She bent iron rods in her luscious mouth, twisted nails in her beautifully manicured fingers and supported brawny men on her 21-inch waist. She appeared in sexy mesh stockings and spangly evening gowns, her blond tresses coiffed to perfection. In short, Joan Rhodes was every man’s fantasy of a glamorous strongwoman.
Joan was born around 1925, and her early life was quite unpleasant. Her father was a traveling performer who worked with horses, and when her parents split, Joan and her siblings were sent to live with relatives. Restless and unhappy, the young girl ran away at the age of 14 and began to earn her own living.
She supported herself as an artist’s model, a dancer and a fashion model, but she always felt destined for the world of strength. For that reason she answered an ad that read ‘Freak Wanted’ and got a job in a traveling show called Would You Believe It? Thanks to that exposure, Joan’s career rocketed forward. Eventually, she performed at the London Palladium, entertained British royalty and earned $500 a minute on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in New York.
After her popular strongwoman act had run its course, Joan turned to legitimate acting. She’s still seen in the odd BBC comedy. Joan’s delightful personality made her popular with audiences. She had a quick wit and peppered her act with wisecracks and jokes. While doing a charity show at Parkhurst prison, she joshed the inmates by asking if they would like to know how to bend steel bars. They were all ears until she told them that it was done by sheer strength.
Joan hit her peak during the early years of television, and execs quickly discovered that a beautiful, shapely girl who bent iron rods with ease made a great spectacle. But she wasn’t a beautiful phony; everyone who dealt with her came away convinced of her genuine strength. She was actually as strong as she was beautiful.