Long-lost son finds out, after 33 years apart, his mother is a bearded hermaphrodite who used to be a hit at the circus... thanks to George the Giant
23rd November 2010
For a 33-year-old man who was looking for his biological mother, it was the last thing he expected to find.
Following a series of back problems Kansas-based Richard Lorenc decided to find out more about his family tree.
And six weeks after asking the authorities in Kansas, he had his answer: His mother was a 62-year-old bearded hermaphrodite who performed at circuses.
Vivian Wheeler and Richard's maternal grandmother, he was informed, both suffered from hypertrichosis, or werewolf syndrome - meaning they had facial hair, even as children.
This intrigued Richard, and he was determined to find out more - and meet his long-lost mother.
And, having searched on the Internet, discovered pictures of a woman with the same name working at sideshows and circuses.
'I knew it was her as soon as I saw the picture online,' he said. 'We have a resemblance.'
He had no way to contact her, though, and he pestered a number of people who knew her in the trade, including George 'The Giant' McArthur, who at 7ft 3ins is the world's tallest sword-swallower.
Only a few weeks later Vivian happened to attend an event George was performing in, and the giant was able to tell her about her boy wanting to contact her.
A Seventh-Day Adventist, she was overjoyed and thought it a miracle.
'The Holy Spirit told me to go,' she said. 'He told me George had something to tell me that was very important.
'I hollered at him from behind, and he turned around and told me my son was looking for me.
'I told God I wanted to know if I had grandchildren and if my son was alive. Then, like snapping your fingers, his wife called me.'
Richard's wife, Jessica, contacted Vivian to check some details before he agreed to meet up with her and find out more about her life.
They met for three days in Bakersfield, California, in June and now wheelchair-bound Vivian told her son about her life.
They have had a DNA test on the popular American chat show Maury Povich to ascertain whether they are actually mother and son, and the results will be revealed on Wednesday.
'I want to share the story, and I want to know for sure if it's my son,' she said. 'Even if not, I still love him.'
As she was born with both male and female reproductive organs, her mother, who wanted a girl, instructed the doctors to remove the masculine parts.
Her father, however, was humiliated by his hairy daughter and made her work at sideshows from an early age, forcing her to send back money she earned.
When she embarked on relationships with men, she would often shave back her fluff so as not to embarrass - or undermine - them.
The father of Richard was a carnival ride operator she had met in Nebraska and took the baby away from her soon after the birth.
She desperately wanted her son back and the stress caused her to have a mental breakdown on stage.
And when Vivian's mother died in 1990, she decided to stop shaving her beard entirely - it's now 11 inches long. 'I let it grow back to be myself,' she said.
'Without my beard, I'm not me. I'm pretending to be someone I'm not.'
Meanwhile Richard moved into an orphanage before his father, Richard James Chambers Snr. regained custody of him and took him to Kansas.
When teachers at his school began to notice abuse marks on his body, he was moved to a foster home.
Aged seven he was adopted and became Richard Kevin Ryan, and when he married, he took his wife's surname, Lorenc.
'I am lucky,' he said. 'Having this life story attached to it, it's cool. It's something I would've never imagined in a million years.
'But for this story to bring attention to Vivian is something else. It's a dream come true, I know, for her.
'Whatever happens, I want to be there with her. It's a great adventure. It's an unbelievable story, and I just want to be there for the ride with her and spend time with her.'