Note: A new edition of this out-of-print book is due soon from Grand Dragon Bazaar Press.
1933 marked a turning point in the trajectory of Haugust Hofmann. RKO Pictures released King Kong and inadvertently gave Hofmann his new show. One late night, a soused fellow, stumbling down the street, had seen Hofmann’s wondrously obese silhouette scaling an apartment building. The fellow, in his intoxicated fervor, screamed out “Kong, Kong, it’s King Kong!” This outburst startled the neighbors, who formed a crowd and sent for the authorities. Hofmann had not paid his rent (he never did) and was locked out of his room, which prompted him to climb the building in order to enter through his window. Hofmann was arrested, along with the soused fellow, Don, who became Hofmann’s assistant while they were both locked up. Though only in jail for a short time, Hofmann claimed to have grown excruciatingly hungry. This hunger caused him to fantasize of a new show. Don told Hofmann all about King Kong and, despite not having seen the film¹, Hofmann was intrigued by the potential of using the name as part of his show. Ultimately, Hofmann planned a new show in which he would grill hamburgers on stage whilst wearing a gorilla suit. It was called “King Kong & The Barbecue Show.” The show brought in a bigger audience than any of his previous works. Hofmann would eat anywhere from ten to thirty hamburgers each night, as the stomachs of starving depression-era audience members groaned on. Hofmann would also re-create moments from the movie with Don, who did not remember the film quite as well as he thought he did, resulting in a truly bastardized homage. The show brought in consistently large numbers, with people either thinking the show was legitimately related to the popular film, or that they would be getting a meal, or both. However, their speculations were false, and in those days news did not travel so fast, so attendance remained exceptional. It was not until RKO threatened Hofmann with serious legal repercussions that the show took a downturn.
¹ Hofmann despised the cinema, often exclaiming how astounded he was at its enduring existence. He felt cinema to be the grotesque enemy of theater, particularly his own shows.