Saturday, June 21, 2008


How do you make a five year old giggle like crazy for a half an hour, you ask?

Make him the star of a Hanukkah video in mid June when he least expects it.

Don't send a lame Holiday eCard.
Try JibJab Sendables!

LOU JACOBS & PAUL JEROME: Ringling, 1948

Lou and Paul assisting an unidentified woman in a photo from National Geographic from March of 1948.

CLOWN ALLEY: Sells-Floto, 1931

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

A photo from the 1931 Sells-Floto program that shows Spader Johnson (far left), Pat Valdo (2nd from left) and two other clowns from the Ringling Alley in a shot that was reused by many shows in the programs from that time period.

CLOWN ALLEY: Out of Makeup: Ringling, 1950s

Photo courtesy of Sandy Weber

Sandy Weber sent this in response to the recent request for information on Everett Hart...

Hey Pat!

I found this photo in an old Clowns Of America magazine (1978) that I have.

It is a photo of several of the classic Ringling clowns out of make-up, one of which is listed as "Mr. Hart".

I am assuming it is probably Everett Hart (based on it
being dated from the 50's).

From left to right they are: Emmett Kelly, Mr. Hart (Everett?), Paul Jung, Walter Guisse, Gene Lewis, Myron Orton, Harry Nelson and Otto Griebling.

In front we have Frankie Saluto (seated) and Prince Paul Alpert.

I don't know who is in Paul Jung's make-up, but Paul has his arm around her so it could be his wife Elsie (this photo was from her personal collection).

OTTO WESSELY: Montreal Comedy Festival

Friday, June 20, 2008

BILL IRWIN: The Happiness Lecture

I had the chance to catch Bill Irwin's new show The Happiness Lecture at the Philadelphia Theater Co. last night.

I don't think that I could do any better reviewing it than Adam Gertsacov did earlier this week at

It's the one Bill Irwin show that really made me wish that there was a discussion group afterwards.

PERCY HUXTER: With Queen Elizabeth, 1952

Percy Huxter with the Queen at the Bertram Mills Circus at Olympia in 1952.

LOU JACOBS: Baby Buggy Gag, circa 1970s

Lou Jacobs performing his Baby Buggy Gag on the Ringling Red Unit in the mid 70s with the assistance of Serf Rocha.

PAUL JUNG: Camera Gag, circa 1940s

Paul Jung on the Ringling show performing one of his favorite track gags with the assistance of someone who does not look to be Prince Paul Alpert, the person who taught this gag to the early Ringling Clown College grads.

IN CAPABLE HANDS: William Tell Overture

The best use of "boomwhackers" that I've seen so far.

To learn more about "boomwhackers" please click the title of this post.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

TOMAS KUBINEK: Certified Lunatic and Master of the Impossible

Photo by D.A. Hill, Poster by Karl Simmons

One of my very favorite contemporary performers, Tomas Kubinek.

Find out more about him here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

BILLY VAUGHN: With Mike Snyder, Vidbel's Olde Tyme Circus

Billy and Mike with the cast and crew including Sue and Jenny Vidbel and Tepa Hall.

SERF ROCHA: Ringling, mid 70s

Photo courtesy of Thomas C. Fitzgerald

Serf Rocha on the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Red Unit.

This photo mark's's 1,900th post since 5/28/06.


Please click the title of this post to be taken to Monday's AP story about Mr. Carroll Spinney, the man who has played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street for the last 40 years.

It was my great pleasure to meet Mr. Spinney at the conclusion of Clown College '97 during our performance at the International Children's Festival in Wolftrap, VA. I had a few moments to ask him about Jim Henson, Sesame Street and his years working in Boston on the WHDH Bozo Show (as well as the syndicated episodes).

He's a warm, wonderful person with a unique and incredible gift. Carroll Spinney is one of those truely rare and magical people who you can almost see the good spirit and joy just radiate from.


A "loving tribute" (down to the last detail) to Denis Lacombe's considerable talents as a writer and circus comedian, marred only by the performance itself.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

FUMAGALLI: Big Apple Circus, 2008

Photo courtesy of Thomas C. Fitzgerald

Natalino "Gianni Fumagalli" Huesca during come-in with the Big Apple Circus in Boston, 2008.

BILLY VAUGHN: With Mike Snyder, Vidbel's Olde Tyme Circus

Photo courtesy of Billy Vaughn

Billy Vaughn and Mike Snider doing their very funny Restaurant Gag on the Vidbel's Olde Tyme Circus in the mid-to-late 90s.

I was deluged with mail the other day telling me that local circus fans are very excited about the prospect of Vidbel's hitting the road again, under canvas, this fall!

PRINCE PAUL ALPERT: With Michu, circa 1970s

Prince Paul Alpert with Michu.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mihaly "Michu" Meszaros is a Hungarian circus artist best known as a performer with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus where he appeared as the "shortest man in the world".

A native of Budapest, the 2 ft 9 inches (83.82 cm) tall, born October 1 1939.

Meszaros has appeared in numerous television and film projects. His last appearance was in 1993's Warlock: The Armageddon.

Back in the 1980's the City of Hawthorne, California named their shortest street in the city "Michu Lane".

KARANDASH: Reprise, circa 1950s

Video courtesy of Raffaele de Ritis

The legendary Soviet clown Karandash in the 50s, in one of his reprises at the Moscow Circus.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mikhail Nikolayevich Rumyantsev (Russian: Михаи́л Никола́евич Румя́нцев) (10 December 1901 - 31 March 1983), better known under his stagename Karandash (Russian: Каранда́ш which means pencil), was a famous Soviet clown. He was a People's Artist of the USSR, and was the teacher of the famous Russian clowns Oleg Popov and Yuri Nikulin.

Starting his career in the circus arena as the imitator of Charlie Chaplin, Mikhail Rumyantsev then abandoned it for, or rather, transformed that part into his would-be renowned image of Karandash always accompanied with his hallmark Scotch-terrier named Klyaksa (which means blot).

He enjoyed immense popularity with the Soviet audience and often gathered full houses all over the country.

In 1960, he toured South America with the Moscow Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard.

Altogether Karandash performed in the circus for 55 years and last appeared in the ring just two weeks before his death.
The Moscow Circus School was named after him.

Monday, June 16, 2008

COULROPHOBIA: The Fear of Not Being the Center of Attention

Let me get this straight... this woman absolutely HAS to confront her deep-rooted fear of clowns, especially on television, because otherwise she can't go to the circus?

When did that become so overly important?

Lots of people lead exceedingly full and productive lives without ever going to the circus; circus attendance is not now, nor has it ever been, mandatory anywhere on earth.

Get over yourself. It's not for everybody.

I like clowns and I like the circus but I don't care for, say, the music of Celine Dion. I don't claim to "fear" it. I just don't care for it.

I deal with that by not buying her CDs, attending her live performances or watching her on television. Occasionally, I hear her music on the radio. When I do I don't scream or run or wet myself. I change the channel. Sometimes I am exposed to her music in a supermarket or an elevator. When that happens I suffer through it and deal with it without anyone around me ever knowing, for one second, how I feel about Celine Dion or her music.

Life is not about supplying you with an endless parade comprised only of the things that you love the very most.

"But if I don't run screaming every time the theme from Titantic gets played at a wedding reception, how will I ever be the center of attention???"

The answer is "You do not constantly need to be the center of everyone's attention"! Most people over the age of three, are simply not that obnoxious, juvenile and/or needy.

So please explain to me why then is it so imperative, other than the chance to get herself on television, that she overcome this crippling clown-fear "affliction"? It can't be simply be because it hinders her ability to sit ringside and stuff her ample face with popcorn and cotton candy and gawk each year when the circus comes to East Mooseknuckle, Nowheresville?

(And can someone please explain to me why the producers felt the need to use the absolute crappiest yama clown imaginable to help her "conquer" her "fear"?)

I understand that it must be tremendously difficult for her, I mean she's so completely mature, settled and fully intellectually-developed in every other facet of her life. It's not like she's some grown woman who waddles around clutching a stuffed animal like a full-diapered toddler... oh, wait.

Be that as it may, she is definitely not just some needy, slack-jawed, mouth-breathing, attention whore. She truely suffers from a very real (and not imagined or fabricated) fear, just like these other folks who are definitely not exhibiting infantile behavior like this just to get a free trip to New York and their 15 minutes of perceived "fame"...

Please! Stop giggling! These people deserve our understanding, sympathy and need our help!

So remember, if anyone in your family or circle of friends ever display anything approaching these behaviors please show them how much you care by giving them a moment of your undivided attention and soundly slapping them, good and hard, right in the face before they get the idea that it's acceptable to go out in public and make an unqualified ass of yourself by pretending to "suffer" from an "illness".

It's time for you to do your part to once and for all pop this ridiculous pimple on the left butt cheek of our "Hey! Look-At-Me" culture.

We see you, OK?

Now knock it off.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

SUNDAY MORNING ART GALLERY: Ringling Clown Alley by Frederick Penney

This is an Original painting, a watercolor by artist Fred Penney (b. 1900 - d. 1988).

Born in Fullerton, Nebraska, Frederick Penney became a landscape painter who spent much of the last 30 years of his career painting desert scenes of the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs. He moved to Los Angeles, California in 1924, having traveled as a youth with the circus in order to capture in paint aspects of this activity. He studied at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Art Students League in New York, finally settling in Palm Springs. He was a member of the Desert Art Center in Palm Springs, the Laguna Beach Art Association, and the California Watercolor Society.

THE NEW YORK GOOFS: Ultimate Clown School 2008

WHAT: New York Goofs Ultimate Clown School 2008

WHERE: The Flea Theatre, 41 White Street, NY NY 10013

WHEN: July 28 – August 9

WHO: Students interested in studying the art of clowning and physical comedy.

HOW MUCH: Tuition is $750 for one week, or $1300 for both weeks. Classes are held Monday thru Saturday from 10am-6pm with a final performance at the end of session.

2008 marks the 10th Anniversary of America’s premiere Clown training program, The New York Goofs Ultimate Clown School. In 1997, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College closed its doors leaving a void in America for training in the circus and clown arts. The last director of the Clown College, Dick Monday, saw the need for a credible environment for clown exploration and workshops and created the New York Goofs. Now, 10 years later, the Ultimate clown school has graduated over three hundred students.

Tiffany Riley, co-founder and director of the school, is also the clown partner of Dick Monday. Billed as Slappy and Monday, they travel the world performing in circuses, Theaters, and festivals while maintaining and producing shows at their family theater at the Galleria Dallas in Dallas, Texas.

The school is in session for two intense weeks each summer in New York City. The faculty assembles from around the globe, bringing many different disciplines and points of view from their world of clowning. Clowning, character, improvisation, movement, mask, material development, skills and circus history are the areas of focus each year with a core of teachers including Hovey Burgess (NYU), Larry Pisoni (Pickle Family Circus), Tiffany Riley, Barbara Karger (Mummenschanz), Jay Stewart (Ringling), Michael Preston (Flying Karamazov Bros.), Kim Winslow (Big Apple Clown Care) and Evelyn Tuths (NY Goofs) with special guest instructors from the world of physical comedy.

The Flea Theater, under Artistic Director Jim Simpson and Producing Director Carol Ostrow, is one of New York’s leading Off-Off-Broadway companies. Founded in 1996, The Flea’s mission is to raise the standards of Off-Off-Broadway for artists and audiences alike. From A.R. Gurney to Adam Rapp, from Mac Wellman to Will Eno, The Flea’s two intimate spaces are a home for established artists taking new risks, emerging artists developing their ideas, and mid-career artists building sustained identities. The Flea has been awarded a Drama Desk, an Otto, and numerous OBIEs for its commitment to adventurous theater, and its Dance Conversations and Music with a View series are must-see showcases for the early-stage work of choreographers and composers. The Flea has hosted important downtown music, dance and theater groups and this spring we are pleased to present: New York Art Ensemble, Nina Winthrop and Dancers, Electronic Music Foundation, Western Wind Vocal Ensemble, Concrete Temple, Fly-by-Night Dance Theater and the New York Goofs. To learn more about The Flea, visit

To reserve your spot, visit our website today at or call 212.591.0028

SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES: Ted Healy and his Stooges in PLANE NUTS (1933)

Ted Healy, the team of Howard, Fine & Howard and Ms. Bonnie Bonnell in the MGM short Plane Nuts featuring stage material from the act that was known as "Ted Healy and his Stooges", "Ted Healy and his Southern Gentlemen", "Ted Healy and his Three Lost Souls" and "Ted Healy and his Racketeers".

It wasn't until the team of Howard, Fine & Howard split from Healy in 1934 that they began being billed as "The Three Stooges".