Long Tack Sam
Long Tack Sam
Lung Te Shan
September 16, 1884
|Died||August 7, 1961 (aged 76)|
|Other names||Sam Tack Long Tack Sam Long|
|Years active||? – 1958|
|Spouse(s)||Poldi Rössler Long|
Neesa (Nee-sa)and Francis (Frank)
Early life and career
Long Tack Sam, also known as Tack Sam Long and Sam Tack Long, was the stage name of performance artist Lung Te Shan. He was born in Wuqiao County, an area of Shandong Province in Northeast China that is internationally understood to be the birthplace of Chinese acrobatics. On most official documents during his life in America, he used Sam Tack Long as his legal name.
Little is known about Long's early years; what is known is that he joined a group acrobats around the turn of the century called the Tian-Kwai and went on world tour. Several years later with unrest in his homeland, Long brought his own troupe of entertainers to America, where he soon found success. His magnificently dressed troupe went on to play major cities across the globe in the first decades of the twentieth century. Although largely forgotten as a performer by contemporary audiences, he was considered one of the "greatest vaudeville acts of the early 20th century".
Long's career brought him to the opening act for the Marx Brothers and he even became a mentor to Orson Welles. In 1922, he became a member of Houdini's Magicians Club. Bennett Cerf once wrote of an incident of theater lore that occurred at the Palace Theatre in New York when entertainer Bert Fitzgibbon became enraged upon learning Long was billed above him in the night’s card, meaning that he was scheduled to follow the magician on stage. Later that night as Long was ending his show, Fitzgibbon walked on stage and handed him a bundle of dirty shirts and reportedly said, "I want these back by Saturday night and go easy on the starch!" Long responded with an uppercut, resulting in Fitzgibbon being carried off stage as the audience applauded and roared their approval. It is unclear whether or not Fitzgibbon was able to make his appointed curtain call.
In 1958, Long’s final performance was also staged in New York, at the Roxy Theater. He performed his famous water bowl trick, in which he did a somersault, at age 73, and ended standing with a goldfish bowl in his left hand.
Personal life and death
After decades of performing and traveling extensively around the world, Long and his wife Leopoldi (known as Poldi), a native of Ybbs, Austria, retired to New York City. Long was also a Freemason and achieved the notable step of 32nd degree within the fraternal order. He presumably maintained his associations with the order while residing in New York. Later, following a bad car accident, he and Poldi went to Linz, Austria, not far from her hometown. Long Tack Sam died there in 1961 at the age of 76. Poldi died in Vienna two years later.
The greatest source of historical information available of Long Tack Sam's life comes from a Canadian documentary The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. Written, directed, researched and animated by Long's great-granddaughter Ann Marie Fleming, the story is an in-depth research of the magician's life. Through six years of research, and the assistance of several magic historians, Fleming uncovered many missing holes in the historical narrative of her great-grandfather's life.
In September 2007, The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam: an Illustrated Memoir by Ann Marie Fleming was published by Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Publishing. The book expands on the information in the biographical film, and puts Long Tack Sam's life in a more historical context. In 2008, the book won The Doug Wright Award for best book. The book features artwork by Julian Lawrence.
- Wuqiao: Home of Chinese Acrobatics
- Vaudeville Old and New by Frank Cullen, Florence Hackman, Donald McNeilly - 2007 pg. 700
- Index to Petitions for Naturalization filed in New York City, 1792-1989 Record for Sam Tack Long (1954)
- Passenger Manifest SS President McKinley Sept. 6, 1932
- Reports of Deaths of American Citizens (Sam Tack Long) August 7, 1961
- Sessional indexes to the Annals of Congress: Register of Debates, Volume 2 By United States Historical Documents Institute< (1908)
- Winona Daily News (Minnesota) Friday, October 11, 1957, p. 6.
- Reports of Deaths of American Citizens (Poldi Long) September 6, 1963
- Asian and Asian American Magicians
- NFB collections page, Long Tack Sam
- "Ann Marie Fleming on the "Long Tack Sam" graphic novel". AsianAmericanFilm.com. Retrieved February 20, 2010.