A tall tale

Nephew will speak about his famous El Paso uncle

By Maribel Villalva / El Paso Times

Article Launched: 09/23/2007 12:00:00 AM MDT

Andrew Erlich stands next to a life-size photo of his late uncle, Jake Erlich. Jake Erlich of El Paso , who was 8 foot tall and had fame as a performer in silent films and circuses. On Oct. 6, he will be the subject of a presentation, "The Long Shadows." (Photo courtesy of Andrew Erlich)

Growing up, Andrew Erlich loved hearing the stories about his uncle, Jake Erlich.

Erlich, who lived much of his life in El Paso , was a movie star featured in several silent films, and he also was a circus performer for several years. But Erlich was famous mainly for being taller than everyone else.

In fact, he was once named the "Tallest Man in the World," standing, by most accounts, at 8 feet, inches tall.

Jake Erlich died in 1952 at the age of 46, on his nephew's third birthday. But young Andrew remained fascinated by the stories he heard of Jake Erlich, whose stage name was Jack Earle.

"He went from being this shy, introverted boy giant to a movie star. He really embraced his differences," Andrew Erlich said.

For the past few years, Andrew Erlich has been working on a book based on the life of his famous uncle. Erlich said he is looking for a publisher, but in the meantime, he has developed a multimedia presentation about the life of Jake Erlich that he gives around the country.

Oct. 6, Andrew Erlich, a psychologist living in Phoenix , will give that presentation in El Paso . The program is presented by El Paso Community Foundation and Impact: Programs of Excellence.

The presentation is titled "The Long Shadows: Uncle Jake the Giant and Me."

"This really has been a labor of love for me," Andrew Erlich said, adding that the presentation is much more than just a lecture. It will include movie footage of some of Erlich's silent films, vintage photographs, footage from a PBS documentary, and a life-size portrait of Jake Erlich.

Jake Erlich also was a painter and a poet. He published a book of poetry titled "The Long Shadows," and Andrew Erlich will read excerpts from that book.

"He was a very proud El Pasoan," Andrew Erlich said. "I have some wonderful stories from people who knew him and have shared them with me."

-- Maribel Villalva