DOLLY DIMPLES – The Dainty Fat Lady

While Dolly Dimples was not the most famous Fat Lady or even the most rotund, her story is almost unparalleled in the history of sideshow.

She was born Celesta Herrmann in Cincinnati on July 18, 1901. As a baby, her weight was average and her appetite was considered normal. It wasn’t until early childhood that Dolly began to pack on weight. Her early weight gain was contributed to the visitations of a family friend. This friend happened to be a butcher and he often played a game with young Dolly that involving dangling bits of butchered meat in front of her. Dolly loved the game. She was influenced so much by it that her first word was ‘meat’. Her fascination with food had begun and as she grew older, her appetite grew. Dolly would often stretch her allowance by buying day old baked goods and broken cookies. By the sixth grade she weighed 150 and she never finished high school due to the harassment and bullying she had to endure daily. When she dropped out of school she was just less than 300 pounds.

She met a man named Frank Geyer and, despite the fact that Frank was a slim and trim 135 pounds, he liked his ladies large and encouraged Celesta’s appetite. She gained a further 100 pounds in one year and the pair eventually married.

In 1927, the couple went to visit the traveling Happyland Carnival just outside of Detroit. The carnival owner spotted the colossal Dolly and noted that she outweighed his advertised Fat Lady by at least 50 pounds. He offered her a job on the spot and she accepted almost immediately.

She took the name Dolly Dimples – sometime Jolly Dolly – and she was billed as the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Fat Lady’. In an effort to become and even bigger attraction, Dolly began to ingest even larger quantities of food. Her daily diet also included pounds of potatoes, gallons of milk, multiple servings of meat and many loaves of bread. Her calorie intake was very close to 10,000, five times what is required daily. By the time she was touring with Ringling Bros. in the 30’s, standing only 4 foot 11 inches, she weighted in at 555 pounds. The dresses she wore on stage consisted of twelve yards of fabric.

In 1950, Dolly suffered a near fatal heart attack. Her doctors told her to alter her diet or she would die. Dolly was frightened by the prospect of death, she enjoyed live greatly, and so she paid attention to the advice in a most astounding fashion.

In fourteen months Dolly Dimples was gone, and in her place stood Celesta Geyer at a svelte 112 pounds. She had lost over 443 pound by limiting her diet to baby food. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes this achievement as the greatest weight loss in the shortest period of time.

The now ‘Skinny Lady’ spent the rest of her life as the first diet guru. She wrote a best selling book called ‘Diet or Die: The Dolly Dimples Weight Loss Plan’ and followed that up with ‘The Greatest Diet in the World’.

She went on to run a small art gallery until her death in 1982.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

38 Comments

  • Reply April 23, 2008

    Anonymous

    Do you have any pictures of her after she lost the weight? I’m interesting in what she would look like afterward.

  • Reply August 15, 2008

    rhenn

    Wow, I truly admire her. What an awesome story. :) I’m not fond of the idea of her gaining weight for love (I strongly believe you shouldn’t change major things about yourself for anyone but yourself) But she did so much! She endured the cruelty of schoolyard torture, became famous, was recognized to be beautiful despite her weight, lost all the weight when it threatened her health, AND even wrote books about it! Wow, I think I’m adding her to my list of heroes. :)

  • Reply August 24, 2008

    Anonymous

    Wow, I hope no one else tried the ‘baby food’ diet.

  • Reply December 14, 2008

    Anonymous

    I’m sorry, but that is truly disgusting to me. Just to give some background info: I am 12, about 110, about 5′ 8″, and I looove to run around. If I weighed that much, I would hardly be able to do anything to do anything but eat! That would be so awful, I wouldn’t want to live that way. I do think it’s good that she got a grip, but none the less, the idea just scares me.

    • Reply October 10, 2014

      anon

      that’s quite rude. just because you don’t understand her motives doesn’t make her disgusting.

  • Reply January 16, 2009

    lily

    She does have a very pretty face, and sounded like she was a great lady. It’s a shame that she went into obscurity, but that could be because of the content of this site; I like to think that on some weight loss site somewhere, there’s a page dedicated to her latter years :)

  • Reply March 5, 2009

    Lexie Jones

    She was adorable even when she was big. I’m a big girl too (not quite that big). I think that my body is beautiful and wonderful the way it is and I would never change myself for anyone.

    Now, about this gaining weight for love thing…
    Many men who are into larger women are also into a thing called “stuffing” or “feeding” in which a woman eats or is forced to eat in order to become larger.

    I, personally think it’s great that she became healthier… but I do think that some people are naturally big. I don’t eat very much at all and I am active but I’m still big. All I want to say is that society (then and today) needs to realize that people come in all shapes and sizes. Just because a person is big doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy, lazy, greedy, ect. Weight-ism is one of the last remaining socially acceptable prejudices and it needs to stop.

    I strive to be as beautiful and as strong as Celesta.

  • Reply April 25, 2009

    pyroclasticlux

    What a wonderfully inspiring story. (= I wish I had that kind of confidence and strength.
    I do wonder, however, what her husband thought after she’d lost the weight; as he had encouraged her to gain, did his opinion change once her weight went toward the opposite?

  • Reply June 15, 2009

    Julieann

    I think this story proves that beauty doesn’t just come in anorexic skinny. Dolly was pretty and very admirable for that amazing weight loss story.

  • Reply June 22, 2009

    Mr. FRY

    Why would you say you hope no one else used the ‘baby food’ diet? The woman lost all her overweight and lived to a ripe old age of 81. Every fat person should be legally required to go on the ‘baby food’ diet, imo. You can only eat Gerber’s until you get EITHER your body fat % below 25 OR your bmi below 25. Simple. Every fat person should go on the baby food diet, it obviously worked a charm.

  • Reply September 30, 2009

    Robert

    I read “The Greatest Diet in the World” and Dolly’s story is indeed inspiring. If I remember correctly, she didn’t just eat baby food when she dieted, and the diet plan in the book consists of healthy solid foods. She limited herself to I think 800 (or maybe it was 1,000) calories a day for the rest of her life, which takes great dedication.

    At one point she couldn’t take it and craved a banana cream pie. Her doctor finally told her to make one and eat it at one sitting. She did and got sick, and decided never to do that again (probably the doctor’s reverse-psychology scheme). As she was losing the weight, a massage-therapist friend of hers was giving her frequent massages using a homemade ointment that Dolly claimed helped her skin to shrink as she lost the weight, so she never had folds of loose skin hanging off of her. She never revealed what the formula was, but it would make a fortune.

    She actually did lose the weight simply by dieting – no pills or gimmicks – and kept if off for 30 years – remarkable!

  • Reply October 25, 2009

    Thomas

    I remember her appearing on “I’ve Got a Secret” (or some similar show) and her secret was her identity (the ‘mystery guest’), which the panel never figured out. She mentioned that she mounted a picture of herself on the refrigerator to help keep herself from cheating, a method I need to try!

  • Reply December 30, 2009

    danny shumate

    my great grand mother was the oldest gold star mother she died in1953

    at 108 years old in her trunk she left a small black dress white lace dolly dimples lable on it

    \\

  • Reply January 23, 2010

    Mike Harris

    I met this lady in 1957 when I interned at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. Our accidental meeting happened at a mutual friend of ours. I made the absolutely unforgivable mistake of asking her how she felt. I set off a bomb that rivaled the nuclear device dropped on Hiroshima. Wow, did she get angry with me. I took it that it was my cue to leave. Which I did, with her shrill voice still ringing in my ears. It’s presently 2010 by my calendar, and the incident is still as clear if it happened yesterday. Rest in peace Dolly Dimples. I’m sorry if I caused you so much psychological distress. Really, didn’t mean to. Mike PS: Is the name Eva Schnitzler familiar to anybody out there in Google Land? She was the mutual friend, and she was a member of the show. Perhaps The Bearded Lady? She was a very good friend of mine. As was her father. I’ve lost track of her a long time ago. Probably passed away. Thanks.

  • Reply February 9, 2010

    Teresa Smith

    So what would an old postcard picture of Dolly Dimples with her signature on the back be worth? Anything more than just being a neat piece of history to own? My late father-in-law gave it to me a couple years before he died. He had no idea where it came from or who she was. I just found it the other day.

    • Reply October 7, 2012

      Alex

      Hi Teresa,

      I know it was posted some time ago but I would be interested to see the postcard if you still had it ?

      Kind regards

      Alex

  • […] Dolly Dimples found here […]

  • Reply June 8, 2010

    Visitor

    I think the cover of her book has before and after pics

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2190/2403405095_801800764b_o.jpg

  • Reply July 4, 2010

    Sally Eva Xaandu

    What an inspiring woman. Weight-ism is not an issue. Its human nature. Think about it, most human tendencies such as schoolyard bullying is to weed out the unpopular choices for mates later on in life. Children dont mean it, its just programmed into their brains. It is a reason to why obesity is an ever growing health issue in the world today. It is because we are too politicaly correct. Too nice. We need to be harsh, to provide motivation and encouragement for these people to lose weight, simple reason: its healthy. Congratulations that you are comfortable in your own skin, now stop being comfortable and start being proactive. Obesity causes many problems we all know, early death (ie. heart attack) being the main factor. Self confidence is one thing, but you dont need to be a crusader, lose the weight, live long and prosper

  • Reply September 23, 2010

    vemare

    I read her book around 1960. I checked it out from our public library when I was in high school. I have never forgotten her story, although at the time, I was considered thin, wieghted about 115 at 5.6. I was not aware that she also published weight loss books. Of course back then, I was not interested. she wrote her story simply and without excuses. I remember a part where she was craving pie, and usually ate a whole pie. She had already started losing weight. Her husband made her eat the whole pie, not because he wanted her to not lose weight, but to force the issue about eating pass the full signal. –I believe that was a turning point in her food cravings, as I remember. Again, I had not seen the book or heard anything about her until tonight. I was just cruising in search of books that had moved me when I was a young girl.

  • Reply October 28, 2010

    Jacqueline

    What an inspiring story.Dolly sounded like a person who loved life to the fullest.A very beautiful lady.I wish I could have been fortunate enough to meet her.I’ve seen her pictures.She was a very pretty .

  • Reply July 6, 2011

    Maggie

    I was reading the guiness book of world records and realized we shared a last name. I did some more research and turns out were related :) and its true my family does love its food and baking. and our diets haha

  • Reply July 24, 2011

    Emma

    I’m interested to know if she and her husband were still together later in her life, after she lost all the weight? Any ideas?.

  • Reply November 19, 2011

    Cindy

    My dad was the youngest of 12 and his dad worked on the fairs and my dad grew up around these people and I grew up hearing stores about them… His store of Dolly is that Dolly asked my uncle to marry him and he said he would dig ditches before marrying her… I think my uncle might have been better if he had :)

  • Reply December 29, 2011

    Ellen

    I read Dolly’s book years ago and I’ve never been able to forget it. But there’s a boo-boo in your piece on her that someone else pointed out. Her diet did not consist of baby food. She only ate that while she was hospitalized. Errr… and her husband didn’t adore her because she was big. He just adored her in general. They stuck together through thick and thin! You can still find the book on ebay.

  • Reply December 29, 2011

    Ellen

    Also… Cindy, someone’s telling you fairy tales. Dolly was happily married before she ever worked at fairs and she stayed happily married. Her husband and her joined the sideshow because it was the depression, they were out of work and the sideshow paid. I very much doubt that she proposed to your uncle.

  • Reply January 2, 2012

    J P

    Wow … Mr. Fry … you are a complete idiot. Why not force all blacks to bleach their skin? Or all midgets to get their bones cut and stretched? Or all redheads to dye their hair black? Your ignorance is only exceeded by your stupidity.

  • Reply January 23, 2012

    Cindy

    Well I guess I have the wrong “Fat Lady” in my story, Sorry

  • Reply January 29, 2012

    gary

    I have an 11×14 inch black and white slightly faded photograph showing the 2 sideshow tarp signs from the 30’s. The barker is under the right sign under an umbrella behind a cheap dais with the sign: adults 10cents/children 5 cents. The 2 large tarp signs are about 8×10 ft. The left tarp sign is hung vertically and has a taylor saying “just one more bolt of cloth will make it” while Dolly stands to be fitted half-clothed. The other tarp sign is horizontal and shows a lot of dolly as well in a reclining position.

  • Reply March 23, 2012

    Amy Blau

    She traveled in the carnival owned by my step grandfather Rea. She taught my grandmother Helen Rea Rogers how to make spaghetti sauce.

    • Reply April 10, 2012

      J Tithonus Pednaud

      Amazing! Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply August 1, 2012

    Anna Hanson

    I have written a book about this rather remarkable lady and I would love to time-travel back time to ask Celesta for her autograph on the cover of my book..it would be so extraordinary and fabulous! I will post the title of my brand new and recently written book: Dolly Dimples: The Private Life of Celesta Geyer. I would like someone to read it and tell me if I wrote it incorrectly and someone that knew her would be just grand. – Anna

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  • Reply June 29, 2013

    original site

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  • Reply December 24, 2013

    Linda

    I remember seeing this woman at our home town carnival when I was very young and how awed I was ……my mother bought a glossy photo of her and I kept it for many years. Several years ago I was amazed and happy to see an article and picture of her about her losing all that weight.

  • Reply November 28, 2014

    M

    There is even a chain of Norwegian pizza restaurants named after her: Dolly Dimple’s!

  • Reply December 14, 2016

    Janet

    When I was a young girl growing up in Wilton Manors, FL, my mother (a devout Catholic) would bring my little sister and to Sheffield Nursing Home to “visit the elderly”. We use to visit Dolly Dimples to listen to her stories. I most vividly remember a HUGE men’s shoe she used to show us that belonged to “The Worlds Tallest Man”.
    Was watching American Pickers last night and they were buying circus posters when this memory came flooding back so I decided to google her and found this. What a happy childhood memory Dolly Dimples was for me.

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