[Flea Circuses — Flea Trainers]
History: The Heckler's are arguably the most famous family in fleas since Signor Bertolotto. William Heckler, born in 1870, started in show business as a circus strong man with shows like John Robinson, Sells Brothers Circus and Adam Forepaugh. In approximately 1901 William took over an Orlando, Florida Flea Theater, hanging up his strongman's tights forever. In 1915 Heckler published his often copied pamphlet PULI-COLOGY which explained the science of training fleas, and was sold at his shows for many years. Bouncing from traveling shows to amusement parks-- including a stop-over on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk to operate another Flea Theater-- William Heckler finally found his way to within a few blocks of his ultimate destiny at Hubert's Museum, landing in 1920 at Hammerstein's Roof on Seventh Avenue at 42nd Street where the line-up at the time included Princess Rajah "Oriental Dancer" and Singer's Midgets. Following a successful run of John C. Ruhl's Flea Theater at Hubert's, Heckler was called in and stayed for eight years.
William Heckler ran the flea circus at Hubert's Museum in partnership with his two sons, Lesley William "Les" Heckler and Herbert LeRoy "Roy" Heckler from 1925 until 1933, at which time William Sr. took a group of fleas with him to Chicago, where he opened up a flea circus at the 1933 Century of Progress. The owner's of Hubert's Museum operated another penny arcade at 52nd and Broadway, where for a time both William Sr. and Roy operated flea circuses simultaneously. In 1936 William died at the age of sixty-six, leaving Roy Heckler to run the show at Hubert's and inherit the pulicological empire. "Les" Heckler disappeared from the annals of flea-training, whereabouts unknown.
Roy ran the show and managed Hubert's Museum for over 25 years, receiving rave reviews for his act from newspaper columnists, everyday folk, and Broadway theatre critics. As the manager of Hubert's, Roy was in charge of booking the acts, watching the money, and keeping the place running smoothly. He worked long hours— arriving at 11am each morning, and returning to his house in Coney Island past 11pm each evening.
Roy Heckler finally retired from Hubert's Museum in 1956, heading south to Sarasota, where he opened his own flea circus. This venture was short-lived, and Roy returned again to Hubert's Museum in 1957, finally retiring again in 1960— to Bradenton, Florida, where he died in 1967.
Thanks to LeRoy Heckler— son of Herbert LeRoy "Roy" Heckler— and Roy's grand-daughter Linda Heckler for contributing to the recent update of this page.