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.