AL AND JEANIE TOMAINI – The Strangest Couple

Al Tomaini Jeanie Tomaini Giant Half-Girl

 

True love knows no bounds.

Al (Aurelio) Tomaini was born in 1912 in New Jersey as one of seven children. By the age of twelve he towered over his father – a stout man who stood over six feet in height. Al had an overactive pituitary gland and he eventually stood over seven feet in height. To earn a career in sideshow, Al claimed a height of 8’4” and billed himself as ‘The Tallest Man in the World’. No one seemed to mind Al’s embellishment, due mostly to the fact that Al was an incredibly genuine and nice guy. He was shy, gentle and sweet inside and out – from the top of his towering head to the bottom of his size 27 shoes. During the Great Lakes Exposition in 1936, one special young lady took a particular interest in the gentle giant with the coy smile.

Her name was Jeanie (Berniece Evelyn Smith) and she was born on August 23rd in 1916 in Blufton, Indiana with twisted arms and without legs. She ‘stood’ just over two feet in height but, in personality, Jeanie was a giant in her own right. Jeanie had been performing in exhibitions since the age of three and was known for her acrobatic dexterity and the nimble way she ran about on her mildly deformed hands. Originally exhibited by her biological mother, Jeanie had been under the abusive care of an adoptive mother since 1931. The pretty but resilient 19 year old endured the psychological abuse with little hope of escape but, when the sincere flames of romance sparked between her and Al Tomaini, she found a gargantuan protector who would forever lift her out of harm’s way.

The unusual couple eloped during a fair in Cleveland, Ohio on September 8th of 1936 and were wed by a justice of the peace that same day. The pair honeymooned in Niagara Falls and continued touring together for many decades as the ‘World’s Strangest Married Couple’. In the off season they settled in Gibsonton, Florida. It was there that the two remarkable people built a home and a life together.

Gibsonton was known for its population of unusual people. Many circus folk retired or wintered there and many still do. Al and Jeanie purchased a piece of property there along the banks of the river and established a lodge and fishing camp known as ‘The Giant’s Camp’, marked by one of Al’s enormous cowboy boots nailed to the nearest road sign. In Gibsonton Al and Jeanine raised two adopted daughters.With their savings and camp earnings, the pair bought and donated an ambulance to their town. Al served as the world’s tallest fire chef and president of the Chamber of Commerce. Al even lent a hand in building the community hall. All the while, the pair were inseparable and deeply in love. Al was often spotted with his pretty half-girl wife Jeanie propped on his shoulder or carried at his side.

Fortified by that love, Al lived longer than most pituitary giants. He likely endured much physical pain but refused to show it. Eventually, however, his time came and he left his beloved Jeanie in 1962 at the age of 50.

Jeanie continued on without her giant husband. She never remarried and continued to run the camp until her own passing on August 10, 1999. She was buried on the anniversary of Al’s passing.

The Tomaini family still reside in Gibsonton. Their great-grandson, Alex Zander Marrow, carries on their circus sideshow legacy by performing amazing feats of physical endurance professionally as the Junior Torture King. He was formerly the youngest sword swallower in the world and his grandmother, the Tomaini’s adopted daughter Judy, built him his first bed of nails.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.

36 Comments

  • Reply February 20, 2010

    Derek C. F. Pegritz

    I just discovered this website today via Neatorama, and it’s…it’s just everything I love about the web and “freaks” and carnivals all rolled into one! If you ever need a theme song for the sight, I’ll put one together. :)

  • Reply February 21, 2010

    Kim

    Thank you for the beautiful love story!

  • Reply March 3, 2010

    Kathleen

    Wow. That brought tears to my eyes. Love really does conquor all.

  • Reply March 20, 2010

    Mema

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_unAtoMuY0
    Have you heard of Imaan Hadchiti? He’s a comedian here in Australia, I think he’s quite new on the scene, I know he’s quite young. I saw him at The Adelaide Fringe festival just recently. Really sweet guy and pretty funny comedian too. The first clip there is a spruik video of him with very tall comedian Ava Vidal (very funny also). This bottom clip is his appearance on the footy show here last year (and there’s a link there to his myspace):
    http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=37869684

  • Reply April 3, 2010

    Jones

    one of the best love story

  • Reply April 24, 2010

    Ginger

    This story touched me so much. All of the marvels you feature inspire me, actually. I’ve been such a fan; thank you for doing what you do.

  • Reply May 17, 2010

    Katherine

    Did Al and Robert Wadlow ever meet?

    • Reply June 27, 2012

      Judith Tomaini Rock

      I don’t think they did, Our Dad didn’t start going out on the road till he was in his 20′s. He met Mother and married September 28,1936 Actually he died August 30,1962 and Mother was buried by family and friends, August 14,1999 which was the anniversary of the day she got me back in Aug of 1946. She always called it “our day”.

  • Reply November 5, 2010

    Kássia

    Lembrei de um namorado que tive. Tenho 1,60 metro e ele tem 2,04 metros.
    Nos chamavam de Davi e Golias (rs.
    Mas parece que a diferença entre Al e Jeanie eram bem maiores. Mas não tão grandes quanto o amor que tinham um pelo outro.
    Belíssima história !

  • Reply November 10, 2010

    Rachel

    I live 5 minutes from Gibsonton. I am so glad I stumbled upon this really cool piece of history! It made my day :)

  • Reply January 28, 2011

    STEPHANE MALINGUE

    Very intelligent site, bravo !

  • Reply February 7, 2011

    Kainsmoney

    A very interesting family, a true freak legends.

  • Reply February 24, 2011

    john

    Amazing story of love despite circumstances.

  • Reply March 5, 2011

    Brian

    I had the pleasure of meeting Jeanie while buying bait from her shop which was located on the same property as her resturant(Giant’s Camp)
    Truly an amazing person with a heart as big as her giant. Loved eating at her resturant,often after a late night on the boat or after the races…she sure is missed. thanks for the great site and the memories

  • Reply May 15, 2011

    Nicanor C. Radomes

    I believe this is one of the greatest, if not the greatest love story ever. I am convinced that God had a hand in making their union a happy and contented one despite their handicaps to serve as model.

    • Reply June 27, 2012

      Judith Tomaini Rock

      Believe it or don’t, but Mother was the boss. Daddy went to pick up a new car they had ordered but the seat tracks couldn’t be moved back far enough so he could get in it. They had one a different color, but he wouldn’t buy it till he called and ask Mother. She didn’t even drive back then, but maybe it was just out of respect for their 50/50 partnership.

  • Reply June 8, 2011

    Anna

    This amazing love story of Al and Jeanie should be told to the world and I am going to do just that. God had his hand in this from the start, he brought two “freaks” together and together they made a team of undying love and endless faith.

  • Reply August 11, 2011

    Oscar Ortiz

    OH MY WORD!!!
    What a beautiful love story especially because is based in a real life story, I wonder if Hollywood producer are up to make this as a movie? but indeed as many know “Love endures everything, Love never dies”

    • Reply June 27, 2012

      Judith Tomaini Rock

      A movie has been talked about, even back before her death, she had one request, for George The Giant McArthur from California to play the part of our Father. The best thing ever produced on The show business was, SIDESHOW, alive on the inside, back in the middle 90′s for the Learning Chanel. Mother was featured and when she did the promo on ET, She was two days into a ruptured appendix. But she wouldn’t go to the hospital till the promo was taped. The show must go on. She was so bad she was never the same again, and just went down hill from there.

  • Reply October 17, 2011

    Mary

    This is total bullshit, i can see the photoshop. Ur bullshit.

    • Reply June 27, 2012

      Judith Tomaini Rock

      Madame, I beg to differ. My sister Patti and I had a totally wonderful childhood with our parents, and they were very warm and GENUINE people. He was an 8’4 giant and she was 2′tall. They were loved by all that knew them and many that didn’t know them. This is the first negative thing I have ever heard about them in my 66 years. I feel sorry for your family, having to deal with such a negative person. Maybe God will help you overcome the biterness in your life…

  • Reply October 17, 2011

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    Mary, you are a complete idiot.

  • Reply November 8, 2011

    anyomous

    one of the best love storys iv red and im a man!! :)

  • Reply November 13, 2011

    Patti Tomaini Panuccio

    Thank you for the great article on my adopted parents.

  • Reply November 14, 2011

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    Patti, thank you for taking the time to comment and for visiting.

  • Reply January 2, 2012

    Mari

    Thid brought tears to my eyes!

    What an amazing website!

  • Reply January 13, 2012

    Ashley

    To the person who said it was fake – you can go onto google images and find pretty consistent photographs of these two. (As someone who professionally works in photoshop, I can see where you would be skeptical, but this is no BS.)

  • [...] the sideshow historian and author of Shocked and Amazed, relates the incredible story about the oddest married couple ever – Jeanie Tomaini the half-girl and the Giant Al [...]

  • Reply January 23, 2012

    James Taylor

    Mary, sorry, no photoshop involved at all. After looking over a few thousand sideshow images with Jeanie in her now long-gone Giant’s Camp, there wasn’t a damn thing fake about her. Nor fake about that image. Woman was a jewel, and the show biz – and everyone who knew her – misses her horribly.

  • Reply January 24, 2012

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    Thank you for the backup James.
    I know you had the great opportunity to know her.
    I’ve always heard great things about her, in fact I don’t think I’ve heard a single unkind word.

  • Reply March 15, 2012

    Patsy

    I smiled when i read that he was his wife’s protector. I bet nobody would ever dare to harm her after he married her. So sweet.

  • Reply June 8, 2012

    Dean Jensen

    Greetings J. Tithonus Pednaud,

    I don’t know why it took me quite this long to discover your web site, but I’m admiring of the production in every way. I am especially impressed with your cool and measured treatment of subject matter that is almost always presented with ratcheted-up sensationalism elsewhere. Great thanks. And thanks, too, for including my book, “The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton” on your “Recommended Reading” list. Sincerely, Dean Jensen

  • Reply June 27, 2012

    Judith Tomaini Rock

    I would like to thank everyone for the kind words about my family. The Love Story is being given to the world, which is what our Mother wanted. It is at the publisher now and the final work is being done. It will be called Bits & Pieces of our lives. I started working on it years ago and with poor health and having to move to Bradenton, Fl. with my two girls and 2 year old grandson T.J.Aurelio Tomaini, it has been slow comming, but we are very excited about it, and can’t wait till early this Fall to present it to their loyal fans. I also have the time now to work on the one of my life experiences, Which have been many. I dedicate Bits & Pieces to God, my entire family, and friends, without them it would have never been possible. This is just the beginning of our new life, and there will be more to come in the future. In Memory of Robert E. Carr my first Love, and Kathleen Kotcher, who shared my first Thanksgiving without my Mother or child.

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Anna Hanson

    Excuse me, Judith and Patti, Hello, I’m Anna Hanson and I am currently writing a biographical novel entitled: Second Chances: The Love Story of Al and Jeanie Tomaini and I request that once it has been published that you read it and perhaps post a review. Thanks so much for YOUR comments. God bless you and your families!!

  • Reply October 13, 2013

    DiAnna M.

    Dear Judith Tomaini Rock,
    I thank you for allowing the true story to be told by all that knew your parents,and really loved them, and others of there second family. I was a showman with some of the best showmen of there time. I had the real pleasure of meeting your mom but not your father. I have also been to the Giants Camp Restaurant a few times and loved the atmosphere in and around this area. I was a member of the showmens club there in Gibtown. I would love to show my love for the showmen then and now of our secound famlies that took us in and showed us real love just like your parents did for us. I send you much love to you and your family.
    Truely Your Friend,
    DiAnna M.

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