“If I didn’t have the sense of humor, I really don’t know how I’d get along. I laid off four weeks in Chicago and my muscles are so sore now that every move I make is torture. When I get up into the air, I think of all kinds of funny things, then I can laugh and forget all about my pains, and my act goes better. See what a wonderful thing a sense of humor is?” (1)
“Fear? When I am up so high? I am afraid, sometimes. But I tell myself I am not afraid. And then I swing. And I swing my fear away.” (2)
“I like the cheers and applause and simply live for it. When we are at the hotel I long to get back to the trapeze and commence all over again. You know it is practice makes perfect in my profession more than any other, and I hate to waste time at other things.” (3)
“I’d rather be a race horse and last a minute than be a plow horse and last forever.” (4)
When asked why people attended the circus, Leitzel answered, “They think they come to see us. But people really congregate to see each other.” (5)
“I like best to sit off in some quiet corner and watch the crowds go by. I love to study them as they pass and pick out characters and weave stories in my imagination about who they are and where they came from and what they do for a living. One of the jokes of life, I think, is that nearly all large gatherings are made up of people who simply come to see other people.
“You don’t have to go any farther than Broadway or Fifth Avenue to see them strolling aimlessly up and down. Poof! And just think – people call that life and flatter themselves that they are getting the most out of it.” (6)
When asked what she would like to do more than anything else, Leitzel answered, “Teach Piano, I often say I’m going to quit the circus and take up music.” (7)
“When I’m through performing, I forget about the circus. I love to dance and I think there’s hardly a cabaret or ballroom in town upon which my feet haven’t tripped. I studied ballet work in Petrograd, and I use it in my work on the rope. At home and on my traveling train I have radio, to which I dance.
“A performer who amuses others usually has a hard time to amuse herself. But I manage. I’m breeding dogs. I spend hours at my piano and I tear all over the surrounding country in my car. Also I nurse movie ambitions. All in all I manage to have a wonderful time while I keep in trim.” (8)
“Beauty to my mind is personality. We have all met the woman who, with false teeth and just enough of the crowning glory to keep her scalp warm, charms all with whom she comes in contact. We have met, too, the woman with that schoolgirl complexion who has perfect features and a smile that proves she is not one of the ‘four out of five’ featured in dental ads but who is altogether lacking in charm.” (9)
“I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a pair of rings or a trapeze in my room. I must have been only three years old when they first began to teach me. My father was a performer and my mother was the greatest woman aerialist I have ever seen. She was wonderful. We worked together for years.” (10)
“A woman can do anything she puts her mind to. Men get discouraged. Or mad. Or tired. Women hang on. Good gracious – how they do hang on!
“Once a woman makes up her mind to what she wants, and gets her hands on it, it doesn’t have a chance to escape – not a chance.
“Women are made to endure. They can endure much more than men can. Pain, weariness, exhaustion, discouragement – a woman snaps her fingers at them when they’re part of getting what she is after. I’ll say Kipling was right about the female of the species.” (11)
(1) Newspaper clipping in Gilbertson Orpheum Theater Scrapbook, Performing Arts Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries (Collection Number PA89)
(2) “Talented Lillian Leitzel ‘Miniature Marvel of Air’,” Philadelphia Evening Ledger May 8, 1919, p. 13.
(3) “Aerial Stunts Less Dangerous than Marriage. Little Polly of Madison Square Garden Says,” Rose C. Tillotson, New York World, March 31, 1908
(4) “Profiles: Star II,” Robert Lewis Taylor, New Yorker, April 28, 1956, p. 55.
(5) “Salvation for scenics,” Beth Brown, Movie Makers: The Magazine of the Amateur Cinema League, Inc., Volume 9, Number 1, January 1934, p. 30.
(6) “The Circus Girl,” L. B. Yates, The Saturday Evening Post, July 17, 1920, p. 34.
(7) “Circus Folks Are Jolly But Some Bear Burdens Under Gilded Trappings,” The Idaho Statesman, August 17, 1917, p. 2.
(8) “Mlle. Leitzel Prefers Dancing,” The New York Sun, April 16, 1924, p. 12.
(9) “A Verbal Closeup of Lillian Leitzel, Queen of Aerial Gymnasts,” Elita Miller Lenz, Billboard, April 4, 1925, pp 43, 46.
(10) “Modern Girl, Says Lillian Leitzel, Will Not Work As Her Elders Did,” Henry W. Clune, Rochester Democrat And Chronicle, November 17, 1927
(11) “Mid-Air Marvel Admits Her Own Sex Is Superior One,” Zoe Beckley, New York Telegram and Evening Mail, April 8, 1924, p. 4.