Monte Saldo was a bodybuilder, stage performer and an author born in 1879 in London. Saldo showed interests in bodybuilding and strength training as a teenager. With a help of his uncle, who was a well-known and respected police inspector, Saldo became an apprentice to Eugene Sandow in 1897, at the famous gym Sandow founded. This experienced showed to be crucial for Saldo’s future success, as he learned a lot about stage performances while helping Sandow.
The first time public had a chance to see Monte Saldo on stage was at the Coliseum in Leeds where he was one of the demonstrators of the Sandow Exerciser. Shortly afterwards, Saldo teamed up with another apprentice of Sandow, Ronco, with a plan to create their very own strongman stage act. In 1900 they started performing as “Ronco & Monte” around Europe only to return to Britain to show their acts at the Royal Aquarium in London for six consecutive months.
It was fairly common back than to offer money to anyone who could replicate your feats of strength. This never happened to this duo, but Saldo did have to pay to learn a lesson once. He was challenged by Charles Rusell, an amateur champion in weight lifting, to the five lifts which were used in official amateur competition. Monte Saldo couldn’t outperform his opponent and he never tried to do something like this again if he hadn’t trained for the specific challenge.
The Tomb of Hercules
The contract with the Royal Aquarium ended after six months, and after one extension, Saldo and Ronco decided to part their ways. Saldo’s younger brother Frank Harold Woollaston teamed up with him and Saldo toured Europe once again, appearing in Prague, Paris, Hamburg, Saxony and Amsterdam. After this tour, brothers signed a contract with the London Pavilion and this is where the famous “The Tomb of Hercules” act took place for the first time. This act was designed to draw in large audiences – which it did. Despite Saldo weighing only 144 pounds at that time, he supported a Darracq with five passengers inside, in a bridge position. After huge success at the London Pavilion, Saldo refined this stunt and introduced it to another international tour where he was paid more than any strongman for one act.
The Sculptor’s Dream
The Sculptor’s Dream is an act from 1906 featuring Saldo and his brothers (Frank and Edwin) and it’s best described by the words of Alexander Zass:
… a real strongman, and a clever weightlifter to boot was Monte Saldo, whose stage showmanship was best displayed, perhaps, in a turn which he presented with his brother Frank, entitled “the Sculptor’s Dream,” certainly of the most artistic and impressive of any ever given.
The curtain rose disclosing a sculptor’s studio, with the sculptor at work on a reproduction of a well known classical statue. The figure was Monte himself, painted and garbed in an excellent imitation of marble, and behind him was a mirror, in which the statue could be seen reproduced. After working a while, the sculpture wearied, and concealing his masterpiece behind curtains, stretched himself at length upon a couch, soon to be ostensibly asleep. The curtains thereupon parted on their own account, revealing the statue in another classical pose, again reflected in the mirror. Then once more they closed, only to re-open and repeat their re-opening to revelation of ever fresh poses and reflections, until finally the statue and the mirror reflection confront each other in a famous wrestler’s attitude.
A pause, and then the mirror crashing as the ‘reflection’ – brother Frank, to be more explicit – leapt out to grapple with Monte, and execute on stage a variety of wrestling postures. This unique opening was followed by a series of equally novel strength feats in which both iron and human weights figured, closured by Monte pressing Frank aloft with one hand, and a twirl round of the supported performer. This twirl, by the way, was very smartly done. As Frank leant back to be supported on Monte’s palm, the lifter would interpose a revolving disc on which his brother’s back rested. Thus when Frank had been pressed aloft, it enabled Monte to spin him.
At this juncture, the sculptor would commence to stir, whereupon both statue and ‘reflection’ would leap back and, resuming their original poses, thus satisfying the now awakened chiseller of marble that all which had transpired was actually nothing but a dream.
Monte Saldo was one of the few men who have enhanced a reputation made on the stage as a strongman by feats performed away from its atmosphere of glamour and make-believe. The first man in the world to ‘swing’ over his own bodyweight with one hand, and one of the most successful trainers of strong men ever known…
This act had the most original setting the public has ever seen and received many praises.
- He had a good sense of music and was an accomplished musician
- He was fluent in many languages
- Saldo was seriously injured in a bombing raid on London during WW2. His wife died in this attack.
- He was an active member of British Amateur Weightlifter’s Association and Committee member for professional weightlifters
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