Height was no barrier to love when Lofty the Dutch Giant got married in Dundee to the sister of the world’s smallest man.
Albert Johan Kramer was born in Amsterdam in 1897 weighing 17 pounds and he was 7 feet tall by the time he was seven.
His artists’ names were Lofty and Jan van Albert.
He was the top billing star of ‘Would You Believe It?’ and was partnered with Josef Fassler whose stage name was ‘Seppetoni’ and he stood at 3 feet 6 inches.
The two men were great friends and they ended up brothers-in-law.
Lofty’s bride was Wilhelmina Fassler who was from Switzerland but had been living in Dundee when they got married on June 8 1926.
The Collins Variety Agency
Lofty and Seppetoni were performers from the shows of the Collins Variety Agency.
Fred Collins was stage-struck from his childhood in Glasgow and would establish Scotland’s first variety agency in 1912 which he ran with his son Horace.
The agency became famous for its twice nightly pantomimes starring many of the great stars of the day such as Dave Willis, Power and Bendon, Harry Gordon, GH Elliot, Will Fyffe, Denny Willis, Don Arrol, Tommy Lorne, Alex Findlay, Jack Radcliffe, Robert Wilson, Charlie Kemble and Jack Anthony.
The Collins family became the Scots version of PT Barnum and his Greatest Show On Earth and showcased a caravan of weird and wonderful acts.
The Collins’ toured Europe in search of novelty acts for their revue shows and one of the most unusual they met up with was Albert Johan Kramer in Brussels.
His breakfast consisted of 10 eggs, six large bowls of porridge, four kippers, one pound of fried bacon, 12 slices of toast and eight cups of coffee.
He would eat four meals a day including a light supper.
He weighed 32 stone, took a size 18 shoe and smoked 50 cigars a day.
Lofty, as he was renamed, became the show’s giant at 9 feet 3 inches.
Lofty’s partner Seppetoni would make his entrance to the stage carried in Lofty’s attaché case.
He would lift Seppetoni up on the palm of one hand.
The ‘Would You Believe It?’ revue performed across the UK including Glasgow’s Pavilion Theatre, Edinburgh’s Theatre Royal, Dundee’s Palace and Aberdeen’s Tivoli.
Lofty was paid a very high salary but arranging travel was costly as he required special railway carriages and his sleeping accommodation was also difficult.
As a general rule, two beds were placed end to end, but sometimes he would find it necessary to let his feet dangle out of the bedroom window.
“It is only a theory of mine, but I believe that I am history repeating itself,” he said.
“My native Amsterdam, you know, is built on 90 islands, joined by 350 bridges.
“Who built such a city, the conquest of man over the sea?
“Who but a race of giants?”
Despite his size, his parents, four sisters and two brothers were all of normal height.
Lofty got married in Dundee in 1926
Lofty met his wife Wilhelmina in 1920 and they got married at Dundee Sheriff Court on June 8 1926 when he was performing in the city.
The Courier said the marriage was “one of the most remarkable that has taken place in Dundee for many years”.
Lofty was 28 and she was 30.
Lofty stooped to get his giant frame through the door.
He gave his profession as “music hall artiste” on the marriage register.
The best man was Joseph Black from Aberdeen.
Mrs Black was bridesmaid and the wedding party also included Seppetoni.
The Courier said the party drove up to the entrance of the sheriff court buildings in two taxi-cabs before the ceremony “which attracted quite a number of passing pedestrians”.
“Seppetoni, who occupied one of the front seats, appeared to derive considerable enjoyment out of the affair.
“Kramer, as bridegroom, was first to take the oath.
“He gave his present address as 26 Union Street, Dundee.
“He answered all the questions put to him by the sheriff in a most matter-of-fact way.
“Then followed the bride who also gave 26 Union Street, Dundee, as her present address.”
The Courier said a larger group had assembled when the bridal group left the building after the warrant was granted to register the marriage.
“A reception was afterwards held at 26 Union Street, Dundee.
“It is interesting to note that Lofty first met his bride in Germany several years ago.
“She has been travelling with her brother, Seppetoni, and Lofty, on their present tour.
“The bridegroom is professionally engaged in Dundee all this week but he and his bride hope to go on a short honeymoon next week.”
Lofty suffered at the hands of the Nazis
Lofty and Seppetoni continued to travel all over the world to perform including Europe, America, South America and South Africa.
“While occasionally I like a little of something other than that which comes out of the water-wagon, it was not until I got to America that I first tasted whisky,” he said.
When he was in Texas he went to a baseball match attended by 20,000 people.
He added: “They didn’t look at the match however, they looked at me!”
Lofty suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazis during the occupation of Holland and wartime diet restrictions reduced his weight by 19 stone.
He recovered his robust health following the liberation of Holland and Lofty and Seppetoni returned to tour and were popular in the UK for many years.
Lofty eventually decided to settle back in Holland as a hotel proprietor and he also founded the Klub Lange People (KLM) in 1958 for people taller than 1.80 meters.
He moved to nursing home De Drie Hoven in Amsterdam in June 1975 after both his legs were amputated as a result of vascular problems and circulatory disorders.
Albert Johan Kramer passed away aged 78 on April 4 1976.
Randle Collins recalls the special day he met Lofty the Dutch Giant
On his father Fred’s death in 1931, Horace Collins took the reins of the business and reined supreme during the 1930s and 1940s when he established the Collins Seasonal Circuit which allowed the performers to hone their talents the year round.
Business boomed until Horace’s death in 1947.
Neither his widow Josee nor his son Randle could fight the decline in Scottish variety theatre and the business was eventually closed in 1956.
Randle said: “I will never forget the day I met Lofty the Dutch Giant.
“I was only five or six but oddly enough I can still remember it like it was yesterday and I’m not all that wonderful at recalling things as far back as that!
“But I suppose meeting a giant is something that would always stick in your mind!”
Randle was taken backstage by his father to meet Lofty following a show in Glasgow.
“Lofty was sitting in a chair which had almost disappeared under someone of his enormous size and his wife was there in his dressing room,” he said.
“He was very pleasant and, as was usual in that particular set-up, I – as my dad’s son – was very often given bars of chocolate by some of the performers.
“I got a sweet treat from Lofty and of course when he stood up I was in total awe of him!
“He really was a giant among men!”