Saturday, October 21, 2006

Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It?

Prince Paul with Bonnie, Kenneth and a young Nicole Feld.

Paul Jung

Paul Jung with the prop from his Camera Gag. Someone is just seconds away from a facefull of powder.

Janice Gillespie

This one is for Ms. Sarah Frounfelker.

Vargas Alley with a Guest Clown

Members of the Vargas Alley (Billy McCabe in the Jackie LeClaire-style suit joined by Ringling refugees Bruce Gutilla on the left and Dale Longmire on the far right) seem delighted to welcome a "guest clown" to the show, the one and only Bobby Kay!

Mr. Smiley was visiting Mr. Longmire on the Vargas show when photographer Michael Arthur was snapping pictures for Katherine Leiner's book THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Toto Photos

One of my favorite Ringling clowns of the 80s was Ron "Toto" Johnson, a wonderful clown and a really great guy. Toto is still very active in clowning, does Ringling advance work and acts as "guest clown" on several shows as they pass through his part of Iowa.

Here are a few photos from his 22 years in the world of circus clowning.

Black and white headshot from the 1989 RBBB Red unit.

On 9 foot stilts during Opening (1988 RBBB Red unit).

Out of makeup at Clown College 1985.

Find out more info on Toto and his career at

Donni Stambaugh

Photos courtesy of Donald Stambaugh

Some photos of frequent contributor Donald Stambaugh. I'll let Donni describe them for you...


Well here are some of my photos Two of them were taken in Phila Shrine date where I guested in 79 as I am a member of that temple.

I might mention here a circus fan from that area came out every year took about 10 shots of each clown & the next year he gave them to you as a gift I don't knowhow many other performers he did that for but would not be surprised if he didn't do many of them

The 3rd pix is of me & Jerry Lipko's chimp "sammi" in Lincoln Neb. He jumped out of Jerry's arms into mine I was really scared as we all know chimps love of clowns This one was different we were fiends from then on sammi was 3 years old

More to come later,


Thanks again Donni!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

From Donni

Donald Stambaugh sends this info on the photos that he sent the other day...


Sorry I didn't give you a run down on the pixs I sent you. Here it is.

1st photo is Billy McCabe Shrine date Phila. mid 70s

2nd shot Beatty Alley Shrine date Phila mid 70s Buck, Dennis, Bernado, Bernie, Chris Minot, Jimmy, Louie, Dody Daniels, Kenny, Shorty

3rd Dody Daniels He often worked with Buck (the short & long of it) He disappeared in the late 70s Buck & I went to his house to find him in 78 when we were on the Hoxie Great American Show & we had no luck.

Next is Uncle Jake I worked with him one time I think he was connected with Ringling at some time as he was a friend of Chuck Sateja He is in his 80s in that photo. He was as supple as a snake & could touch his palms to ground the from a standing position Him & Chuck were something else cutting up jackpots half the night

Last pix is Chuck Sateja. He was one of the Ringling gang he did some work in the wardrobe department. All of Chucks Wardrobe was flashy sequins,eyelash,feathers etc He also was a funny, funny clown. I believe he also taught wardrobe at Clown College. Chuck was the gentleman that I owe my biggest break in the business to he recommended me to Bill Ballantine for my job at Circus World.


Thanks Donni!

Tomi Liebel

Here's a couple of photos of Tomi Liebel, Michu's "brother". .

I wasn't sure who it was but Mike Naughton (visit came through and positively ID'ed him as Tomi.

One person I know that it definitetly isn't is Lazlo Donnert. Someone had guessed that it might be Lazlo since he also did a one-man band on Ringling at about the same time, but I've met Lazlo, I know Lazlo, I've worked with Lazlo... this is no Lazlo.

And just what happened to "Lazlo" as a boy's name? You hardly ever meet a Lazlo anymore! It's such a great name! I think one of the things that's wrong with the future of America is that we'll have way too many "Blakes", "Chases" and "Coopers" and not nearly enough "Lazlos" to keep things interesting.

If anyone out there is pregnant, please consider "Lazlo"; For your good and the good of our nation!

Harold "Skeeto" Barbour

My thanks go out to Harold "Skeeto" Barbour, who between 1953 and 1976 performed with Ringling, CBCB, Hoxie and several other circuses, for generously sharing such great photos from his personal collection with THE ALLEY.

Gene Lewis

Photo courtesy of Harold Barbour

A memebr of the Ringling Alley throughout the 1950s and most of the 1960s, Gene Lewis.

Paul Jerome

Photo courtesy of Harold Barbour

A guy who has turned up quite a bit here recently, Paul Jerome.

Duane Thorpe

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

Here's old Soapy himself in spec costume but out of makeup.

This is the only picture I've found that has been positively ID'ed as Soapy where he is seen without his glasses.

Cristiani Bros.

Photo courtesy of the Pfening Circus Archives

The 1959 Cristiani Bros. Clown Alley.

While this Alley may contain a plethora of future of past circus celebrities I don't recognize any of them in the makeups shown here. If it's 1959 then Billy McCabe, featured on Tuesday in his classic Harry Dann-inspired makeup, may be in this crowd somewhere as he was their 1960 Boss Clown/Producing Clown.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Felix and Amelia

Photo courtesy of Harold Barbour

Felix Adler, towards the end of his long career and all-too-brief life.

Here he is in 1954 with his wife, the former Ms. Amelia Mullen who left her job in a department store to join the circus and tour the country, clowning alongside her husband. I had the chance to speak with Amelia shortly before she passed away; a very sweet woman.

I don't know if it was the joy of wedded bliss or not but Felix experinced a tremendous weight gain in the 1950s. He changed the eyebrows in his makeup as well. I'm not sure why. I like them better the other way, but that's just one feller's opinion.


From the Harold Barbour Collection

Some of these really just throw me for a loop...

If someone would be so good as to let me know just who or what a "Seacow" is?

Eddie Dullam

From the Harold Barbour Collection

Eddie Dullam on the Beatty-Cole show in 1960.

Chuck Burnes

From the Harold Barbour Collection

Chuck Burnes, the dictionary definition of a circus clown if I ever saw one.

He's a frequent contributor to Circus Report and is seen here on the Ringling show in 1954.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

CBCB Alley: Football Gag

Photo courtesy of Donald Stambaugh

The classic Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Clown Alley with a Football Gag.

The ref looks like Buck Nolan.

The cheerleaders are Dennis Stevens and Jimmy James.

The front line looks like Lou Nagy, possibly Dody Daniels and Shorty Hinkle.

Behind them possibly Lou Crespo, Bernie Kallman and an unidentified feller.

Leaning in with one hand on the person who might be Dody Daniels and the other on the rope is Kenny "Tweety" Dodd.

Bernie, if you're out there, what happened in the gag?

Three Clowns

Photo courtesy of Donald Stambaugh

Three clowns who haven't appeared here before, Dody Daniels, Uncle Jake Gibbs and Chuck Sateja.

I don't have any info on Dody or Jake and all I know about Chuck is what I've learned from Bill Ballantine's book CLOWN ALLEY and from ace clown and clown historian, Greg DeSanto.

Donald (or anyone else), if you've got more info on these three PLEASE share!

Billy McCabe

Photo courtesy of Donald Stambaugh

Billy McCabe, who I recently discovered was the Boss Clown/Producing Clown on the Cristiani show in 1960 (which contradicts the career timeline that he gives in his infamous interview tape) seen here possibly during his time on the Beatty-Cole show but more likely during his years on Circus Vargas.

Bernie Kallman

Photo courtesy of Donald Stambaugh

One of the best things that has happened to me as a result of starting this blog is having the opportunity to talk with Bernie Kallman on the phone about circus clowning.

Bernie's a great guy with a wealth of information. I'm always glad to share another picture of him. Bernie had great, very classic, very three ring American circus, whiteface.

Does anyone have any video of Bernie and the rest of the classic CBCB in action? All of my CBCB videos are from the 80s and early 90s.

John Cooper on Bubi and Jule

As promised, John Cooper with more information on
the clown duo Bubi and Jule...


On 14 July The Alley featured a photo of Bubi and Jule
(misspelled as "Jules") at Blackpool Tower Circus in
1976. (And lest you're wondering, they were there in
addition to Charlie Cairoli, not instead of him.) They
were a son and father combination from what was then
East Germany, Jule being the father.

Prior to their appearance at Blackpool, they had
recorded a television special for Billy Smart's
Circus, and in the summer of 1980 they played a season
for David Smart (son of Billy, and father of Yasmin,
currently with Big Apple Circus) at Battersea Park,
London. By this time the act was three-handed -
presumably with the addition of another son - although
it was still billed a s Bubi and Jule.

Their main spot involved the cleaning of an aerial
prop. Not only was it funny, but it was also very
skilful. Imagine Jule holding a bucket by the handle
whilst Bubi holds on to it by the rim, swinging
slightly so that water tips on to him. And all without
any safety device. A strenthened bucket, I grant you,
but would you do it?

Bubi wore special braces. (Suspenders if you prefer,
but that means something completelt different to an
Englishman like me.) They were made of bungee elastic,
so you can picture what happened. And, again, without
any safety device.

Add to that, the English language spoken slowly and
deliberately in thick Eastren bloc accents.

"Oh Boo-bee!"

"What is it, Yoo-la?"

Two particular expressions were hilarious in such
voices, and I hope I can convey the idea in writing.

"Eee bah goom."

It's an expression from northern England, more
accurately written "Eee by gum", but the local accent
changes it, even before a German gets to it. It's an
expression of surprise or disbelief.

And once up on the aerial prop, Jule would run his
finger along its surface and then say "Look at the
muck on here". The meaning of the expression is
self-explanatory, and, again, it's native to the area
that includes Blackpool, although its use had spread,
mainly because it was a catchphrase of a very popular
comedian of the time - who worked camp. And here it is
emerging from the mouth of a dour East german. The
contrast strengthened the effect, I assure you.

Both expressions would have been provided by
Blackpool's ringmaster, Norman Barrett, who filled
that position for one season on Big Apple (1998-99?)
as well as appearing in the stage show the following
season. Furthermore, he's the former husband of Sue
Lenz (as in Sue and Rudi Lenz; as in chimpanzees) the
two remaining friends.

Writing this and remembereing Bubi and Jule has
created a warmth within me. I know that Jule (actually
Julius) is no longer with us, and is buried in Berlin,
but I'm afraid I have no idea what became of Bubi or
his brother.

John Cooper.

Monday, October 16, 2006


As fewer and fewer shows carry a full Alley of trained and skilled professional clowns Charivaris like this one will become little more than a distant memory. That's too bad becuase the big Charivaris that the Ringling clowns did in the 70s were always a highlight of the show for me.

This clip is from something called "Celebrity Circus"; I'm guessing it's the Aussie (or possibly the UK) equivilent of "Circus of the Stars".

Kd Cirk

What do you do when you've got the mini-tramp but no one else to work with? A One-Man Charivari!

Here Kd Cirk gets 10 minutes from a few hat moves, a mini-tramp and a slide table.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday Night at the Movies: He Who Gets Slapped 1924

This week's edition of "Sunday Night at the Movies" features another Lon Chaney classic, 1924's He Who Gets Slapped.

It is presented here in it's entirety, uncut and with no commercial interuptions.

This film, MGM's first feature made entirely under their trade mark, is considered to be one of Lon Chaney's greatest performances. After his star turn in Universal's The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923, Chaney joined Metro Goldwyn Mayer at the request of Irving Thalberg who was also an exile from Universal Studios.

The film begins by introducing scientist Paul Beaumont, (Lon Chaney), and his wife Marie who are staying at the Parisian home of Paul's benefactor Baron Regnard, (Marc McDermott), while Paul completes his work on his theories regarding the evolution of mankind. However, the unscrupulous Baron steals Paul's papers and later presents them as his own work at a meeting of fellow scientists. When Paul dares to protest, he is slapped in the face to the humiliating laughter of everyone in the room. His wife also takes the opportunity to slap him and call him a clown.
In his humiliation, Paul takes his wife's suggestion literally and joins the circus as a clown where he becomes a great success in a routine of being slapped repeatedly to the delight of the paying audiences.

Later Paul falls in love with fellow performer Consuelo, (Norma Shearer), the daughter of the wealthy and devilish Count Mancini, (Tully Marshall), but unfortunately she is in love with her circus partner Bezano, (John Gilbert), the daredevil bareback horse rider.
One night the Baron attends the circus and not recognising the famous clown as Paul, he laughs with the rest of the audience as the clown's patchwork heart is torn out and buried while a troupe of sixty clowns act out a mock funeral. Later Paul learns that the devious Count has persuaded the Baron to take Consuelo as his wife, so he contrives their deaths by releasing one of the circus lions.

Fatally wounded by Count Mancini's stick sword, Paul takes the centre ring for his final performance and dies in Consuelo's arms, while the audience, believing it all to be part of the act, laugh heartily as they applaud.

This poetic tradegy was a great hit with the cinema going public, opening to record business throughout the country.

Swedish director Victor Sjostrom made his American debut, (as Seastrom), after finding success in Sweden with the atmospheric Korkarlen (Aka: The Phantom Carriage) in 1921. Sjostrom continued working in Hollywood until returning to Sweden in 1930 where he was regarded as a father figure to Ingmar Bergman and other aspiring directors.

HE WHO GETS SLAPPED also furthered the career of John Gilbert who excelled as a romantic leading man until the advent of sound and an altercation with Louis B. Mayer who forced him out of the industry. Norma Shearer also gained recognition for her role and in 1927 she became Irving Thalberg's wife until his death in 1936.

Also in the cast is Ford Sterling, a former Keystone Cop for Mack Sennet, and Tully Marshall who portrayed Lawyer Crosby in The Cat and the Canary (1927).

Lon Chaney would later repeat his clown-with-a-broken-heart characterisation for Herbert Brenon in LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH (1928 and presented here last week), but it is his portrayal in HE WHO GETS SLAPPED that has remained the most notorious of the two, more so as Chaney himself professed that it was one of his favourite roles.

Film synopsis courtesy of The Missing Link:


Sunday Morning Art Gallery

Once again it's time for THE ALLEY's "Sunday Morning Art Gallery" with works by one of my favorite clown/artists, Cowboy Mike Keever.

Where Peter Max and P.T. Barnum meet...a very psychedelic clown.

Part clown/part onion. I think that everyone knows at least one person who could be described that way ; )

For more on Mike and his art visit: