Bill 'Foxy' Fivestars
Jesse Selman-Troytt fell in love with show
business at the age of five when he saw a circus fire-eater
breathe the wrong way and spontaneously combust. At sixteen
he turned his back on the Selman-Troytt empire and began a
stage act in music hall. His stern and tyrannical father,
Jonah, was less than pleased: "I have already made arrangements
to have you killed ... today!" he shouted after his departing
To evade detection Jesse adopted the name Bill Fivestars
and sported huge side-whiskers as a disguise. Bill
Fivestars and His Amazing Inflating Knees blared the
pre-show publicity and every night, before hushed audiences,
Jesse would strike both knees methodically with a piece of
lead pipe until they had doubled in size. Assistants would
then help him off the stage to sporadic applause.
But the body can stand only so much abuse and within five
weeks his knees had locked, forcing him to abandon the act
and to walk stiff-legged for the rest of his life. He drifted
from one casual job to another, often stealing in between
in order to support his various revolting habits. Gradually
he achieved some success as a fairground huckster under the
sobriquet 'Foxy' Fivestars and by the time his father died
he was wealthy in his own right and had stopped picking pockets.
In the early 1930s he tried to follow the example of Billy
Butlin by opening several holiday camps. They were run along
similar lines to Butlin's but never enjoyed the same success,
possibly due to their location on the outskirts of London.
As their fortunes declined 'Foxy' struggled to re-vitalise
the entertainment schedule to attract new custom. He dreamed
up new competitions including: 'Shortest Necktie of the Day'
and 'Spontaneous Arm Wrestling' but neither proved very popular.
The first was invariably won by Bill himself: "No one can
tie a shorter tie than me!" he would chortle proudly to
all departing guests, "I was bound to win." His other
creations included 'Group Whittling, Sewing, and Open-Air
Ironing' but despite these innovations attendance fell away
and Jesse died in poverty in an East London brothel.