Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pipo Sosman Jr.

Pipo Sosman Jr., son of the legendary whiteface clown and, unfortunately, best known to American audiences as David Larible's comedy partner (who was criminally underutilized) in K-Feld's short-lived show Barnum's Kaleidoscape

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Benny Le Grande

Does anyone know what happened to Benny Le Grande, the original featured clown with Cirque's first resident Las Vegas show MYSTERE?

Tomas Kubinek

A brilliant clown and "Certified Lunatic", Tomas Kubinek has been featured with Circus Flora and can be seen touring North America with his stage show THE MAESTRO RETURNS.

For more on Tomas Kubinek (including tour dates) please click the title of this post.

Peter Shub

For more on Peter Shub please click the title of this post.

Oleg Popov

Some clowns I like a lot more after reading their autobiographies (Emmett Kelly, Coco, Charlie Rivel, Buster Keaton) and some (Grock, Chaplin) I like less.

Popov is one of those people I found I liked a little less after reading his.

Rene Bazinet

Former partner of David Shiner, featured clown in Cirque's SALTIMBANCO and star of their film version of ALEGRIA, Rene Bazinet.

Friday, December 29, 2006

New Year's Eve

For anyone who is interested, I'll be hosting and clowning at the Hamid First Night Circus show at the Government Center in Fall River, Mass on New Year's Eve. We have a "meet & greet" at 3:30 and full performances at 5:30, 7:30 and 10:30 PM.

Happy New Year!


Fumagalli was born Natalino Huesca in Genoa to a large circus family with four brothers and sisters. His father, Fumagalli, was a clown who appeared in Frederico Fellini's film “The Clowns”. His mother was a trapeze artist.

Natalino began his circus career at 10 years old, first with rope dancing and trapeze, touring with his family throughout Europe.

He has appeared in pantomime and played at the great houses of the world: Getty Theatre in Dublin, Palladium in London and Royal Alexander in Toronto.

It was while with Circus Roncalli that Huesca developed the costume, makeup and distinctive hairstyle of his auguste character that has also become known as "Fumagalli". He has appeared all over the world with the best international circuses and is soon to come to America with the Big Apple Circus.

Fumagalli is married and has three sons. His two oldest, Nino and Nico have already developed their own act.

Click the title of this post for more information from the Huesca family's website.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Albert Fratellini

Albert Fratellini puts the finishing touches on his famous makeup with an assist from the Mrs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Charlie Rivel, who I just learned that John Ringling North attempted to bring to the States several times to tour with the Ringling circus and who's Chaplin impersonation on the trapeze North considered "the greatest clown act I ever saw."

How differently American circus clowning might have developed had Rivel come to America.

Then again, he might have just as easily been swallowed up by the massive Ringling organization (like Marceline was) and spit out a few seasons later, a shadow of his former self.

Better to consider the former...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from some folks here in the Alley!

Old hand-held super-8 circus fan footage, on an 8th generation VHS, transferred to digital by pointing a webcam at a TV screen and then having the resulting video compressed for You Tube doesn't add up to much, video quality-wise. In fact, UFO, Bigfoot footage and the Zapruder film are all far clearer, but this is the best I could do in time for Christmas.

A very happy and healthy holiday to you and yours,
The Cashins

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Otto Griebling and Freddie Freeman: Boxing Gag

Otto Griebling and Freddie Freeman on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in a greatly truncated performance of their version of the classic Boxing Gag, which they brought with them from the Cole Bros. show.

Look for Paul Wenzel on the track passing Harry Ritley and Gene Lewis on the track under the opening credits.

This is also from the "Christmas With the Greatest Show on Earth" television special, live from Winter Quarters in Sarasota, FL December 16, 1955.

Friday, December 22, 2006

RBB&B Clown Alley: Christmas with the Greatest Show on Earth

Members of the 1955 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown Alley (featuring the likes of Emmett Kelly, Otto Griebling, Paul Jung, Charlie Bell and Prince Paul) perform on a live television special "Christmas with the Greatest Show on Earth" December 16, 1955 from the circus' Winter Quarters in Sarasota, FL.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Charlie Cairoli: Babes in Toyland 1954

An equally bad transfer as yesterday's footage of the Banana Man from the same live 1954 NBC broadcast of "Babes in Toyland", this time featuring an entree by Charlie Cairoli and, I believe, Paul Freeman.

The interplay between Charlie and Paul blurs the distinction between the comedy styles of circus, vaudeville, burlesque and music hall as Paul reminds me more than anything of, essentially, a musical Bud Abbott in traditional whiteface makeup and wardrobe while Charlie, by turns, evokes the spirits of Charlie Chaplin, Harpo Marx, Lou Costello and Stan Laurel.

The strength of the material hopefully excuses the poor quality of the video. I hope to be able to post better transfers soon.

Merry Christmas John Cooper!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Banana Man: Babes in Toyland 1954

Sam Levine as the Banana Man (using props, costume and character developed by A. Robins who had been billed both as "The Banana Man " as well as "The One Man Music Shop") performing on a live 1954 NBC television broadcast of Babes in Toyland.

This is neither the best quality video nor the best performance of the act (it is rushed quite a bit) but I hope to be able to post a better quality video of a better performance soon.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wayne Scott

Photos courtesy of Rik Gern

Hey Patric,
I just got back from Wayne and Marty's, where I spent hours photographing Mark Antony's carved clown figurines, and Rather than shrink all of the pictures down for email, I'll send you, as well as Wayne and Marty, a disc containing all of the pictures at full resolution. Talk to you soon.

P.S. They said it's OK if you want to post these, as well as the upcoming ones, on your blog.

The man himself, Mr. Wayne Scott, holding a photo of himself as a proud graduate of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey College of Clowns' very first class: The Class of '68.

A better shot of that photo of Wayne in character.

A figurine, meticulously sculpted by Mark Anthony, of Mr. Scott.

Thank you Rik. Our hopes go out to our good friends Wayne and Marty for Wayne's continued good health.

You may visit the Scotts website by clicking the title of this post.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday Morning Art Gallery w/Michelle Hove

A stool sample featuring the famous faces of Paul Jerome and Lou Jacobs by artist Michelle Hove.

Click the title of this post to view more of Ms. Hoves works

Classic Holiday Comedy: Tom & Jerry

A rarely seen MGM Tom & Jerry holiday cartoon from Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Billy McCabe from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

Just as important as what a clown does in the ring is how he or she relates to their audience one-on-one in meet and greet situations like these. This is where the REAL circus memories are made.

If children are afraid of circus clowns (or whiteface clowns in particular) up close, they forgot to tell these kids.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Umbilical Brothers

Not circus clowns, but very funny, very talented variety comedians Shane and David, the Umbilical Brothers.

You can watch them everyday on Noggin on THE UPSIDE DOWN SHOW.

Polack Alley 1942

Photos courtesy of Bill Strong

From Bill:

Here are 2 shots of Polack Bros Clown Alley in the fall of 1942. Dime Wilson worked on Wallace Bros earlier in '42 then did that fall, & the spring of '43 on Polack. The only one I'm sure of other than Dime, is Jack Klipple, standing top left in the 1st pic.

From me:

I could be wrong but the guy in the center of the front row in the 1st picture looks to me like it could be a young Dennis Stevens.

Billy McCabe from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

"One of these thing is NOT like the others..."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Saluto and Armstrong

I've never heard anything about Frankie Saluto working anywhere but Ringling, so this photo of him and Jimmy Armstrong (in AUGUSTE MAKEUP?!?) with a Beatty truck in the background is either from a Shrine date or mean that Frankie had spent time somewhere else.

Lou Nagy from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

On "Senior Cut Day" all the seniors cut out of school and head up to "Inspiration Point" to have a huge kegger and sign the class rock. Lou Nagy, at that point 78 years old and misunderstanding the use of the word "senior", assumed that it was an AARP meeting, wandered away from the show after the matinee and went up there with "SENIORS RULE" scrawled in soap across the back windshield of one of the show trucks.

The kids were kind of put off by a 78 year old man in stretch shorts and clown makeup at first but as soon as he started juggling he was an immediate hit. They nicknamed him "Geezer" and he was so popular he was elected king of the senior prom (which was the coolest EVAR) and was voted both "Class Clown" and "Most Likely to Lose His Medic-Alert Bracelet".

He started going steady with Mary Jo Kaputnick, a pretty classmate and waitress at the local Waffle Hut. Their budding romance was put on hold when Lou got his acceptance letter to State where he and his pals pledged TKE, got in and had several wild adventures and run-ins with the uptight old dean who could often be heard screaming "NAGY!" clear across the commons.

He twice switched majors but eventually graduated with a BA in Communication, married his high school sweetheart Mary Jo, had two kids and moved to Seattle to start a small mom & pop coffeeshop.

The one you know today as Starbucks.

And the two kids? His son is wrestling legend Capt. Lou Albano. His daughter, political columnist Ann Coulter.

And that's...the rest of the story. I'm Paul Harvey.

Click the title of any of these CIRCUS DAYS posts to be linked to the listing for more of Jill Freedman's great photos of the Beatty-Cole show in the early 70s.

Bernie Kallman from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

Bernie Kallman finds out that he could have saved a bundle on car insurance by switching to Geico.

Jimmy James from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

"Now you know he was just kidding yesterday about the conjoined twin and the fetus bit, right?"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wallace Bros. 1941

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

This is the Wallace Bros. Circus Clown Alley, 1941.

Lawrence Cross is in the dress, the clown in the pointed hat with the dog is Bill Strong's grandfather-in-law, Trudy's grandfather Gil Wilson. The identities of the organ grinder and the top hatted big head in the back are unknown.

I believe the gentleman on the far left is a young, but nonetheless still weathered, Swede Johnson.

Billy McCabe from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

Billy McCabe's short-lived "Fetus" track gag, where he'd burst a clear plastic garbage bag filled with water on the track and emerge in what appeared to be nothing but an oversized comedy diaper, hugging audience members and calling them "Momma".

It was cut by management about 2 weeks into the tour.

This photo was found and the gag was later re-worked by David Larible and performed along with 4 audience volunteers for many years on the Ringling show. By the time of Barnum's Kaliedoscape the gag was running 20 minutes and it is for this gag that Larible won his Silver Clown in Monte Carlo. A variation is currently being performed by Kwame and Kwame, the two folk-clowns from Camaroon, on Cirque du Soleil's 38th touring show PRETENSHUS.

Jimmy and Hillary James from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

Few remember that when Jimmy James started his long career on the Beatty-Cole show it was in the sideshow. Jimmy and his sister had caught the attention of Frank McCloskey as they were one of the very few male/female conjoined twins, connected at the wrist. They were something of a sensation and were noted for their renditions of "Me and My Shadow" and "Everything You Can Do I Can Do Better".

After Jimmy and his sister Hillary were successfully separated in the early 70s Jimmy went on to enjoy many more years on the Beatty show, continuing as a clown and later as Ringmaster.

The sister left show business. Wanting to start fresh, she took her mother's maiden, went on to college and then to law school, got married and started a family. She's become something of a success in her own right, you may know her today as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When the show is playing nearby you can always catch her at the cookhouse where she's more than willing to jump up on the table and belt out a song or two from the old days for a baloney sandwich and a cup of coffee.

"I'm just an old show broad!", she'll loudly exclaim as she's slaps herself hard on the tush. Most folks on the show don't even recognize her as the former First Lady and senator from the state of New York. They just know her as "Hill the Pill".

And now you know the rest...of the story. I'm Paul Harvey.

Shorty Hinkle from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

"I yam what I yam and dat's all what I yam!" says Shorty the Hinkle Man. This popeyed little sailor (from a far less litigious time in American circus history) must have been exposed to some radioactive spinach. Just count the fingers on that hand!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Johnny Hutch

Sad news from John Cooper...

I grieve to have to report the death of veteran acrobat Johnny Hutch recently. Johnny will probably be best known to Americans as the little, old, bald guy who appeared in The Benny Hill Show towards the end of Benny's life (a role made most famous by the late Jackie Wright) , but he was an accomplished acrobat of great ability and experience, as well as friend and mentor to many. The two acts for which I remember him are The Halfwits - a comedy vaulting act - and The Herculeans - olde tyme acrobats.

Johnny was in his nineties, and had lost his wife quite recently. Although I do not know the official cause of death, I suspect those two factors will have contributed.

If you ever met the man, you will feel a decided sense of loss.
May he Rest In Peace.

John Cooper

Jimmy and Billy from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

Jimmy James and Billy McCabe check to see if their letter to the editor has been published in the latest issue of Women's Wear Daily in this photo from CIRCUS DAYS.

Click the title of this post for the link to Jill Freedman's CIRCUS DAYS.

Rescue 911: Shrine Clown

A very sobering reminder that circus clowning is an extremely physically demanding job.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dale and Bruce

Photos courtesy of Mr. Bill Strong

From Ringling to Vargas to the Showfolks Circus the other night, Dale Longmire and Bruce Gutilla (trading wigs back and forth?), two perfect examples of that most extinct of circus animals, the glamorous whiteface clown.

Look at that wardrobe! They make Albert White and Blinko Burch look like they were shopping at Wal-Mart with coupons.