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.

Shorty Hinkle from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

Today's photos come from Jill Freedman's book CIRCUS DAYS, photos that she took on the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus in the early 70s.

Here we see that Shorty Hinkle is equal parts Gene Kelly and Emmett Kelly as he recreates a classic scene from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.

Click on any of the titles of today's posts for the link to Ms. Freedman's book

Bernie Kallman from CIRCUS DAYS

Photos by Jill Freedman

At least Bernie Kallman has the sense to stay under his umbrella.

Jimmy James from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

Jimmy James, it seems, is the only one with the sense to avoid it altogether and actually come in out of the rain ; )

Billy McCabe from CIRCUS DAYS

Photo by Jill Freedman

And if Billy McCabe pokes his head out of the Alley and sees his shadow there'll be six more weeks of rain this season.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Classic Holiday Comedy: Hey Ya, Charlie Brown!

One of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite Christmas specials with a new soundtrack...

Sunday Morning Art Gallery w/ A. Woodrooft

Paul Jerome (tramp makeup) by A. Woodrooft.

That's WOODROOFT, as in...

"You're WHAT?!? Woooooooooood...ROOFT! Rusted."

Love Shack, baby. That's where it's at.