Wednesday, March 04, 2009



Mike Naughton said...

Early 1970's, Tommy Hanneford, "The Riding Fool" with Peter Haubner on the right. Peter was from the Hungarian State Circus school, if my memory is correct.
During that time, RHC played many college dates; this is a typical college field house.
In the greater New York City area he played the State University of New York at Farmingdale (Long Island); Rockland Community College (Suffern) and Wagner College on Staten Island.
It was at Farmingdale a young gymnast by the name of Gary Borstelman saw the Hanneford Circus. His acrobatic ability was immediately discovered by Tommy and Mr. Borstelman's became ingratiated to the world of the circus as GARY SLADEK (his mother's maiden name). Gary and his wife, Terri, were mainstays of the Hanneford Circus since Terri was also a gymnast.

Gary's brother, Jim, is an accomplished dancer/singer/actor on Broadway with long running roles in Damn Yankees, Chicago and Young Frankenstein.

Sometime in the 1980's I had my comedy magic show at one of NY summer resort hotels when the owner comes backstage to introduce me to one of his favorite guests, a very distinguished and sophisticated couple. They intro themselves as Gary Sladek's parents. I swear this is a gag and go into the hall to look for fellow accompli.

Gary's father was the retired Vice President of the North Fork Bank. We shared many stories about the SLADEK, they laughed more than me!

Mr Lee said...

I remeber how great that show looked in those gyms,in particular, when the elephants heads would appear in the doorway as they crawled through on their bellys, also the miserable hill to reach Wagner's parking lot! Thanks Mike... Lee

Anonymous said...

Mike you will never cease to amaze me with your wealth of wonderful knowledge, some of which we remember with you and myriads of things we didn't know before. If you have not already, you should START recording all you can recall.

Would like to add that Jim went from Chicago to The Producers which we saw him in. He was terrific and we are now fans of his as well as friends and fans of The Amazing Sladek.

Paul RCD

Paul Leon (Circus Brat) said...

As a young man (mostly in between college gigs) I traveled many summers with Tommy, Struppi, and the little Japanese elephant caretaker (often walking around with straw still in his hair from sleeping with the elephants).

Today, after a fine day of horse back riding, I was just telling a friend (who went along) about Tommy's riding ability and relaxed, comical style.

I googled The Royal Henneford Circus looking for pictures to show my friend and ran across this site.

Only those familar with circus life with Tommy and Struppi and the Henneford Circus has seen the scar on Struppi's hand from a lion's claw before the had them declawed or knew of Tommy always (without fail) was standing outside of the Lion's cage with a loaded pistol while Struppi did her act inside. Or things like the largest of the two elephants hated to travel by truck so the elephant truck was always the first to leave after the elephant's last act, and always the last to drive due to the frequent stops so the elephant would settle down.

I remember the summer of '75 Grand Rapids, Michigan where I met a couple of young ladies, went to party with them and made it back late the next morning only to find that the circus had pulled out without me with all my gear and belongings... but before long, the promotor (the guy who went ahead of the circus and put a series of arrows on road signs so the whole caravan of traveling vehicles could find their way if separated from the group) was there to pick me up.

I can still recall the scolding I received on our way to the Big Rapids show spot; while my head was still pounding from my over indulgence of gals and alcohol. There's no doubt in my mind that Tommy or Struppi sent him to fetch me up. they were just that way... always loving and caring.

Tommy and Struppi treated me like family, were always wonderful people and always treated everyone with respect. That's what made the Tommy Henneford Circus so great!

There's not too many times now that I'm out horseback riding (and I ride often with four of my own), that those memories of the way Tommy dancing around on the back of a galloping show horse flinging his coat off and on, off and on... (that's why the coat is so baggy), doesn't invade my mind during my riding time. It's still breath taking after all these years... I am now 54.

Hats off the the Greatest Show on Earth!

The Henneford Royal Circus.

Paul Leon (Circus Brat)