Koo-Koo the Bird Girl
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|Minnie Woolsey (Koo Koo, the Bird Girl)|
Rabun County, Georgia
|Other names||Minnie Ha Ha, Koo Koo the Bird Girl. Koo Koo, the Blind Girl from Mars|
|Known for||Freaks film|
Woolsey was born in 1880 in Rabun County, Georgia. Little is known about her early life, only that she was "rescued" from a mental asylum and was commonly billed as Minnie Ha Ha (a play on Minnehaha), in her sideshow entertainment career. She suffered from a rare congenital growth skeletal disorder called Virchow-Seckel syndrome, which caused her to have a very short stature, a small head, a narrow bird-like face with a beak-like nose, large eyes with an antimongoloid slant, a receding jaw, large ears and mild intellectual disability. In addition, Woolsey was bald, toothless, and either completely blind or very short-sighted. She would appear in a Native Indian American costume and speak gibberish. When and how she died is unknown, but accounts show that she was still alive and performing in 1960, working at Coney Island in sideshow/circus, in her 80s.
She appeared in the 1932 film Freaks, alongside a cast of other sideshow performers from the time, billed as Koo Koo, the Bird Girl. She was not the original Koo Koo however; the billing was previously used by another performer in the film, a "Stork" or "Bird" woman named Elizabeth Green. Woolsey is seen in many scenes dancing in a feathery costume. Woolsey was hit by a car in the 1960s. In 1964 she was presumed dead.
In popular culture
Australian performer Sarah Houlbolt, created a performance called Kookoo The Bird Girl. Speaking to Disability Arts Online, Houlbolt said, “My full length show, KooKoo the Birdgirl, is about Minnie Woolsley, a historical performer with disability, who starred in Freaks (1932). This is an art history piece, and a female perspective on the side show. My passion to uncover her story is as a result of the importance of telling our history from a disability perspective. Minnie lived in a time of compulsory sterilisation and anti-marriage laws for disabled women, which not many people know about.”
- "Koo Koo – The Bird Girl", thehumanmarvels.com, retrieved January 8, 2015.
- Hartzman, Marc (2005). American Sideshow: An Encyclopedia of History's Most Wondrous and Curiously Strange Performers. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin. p. 178. ISBN 1585424412.
- "Naymedici - Koo Koo The Bird Girl".
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