Saturday, July 14, 2007

RINGLING: Rocco's Computer Gag

Courtesy of Steve Copeland

Rocco Parris "de-bugging" a computer (way ahead of the curve) back in 1989 as a part of the 119th Edition of Ringling Bros.

MAX PATKIN: Rik Gern Remembers

Photos and story courtesy of Rik "Bonzo Crunch" Gern

Hey Patric,

Here's some souvenirs of the time I almost got to see Max Patkin perform.

In August of '94 Max Patkin's autobiography had just come out, and Chad Miller and I were having a blast learning about our latest hero.

The Red Unit was in Omaha and we learned that "The Clown Prince of Baseball" was going to make an appearance at a minor league game, so Chad, Mike Simpson and I stayed on after the show left town in order to catch Max in action.

Unfortunately, the game was rained out, and Max never got to do his stuff on the field, but he still did plenty of mugging and goofing from the sidelines.

After the game was rained out, Max was very generous with the fans, signing copies of his book and posing for pictures.

Chad, Mike and I probably wore him out with questions, but he was really patient with us. We ended up signing Mike's Ringling hat and giving it to him.

I talked to him on the phone a few months later, and I guess he died not too long later. What a great life, though; he carved out a unique niche for himself, got to ply his trade just about until the end, and even got to ride one last wave of fame with the publication of his autobiography! We should all have it so good!

The 3 Musketeers

Photo courtesy of Dean "Elmo Gibb" Chambers

Clown, occasional Advance Clown and longtime Beatty-Cole Ringmaster Jimmy James with two masters of Advance Clowning, Jackie LeClaire and Dean "Elmo Gibb" Chambers.

It's a shame that circus clowning in America is in the state that it's in but the Advance Clown job is truly a lost art. I remember as a kid seeing Elmo do a show at the Brunswick Square Mall in East Brunswick, NJ, in advance of the Beatty-Cole show, and it made the arrival of circus day seem truly magical.

Friday, July 13, 2007

DENIS LACOMBE: The Mad Conductor

Blogger is acting up and STILL won't let me post photos, so here is a great video of Denis Lacombe performing his conductor gag.

Hopefully everything will be back up and working tomorrow.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Arthur Borella - Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus 1937

RINGLING: Steve's Greatest Hits

Video courtesy of Steve Copeland

Super Steve Copeland showing off some of his best slaps and falls over his last 5 years on the Ringling show.

BOZO THE CLOWN: WGN's Bozo Joey and the Art of the Pie

WGN-TV's Bozo (1984-2001) Joey D'Auria shows how to throw a pie.

For more comedy bits and tips from Mr. D'Auria please click the title of this post to be taken to his website.

And just for the record, outside of circus work, I prefer to use shaving cream in a graham cracker crust pie tin. Not only does it look more like an actual pie, but the explosion of graham cracker REALLY helps to "sell" the hit.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

LOU JACOBS: Close Up of the Car

Probably the single most iconic clown prop of the 20th century, Lou Jacobs' car.

The car is currently on loan from the Jacobs' family and can be seen at the Ringling Museum of the American Circus in Sarasota, FL.

STANLEY ALLEN SHERMAN: Leather Clown Nose Making Workshop

One-Day Sunday
Leather Clown Nose Making Workshop
Sunday July 22, 2007

How to make your own leather clown noses

Making well over 100 custom clown noses for clowns in the New York area and around the world Stanley Allan Sherman will teach a one-day Sunday workshop –

One great thing about the leather clown nose is they do not sweat like rubber or latex and they have a much more natural look than rubber. From what clowns have reported to me, their leather clown noses have lasted on an average of 8 to—well…Drew Richardson's clown nose is going on 22 years.

In the class you will learn how to:

Choose leather for your nose
Prepare the leather
Mold leather into your clown nose
Sharpen the knife blade. (Very important, you cannot cut leather with a dull knife).
Fit the clown nose
Cut the clown nose
Punch the clown nose holes under your nostrils so you can breath
Paint and finish your clown nose...(You can custom color your nose, any color you wish)
Prepare and fit the elastic and string
On-your-own: take a piece of leather home, make a back-up Clown Nose

Date: Sunday July 22, 2007

10:30 AM to 12:30 PM choosing leather to molding your clown nose
12:30 PM to 1:30 PM lunch and quick nose drying
1:30 PM to 4:40 PM cutting to finishing
(The workshop times are approximations - it can go longer or shorter)

Class size is limited

Price: $100 for the class
Tool fee: $74.80 (you get to keep the 7 tools)
Material fee: $22.00 (Leather, paint, elastic, silk thread)
Total $196.80

To reserve your spot you must pay the full fee in advance, because I need to buy the tools and supplies in advance. (Will accept 50% deposit from those people with financial needs. Can now accept credit card payments with Google Checkout).

Past Clowns Nose Students who would like to take the class again may for a reduced fee of $68 including supplies.

To sign up or find out more info simply click the title of this post (which will take you to or call 212-243-4039.

BEATTY-COLE: The Firehouse Gag

Posted here at the personal request of my friend, Mr. Dean "Elmo Gibb" Chambers, here is the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Clown Alley (circa 1980) performing that all-time classic of the American three-ring circus: THE FIREHOUSE GAG.


The gag was created by Jim Rutherford and is produced here by Jimmy Douglas.

Look for future Vidbel Alley staple, Mike Snider, fresh off of Ringling Lou Jacobs' former partner Mike Padilla and then Boss Clown Sandy Kaye.

I had a wonderful conversation with Dean last night and look forward to the next!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

SHRINE CIRCUS: Ernie Wiswell

Master of the "comedy car" act, Ernie Wiswell backstage at the Shrine date in West Springfield, MA on May 19 1956.

RINGLING: Engine Repair 101

Video courtesy of Steve Copeland

Greg DeSanto and Kevin Carr from the 1991 Ringling Blue show performing one of my very favorite track gags.

From the vast DeSanto Archives...

NY HIPPODROME: Billy Rose's Jumbo

The 1935 premier of Billy Rose's JUMBO, the final production staged at the massive NY Hippodrome with cameos by first-nighters Ed Wynn, Fannie Brice, George Burns and Gracie Allen. Imagine Slivers Oakley, Marceline, Toto, Joe Jackson or Poodles Hanneford working this enormous stage. The entire Cole Bros. Circus (with Otto Griebling, Emmett Kelly and Jojo Lewis in the Alley) appeared there in the 30s.

The production was directed by longtime Ringling director John Murray Anderson.

In addition to Jimmy Durante (who reprised his role in the 1962 film version) the show featured several circus acts including A. Robins, the Banana Man.

At about 3:15, if I'm not mistaken, the Kimris (Bill and Trudy Strong's family) are included.


Monday, July 09, 2007


Link courtesy of Don Covington

A very nice article that gets everything right except the man's name.

Please click the title of this post for the New Haven Independent's piece on my friend MATTHEW Pauli, currently appearing as Grandma in the Big Apple Circus' 29th production STEP RIGHT UP.

CLOWN COLLEGE: 20th Anniversary Special

The first few minutes of the 1987 CBS television special celebrating the 20th anniversary of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

I was in the 30th class in 1997. We didn't get a television special.

Interesting to note the emphasis on the fact that Ringling "only" had 14 clowns in 1968. The Red and Blue units only have 14 clowns each now.

If you look to the left of the screen in the opening shot where Dick Van Dyke is at the podium you will see then CC makeup instructor Ruth Chaddock and CC director Steve Smith.

The purple 1931 Ford that belches smoke in the montage is currently sitting in my garage. It belonged to Kent "Speedo the Speedway Clown" Tyler for almost 40 years.

Mr. Van Dyke has since made disparaging remarks about circus clowns in Diane Keaton's book CLOWN PAINTINGS. As a circus clown, I would certainly welcome the chance to make disparaging remarks about Mr. Van Dyke's post-1960s career for Ms. Keaton's next book, PEOPLE WHO ARE ONLY FUNNY WHEN THEY WORK WITH CARL REINER.

Diagnosis: Jerk

Sunday, July 08, 2007

OLSEN & JOHNSON: Fireball Fun-For-All

Olsen and Johnson's TV show. I can only imagine how hard it was to try and pull THIS off every week!

There are so many gags in the first 12 minutes of the show that the director and cameramen are rarely (if ever) on the right performer at the right time to catch the action.

RINGLING: 1940 Alley Photo

Members of the 1940 Clown Alley of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus taken in the basement of Madison Square Garden in New York City in April at the start of the tour.

JOHN GILKEY: Cirque du Soleil's QUIDAM

John Gilkey's brilliant eccentric juggling (greatly enhanced by the sounds of Yma Sumac's song "Gopher") from Cirque du Soliel's Quidam.

His character is like a weird Jerry Seinfeld/Jerry Lewis hybrid.

Not that there's anything WRONG with that.