Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bearded mom

At the age of 33, Richard Lorenc decided to down his birth mother, in part to learn his family medical history. He found her in June and they reunited in Bakersfield, California. "A lot of my questions were answered....I think one of her biggest wishes was fulfilled that day," says Richard about his mother, who had always wanted to find him.

It wouldn't be much of a story except that Vivian Wheeler - stage name "Melinda Maxie" - is a bearded lady . And not just any bearded lady, but the one who held the Guinness world record for the longest female beard at 11". Richard and Vivian were finally put in touch by George "The Giant" McArthur, who at 7' 3" is the world's tallest sword swallower. To his credit, Richard has embraced the new relationship: "My whole life growing up, I thought my mom was Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, but that was just my fantasy. This is kind of better....It's a great adventure. It's an unbelievable story, and I just want to be there for the ride with her and spend time with her."

His search to find his biological parents began this past spring in Kansas and culminated in the revelation that 62-year-old Vivian Wheeler was his mother. Vivian had - as did her own mother - hypertrichosis that manifested itself as early as childhood. Her father was humiliated by her condition, but exhibited her in the sideshow all the same. "A sideshow wouldn't be a sideshow without the bearded lady....He saw me as a $1,000 check." She shaved her face between tours until 1990, when her mother died and she allowed her beard to grow out. "I let it grow back to be myself....Without my beard, I'm not me. I'm pretending to be someone I'm not,|" she explains.

In addition to having a beard, Vivian is also a hermaphrodite. Doctors didn't think it was possible, but she became pregnant by a carnival ride operator and delivered Richard by C-section in 1977. After an argument between his parents, he was raised (and abused) by his father. Vivian never contacted the authorities about the disappearance, and suffered a nervous breakdown because of it. She has had broken several bones, has been stabbed, and now has osteoporosis, so she gets around in a wheelchair.

Vivian also gave birth to a daughter, given up for adoption as a baby, and Richard is married with 2 daughters. Richard, who wears a goatee, is pleased at being reunited and points out, "We have a resemblance."

1 comment:

  1. holy cow - i mean, goat(ee)!

    really interesting story


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