Following WWII, Swiss trapese artist Eugene Lambart and his wife Fritzi formed an act with a young Norwegian strongman, Arne Selfors. They looked about for an acrobat to complete their new show and came across two young sisters in Berne. The girls’ father, Mr Broenimann was a labourer, but had been training his daughters in gymnastics since they were five or six. Ericka, then seventeen, was a hand-balancer. Her younger sister Alice, fifteen, was a talented contortionist and ice skater. It was Alice the Lambarts were particularly interested in, but her father insisted his daughters should stay together. He signed a five year contract with the Lambarts on their behalf.
The troupe, known as The Swiss Stars, toured the world, and Alice was soon recognized as the star. She was a petite, dark haired beauty, just 4′ 8″ tall. She explained that her father had worried about her tiny size when she was a child and bought a trapeze, hoping the exercise might promote a growth spurt.
However, life in show business was not as glamourous as a starry eyed teenager might have imagined. The Lambarts were hard task masters, aware that constant practice and absolute concentration was necessary to avoid serious accidents. They had suffered many broken bones themselves over the years. Alice did not take correction or criticism easily, and the relationship with her guardians/employers soured. The sisters were also strictly chaperoned.
In July 1949 the troupe arrived in Australia, performing in Melbourne then moving on to Sydney. They were under contract to the Tivoli Theatre Company. In the photo below, Alice flies from the hands of Eugene Lambart and her sister Ericka into the arms of Arne Selfors. Fritzi Lambart is the woman in the middle of the stage.
The troupe were staying at the Civic Hotel.
After the show on Saturday, October 29, there was a huge row between Eugene Lambart and Alice. The young acrobat went back to her hotel room in a very distressed state. On Sunday morning her sister discovered she was missing. Ericka said Alice only had about £20 to her name. German was the girls’ native language and Alice knew very little English.
WHERE IS ALICE?
The police were notified, and a search was organized. Without their star turn, the troupe’s performances had to be cancelled.
Several days later came the startling news that Alice was working as a waitress at Glenella Guesthouse, in the Blue Mountains village of Blackheath.
Mrs Lambert, wife of the leader of the troupe, was furious and told reporters . ‘Alice is ungrateful. She came from a very poor family. She and her sister (Erica, 20, still with the act) were weak and had no clothes when they joined us. We have lost a whole year of contracts throughout the world – all because of that kid.
Monsieur Lambart is prepared to release Alice from the remaining two years of her contract. But she must come back to us and we will send her home to Switzerland. We are responsible for her. Monsieur Lambart will seek legal aid in having her brought back. I could understand if Alice had taken a job in an office, but a kitchen maid…poof!‘ Asked what was Alice’s salary Madam Lambart said, ‘More than she gets at Blackheath!’
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