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1930s & Earlier / Shipwreck Kelly - Flagpole Sitter
One of the weirder phenomena of the 1920s was the popularity of flagpole-sitting, a strange publicity gimmick mastered by Alvin (Shipwreck) Kelly. In 1924 Kelly was hired by a Hollywood press agent to promote a new film by sitting on the flagpole above the Los Angeles theater where the movie was playing. He remained there for 13 hours and 13 days, starting a bizarre national craze. By 1928 Kelly was earning over $100 per day for his stunts--fantastic money in those days. The apex of Kelly's career occurred in 1930 when he spent 1,177 hours atop a 125-foot flagpole at Atlantic City's Steel Pier. The Great Depression, however, diminished the public's appetite for such stunts. By the end of 1930 Kelly's stunts were earning him little more than pocket change. His last public appearance of any significance occurred in 1939. Broke and on welfare, Kelly dropped dead in 1952 while walking between two parked cars in New York City. Clutched tightly in one arm was a scrapbook containing clippings and momentos from his glory days as King of the Flagpole Sitters.