Edward 'Bowlegs' Bova, 77, dancer, stand-up comedian

March 06, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Edward "Bowlegs" Bova, who tap danced and did stand-up comedy in Block nightclubs for 20 years, then became a truck driver so he could raise his grandson, died of a heart attack Tuesday at Lemko House, a senior citizens residence in Fells Point. He was 77.

Show business came naturally to Mr. Bova, who was the grandson of a baggy-pants, burlesque comedian.

His father, Gus Bova, the first "Bowlegs," was not in show business but was a member of a quartet that sang nightly under a hissing gas lamp at Baltimore and Holliday streets. After his father's death, Mr. Bova inherited the nickname.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Bova moved to Baltimore's Little Italy with his family as a child. He had little formal education.

Beginning in the Depression, he traveled the country to participate in dance marathons, roller derbies and billiard tournaments.

By the late 1940s, he was performing as a dancer, impressionist and comedian before packed audiences in Block clubs, including the Oasis, 408 and 2 O'Clock Club.

"He also played clubs in Chicago, Las Vegas and Boston," said his former wife, "Countess Cassi" Farley, a dancer-singer. They married in 1949 and divorced in 1965.

"He was one of the greatest dancers of all time," said Ms. Farley. "His style of dancing was the old-time shag, tap dance and jitterbug as well as the modern cha-cha."

After the death of his daughter Pamela Sennett in 1970, Mr. Bova gave up the stage and drove a newspaper delivery truck for The Sun to raise his grandson, who was 3 years old at the time. He retired in 1985.

"He gave up his dream of entertaining people and devoted the rest of his life to raising his grandson," Ms. Farley said.

"You can ask anybody about Eddie Bowlegs, he was the greatest," Ms. Farley said.

Plans for a funeral service are incomplete.

Mr. Bova is survived by a daughter, Barbara Phillips of Rosedale; a stepdaughter, Deborah Galdden of Baltimore; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 3/06/98

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