Jim Bradshaw: South Louisiana native on the high wire thrilled audiences
His career was apparently winding down when Edward LeRoy returned to Lafayette to walk a wire strung high above the high school campus.
“Mr. LeRoy has been walking the high wire for many years,” the Lafayette Advertiser reported on July 5, 1941, “and states that he first learned to do this high-wire walking in Lafayette when he was a boy.” His act, the account said, “will consist of various tricks on the wire” and that “he states he is the only man who is able to perform some of the more difficult stunts.”
I’ve looked in vain for record of his birth and death and details of his early life. I suspect that Edward LeRoy was the performer’s stage name, and that when he was a boy in Lafayette he was known as Edward LeRoy Broussard or Thibodeaux or Hebert or some other last name.
The Advertiser said he’d “performed all over the United States from many high buildings,” and that was apparently true.
I found an advertisement in the Houston Post that in May 1914 proclaimed him “King of the High Wire.” The ad promised that the “sensational tight wire walker” would put on a “sensational act 50 feet in the air, amongst the tree tops.” They seemed to like the word “sensational.”
LeRoy had apparently performed in Natchez several weeks before. The Natchez Democrat reported in April 1914, that he would close out his stay there “with an exhibition of wire-walking that has never been equaled in this city.” He was first going to walk a wire strung on top of the Baker Grand Theatre, and then put on “a clever slack wire performance inside of the theatre.”
He was in Kansas in July 1919, when the Fort Scott Monitor reported that the “high wire walker extraordinary more than lived up to all advance notices when he performed on a wire stretched [from two tall buildings] across Main Street.”
“While a crowd of 1,500 people looked on, LeRoy did every conceivable stunt on the tight wire,” that account continued.
“He walked frontwards and backwards and then, to the astonishment of he crowd, he imitated a drunken man performing on a wire.”
There were shrieks from the crowd when he pretended to slip, but “it was all in the act, as not once did LeRoy lose his bearings, and seemed as much at home on the wire as on the ground.”
His name crops up regularly in old copies of Billboard, the show business magazine, and in the 1940s he sometimes performed with his wife.
A 1942 blurb referred to them as Edward and Helen LeRoy of the LeRoy High Wire Troupe. Their act included something called the “revolving ladder” routine. In 1944, another blurb reported that “The Great LeRoy, high wire,” had been signed by the Ray Brothers Circus for performances in Houston and New QOrleans. I presume that was Edward.
That seems to have been one of his last gigs.
Billboard recorded on Christmas Day, 1949, that “Edward LeRoy, former wire walker for 35 years, has been a switchman for the M.K.T. Railroad in Houston for several years.”
He’d dropped in to visit old friends at the Billboard office in St. Louis, according to that report, then as far as I can tell dropped out of the limelight.
A collection of Jim Bradshaw’s columns, Cajuns and Other Characters, is now available from Pelican Publishing. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.