Eddie Carmel was born on March 16, 1936 in Tel Aviv, Israel, the only child of Isaac and Miriam Carmel. Both parents were average-sized, but one grandfather at least according to Eddie's promotional material was a 7'5" giant. Eddie himself was perfectly normal until the age of 15, at which point he began to show symptoms of acromegaly. For publicity's sake, however, he claimed he weighed 15 pounds, four ounces at birth and stood six feet tall at the age of seven. As an adult he advertised his height as a record-breaking 9 feet, his weight 535 pounds, and his feet size 35, though his true height was closer to 7'7". Billed as The Happy Giant, The Jewish Giant, The Cowboy Giant, or simply Big Eddie, Eddie traveled with carnivals and circuses in the 1960s, including Milton Levine's World of Mirth and the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, where he sold souvenir rings for 25 cents apiece.

When Eddie stayed in a hotel, he removed the headboard from a standard bed and pushed it up against the end of another bed, to accommodate his great height, and when he rode in a car he sat in the back seat with his feet draped across the headrest of the front seat. His own car had the front seats removed completely. All of his clothes and shoes were custom made as well. "About the only thing I can buy in a store is a handkerchief or an umbrella," he said. When not working for the circus, he toured the country advertising various businesses, and spent his free time living in New York City with his parents. With allegedly the deepest voice in the world, he was highly sought-after for TV and radio commercials.

Eddie played monsters in two low-budget films, the sci-fi horror The Brain that Wouldn't Die in 1959 and the softcore porno 50,000 Years B.C. ("before clothing") in 1963, and made TV appearances with Ed Sullivan, Art Linkletter, Gary Moore and Steve Allen. He even fronted his own rock band, Frankenstein and the Brain Surgeons. For a time he also worked as a professional wrestler who claimed his opponents would keel over in fright, and in the late 60s worked in a night club in Los Angeles as a comedian.

Eddie retired from circus life in 1969 when he could no longer get up on the platform.Although he joked often that he someday wished to reach ten feet tall, he knew that his large size posed a danger to his health, and in July of 1972 he checked in to Montifiore Medical Center in the Bronx, hoping to undergo hormonal treatments to halt his growth. Before any progress could be made, however, he suffered a sudden heart attack and died on July 30, just 36 years old.

Eddie Carmel's very last screen appearance is as an uncredited extra in Brian DePalma's Sisters (above), released in 1973, after his death. He plays an inmate at a sanatorium.

 

Photographer Diane Arbus immortalized Eddie in her 1971 photograph Jewish Giant With His Parents.