Saturday, July 08, 2006

George Carl

"He seems to be retired now but, years ago in Vegas, I loved to go see George Carl do a comedy act that Johnny Carson (no stranger to great comedy acts) called "The funniest 20 minutes in show business." It basically consisted of Mr. Carl getting tangled in the microphone cord. For 20 minutes.

Ostensibly, he was there to play a harmonica solo...but before he got the first note out, he dropped the mike and then he had trouble with the mike stand. And then he knocked over a tray with his harmonicas on it. And then he somehow got the mike down his pants...and the more he tried to undo things, the more tangled and snarled and hopeless and hysterical things got.

I don't know how many times he performed it. I'm guessing 3 shows a night, 6 nights a week for 40 years. Those are very conservative numbers and it still totals out to 37,440 performances. Long before I saw him — near the end of a very long career — he had every second of the act perfected. Every movement, every gesture, every expression, he'd polished the way Nijinsky honed each step of Afternoon of a Faun. If there was a way to get a laugh in any given second of his performance, Carl had found it. A dead person would have laughed at that act — even one pumped full of formaldehyde."

Mark Evanier

George Carl:

Date of birth
05/07/1916 Ohio, USA.

Date of death
01/01/2000 Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. (complications from cancer)

George Carl, the legendary pantomime artist, began his career as a circus clown while still in his teens. He, his wife and two children entertained as a family of acrobats in the Kelly-Miller Circus in the early 50's. They traveled throughout the south doing two and sometimes three shows a day, six days a week. For a time the Carls were the nightly featured act at the luxurious Condado Beach Hotel in San Juan Puerto Rico.

He eventually attained international fame as a clown, vaudevillian, and slapstick comic. He appeared on numerous variety shows such as the Ed Sullivan Show, the Hollwood Palace and was one of Johnny Carson's favorite guests on the "Tonight" show-- always bringing down the house. He also worked the Crazy Horse Saloon in Paris for many years.

He appeared in a "Royal Command Performance" for the Queen at the Paladium in London and the Circus Festival of Monte Carlo honored him with an the coveted "Golden Clown" awar

for his act, presented by Princess Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monocco.

George Carl made his screen debut at the age of 79, portraying an eccentric music-hall comedian in Funny Bones (1995). He can be seen performing segments from his act in the film, which also starred Oliver Platt, Lee Evans, Freddie "Parrot Head" Davies, Leslie Caron and Jerry Lewis, and was also the last time George Carl performed professionally.

Charlie Cairoli: Blackpool 1967

Charlie Cairoli at the Blackpool Tower Circus in 1967.

St. Louis Police Circus 1956

Taken 9 years after the other day's photo from the St. Louis Police Circus, here's the 1956 alley.

Another great one from Bill Strong...

I hope this will fit on. This is just the clowns from a larger photo of the cast, which I hope to post later today, the original has been rolled up so long, and is so cracked, it took me an hour with the cloning tool to clean up as much as I did. I recognize almost all of them but can only name 7. Okay, by the numbers, #1, is Van Wells, who often partnered with Happy; #7, George LaSalle; #11, Bill Bentledge; #12 Joe "Coco, or Koko" Coyle; #13, Percy Radamacher,(from Sheboygin); #14, Bill Alcott; and of course down front is Happy Kellums. The date was produced that year by L.N.Fleckles.

You may recognize Joe "Koko" Coyle if you've ever read Ernie Kern's How to Be a Magic Clown.

Jimmy and Tommy

From an old greeting card Bill Strong sends us this one of Jimmy O'Donell and Tommy Whiteside. No date given, it's possibly from the late 40s or early 50s.

Hagen-Wallace 1952

More from Bill Strong: two pictures of the 1952 Hagan-Wallace alley taken at Atlantic City, NJ. In and out of makeup they are (top row) Zeke Lamonte, Red Bebehler, Happy Davis (missing in 2nd pic) & Tommy Whiteside. In the center is Lou Kish (bottom row) Jimmy O'Donell, Gil Wilson, & Candy Dickson.

Fireman! Save My Bay-beeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Bill Strong sends us this one definitely taken in the 1940's because of Dime's straw hat, (possibly on the Polack show). We have Happy Knapp, Dime & Jimmy Davidson (top row) and on the running board is Kinko Sunberry & Gabby De Koe.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Space-Age Otto

Otto Griebling sporting a different look than the one we are used to seeing. He's replaced his derby with a graduation cap, his usual coat or vest for a US Navy jacket and is all ready for the end of the Eisenhower Era and looking forward to the beginning of Kennedy's New Frontier with a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses and a space-age Sputnik gag.

Anyone out there remember the gag?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wikipedia Entry

Please visit the wikipedia entry that I've created especially for circus clowning at:

And PLEASE feel free to edit and add to it so that it becomes a honest, useful and reliable resource.


The Stimaxes

Another piece of the great big puzzle of American circus clowning comes to us from new contributor David Powell who sends us this photo of Walter (silver tailcoat) and Millie (black & white checks) Stimax taken March 6, 2000 on the LE Barnes Circus.

Photos taken about the same time appeared Monday on Bill Strong's blog, YESTERDAY'S TOWNS...

The Stimaxes must have been hired at the beginning of the season, Walter then suffered a stroke some soon after. Dave Hoover told me over and over that he wanted classic three ring circus clowning for the show. I was flat out dumbfounded when the show made it here to New Jersey and the somewhat lackluster clowning was being done by a Russian couple in the contemporary European/Latin American style.

Thanks for helping clear that up David!


Another great photo from Bill Strong...

Pat, I lifted this off a 1954 Hamid-Morton program, so I don't know how it will come through.

I don't know a thing about Sa-So, (pronounced Say-So), what kind of clown he was, or whether he worked anywhere except the Hamid-Morton Show, but his make-up has always fascinated me. I seem to remember that he was also Bob Morton's chauffeur.

The 1956 Hamid-Morton Milwaukee program features the same photo with the captions "Sa-Sothe Clown - His Father A Clown" and "Always Clowning".

License to Clown

Looks to be (from left to right) Dime Wilson, Ed Raymond, unidentified, Dennis Stevens, Gene Randow and Kinko Sunberry looking down from above.

This from Bill Strong...

I have been trying for months to identify the Clown between Ed Raymond & Dennis Stevens, just looking in a 1949 Polack Program I discovered it is Jack Klipple.

St. Louis Police Circus 1947

The clown at the cannon appears in a series of photos in the recent coffee table book 1000 CLOWNS but isn't identified. I see Dick "Rocko" Lewis, possibly Otto Griebling and Jojo Lewis in among the line.

Also in the ring for this gag were Joe Coyle, the Bakers, the Sherman Brothers and Bill Alcott but they do not appear in this crop. Looks like they are doing the chicken gag, shooting a chicken from the cannon.

Billie Burke's Christmas Card

Billie Burke is here to remind us that there are only 194 shopping days left until Christmas.

Moon Launch Gag

The Lou Jacobs-inspired auguste on the far right is "Jazzbo", the clown cop next to him looks to be Charlie Franks. I'm not sure about the two whitefaces, the year or the show but it looks to be a gag about a moon launch. Cheesy looking props but a great looking ring curb!

Happy Kellams Litho

One of Happy Kellams' autographed giveaway lithographs.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Shrine Alley

I don't know what Shrine show this is from (if Irv Romig is there it's probably from the Michigan area) but I do know that the two on the far right are Dick "Rocko" Lewis (on top) and Irv "Ricky" Romig (on bottom, leaning on his hay wagon) . Anyone know the other three? I know that the auguste clown cop turns up in the back row of the Cole Bros. alley photo that I posted a few weeks back.

And if anyone has photos of Johnny Tripp, Bobby Kellogg or Buck Baker I've got info that I'd like to post but no photos.


This just in:

The Clown cop is Charlie Lewis...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

John Toy

Ask and ye shall receive... here is a photo of John Toy. John had a long career on the Shrine circuit and taught one year at Clown College, which is chronicled in Bill Ballentine's book CLOWN COLLEGE.

Thanks go out once again to Robin Estes for providing the following info from Jackie LeClaire...

Photo was taken by Ralph Vincent who was a news photographer for the Journal in Portland Oregon.

The clown in the photo is John Toy or Johnny Toy. He clowned with me on the Orin Davenport dates in the 50's. He was from Minneapolis, Minn. His mother I think owned a dramatic school or taught there. Pardon my spelling but I think it was The McPhail School of Dramatic Arts. I visited it once myself. John Toy had instant memory. We could go to a musical movie and he would come out knowing all the words to the tunes. He had worked, and here I go with the spelling again in the ( probably 40's) dramatic presentations called Chetalkwas (?) He was a very brilliant man and loved clowning. He later married and for all I know may still be alive today. He has a mind that was hard to keep up with. Excellent, hard working clown with a definite individual style of his own.—Jackie LeClaire

Billy Griffin

We have the following info on the 1st picture, from the Tegge Circus Archives...

Snapped on the Bailey-Cristiani show in 1955.—Tim Tegge

Now we're cooking with gas! Here's some pictures of Billy Griffin, a name I often see attached to ANY photo of an old-time whiteface that can't otherwise be identified.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Carl Marx

Here's a guy who must have had a hard time getting work during the McCarthy era, Carl Marx.

He's one of those people whose name your read mentioned as being a fixture on Shrine shows of his time but you almost never see a picture of him. Now we have, thanks once again to Bill Strong.

Marx makeup is very similar to Billie Burke's, an adaption of Lou Jacobs' adaption of Albert Fratellini, yet they are all different and distinct.

Now if anyone out there has photos of John Toy and Billy Griffen THAT would be a big help too!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Superman Commercial

Great Caesar's Ghost! The cast of the Adventures of Superman pitches Kellogg's Sugar Smacks with Lou Jacobs featured prominently on the box and an animated Paul Jung at the end.

Lou Jacobs Sugar Smacks

Lou Jacobs as one of the original mascots (along with Paul Jung) for Kellogg's Sugar Smacks. I wonder if the clowns used in the campaign saw any additional income from these?