Two of my favorite pictures of one of my favorite people, Jackie LeClaire.
I believe that these both date from the early 60s when Jackie was doing advance work for the Ringling show.
Imagine... Kennedy may have been in the White House, The Beatles may have been on Sullivan, Lenny Bruce may have been off somewhere saying a dirty word... but you'd never know it from these timeless images of a classic circus clown.
These could have been taken in 1927 or yesterday morning.
Yesterday we got a very nice message from Lazlo "Laci" Donnert, grandson of Lazlo Donnert, a pmember of the Ringling Blue Unit Alley from the late 60s through the mid 70s.
I had the pleasure of working with Lazlo and his family on the Red Unit in 1999. He was always very nice to me and even allowed me to play with his dogs each day before the show. I was missing my own dog while on the road and Lazlo understood.
We had the chance to have a few long conversations and Lazlo enjoyed having someone from the Alley to talk about the old days with. He was very generous in sharing stories about his time working alongside Doug Ashton, Frankie Saluto and Otto.
Laci, can you give us a little biographical material on your grandfather?
Here's the description from Donni... _____________________________________
Here is a pix of Chuck Sateja taken on the All Star Clown Revue in a mall in Boston Mass. The manager of an ice cream store asked Chuck to front his new Rainbow ice cream flavor Chuck being a lover of ice cream cheerfully agreed. This was in early 70s. Chuck was flamboyant & funny clown spent many years on Ringling with friend Bobby Kaye & that group-------Donni
Myron "Buck" Baker (you didn't think his momma named him "Buck, did ya?) was born in 1873 and died in Washington July 6th, 1943.
From 1902 until 1907 he appeared in vaudeville as a trick bicycle rider. In 1908 he joined the Ringling Bros. Circus and subsequently worked on the Walter L. Main, Morris & Rowe, Gentry, Bailey Bros, and Hagenbeck Wallace circuses.
He was a prolific Producing Clown specializing in several trick automobile gags. He may have invented the "second driver" car that seems to drive by itself, the kind used by the Wiswell and Cook families for many years. He also created an early version of the bathtub that Lou Jacobs made famous. There is also strong evidence that he created that absolute all-time classic of three ring American circus clowning, the Firehouse Gag.
Because there are more photos from the Last Supper than there are of Buck Baker, I'm using my meager detective skills to deduce that he is the clown on the far right with his face (frustratingly) obscured by his hat.
This photo is from the Pfening Archives. Fred has this photo ID'ed as "BAKER, BUCK WITH CLOWNS" and has neatly typed "BAILEY BROS. CIRCUS (HARLEY SADLER) WITCHITA FALLS TEXAS 9/11/35) " under it. Included with it is Buck's obituary from his local newspaper so it's on good authority that I'm accepting that Buck is one of the four clowns in the photo.
Now, Buck Baker wasn't a "little person" so that eliminates the man on the far left, He could be either of the two gentlemen in the center of the photo but Buck would be about 62 years old when this photo was taken in 1935 and neither of those men look old enough to be 42 much less 62.
Therefore, if this is a photo with the elusive Mr. Buck Baker in it, it's my guess that he's the cat in the hat.
If anybody out there has a better photo of Buck, PLEASE let me know!
We've had a lot of international visitors recently.
Folks from all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South America and even South Africa have found us here in the past few weeks but we have one person in Australia who is looking in almost every day.
I'm wondering if it might be Dougie Ashton, seen above with Michu, Tim Torklidson and (hiding in the back) future Dean of Clown College, Ron Severini in whiteface.
I just worked with Doug's nephew, Mike Ashton, his wife Sue and their beautiful new baby. Mike told me that Doug is back in Australia with a gig in a seaside resort town. If you're out there Doug, please drop me a line!
Hubert Jean Charles Cairoli. (Some sources have it as "Jean Hubert Charles".) Born: Milan, Italy. 15 February 1910. Died: Blackpool, England. 17 February 1980.
A friend of mine once heard a girl tell Charlie that he wasn't a real clown, probably because she believed a real clown had a heavy facial make-up. His response was "Oh!", and a big smile. If Charlie Cairoli wasn't a real clown, then there is no such thing as a real clown.
Whilst he was born in Italy, his parents were both French, and it was their only visit to that country. Charlie made his ring debut at the age of 7, and by 1929 he was working at Cirque Medrano in Paris, France, in an act with his father (Jean-Marie) as white-face, and the celebrated auguste, Porto. By this time, Charlie was known as Carletto. The Cairolis were to remain at Medrano until 1937, Charlie's elder brother, Filip, replacing Porto along the way.
For much of that time, the other major Parisian circus building (Cirque d'Hiver) featured Les Fratellini. Naturally there was professional rivalry (and respect) between the two star clown trios, and each sent family members to the other building to spy on their competitors.
Charlie would notice the frequent presence of one particular charming young lady in his audience, so made sure he met her. He discovered that her name was Violette. Violette Fratellini. Her father was Paul. The result was marriage (despite some initial opposition from both families) and, subsequently, 3 children (2 daughters and a son).
The year 1939 found the Cairolis at Blackpool Tower Circus, where they were very successful. Filip returned to France when war broke out, but father and younger son stayed on in Britain, often billed as The Cairoli Brothers when working in variety when the circus wasn't operating. Having been born in Italy, Charlie was interned towards the start of hostilities, but eventually he would perform 2 shows each day - and then spend the night working in a munitions factory.
Charlie Cairoli remained a fixture a The Tower until his retirement at the end of the 1979 season, a season during which his health had not been good.
"Johnny" Cairoli retired in 1947, after which Charlie worked with 4 different white-face clowns, namely Paul Freeman, Paul King, Paul Conner and, to complete the circle, Charlie Cairoli Jr. (The photo with the posting on 8 July shows Paul King.)
Featured prominently, there would often be a brilliant stooge called Jimmy Buchanan. Jimmy worked absolutely straight-faced. Dead pan. Even whilst his nose or ears were severely tweaked - and with a mouth full of water.
Violette Cairoli and Jimmy Buchanan have both departed this life.
However, Charlie Junior still works as a clown, although he took some time out from circus, and dropped the "Junior" a while ago. Of late, he's been in and out of hospital, so is resting as I write. He and his wife Claudi (more formally Claudette) have 2 sons - Charles and Alexander - who have little or no interest in show business.
I know that a grandchild of Filip Cairoli was living in the US some 10 years ago.
That tells you something about the man and his colleagues. In due course, I'll tell you something about his work.
If The Circus is one of Charlie Chaplin's lesser-known films, it's only because of bad timing. Made right after The Gold Rush and just before City Lights, this unjustly underrated silent tends to get neglected out of deference to the two other films. While it may not be a cinematic masterpiece, nevertheless, it's a beautiful film and perhaps more personal that anyone might have suspected at the time and is one of the funniest, most purely entertaining of Chaplin's features.
The film opens on a circus where the ringmaster is an abusive bully, the clowns are desperately unfunny, and the audiences are growing smaller and smaller. As act after act bombs inside, the Little Tramp is outside, blithely enjoying the boardwalk until a cop mistakes him for a pickpocket and gives chase. When the Little Tramp runs into the circus' center ring, he quickly has the audience in stitches with his efforts to ditch the cop. Knowing a good thing when he sees one, the ringmaster offers the Tramp a job, only to discover that he's only funny when he isn't trying.
This is merely the film's setup, encompassing the first 20 minutes or so, and already it includes some moments of Chaplin genius: a chase through the fun house, the Tramp's first moments in front of an audience, the absolutely hilarious audition sequence where the Tramp reinterprets some classic clown routines. Still to come is the romance with the ringmaster's daughter, and the rivalry between the tightrope walker and the monkeys in the scene above.
The trick comes when the ringmaster (Allan Garcia) decides to keep Charlie on as a prop master, but without letting him know that he's actually the star of the show. Eventually he discovers his stardom and must appear "funny" on purpose. But when a new tightrope walker (Harry Crocker) joins the show and the girl falls in love with him, a heartbroken Charlie finds that he can't make the audience laugh anymore.
These three stages may represent for Chaplin some kind of comedy evolution. At first he makes the audience laugh without trying, then he must try, then he turns serious. Certainly every film he made after The Circus had some kind of serious element to it, even if he never again made an all-out drama like A Woman of Paris (1923).
Chaplin's film shoots were never easy, but The Circus was particularly plagued by problems. The first 19 days of shooting were destroyed in a lab accident; it rained incessantly; the main set burned to the ground; Rudolph Valentino died; and Chaplin's 18-year-old wife sued him for divorce, forcing the entire film to be put on hold for eight months.
While waiting for the set to be reconstructed after the fire, Chaplin kept working, quickly devising a sequence when the Little Tramp goes out for dinner. Although he shot hundreds of takes, Chaplin would never bother to edit them into a scene for the final movie. Presented on the recent DVD reissue as a collection of unedited takes, "The Unused Footage" gives us a rare opportunity to watch Chaplin at work. Banging his cane on the floor instead of yelling "cut," Chaplin does take after take, slowly exploring the comic possibilities and making things up as he goes along. It's surprising to realize how much of Chaplin's humor was created on-set and the fact he hates to leave the center of the screen.
For hard-core Chaplin fans, the production lasted 637 days and they only actually shot film on 170 of those.
Largely free of the pathos and overwrought melodramatics that contemporary audiences have a hard time accepting, The Circus is simply about being funny. Of course, since it's Charlie Chaplin, it's brilliantly funny. At the first Academy Awards in 1928, Chaplin received a special Oscar for "versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing and producing The Circus." That may be one of the best decisions the Academy has ever made.
Edited from D.R. Jones review found on reelmovie.com and Jeffrey M. Anderson's on combustiblecelluloid.com