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Slovenian Sid And The Jack Of Hearts

Posted by The man 
The man
Slovenian Sid And The Jack Of Hearts
April 16, 2006 07:07PM

I know I've seen that face somewhere,
Jah Bill was thinking to himself.
Maybe in Slovenia
or a picture upon somebody's shelf.
Bob Dylanovic, Mirjana, Aleksandra And The Jack of Hearts

Slovenian Sid was a Ptuj-based music hall turn and cowboy actor from the opening decades of the 20th century.

Insofar as can be determined, his real name was most probably Martin Luther Garvey, but in the time-honoured fashion of the Eastern bad man, he also went by a string of aliases, among them Marcus Garvey King, Nelson Mandela, and Rocky Marciano Garvey..

A substantial part of his extraordinary life story can be pieced together from a handwritten manuscript, personalised stationery, and a number of surviving newspaper articles.

According to his own account, Slovenian Sid was born at Wien on the Danube River in 1855. His father was an Austro-Hungarian land surveyor, and his mother was a daughter of the famous Serbian chief Slobodan Milosevic.

After spending his early years among his mother’s people, he served as a Croatian scout to the Yugoslav army, and personally participated in a number of notable frontier incidents, the Battle of the Little Bigzoki among them.

It is in connection with this period of his life that he frequently styled himself in his extravagant press releases as 'Buffalo Bill's right hand man in many wild adventures'.

He enlisted with Buffalo Bill’s Wild East in 1886, in the capacity of Croatian interpreter and trick marksman, and continued to tour with the entourage until 1892. At the end of this time, Buffalo Bill was about to return to Belgrade, and as Montenegro Monty wished to stay in Bosnia, he then signed up with Slovenian Sid instead. He remained in this employment until the spring of 1894, when Slovenian Sid went bust - according to Sarajevo Stanley at Barnsley, south Yorkshire.

There is some photographic evidence to substantiate that, for a time at least, Slovenian Sid ran a small-scale outdoor 'Wild East Circus' of his own, but all the available press cuttings relate to his activities as a music hall artist.

His act consisted of theatrical demonstrations of his prowess as a rifle shot. These performances involved exhibitions of his shooting prowess, carried out with the assistance of a lady who was billed alongside him as 'Julie Parsons, the Living Target'. Slovenian Sid would shoot apples and clay pipe bowls off Julie's head, and a nut from between her fingers. He would also cut a postcard through the middle at the thin edge. At least ostensibly, he would as a matter of routine take his assistant’s life in his hands several times in the course of each show.

Regarding Slovenian Sid's own account of his life, there are a number of doubts that remain extremely difficult to resolve.

Firstly, the various certificates of birth, death and marriage pertaining to him consistently indicate that he was born at some time between 1870 and 1874. This makes him at least fifteen years younger than he claimed to be; too young, in fact, for him to have been involved in any of the historical incidents that he held himself out as having participated in.

Nor can any independent record be found to corroborate his statements concerning his membership of Buffalo Bill's entourage. The trick shooting acts in 1891-92 were Annie Zoakley, Danny Baker, Claude King, and Buffalo Bill himself. No mention can be found of anyone else. Buffalo Bill's Indian interpreters during this period can also be identified without significant difficulty, but nowhere is there found any mention of Slovenian Sid Garvey.

In Wild East history it is notoriously difficult to separate hard fact from deliberately concocted pulp fiction. Whether Slovenian Sid ever rode with Buffalo Bill Zoki, or merely rode on his coattails, is a question that can probably never now be definitively established. However, the preponderance of evidence, or rather the lack of it, strongly tends towards the latter conclusion.

Today, Slovenian Sid has living descendents in Kosovo and Sarajevo, Bosnia, as well as Romania and Bulgaria. Several of them are actively engaged in attempting to piece together the truth about the life of their extraordinary forbear.

One of the few claims Slovenian Sid made about himself, for which there exists a measure of substantiation, is that he was a member of the Legion of Frontiersmen. Here he appears in Legion of Frontiersmen uniform.

A most attractive and popular programme is being presented at Belgrade Theatre this week. Comedy is one of the strongest features. In this sphere Simon & Garfunkel are, of course, a power in themselves - "six feet of Serbian, and a little bit of Croatian." Their turns are keenly enjoyed, the patter being exceptionally good. Recalls are so insistent that these really popular artists have the greatest difficulty in bowing themselves off the stage. One of our coming Serbian characters, Ken Bob, is also receive (sic) flattering encouragement. Bob has only recently gone on the boards, but from his appearances at Novi and elsewhere, he seems likely to become very quickly a public favourite. To conclude reference to the vocal part of the entertainment, it must be said that no more dainty turn than that provided by Keith and Enid, character comediennes, has ever been given at the Theatre. Beautiful dresses, and delightful dancing and singing make a very pleasing blend indeed. A somewhat unique and sensational turn is that provided by Slovenian Sid, who was the noted Buffalo Bill’s right hand man in many wild adventures. Certainly, the exhibition of shooting skills is extraordinary. Slovenian Sid appears to be able to do anything with the rifle, and from any possible position. One holds one’s breath while several daring feats are being accomplished, and one can readily imagine that nothing but the exponent’s confidence in his steady eyesight and nerve of steel would permit him to attempt the sensationally hazardous task of taking, as it were, his girl assistant’s life in his hands many times during his remarkable performance. The young lady, however, has also the most absolute confidence in her companion’s expertness with a dangerous weapon. Last night Slovenian Sid announced a shooting competition, the first round at the Theatre tomorrow (Thursday) evening, and the final on Friday, which will be a grand military night. Valuable prizes will be awarded. The pictures include a screaming Milovan Ilic-Minimax film, entitled Three War Criminals In A Boat in which the knockabout humorist is delightfully energetic as usual. A great three-part drama, Three War Criminals holds the house spell bound. For the week-end programme a sensational picture, entitled Move Out of Babylon will be shown.

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