mary M. Elchlepp of Minneapolis, one of the original Ice Folliettes.
Performing well into his late years, Werner Groebli continued on as "Mr. Frick" until an accident forced him to retire in 1980. He appeared as a contestant on TV's original Match Game on NBC in the 1960s. Groebli lived in the Palm Springs, California area for over 10 years until the death of his wife, the former Yvonne Baumgartner, in 2002. He was featured on a PBS TV special in 1999.
Groebli died on April 14, 2008 in Zurich at the age of 92. David Thomas, one of his skating partners after Mauch retired, announced his death from complications after breaking a leg at a nursing home outside of Zurich.
"Frick and Frack" has become an English slang term used in two ways. One is to refer to two people so closely associated as to be indistinguishable; the other way is as a term of derision for any two people, on par with calling one person a "Bozo" or three people "Stooges".