Thursday, June 14, 2007

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

I spent last Friday, Saturday and Sunday doing the first "nine pack" that I'd done since leaving Ringling in 1999.

For those who have never worked in a circus, a "nine pack" means 3 days of 3 back-to-back shows each day. A usual weekend schedule is 2 shows Friday, 3 shows Saturday and 2 shows on Sunday. A "six pack" (3 Saturday and 3 Sunday) is unusual outside of Ringling, a "nine packs" are about as common as hen's teeth.

A "twelve pack" (3 Friday, 3 Saturday, 3 Sunday and ANOTHER 3 on a holiday Monday) NEVER happen outside of Ringling.

Anyway, I had a tough schedule but a great time working with friends who made the days breeze by. I realized that Rockford, IL was only about an hour and half from Baraboo so I contacted Greg and Karen DeSanto to see if they'd be around thinking that I'd drive up and have lunch before heading back down to Chicago on Tuesday to fly home.

Man, oh man! Do I owe Greg and Karen BIG TIME for one of the most wonderful days a clown could imagine! While Karen and Em went to baseball practice, Greg took me over to the library at the CWM and showed me some of their truly amazing collection. I'm not sure that I am at liberty to discuss some of the things that are there but suffice to say that the CWM has an absolutely AMAZING collection.

After viewing some of the artifacts we opened up the photo files and looked through 16 files of unidentified circus clowns; some just under-appreciated clowns that most people don't recognize, others strange clowns that neither of us had ever seen before.

To review, I sat in the library of the CWM with Greg DeSanto, maybe the greatest living historian of American circus clowning, and geeked out for a few hours looking at rare clown stuff! For me, there is no better activity than this on the face of the earth!!!

We then went over to the park briefly so that I could see the clown exhibits and hit the gift shop. We got back to the house. Emily went to hang with some friends while the grown-ups hit a local resturaunt known for it's "Butter Burgers". The food was uncommonly delicious in that typically Wisconsin "I-don't-give-a-good-gosh-darn-if'n-it's-good-for-me" kind of way but if I'd had the triple-thick milkshake that the girl at the counter had suggested I'm fairly certain that I'd have needed a triple bypass before dessert.

Then it was off to pick up Emily and a quick trip to the nearby Wisconsin Dells to visit Tommy Bartlett's, an aqua/variety show that has been a fixture there in the Dells since 1590. Originally the Tommy Barlett team performed various water skiing tricks, including the 10 person pyramid (who were back then pulled quickly across the lake by 3 strong men in kayaks) to the indigenous Native-Americans of the region in exchange for shiny beads and and bits of fried cheese.

The first half of Tommy Barlett's latest production features "The Pirates of Barlett Bay", a very appealing pirate-themed aqua show that makes the aqua shows that you usually see in theme parks look extremely thin by comparrision. The second half is a series of really great circus and variety acts, the highlight of which was seeing my friend T.J. Howell (visit and his young sons Hunter and Carson perform a very tightly packed powerhouse set of juggling, comedy and unicycles.

There were several other performers and circus folks in the house that night and I had a great time meeting T.J.'s mom "Meema" who used to do a hair hang "back in the day" at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City and catching up with circus fan Crash Moreau and local Eric McConnell, who is a friend from my time on Circus Royale.

Then it was back to Greg and Karen's for a tour of more of the house and more of the extensive DeSanto archives. They have an absolutely jaw-dropping collection and Greg tells that Tim Tegge has even MORE!

We sat up until 3:30 in the morning, "cutting jackpots" and laughing and when I went up to the guest room I couldn't begin to think of falling asleep. I stayed up and looked through books and photos for another hour and then caught a quick nap before getting up at 5:00 to shower, dress and meet Karen who VERY graciously got up early to make me some coffee and a bagel before seeing me off at 6:15.

This was the "Best of Times" part. Greg, Karen, Emily...thank you for an absolutely wonderful time. I cannot thank you enough for giving me the greatest possible ending to the 2007 circus season that I could have ever imagined.

Because Monday was SUCH a absolutely perfect once-in-a-lifetime amazing day, Tuesday went out of it's way to suck harder than you could ever imagine, but THAT story is going to have to wait until later today.

I have to get some sleep.


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