Saturday, June 03, 2006

NOT Felix Adler

A very odd photo this morning: I had always thought that Felix Adler had "appropriated" his trademark padded rear end from Pete Mardo. Photos seemed to reveal that Pete was the first to use that particular gimmick.

Pete (real name Peter Guckeyson) was, like Felix, from Iowa. He started with the Barnum & Bailey Circus and switched to Ringling in 1909. He married Florence Harris, an English bareback rider in 1910. They retired in 1929 and ran restaurants in and around Akron, OH until Pete died at the age of 74 in 1956.

Here is a photo of a guy who IS NOT Pete Mardo but you would SWEAR was Felix if you didn't see the makeup. It makes me question whether Felix aped THIS unknown clown's look, as this walkaround would have to have been done about the time that soldiers were returning from the First World War, when Felix would have been just starting out as a circus clown.

If I didn't know better I'd swear that Felix just stole this guy's wardrobe trunk.


A Bunch of Clowns

A snapshot taken in 1974, on a plane coming home from Hawaii; Albert "Flo" White, Harold Hall and Paul Kay.

Photo by Bill Strong

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Albert White

The exquisite whiteface of Albert "Flo" White who toured with the Cole, Ringling, Beatty-Cole and Shrine circuses and was a part of the Alley on the mammoth Circus America show in Washington DC in the early 70s.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ringling: Natt Litt

Another of the great looking clowns to come out of the early years of Ringling Clown College, the classic American circus auguste Natt Litt who passed away at the age of 65 in 1997.

Nat did what he wanted. Which was everything.

Nat Litt was born in 1932 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was a funny guy. He sold great tea, and threw in free an earful of advice and personal history. People would ask, "Was he really on the cover of Life magazine? Does he own a Picasso? Did he work with Frank Lloyd Wright as an architect? And for Ringling Brothers as a clown? And graduate from Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris? And do pastry at Le Bec-Fin? And run a magic store? And know Henny Youngman? And break windows for a mind reader? Impossible!"

Nat's widow Margot tells, "Nat's parents were immigrants. They wanted him to be a doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, anything professional. He wanted to perform. As a teenager he worked in Brooklyn summer stock, and at Coney Island. He made friends everywhere. We'd get visits from ancient men, eternally old, whom Nat had worked with. Al Flosso, the Original Coney Island Faker, who had a spiel called WHAT JOHNNY SAW WHEN HE LOOKED THROUGH THE KEYHOLE. He'd take a paper match, split it, twist it, fold it, talking the whole time. Very funny, and all to get people to part with 'one thin silver dime,' for a piece of junk. Nat traveled with Jack London, a mind-reader famous in the '40s. One of his jobs was, when they got to a new town, to break a window in the local department store. Because Jack would predict that the window would be broken, and next day the papers would have the story about this marvelous clairvoyant."

"Then Nat went to Actor's Studio in winter, and did the Borscht Belt in summer. He knew Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe. He introduced me to Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett. He was Buddy's warmer-upper for a while. We used to babysit Henny Youngman when he played Jersey nightclubs. Henny hated to be alone, so we stayed with him all the time he was here."

"The Korean War, he was in Special Services. Doing a comic magic act with Josephine the Rabbit of Mystery. He disappeared a locomotive. It wasn't a trick. He was a corporal and somebody said, 'Take your men and get that locomotive off the track.' There was no way to move it, so they started at the top, and took it apart. Separated all the pieces and stored it neatly in a warehouse. The army, Nat said, was not amused."

"After the army he went to Columbia. Dropped out. But liked an architecture teacher. So he went to study with Frank Lloyd Wright, became a certified architect, and worked on getting the Guggenheim through the New York Building Code Inspectors. Then he worked with other architects. Edward Durrell Stone for one, doing buildings for the New York World's Fair of—I think 1964? Then, 1969, at our summer house in Cape Cod, he was in an accident. A car with four people ran into him. They all died. Nat recovered, slowly."

"He saw an article about Clown College. He said he wanted to be a clown, not an architect. I said to him, go then. He went, and got a job with Ringling Brothers. He stayed a year, then worked with other circuses. The family traveled along. The kids got to ride elephants. It was wonderful. Then Nat got sick. Appendicitis. But nobody knew. Thirteen weeks in the hospital in the Midwest."

"After that we came back East to Haddonfield. He had his own troupe, Nat Litt's All-Star Clown Revue. He opened a craft shop, so he could learn all the crafts and became an expert at decoupage. Then he ran a magic shop in Center City. Then we made jams and jellies and sold them at Reading Terminal. Then he decided to get serious about cooking. He went to the Culinary Academy at May's Landing. I said, why not finish off at a good school? He went to Cordon Bleu in Paris, and graduated in 1991. He came back and worked at several restaurants. Finally as an assistant to Robert Bennet at Le Bec-Fin. He was happy as a clam."

"Then in 1993, he opened The House of Tea."

Which is what Natt did for the four remaining years of his life, selling tea and sharing stories.

Hamid-Morton: Army Gag

This is the Hamid-Morton Clowns in 1963 doing the Army Gag that Paul Jung had made famous. Dime Wilson is the Drill Sgt. and from left to right the recruits are, behind Dime are Connie Wilson, & Leslie Brooks, next is Bill Bannister, Dime Wilson Jr., Geoff Dewsbury, and Rex Young.

Photo and description by Bill Strong

Ed Raymond

Ed Raymond in plaid suit, glasses and duck hat with an unidentified child and fellow whiteface. Taken at an unspecified Shrine date.

Otto Griebling and Harriet Hodgini

A young woman, Harriet Hodgini, sits on the gate of a truck helping the great Otto Griebling apply his makeup on the Cole show.

Pee Wee Pettee: 1954

Pee Wee Pettee autographed, "To Bill Alcott, Wishing You The Best Of Everything And With Kindest Personal Regards Very Sincerely "Pee Wee" Pettee 10-12-54". Photo was taken at the Shrine Circus, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 1954.

Bob Zraick

One of the most unique and original makeups to come out of the early Ringling Clown College, "Barnaby" Bob Zraick.


Charlie Lewis, Clown Cop. Autographed, "To Bill Alcott The clown that should be in 'The Hall of Fame' for his kindness to other clowns. Yours Truly Charlie Lewis".

Dime and Connie Wilson's Balloon Circus

Ever wonder where the whole "clowns blowing up balloon animals" thing started? Look no further. Dime and Connie Wilson did their "Balloon Circus" come-in on the Shrine circuit for many years. So did Ernie "Blinko" Burch and his wife Maran on their winter dates. I don't know which act was first, Dime and Connie or Blinko and Maran, but they both started at about the same time with it back in the 50s and by the time they were finished every clown in the country, if not the world, had added balloon animal sculpture as part of their standard repertoire.

Photo from Bill Strong

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hamid: Mike Poteete

15 years on the Hamid Circus (and still with the show in a way), the late Mike Poteete.

Ringling: Tom Parrish

A Ringling publicity picture consisting of Tom Parrish performing in the charivari and an Alley shot from the 122nd edition Blue Unit show.

Personality Poster: Otto Griebling

This is a poster sized photo of the the legendary Otto Griebling. It measures approx. 29" x 40". It was produced by Personality Posters Mfg. Co., Inc. of 74 Fifth Ave, New York, NY and is copyrighted 1967. The original photo was taken by Oscar Abolafia and is listed as "179 The Clown". All of this information is printed along the bottom of the poster.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ernie Burch: Giveaway Litho

Signed in the print, lithograph by The Topham Printing Company of the very detailed whiteface of the one and only Ernie "Blinko" Burch. This was most likely a Shrine Circus giveaway as the Topham Printing Co. (as indicated in the lower right corner of the border) is located in Saginaw, MI.

Ringling Alley: 1950s

I believe this photo may be from 1956, the show's last year under canvas and the year of the big AGVA strike because Emmett Kelly, Otto Griebling, Lou Jacobs and Felix Adler are nowhere to be found. You do see Buzzy Potts, Prince Paul, Paul Jung, Paul Jerome, Charlie Bell, Toby Joria, Lulu Cranston, Ernie Burch, Chesty Mortimer and future Clown College Director Bill Ballentine in and amongst the crowd.

A. Robins: The Banana Man

The original Banana Man, A. Robins. Robins was featured in Spangles - The Continental Circus, a one-ring show produced by RBB&B Circus for Madison Square Garden the summer of 1943. His act was described as, "The Banana Man Himself! Pre-eminent Star of Continental Circus and Music Hall Fame -- The Inimitable A. Robins, The Walking Victory Garden, Artfully Assisted by Seductive Spanglettes."

For more info on The Banana Man please visit:

Description by Bruce Johnson

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Felix Adler

The "King of Clowns" Felix Adler in spec wardrobe.

Barry Lubin and Anna May

ICHOF inductee Barry "Grandma" Lubin with Buckles Woodcock's elephant Anna May on the Big Apple Circus in the early 80s.

Dime Wilson: Table Rock

This is a photo of Dime Wilson doing his Table Rock, if you don't think this act is dangerous, one time the stack of tables buckled in the middle and Dime came down on them face first. He came out of it with a broken jaw, and had his mouth wired shut for months. I'm pretty sure the clown on the right is one of the Georgetti Bros, but I don't recognize the little guy. You don't see many Table Rock photos, and I'm sure you don't see any Table Rocks.

Photo and comments from Bill Strong.

Kinko Sunberry

Publicity photo of Glen "Kinko" Sunberry with his midget "squat" car and barrel contortion act.

This is the Hamid-Morton Clown Alley in the early '50s most likely at a Shrine hospital to entertain. L to R are Dime Wilson, a Georgetti, Saso, (pronounced sayso), Connie Wilson, Canadian clown Fifi, (with the broom), Ray Cosmo, Slim Collins, Jimmy Davidson, Margo DeKoe, & another Georgetti Brother. The dog sitting up so nicely belongs to the Georgetti Bros.

Photo and description from Bill Strong

Billie Burke: 1951

Photo of Billie Burke autographed to Bill Alcott, " A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed, All the Best, Billie 1951. Written on the back, Billie Burke Box 18 Peru, Ind.

Polack Bros.: Clown Band

This is the Polack Show Clown band, and I'm not sure neither Ireland, nor Scotland would claim this bunch. Dating this is hard for me as Dime was on this show for part of '42 & '43, and then again from '47 thru '50. Clockwise are Ruby Landrus, Georgetti , Dime Wilson, Dennis Stevens, Alfred Florenz, (says on the back), other Georgetti, & Jack Landrus, the Leader of course is Gene Randow.

Photo and description from Bill Strong

Hamid-Morton: 50s Group Shot

The Hamid-Morton Clowns in the early to mid '50's. The little Leprechaun figure tells it was taken at a Hospital show in Montreal. The clowns, L to R standing, are Billy Rice, Gabby DeKoe, Margo DeKoe, & Slim Collins; kneeling are Alfred Florenz, Connie Wilson, & Saso; and sitting down front are, Ray Cosmo, & Dime Wilson.

Photo and description from Bill Strong

Hamid-Morton? Duck Hunt

This is a photo of George LaSalle doing his Duck Hunt Gag, with the help of Dime Wilson & an unknown clown, who was identified on the back as Dukey Anderson, but that just doesn't fit. I never knew him to wear anything other than whiteface.

Behind the shotgun I recognize Prop Boss "Fingers" Castle which would make it Hamid-Morton, or possibly the Texas Dates.

Photo and description by Bill Strong

Hamid-Morton: Kansas City Police Circus

This is a late 1950's photo of the Hamid-Morton clowns, caught in the act. This photo was taken at the Kansas City Police Circus where the members of the police force were great sports when it came to things like this. The culprits are, from the left, kneeling in front, Shorty Sylvester, Dime Wilson, Saso, Peggy Sylvester , & Ray Cosmo, standing left, is Bumpsy Anthony, & behind Saso, is Connie Wilson.

Photo and description from Bill Strong.