Ben Dova – a virtuoso acrobat under the influence (6 photos + 1 video)

Category: Nostalgia, PEGI 0+
12 February 2024

The performance with the twist of an acrobat under the influence made the hearts of the audience flutter. And especially impressionable ones could even lose their senses.

For acrophobes, the mere thought of looking down from the roof of a tall building causes horror. And ordinary people, unnecessarily, do not strive to peer into the abyss. But Josef Spech, who worked under the pseudonym Ben Dova and exploited the image of a cheerful, fearless drunkard, was not one of those.

Ben Dova was born in Strasbourg on March 14, 1905. Having immigrated to the United States as a youth, he became interested in vaudeville and became quite a skilled acrobat.

Josef Spech skates

Ben Dovah was perhaps best known for his signature number, "The Convivial Drunkard." His performance consisted of Dova playing a funny, friendly drunk. He swaggered onto the stage, dressed in a rumpled hat and rumpled tailcoat, and pretended to fall into the auditorium. While performing amazingly dexterous tricks and movements. It seemed to the audience that Ben Dova could fall at any moment, and he exploited this moment, but then calmed down and continued his performance. During this process, he looked in his pockets for a cigarette, which had been in his mouth all this time. Then he climbed onto a street lamp to light it.

While on the lantern, the lamp began to swing back and forth, eventually to a dangerous degree. Dova held on and began an amazing acrobatic procedure, enhanced by his imaginary intoxication.

Number on a lamppost at the top of the Cheinin' skyscraper in New York

To some, the performance was a comedy variety show, but in 1933 everything changed. To please American newsreels, Ben Dova performed his act on top of the 56-story Chainin building in New York without a net, safety net or camera tricks. The audience was horrified by what they saw and sincerely feared for the safety and life of the artist. Cases of fainting at the sight of newsreels have been recorded.

Josef Spech looks out of the observation windows on the upper level of the Hindenburg's passenger deck.

Dova didn’t stop there either. On May 3, 1937, he was a passenger aboard the ill-fated Hindenburg airship. He survived the crash by leaning out of a window and dangling until the airship was close enough to the ground to make an acrobatic fall. Physically, he escaped with only a sprained ankle, but for a long time after the disaster, many mistakenly considered the man to be a saboteur.

In the film "Marathon Man" (1976)

Dova continued to perform as a good-natured drunkard until the 1970s, and then went into simple acting work. His most notable role was as the brother of Laurence Olivier's character in the 1976 film Marathon Man.

Ben Dovah died of old age in September 1986. He lived his long life as a successful artist, a daredevil and a man who survived a disaster, but did not lose his optimism and love of life.

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