Limbo record holder dances up a storm at age 78

April 6, 2017

Gus Limbo, also known as Dancing Bear, shown with his 101 year old mother, Morning Star.

Gus Limbo, also known as Dancing Bear, shown with his 101 year old mother, Morning Star.

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

His birth name is Gust Golfis, of Barryton, but people know him by his stage name of Gus Limbo.  That’s because at 78 he still holds the world record at doing the “Limbo” at just five inches. “That was in Nashville, Tennessee at the Wild Horse Saloon,” he said.

Gus grew up in Royal Oak and joined the Army where he served for six years in a variety of jobs. After his discharge in 1961, Limbo became an entertainer traveling all over the United States and the world dancing, from the Limbo to fire dancing to “the robot” in England, France, Greece and Jamaica and many more places.

For a time he lived in Jamaica, Montego Bay where he was in charge of limbo dancing on the beach. When he was the limbo dancer for the Trinidad Tripoli Band, he went with them to all of the states except Hawaii and Alaska, he said.

Dancing Bear, known around Barryton as Gus Limbo, shown during a traditional Cherokee dance.

Dancing Bear, known around Barryton as Gus Limbo, shown during a traditional Cherokee dance.

He has been dancing for 68 years, since he was ten years old, but that’s not all he has done.  As a native, and member of the Cherokee Nation from the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, he travels around the Midwest participating (dancing) in Powwows and educating his people about American Indian history. He also teaches Boy Scouts how to make teepees and wigwams to earn their merit badges. He said his goal is “to keep the American Indian heritage alive.” He continued, At the Powwows, “We are teaching the young ones about our heritage.”

He called the powwows “intertribal – for all nations where the dances include,” he said, “grass dancers, traditional dancers, jingle bell dress dancers, women’s traditional, men’s traditional, about seven or eight different kinds of dances.” He said he has been doing powwows for more than 30 years and in 2009, said he did about six or seven a year.

In that 2009 interview Gus, who said he would rather live in the past, said he even lives in a ten foot diameter wigwam that he built himself, what he calls an igloo. It is made of rods, or tree branches tied together then covered with rubber and a tarp and the door faces east where the sun comes up, a traditional Cherokee setting.

Gus also used to perform as a clown and has been in many, many parades, both as a clown and in traditional Indian dress. This year was his third time in Clare’s Irish Festival Parade.

He has performed at the Wheatland Festival for 74 years and at Tip Up Town in Houghton Lake for 67 years, where he was draped with U.S. flags twice.
His Indian name is Gowamuckwa or Dancing Bear, and his mother, who sometimes joins him in parades and also still dances at 101 years old, is called Morning Star. She was presented with a special plaque by Governor Snyder honoring her on her 100th birthday, he said.

Gus has also traveled in England and France to entertain, and also entertained in Las Vegas with a “Fire Act.” He said, “I did a show with Elvis at the Michigan State Fair and with Liberace, who was also in Michigan at the time.”

Gus Limbo, born Gust Golfis, an Army Veteran, is shown here when he was in the service.

Gus Limbo, born Gust Golfis, an Army Veteran, is shown here when he was in the service.

At the Grand Old Opry, while “clogging” there, he did shows with Hank Williams Jr., Kitty Wells and Bill Monroe, the American mandolinist, singer and songwriter known as the “Father of Bluegrass.”

He was an entertainer on the Carnival Cruise Lines, and as a cancer survivor, has participated in Relays for Life to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
When he lost his hair during his cancer treatments he had it made into a wig that he wears with his Indian dance regalia. Although he is a man of many talents, “nowadays it is just dancing,” he said.

Over the years he has collected many mementos of his life as an entertainer. Some of them include four plaques from U.S. Presidents (Ford, Nixon, Reagan and Kennedy), a belt buckle and scarf from Elvis and a pair of the famous singer’s sunglasses. He has a music box grand piano signed by Liberace, and a picture of Wind Talker Navaho Joe, a famous code talker in World War II. He collects Eagle Feathers that are given to him in honor of his heritage and said he was given the crossed arrows that were part of the Civil War uniform of Indian scouts in the Army.

Meantime Limbo just “keeps on dancing.” He said his philosophy of life is “Any day above ground is good…I hope to live to a ripe old age with the dancing I do.”

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5 Responses to Limbo record holder dances up a storm at age 78

  1. Barbara Belland Reply

    April 19, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    You said he’s performed at Wheatland for 74 years. That’s not possible. Wheatland is not that old. Typo or ???

  2. Marie Franklin Reply

    March 20, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Hi Gus, It has been years, but I still think of you and the true friend you were of Joanne and Mike and their family. Nice to see you are still at it, lol

  3. Mary Hall Reply

    April 7, 2019 at 4:53 am

    My mother ran with Gus back in the 70’s into the 90’s. A good family friend with a heart of gold.

  4. Sharon Reply

    February 14, 2020 at 1:58 am

    Hi Gus, you are a wonderful man to me and my Family, love and miss seeing you and your Mom.

    Love,
    Sharon, Jodi and Buck

  5. Michele Felton Reply

    February 14, 2020 at 3:34 am

    Hi Gus! I still remember you living in your little camper in our back yard many decades ago! (Our little red house next to the woods in Madison Heights Michigan)
    You were a part of our family, and you will always have a special place in my heart.
    I love and miss you,
    I’m so happy to hear you are still dancing!

    Michele Brenton Felton

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