Tiny Kline

Last updated

Tiny Kline (born Helén Deutsch, [1] June 21, 1891 - July 5, 1964) [2] was a Hungarian-born [3] circus performer. She performed with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey and as Tinker Bell at Disneyland. Kline's most well-known act was the "slide for life," a variation of traditional iron jaw performance in which she slid down a wire from tall buildings or other structures by her teeth.


Early life and career

In 1905, Kline immigrated to the United States with a dance troupe. [3] New York port records indicate that she was born in Magyar, Hungary and was 15 years old when she arrived. [4] She lived at the Clara de Hirsch home for immigrant girls. [5] She started as a burlesque dancer and performed in clubs and music halls. Kline made headlines in 1912 when a Pittsburgh Press article titled "Witnesses forget and dancer gets off with costs," detailed a misdemeanor charge against the performer following "an alleged ultra-risqué performance in a singing hall in Bloomfield" earlier that year. The article stated that Kline was arrested for dancing in "what the authorities declared [sic] was too scanty attire." The witnesses could not corroborate the charges and Kline was allowed to go after paying her court fees. [6]

Marriage to Otto Kline

In 1914, Kline moved on to perform in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as Tiny Duchée. [7] There, she met and later married rodeo trick rider Otto Kreinbrink (stage name Otto Kline). In April 1915 he fractured his skull during a performance at Madison Square Garden and died of injuries. [8] After her husband's death, she began to use the name Tiny Kline. In 1917, on the second anniversary of Otto's death, Kline performed in the Roman standing race at the same venue, stating "we circus people have to learn to hide our sorrows under many bright colors. Otto has been dead two years, but I haven't found anything in life to take his place. That is why I wanted to learn to ride. I thought it might take me back to where he is." [9]

Iron Jaw

Circus Queen and Tinker Bell: The Memoir of Tiny Kline, edited by professor Janet M. Davis, details Kline's beginnings with iron jaw after the performer "incurred the wrath of her sometimes friend Lillian Leitzel" who was angry when Kline performed on the rings in 1919. [1] Kline began years of training for iron jaw performance and eventually perfected her "slide for life" act, in which she would slide down a wire, typically from tall buildings or structure, by her teeth. [10] One of her most notable slides for life occurred in 1932 when Kline slid from the top of the Hotel Edison to the roof of the Prospect Theatre in New York City's famed Times Square, a distance of more than 200 yards at a height of 27 stories. [10] Footage of the entire slide is available, and includes Kline saying "At last, I found a safe way to cross Times Square. I'm saying hello to Broadway!" [11] Kline was arrested after the spectacle and charged with disorderly conduct. [12] The slide for life became Kline's signature act.

Later life and death

In 1961, Walt Disney began a search for a flying Tinker Bell to wow crowds at Disneyland. Kline was hired to glide down a wire connecting the Matterhorn to Sleeping Beauty's Castle. [3] She retired from playing Tinker Bell in 1964. Kline was scheduled to return as Tinker Bell that same year, but she died from stomach cancer before coming out of retirement. [13]

At the time of her death Kline left the bulk of her estate to the Clara de Hirsch Home for Working Girls. She is buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, Los Angeles, California. Her simple gravestone says "Tiny Helen Kline. Our Tinker Bell." [14]

Related Research Articles

<i>The Greatest Show on Earth</i> (film) 1952 film by Cecil B. DeMille

The Greatest Show on Earth is a 1952 American drama film produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, shot in Technicolor and released by Paramount Pictures. Set in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the film stars Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde as trapeze artists competing for the center ring and Charlton Heston as the circus manager. James Stewart also stars as a mysterious clown who never removes his makeup, and Dorothy Lamour and Gloria Grahame also play supporting roles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus</span> Traveling circus company

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is an American traveling circus company billed as The Greatest Show on Earth. It and its predecessor have run shows from 1871, with a hiatus from 2017 to 2023. They operate as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. The circus started in 1919 when the Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth, a circus created by P. T. Barnum and James Anthony Bailey, was merged with the Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows. The Ringling brothers had purchased Barnum & Bailey Ltd. following Bailey's death in 1906, but ran the circuses separately until they were merged in 1919.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Doll Family</span> Quartet of sibling entertainers

The Doll Family was an American quartet of sibling entertainers with dwarfism from Stolpen, Germany. They were popular performers in circuses and sideshows in the United States from the mid-1910s until their retirement in 1958. The family members—Gracie, Harry, Daisy and Tiny—also appeared briefly in films; they were best known as members of The Munchkins in the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daisy Earles</span> German actress

Hilda Emma Schneider, who went by the stage name Daisy Earles, was a German-born actress with dwarfism who migrated to the United States in the early 1920s. She worked in Hollywood films and later toured with circus companies. Daisy Earles was blonde, pretty, and tall compared to her other sisters, and had a very well proportioned figure, for which she earned the epithet of a "miniature Mae West". Her circus acts with her siblings were primarily as "parade performers".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Circus clown</span> Clown performing or appearing in a circus

Circus clowns are a sub-genre of clowns. They typically perform at circuses and are meant to amuse and entertain guests.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mabel Stark</span> American tiger trainer

Mabel Stark, whose real name was Mary Ann Haynie, was a renowned tiger trainer of the 1920s. She was referred to as one of the world's first women tiger trainers/tamers. In its belated obituary, The New York Times lauded Stark as "one of the most celebrated animal trainers in a field dominated by men."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lillian Leitzel</span> German entertainer (1892–1931)

Lillian Leitzel was a German-born acrobat who specialized in performing on the Roman rings, for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The inaugural (posthumous) inductee to the International Circus Hall of Fame, Leitzel died in hospital two days after a fall during a live performance.

The Flying Wallendas is a circus act and group of daredevil stunt performers who perform highwire acts without a safety net. They were first known as The Great Wallendas, but the current name was coined by the press in the 1940s and has stayed since.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lou Jacobs</span> German circus performer

Johann Ludwig Jacob, professionally known as Lou Jacobs, was a German-born American auguste clown who performed for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for more than 60 years. He was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1989. He is credited with popularizing the clown car, which has been a staple of circus clown acts ever since. He is also often cited as the originator of the red rubber ball nose, which is used by many clowns today. He was the first living person to have his portrait appear on an American postage stamp.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Otto Griebling</span> German-born circus clown

Otto Griebling was a German-born circus clown who performed for many years with the Cole Brothers and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circuses. He was one of four clowns given the title Master Clown by Irvin Feld.

Elvin Bale is a former artist and daredevil with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, among many other international circuses. He performed a single trapeze act which finished with a heel catch. Among his other acts were the "wheel of death", "human space shuttle", "mechanical monster", "motorcycle on the high wire" and human cannonball. His career as a performer ended on January 8, 1987, when, performing the human cannonball, he over-shot his landing cushion, breaking his legs and back and paralyzing him from the waist down.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ringling brothers</span> Founders of the Ringling Brothers Circus

The Ringling brothers were five American siblings who transformed their small touring company of performers into one of the largest circuses in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Four brothers were born in McGregor, Iowa: Alfred T., Charles, John and Henry William, and the family lived in McGregor for twelve years, from 1860 until 1872. The Ringling family then moved to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and finally settled in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 1875. They were of German and French descent, the children of harness maker Heinrich Friedrich August Ringling (1826–1898) of Hanover, and Marie Salome Juliar (1833–1907) of Ostheim, in Alsace. While there were seven Ringling brothers, Alfred, Charles, John, Al and Otto Ringling were the main brothers in charge of the circus shows. All of the brothers were Freemasons. In 1919, they merged their Ringling Brothers Circus with America's other leading circus troupe, Barnum and Bailey, ultimately creating the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which operated for 98 years, until 2017.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Al G. Barnes Circus</span> Early 20th century traveling show

Al G. Barnes Circus was an American circus run by Alpheus George Barnes Stonehouse that operated from 1898 to 1938.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bird Millman</span> American circus performer, Ziegfeld Girl

Bird Millman O’Day was one of the most celebrated high-wire performers of all time. During the “Golden Age of the American Circus,” she was a premiere attraction with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

The Iron Jaw is a traditional aerial circus act.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Apolonia Van Voorden</span> Dutch American foot juggler

Apolonia "Miss Loni" Van Voorden was a Dutch American foot juggler who began her career at the age of 10 in her father's family circus in the Netherlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mighty Haag Circus</span>

Mighty Haag Circus was started by American entrepreneur Ernest Haag in Shreveport, Louisiana. His circus toured continuously for over 40 years, from 1891 to 1938. During these years, the circus used a variety of types of transport: boat, carts, trains, horse-pulled wagons, and trucks. It was one of the largest traveling circuses in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rieffenach</span> Family of circus performers

The Rieffenach family were circus performers who specialized in a bareback riding act that performed in Europe and the United States during the first half of the 20th century. Family members, daughters Maria (Mitzi) Rieffenach and Rose (Rosie) Rieffenach, were inducted into the Circus Hall of Fame in 1970. The Rieffenach Family Equestrian Act originated from the marriage of the mother Maria Enders of the Hungarian Circus Enders, and Simon Rieffenach Sr. The family performed their horseback riding act with the Sarrasani Circus in Europe from 1905 and were with the German Circus Carl Hagenbeck in 1921. The Rieffenach Family Riding Act came to the United States in 1922 after being booked to perform for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The Rieffenach Family Act was with Ringling Brothers for sixteen years through 1937. In her memoir, Tiny Kline, the famous circus acrobat, stated: "The Rieffenachs' riding act had been the feature in the center ring of the Big Show since their arrival from Austria". In 1939 the Rieffenachs went on the Cole Bros. Circus, performing through 1942 after which time the act was disbanded. One son, James Rieffenach, continued riding with the Poodles Hanneford Act, while the other members of the act retired. James died of a heart attack in 1945 while still performing with the Cole Bros. Circus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ella Bradna</span> Bohemian-born equestrian circus performer

Ella Bradna was a Bohemian-born equestrian circus performer in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tinker Bell (Disney character)</span> Disney character

Tinker Bell is a fictional fairy based on the same name character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie, and one of the most popular characters adapted for film and television by The Walt Disney Company. She first appear in the 1953 Disney animated film, Peter Pan, and has since become a widely recognized unofficial mascot of Disney, next to the company's official mascot Mickey Mouse. She is generally known as "a symbol of 'the magic of Disney'".


  1. 1 2 Kline, Tiny. (2008). Circus Queen and Tinker Bell: The Memoir of Tiny Kline. Edited by Janet M. Davis. University of Illinois Press.
  2. Tiny H. Kline - Death Record
  3. 1 2 3 Tinker Bell bio on MousePlanet. Retrieved on 2009-10-14.
  4. "New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (Including Castle Garden and Ellis Island) (1857-1957)". National Archives. 1905.
  5. Zemeckis, Leslie (2013). Behind The Burly Q. Delaware: Skyhorse. ISBN   978-1-62087-691-6.
  6. "Witnesses Forget and Dancer Gets Off with Costs". The Pittsburgh Press. 5 September 1912.
  7. Ladley, Diane A. Haunted Naperville. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2009. 87.
  8. "Fall Kills Circus Rider". Rutland Daily Herald. 22 April 1915.
  9. "Husband's Death Made 'Tiny' Kline a Fearless Rider". New York Tribune. 22 April 1917.
  10. 1 2 Norris, Aíne (2021). "The Tenacious Women of Iron Jaw". Bandwagon: The Journal of the Circus Historical Society. 65 (3): 28–49.
  11. Original Footage, YouTube, .
  12. "Stunt to Get Job Brings Arrest". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 22 October 1932.
  13. Disneyland Tinkerbell Fought Pain, Death Alone
  14. "Find A Grave: Tiny Kline". Find a Grave .