Saturday, October 20, 2007

CLOWN ALLEY: The Wedding Gag, Ringling 1968

MIke Douglas announces a condensed presentation of the Wedding Gag from the "Highlights of the Greatest Show on Earth" television special in 1968.

The gag features Mike Padilla as the groom, Lazlo Donnert as the bride, Doug Ashton as the best man, Duane "Uncle Soapy" Thorpe as the preacher and Marcos Drougett as the baker with Michael "Coco" Polakovs, Frankie Saluto, "Prince Paul" Alpert, Billy Ward, Bobby Kay and Glen "Kinko" Sunberry amongst the wedding guests.

GENE LEWIS: Circa 1950s


More great video of the Happy Tiandu AEMI World Clown Festival from Brian (Circus Bambouk) Foley.

Friday, October 19, 2007

BIG APPLE CIRCUS: 30th Anniversary

I attended the final NYC dress rehearsal of the Big Apple Circus' 30th anniversary show last night in Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park and had a thoroughly wonderful time watching a wonderful performance and catching up with friends both old and new.

Standouts (IMHO) include the teeterboards of the Kongvar Troupe, The slack wire of Cong Tian, the trained dogs of Irina Markova, the show-stopping juggling of Kris Kremo and, of course, Barry "Grandma" Lubin who impresses more and more with each passing season.

LOU JACOBS: Ringling European Tour, 1963

Photos courtesy of Raffaele De Ritis

Raffaele was kind enough to send these scans of two posters featuring Lou Jacobs that were used by Ringling when they played Paris in 1963. Neither features Otto Griebling, so maybe Dominique Jando was mistaken or maybe there are more posters out there from Paris 1963.

Clicking the title of this post will take you to Raffaele's most excellent circus blog.

PAUL WENZEL: Circus 1950s

The Professor


Parade Day!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

CLOWN ALLEY: The Horse Race Gag, Ringling 1968

The clowns of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus perform an abbreviated version of the classic Horse Race Gag with Mike Douglas on "Highlights of the Greatest Show on Earth" television special in 1968.

The clown who approaches Douglas at the beginning of the clip is Doug Ashton, the jockeys look to be (from left to right) Bobby Kay, Mark Anthony and Lazlo Donnert (who slaps Doug Ashton to the ground at the end). Mike Padilla is the photographer capturing the "photo finish" and Frankie Saluto is standing in the ring, mostly obscured by Douglas until the very end.

I understand that the gag was produced by Mark Anthony, who I'm told never much cared for it. I don't think that it was ever performed again on Ringling after 1969 but the gag enjoyed an extremely long life on the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus where it was performed quite frequently.


An extremely rare photo Herman Joseph and Paul Jerome out of makeup in 1915, signed by Paul Jerome.


Can we guess from this that Herman Joseph and Paul Jerome tried their luck and left the circus for vaudeville in 1915, only to return to circus clowning shortly thereafter?

If nothing else this photo tells us that Paul Jerome (and possibly Herman Joseph as well) began his circus career in 1911.


Two clips from the recent Bozo the Clown DVD box set featuring episodes featuring Frank Avruch who played Bozo (1966-1970) at WHDH-TV (now WCVB) Boston. These were produced specifically for syndication in 1965-1967 for local U.S. TV markets that were not producing their own Bozo shows.

Clicking the title of this post will take you to the listing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

CHESTER "BOBO" BARNETT: Polack Bros. 1950

Whenever I ask old showfolks who is the best circus clown that they ever saw, the answer always comes back one of two people: Otto Griebling or Bobo Barnett.

The only footage that I have found so far of Chester "Bobo" Barnett, one of the biggest stars of the Shrine Circuses from the 1940s through the 1960s, is this brief snippet from an outdoor date with the Polack Bros. Circus in 1950.

Bobo's act consisted of a midget car entrance, a powerhouse comedy dog act and closed with Bobo's virtuoso trumpet rendition of either "Am I Blue" or "Peg O' My Heart", heard here as performed by Miff Mole and his Nicksieland Band.

"Peg O' My Heart" was also the song George Carl played on harmonica in his act for many years.

Clicking the title of this post will take you to the page for Bobo's daughter's recent book, entitled (appropriately enough) BOBO'S DAUGHTER.

OTTO GRIEBLING: Circus Hall of Fame Achievement Award 1958

Photo courtesy of John Peters

Otto Griebling pictured with his Circus Hall of Fame Achievement Award for Best performing Circus Clown of 1958.

Robin Estes sent this message in response to yesterday's photo of Otto on the Ringling '63/'64 European tour...


As to your questions about Otto seeing any of the European clowns on their tour of Europe, Jackie LeClaire could probably answer that question. He was on that tour with Otto. On the old History e-group he wrote the following:

(Jackie LeClaire speaking about a photo of Otto.)

The photo of Otto is heart rendering. It is painful yet a joy to look at. He shall always remain a great influence, not only in clowning, but in my life. I am so blessed at having been so close to him and having him share some of his life with me. We had such a small clown alley on the European tour that held us all close together. I will never forget how entertaining he made the ship trip back from Rotterdam to New York. It was a passenger freighter with just 85 on board and the eight days would have been like months in the cold spring, but Otto saw that we all enjoyed every day with his antics. He truly clowned from the heart and his warmth is still present in so much of clowning today. There is no question in anyone's mind who ever knew him and saw him clown, what status he should have in the circus clown world. No one has ever even come close. And this was all before they even knew the word "Master Clown". Here I am getting carried away again. Sorry,

—Jackie LeClaire

More on the Russian Tour

Actually the circus in Russia was just titled, I think "CWA" on the marquee, which if I remember the correct letters and I can look them up, simply meant USA. We were all under contract with Holiday On Ice, owner Morris Chafflin. There was no press or mention to my knowledge of Ringling in Russia.

Briefly, while the ice show was in Paris, the Russians came to Chafflin and asked if he would relinquish the time he had booked the ice show into Paris so that the Russians could bring in a show there during that time slot. They wanted the building. I am not sure exactly what they wanted it for but it was very important for them to have it at that time.

Chafflin and that might be Shafflin with an S. was an Impresario. He brought his ice shows all over the world. He was also a smart businessman. He proposed to the Russians, that he would let them have the building in Paris if they would let him be the first American Impresario to bring the Russian Circus into the United States. They agreed, but according to the relations between Russian and the US, a Russian circus could not come into the US unless we sent one there. It had to be a cultural exchange. The rest is history. We opened in Moscow on July 4, l963 and the Russian circus later came for a US tour.

The European circus was under the Ringling name, so we actually changed employers when we went from Kiev Ukraine to Lille France.

John Ringling North would not pay anyone's fare back from Europe when the show closed in Stuttgart Germany. I went to the American Embassy about the fare deal and they said we could do nothing because we changed employers when we went to Europe. That North did not bring us to Europe.

In Russia we were paid 1/3 in Russian Rubles and the rest was deposited by Holiday On Ice to a bank in Minnesota. All our hotel and transportation was paid but not food. Unfortunately some of the bigger acts accumulated quite a bit of savings in Russian money but found out that although they could take it out of the country, as soon as they crossed the border, it was worthless. I actually saw one very conservative performer cry as he had been saving so frugally.

Enough on this subject. Here I go rattling on again. Love you all,

—Jackie LeClaire


More "Brian "Circus Bambouk" Foley video from the Happy Tiandu AEMI World Clown Festival in Tiandu City, China.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


The first in a series of Brian (Circus Bambouk) Foley's videos from the recent Happy Tiandu AEMI World Clown Festival.

OTTO GRIEBLING: Europe '63/'64?

Photo courtesy of John Peters

A photo of Otto Griebling sitting and reading a European magazine with his picture on the cover. This could possibly be one of the few pieces of physical evidence I've ever encountered that prove that Otto (and Freddie Freeman) were on the Ringling European Tour in '63/'64.

Dominique Jando told me that Otto was one of the few successes in a show that simply didn't click with European audiences and that there were posters with Otto's picture featured on them. I've never seen one anywhere, but then again I've never seen or heard anything about that magazine that he's holding either, so they may be out there.

Does anyone know if he met with any of the major European circus clowns during the tour? It would seem odd if he didn't go to see what the clowns were doing on more prestigeous European shows and that other clowns didn't come out to see him, one of the few American circus clowns with a reputation for brilliance.

Imagine if he'd found an audience, stayed in Europe and finally garnered the level circus stardom and critical acclaim that he'd deserved throughout his career?

Monday, October 15, 2007

DAVID SHINER: Carre World Christmas Circus 2006

From the Stardust Theater website...

"There is also great attention for humour this year. Francesco, the classical reprise clown from Italy, has been joined by David Shiner, who is without doubt one of the world¿s best clowns. Mr. Shiner is a regular star in the Las Vegas circuit, with quick and original humour, and although he's a modern day clown, his humour is suitable for audiences of all ages. For many years, David Shiner has dreamed of performing in CarrĂ©, and that dream is now finally to come true. "

Francesco and Shiner? Anyone know who'll be on the show this year?


Link courtesy of Bryan Fulton

A Louisiana political commercial featuring appearances by Larry Clark, Mitch Freddes, Jesse Highley, Dean Kelley and Sandy K for some or another Louisiana Politician.

Please click the title of this post for a watershed article on Jesse and Dean while they were on the road with Ringling.

CLOWN COLLEGE 20th ANNIVERSARY REUNION (1987): Mike Naughton Remembers

Photos and comments courtesy of Mike Naughton

From Mike Naughton...

Attached please find two unique photos for your blog:

1. CC 20th Anniversary Reunion/TV Special: Class of 1974 (l to r) Michael Perry, Ruth Chaddock, Richard Mulholland (a/k/a Dick Monday) and Mike Naughton (owner of Yankee Doodle Circus).

2. Rehearsing the midget car for the television taping later that day: Lou Jacobs and Jimmy Briscoe. Also in background, wearing black and white polka-dots is CC '74 Jonathan (Mitch) Freddes and son. Interesting to note that when Johnathan arrived at CC he was known as Jonathan but his roommate Michael Perry (in the other photo) kept calling him Mitch because Jonathan reminded Michael of a friend back home in the Pittsburg area, if I recall correctly. Another CC legend explained.


Photos and comments courtesy of Larry Clark

From Larry Clark...

So anyhow here are some pictures from July of 1979. My family went down to Orlando for a vacation. Besides SeaWorld,
Cypress Gardens,etc. They spent a day at CIrcus World!! Most of the kids in the pictures are my 2 sisters or my cousins.
You can see Jim Arnesburg (whiteface bandleader), Cricket (banner holder), and I can never remember the auguste/rufflecollar guys name. So who are the other guys?

Ps. I have no memories of this trip, I was only a 16 months old.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

EARL BENNETT: Sir Frederick Gas

From Mark Evanier's blog...

Earl Bennett, who performed with Spike Jones and the City Slickers, died October 4 at the age of 87. When he worked with Spike, he went by the name Sir Frederick Gas and played a wide array of musical instruments, many of which were not instruments at all. He could get notes out of hitting two pieces of lumber together or blowing on a leaf. He also belched a lot to music — ergo, the name.

Earl Fred Bennett was born November 5, 1919 in Kansas and grew up pursuing the dual paths of music and art. He studied painting at the Kansas City Art Institute from 1938 to 1941 before serving in World War II. In the service, he got to playing occasionally with military bands and appearing in shows so after his discharge, he gravitated in that direction. He toured for a time with a night club act featuring novelty music and appeared in Ken Murray's stage revues. In 1947, Bennett's act caught the attention of Spike Jones, who was then at the peak of his popularity and recording songs that employed the kind of odd sounds in which Bennett specialized. Spike hired him on and assigned him the handle of Sir Frederick Gas, which had previously been a gag credit on several of the City Slickers records.

Bennett appeared with the band on records, on radio, in movies and on Jones's 1954 TV series. He vocalized (often doing a Yiddish accent) and played odd instruments and even built some of the outrageous props that the orchestra employed. But after the '54 series, he decided there wasn't much future in that kind of act, and he was also tired of he got into film production, mainly as an editor but occasionally as a sound effects specialist. He worked for U.P.A. on the Mr. Magoo cartoons (he edited Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, among many other productions) and later became a long, friendly fixture at Hanna-Barbera Productions, working on all their shows from around 1965 on. He occasionally worked with Joe Siracusa, another member of the Spike Jones band who became a film editor.

I got to meet Earl at H-B and pester him with questions about his days with Spike. He spoke fondly of those days and of the people with whom he worked — Spike, especially — but insisted he was glad to be out of it. I'm told that after he retired, his career went full circle and he returned to painting, which he did until worsening eyesight forced him to stop. We miss you already, Sir Frederick.

Here's Earl Bennett as Sir Frederick Gas (in the striped shirt) singing "You Always Hurt the One You Love" accompanied on vocals by banjo virtuoso and RSG (Really Silly Guy) Freddie Morgan...

SUNDAY MORNING ART GALLERY: Francois Fratellini figurine

Rosenthal, Selb. 'Fratellini', 1932, c . H. 28 cm. Design: Hans Parzinger. Made around 1933. Porcelain, white glazed, polychromatic overglaze. Marked: maker's mark, painter 's signet.

SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES: Wheeler and Woolsey in HOLD 'EM JAIL (1932)

Wheeler and Woolsey irritate the easily irritable Edgar Kennedy, absolute master of the "slow burn", in this scene from HOLD 'EM JAIL (1932).

From Pratfall, Issue Number 2...

One of the most beloved foils of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy was old "Slow Burn", Edgar Kennedy. A man whose face rarely showed a trace of a smile on Screen, Kennedy was jovial and friendly in real life, talking to the man on the street as though they were best friends. Who will be able to forget the sidesplitting laughter they endured when Laurel and Hardy proceeded with their unintentional vendetta against Edgar's gouty foot in "The Perfect Day"? Among the best and most frequently seen characters in the Laurel and Hardy films, Edgar Kennedy was responsible for a good deal of the merriment and hilarity that runs rampant through the Laurel and Hardy films.

Born on April 26, 1890, near Monterey, California, Edgar Kennedy was a spirited lad who spent a good deal of his time traveling around the country from one odd job to another. Blessed with a good voice as a youth, his first contact with show business came when he did some singing in mid-western musical shows. The attractive young man who sang songs was not to be trifled with in the boxing ring, however, where he spent a number of years professionally. In his later years one of Kennedy's favorite stories revolved around his having fought fourteen rounds with Jack Dempsey.

Eventually the boxer-singer-wanderer arrived in Los Angeles and after some difficulty managed to find employment at the Mack Sennett Studios on what is now busy Glendale Boulevard. Acclimating himself to Sennett's comedy factory, Kennedy found he was appearing in many of the Keystone Comedies, including the classic "Tillie's Punctured Romance", with Charlie Chaplin. Edgar was also prominent in a number of Chaplin's other films, including, "Twenty Minutes of Love", "The Knockout", "The Star Boarder", "Caught in a Cabaret", and "Getting Acquainted". When his original contract expired in 1921, he freelanced with other studios around town, but often returned to the Sennett lot to appear in films with Ben Turpin, Gloria Swanson, and Charlie Murray.

Kennedy developed to perfection his portrayal of the stereotyped American Cop after he left Sennett and began working for the Comedy King's archrival, Hal Roach, in the late twenties. While Al Capone and bathtub gin rocked the country and staggered the people with the gravity of law abuse, Kennedy carried on, making the country and the people reel and stagger with the anti-gravity of the abused lawman. His appearances in the Laurel and Hardy films were more often than not characterizations of harassed policemen, unable to cope with the absurdities he encountered from the daffy duo. He performed in the Laurel and Hardy films; "Leave 'Em Laughing", "The Finishing Touch", "Angora Love", "The Bacon Grabbers", "Two Tars", (with a moustache yet!) "The Perfect Day", "Unaccustomed As We Are", "Habeas Corpus", and "Night Owls". Not resting on his laurels as a more-than-competent actor, Kennedy turned his hand to directing, performing admirably in this function for two of the Laurel and Hardy films, "From Soup To Nuts" and "You're Darn Tootin'".

As the years went by, actors came and went. Many found themselves out of work and some, like Edgar Kennedy, were always busy. RKO featured him in a lengthy series of family situation comedies called, "The Average Man". One such comedy would often be filmed in as little as three days, much like the television shows of today. Some were very good, others just average-but-adequate entertainment. None of them, however, were ever bad comedies. Rarely did the filmgoer see Edgar Kennedy give anything but his best in whatever he did.

In the course of his film career, Kennedy made over 200 short subjects and more than 100 feature length films. It remains a testimony to his seldom paralleled ability that the quality of his work was consistently high.

November 9, 1948, thirty-six hours prior to a large testimonial dinner planned in his honor by his fellow actors wishing to toast never-say-die, always-on-the-go Edgar Kennedy, the man succumbed to cancer. His legacy is and will remain the abundant laughter that fills any room where his films are shown.

This article is Copyright ©1969-1990 Way Out West Tent. All rights reserved.

For more info on Edgar Kennedy, please click the title of this post.