Wednesday, August 13, 2014

George E. Wagner -- The Un-Jolly Jenaro

"Clown Dons Mask of Death After Wife Divorces Him" was the Milwaukee Sentinel headline on August 26, 1934, the day after the popular clown-juggler was found hanged in his room in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Known in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus world as the "Jolly Jenaro," the 55 year old Wagner had been divorced by his wife four months earlier on grounds that the wealthy performer's frugality amounted to stinginess.  Ever the clown, Wagner told the judge, "I've tamed lions and managed unruly cats in a show, but I couldn't handle her."  A week prior to his death, Wagner threatened suicide during a visit with his sister.  When she failed to hear from him for several days, she went to the clown's room at 1212 W. Hadley Street.  Through a side window she saw her brother's body hanging by a bathrobe cord from a light fixture.  Wagner had been dead for 48 hours.  A handwritten will dividing about $15,000 in cash and government bonds among his family was found on a table.

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