Wolf Boys no freaks, just kids proud of who they are
By David Staples
Not many press releases really grab my attention, but one came in last
from the Mexican National Circus that I could hardly believe.
The circus is in town for the
next two weeks. It's set up its tent at the aviation museum at the City
Centre Airport, the old Muni. The show features acrobats, clowns and
dancers. It has no animals, not since the niece of circus boss Roberto
Campa was killed by a tiger. But the press release said the show does have
the Wolf Boys. Larry and Danny Ramos Gomez.
The Wolf Boys
have a condition known as hypertrichosis, said the release, and are
covered head to toe in hair. They were raised by their grandmother in a
poor Mexican village, then adopted by the circus eight years ago, when
Larry was 9 and Danny 6.
traveled to many countries in search of an answer for their condition, but
as of yet no known cause or cure has been found."
I wondered if
the boys were a freak show act, but circus promoter Roxanne Press assures
me this was never the case, that both boys were trained from the start to
be skilled performers.
to take me out to the International Airport to meet Larry and Danny when
they arrive from El Salvador, where they've been performing solo for a
month. On the way out, she tells me she grew up in Grande Prairie, but has
been living in Mexico and working with the circus for the past five years.
She was performing as a jazz dancer in Las Vegas when she heard that
circus dancers were wanted in Mexico and decided to take a chance and go.
What she found
was a dream world and opportunity to join in with a friendly, gutsy group
of performers and travel the world. She says she made about $10,000 last
year. "Your payment is the people's applause," she says. "Money is just a
non-issue in the circus. Money comes, it goes. There will be more
As for the
Wolf Boys, Roxanne says, "I stared at them for about the first four
months. You do. You can't help it. But after that you get totally used to
them. I don't even notice it much any more. When people see the show
they're much more fascinated in the end by the fact that they're such
great circus performers."
boys don't have steady girlfriends, but are always surrounded by pretty
young women, Roxanne says. " I don't know what it is, whether it's just
curiosity, or if it's just that they're nice kids. They're really loving
and outgoing. They look odd to begin with, but they're really kind of
cute, just like little teddy bears."
In the show,
Larry does the music for the sound system and helps with the announcing.
Both he and Danny are trampoline acrobats. Danny also does somersaults off
a motorcycle. Six months ago, he smashed during the stunt, his shoulder
popping out of its socket. But he didn't get much sympathy. "The idiot
tried to do five somersaults and he's only allowed to do four," Roxanne
says. "He overdid it, trying to be a hot shot."
circus life, Danny likes to play video games and board games, while Larry
is interested in science, taking correspondence courses in astronomy.
airport, my first impression of the boys is they have very, very, very,
dark faces. Both are short, wiry guys, dressed in tracksuits, with
expensive looking sneakers and dark hair that never ends. Their facial
hair isn't like the normal course hair of a beard, but looks soft and
curly. They look like miniature Chewbaccas from Star Wars. Danny has a
great smile full of white teeth.
I ride back in
the van to the city with them, Roxanne driving and translating the short
answers in Spanish that Larry gives me. Both boys are friendly enough, but
look exhausted. They've been traveling two days, from El Salvador to
Guatemala to Mexico to the United States, then to Edmonton. The only time
they perk up is when we pass a trailer home lot; Larry lives in a motor
home in Mexico. When the circus moves, he pulls Danny's trailer.
I asked Danny
about the somersault accident. "The problem was I meant to do four, but I
accidentally forgot," he says.
After a few
minutes, the boys seem like pretty normal teenagers to me. They're just
trying to have fun, to figure out the world, and to grow up and become men
in their adopted circus family.
I ask if the
part in the press release about them searching the world for a cure for
their condition is true.
take it off," Larry says. "I'm very proud to be who I am."
Just what I