"Red” Armstrong, left, and "ReckIess”
Vernon, right, with their
"Cylinder of Death.”
A wooden cylinder with spruce slats three inches apart, 19 feet in
diameter, and 12’ feet high, along with two 61 cubic inch “ported” motorcycles
and two daredevil riders attired in spangled costume, were the
ingredients of one of the most hair raising vaudeville acts ever to
tour the old time “three-a-day” circuit. Conceived in the brain of
“Red" Armstrong, who was also one of the performers, this act toured
the country in top billing, in the company with such greats of the
theatre, as Eddie Cantor, and Weber and Fields.
The act consisted of
riding the inside of the cylinder with two riders going in opposite
directions - blindfolded! Traffic was controlled by a "ringmaster”
who sounded a shrill blast on a whistle if the top man approached
the open apex of the cylinder, and two blasts if he came too low.
This early day “sonar” system worked out fine until one night in
Frisco when the whistle failed! “Red” remembers riding right out of
the top of the contrivance and soaring off into the wings in an
unscheduled exit! He was right back in the next performance despite
a somewhat damaged big toe - his only “souvenir” of the accident!