Biography of Queen of the Circus Lillian Leitzel Part 3

About the famous German circus performer Lillian Leitzel known as the Queen of the Circus, history and biography of the woman.


Lillian Leitzel (1893-1931)

Leitzel traveled from city to city in a private Pullman car containing her own grand piano. Her chauffeured limousine followed the train along its route, so that it would be ready to transport her from the train to the lot and take her on her frequent shopping trips.

Lillian Leitzel was married three times. Her first marriage was to a property man in the days before she joined Ringling. In 1920 she married Clyde Ingalls, a sideshow manager and ring announcer of Ringling Brothers. In a fit of anger, she cut off one of his fingers with a buckets knife. They were divorced in 1924. After a stormy courtship, she married Alfredo Codona, the great Mexican trapeze artist, in Chicago on July 20, 1928. Codona was her one true love, but their marriage was tempestuous.

After the close of the 1929 season, the Codonas toured Mexico with their own circus, Gran Circo Codona. It was an unsuccessful venture, however, so they went back to performing engagements in European music halls between circus seasons.

In Copenhagen, Leitzel dreamed one night that her rope was unraveling. Shortly after, on Feb. 13, 1931, while she was working the first stage of her act at the Valencia Music Hall, the swivel on one of her Roman rings broke. She failed to grasp the other ring and fell 29 ft. to the floor, the first serious injury in her 25-year career. Leitzel, who never worked with a net, suffered a concussion and severe spinal injuries.

Codona, who was performing at the Winter Garden in Berlin, rushed to Copenhagen to be at her side, but he returned to Berlin when she seemed better. The improvement was only temporary, however, and on Feb. 15 she died. Her ashes were flown to the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

After Leitzel's death, Codona led an ill-fated life. He became reckless on the trapeze and suffered a disabling injury that forced him to retire from the ring. He married Vera Bruce, an equestrienne, but they were soon divorced. Six years after the death of Leitzel, Codona met with Vera Bruce at his attorney's office in Long Beach, Calif., to discuss their property settlement. He pulled out an automatic pistol, shot her five times, and then took his own life with the last bullet.

Codona's body was laid to rest beside Leitzel's ashes. Above their remains stands a 12-ft. marble monument on which are carved two figures embracing and two trapeze rings. One ring is broken, symbolizing Leitzel's fatal accident. The monument bears the inscription "Reunion."

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