Saturday, August 16, 2008


It's a beautiful thing.


Video and comments courtesy of "SirMixItAllUp"

From a 1981 TV series "The Amazing Years of Cinema", hosted by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Fairbanks speaks of how films were first shown in Music Halls, with many of the films populated by the Music Hall performers.

This extract features Leopold Fregoli (an 1897 clip is shown)

Gilbert Saroni, a well-known vaudeville performer and female impersonator, filmed by Edison in 1898.

Harry Relph, known on the stage as "Little Tich", is featured and discussed. A long extract of his "big boots dance" (1899) is shown with the sound sychronized to a phonograph record made for that purpose. Also very short appearace shown of Little Tich in a clip of Georges Méliès' "Paris to Monte Carlo in Two Hours". Le Raid Paris-Monte Carlo en deux heures (1905)

Pathé and Gaumont studios locations in Cote d'azur, taking advantage of the sunlight, is discussed.

clip shown of famous comic parody of Arsène Lupin, by

Ferdinando Guillaume, the well-known French stage clown and movie comedian, is discussed, with long clip from his film "Tontolini and his Donkey" (1911).

André Deed (1879-1935) is covered next - his comic character, Boireau, and his move to Itala in 1908. Long clips shown of his film "How Cretinetti Pays His Debts" (1911)

André Deed (1879-1935) clip from film "How Cretinetti Pays His Debts" (1911) is concluded

Then the roller-skating craze of these years is mentioned in relation to the comic film "The Fashionable Sport" (1912) by Cretinetti and "The Rink" by Charlie Chaplin.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr then speaks about the career of his friend, Charlie Chaplin.

SHANE: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Shaneikin Skywalker and some fellow Jedi that he met in the lobby this morning as he went to see his first Star Wars movie, first show, opening day.

Friday, August 15, 2008

THE BERTINIS: Roger, The Guy On the Trampoline

CLOWN ALLEY: Cole Bros. Circus, 1947

A clearer, more complete copy of the Cole Bros. Alley photo from Tuesday showing Freddie Freeman, Bagonghi and Otto Griebling.

To the person who complained about my speculation on Bagonghi's flatulence, telling me that "there is no place for this type of crude humor in a discussion of American circus clowning" I strongly suggest you watch any gag on any show with Latin-American clowns.

And the reaction it gets from American audiences.

If you don't think farts are funny then I challenge you to watch the following with a straight face...

HORACE LAIRD: Cole Bros. Circus, undated

EMMETT KELLY: Ringling, 1943

One of the rare photos of a Ringling clown holding a pie prior to 1968.

Here Emmett Kelly tries to share a snack with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Vice President Mrs. Aubrey Ringling at Madison Square Garden in 1943.


Photos courtesy of Raffaele de Ritis

From Raffaele...

Two pictures from the early Rastelli trampoline troupe from the 30's.

Alfredo is the first from left in the portrait, in "serious" gymnast attire.

They later started to add musical gag in the trampoline act, and developed a second act of musical eccentrics.

They developed the classic clown entree, with full clown make-up, only in the 40's with the early name of Chocolate and Co.

More to come.

ELMO GIBB: Cups and Balls

Dean "Elmo Gibb" Chambers presents his giant-sized version of "cups and balls", which has been his signature piece since 1990.

Visit his website by clicking here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Due to two NY television commitments (far less glamorous than it sounds) this week I have not yet been able to list the eBay items that I'll be auctioning yet. I hope to have them up tomorrow afternoon or Saturday morning.

Sorry for the wait,


A great comic spirit, my pal Nels Cremean.

CLOWN ALLEY: Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, 1992

Photos courtesy of Dean Chambers

From Dean "Elmo Gibb" Chambers...

I found this backyard picture of the alley Jerry's first year. Left to right are: Mark Myers, Jerry Nye, Larry Armstrong, Doug Keaty (sp?), Elmo, Buck Nolan, James Houser, ?(beats me--I really don't remember him, as I was only there the first weekend and didn't see the show again for a while). Dave Williams is stuffing Bobby Torres into the trash can.

This was the second year for the Recycling Machine gag, the only time Johnny Pugh asked me to repeat a gag. I'm guessing 1992, because the following year Bruce Feiler wrote his book and I turned the recycling machine into the stomach pump. See if you can locate a 1992 program to ID the mystery clown. It was also the year the show opened with the human cannonball and we followed immediately with the cannon gag.



I'm not sure but I believe this is a photo of one of the Jandaschewsky clowns from Australia.


Victoria Chaplin the daughter of Charlie Chaplin and Oona O'Neill Chaplin (the daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill) with her husband Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée performing at the Cirque d'Hiver in Fredrico Fellini's The Clowns.

Together they created the beautiful stage shows Le Cirque Bonjour, then Le Cirque Imaginaire and later Le Cirque Invisible.

Their son, James Thiérrée, performed as a child in their shows and now presents his own works. He is the recipient of the 2008 Otto Griebling Award for Solo Clowning here at

Does anyone know how to contact him to present him with the prize?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

FROM DAVE CARLYON: Grandma and Will, 1994

Photo courtesy of Dave Carlyon

Hi, Pat,

In April you posted a cute picture of your son Shane at the Big Apple Circus with Grandma.

It reminded me of my son at Big Apple around 1994. I was teaching theater in Michigan when Big Apple came to the Detroit area. I'd told my boys about working with Barry on Ringling so we were all eager to see it.

During intermission, Barry came out to say Hi and joked with our boys. When he climbed into the ring, my younger son Will—obviously thinking Barry intended to keep playing—climbed in after him. This picture shows Barry doing his Egyptian dance-thing and Will following along.

CLOWN ALLEY: Cole Bros. Circus, 1947

Freddie Freeman, Bagonghi (reclining in Otto's throne from the opening number "The Clown is King") and Otto Griebling relaxing in their private Alley on the Cole show in 1947.

According to Frank Cain's I Never Went to Clown College, Freddie, Bagonghii, Otto and Frank got dressed in a different tent from the rest of the Alley that year but he never explains why.

My guess? Bagonghi farts.


If this is what the Russian version of Circus of the Stars is like, it beats the American Celebrity Circus in both format and performance quality six ways to Sunday.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Alfredo Rastelli

From the The
May 14, 2005

Alfredo Rastelli, who has died aged 83, was one of the best-known musical clowns in the sawdust ring; during a career spanning seven decades he appeared in variety, pantomime and ice shows, as well as in circuses across the world.

The Rastellis, a travelling circus family, were in Paris, performing at the Cirque Medrano, when Alfredo was born on December 2 1923. The family troupe had been founded by Alfredo's father, Oreste - a cousin of Enrico Rastelli, the world's greatest juggler - whose wife, Lina Pollastrini, was the daughter of a Brazilian circus owner.

Oreste was a bareback rider, an equilibrist and an acrobat. His best known number was a trampoline acrobatic act in which his partner, a Brazilian acrobat named Aristides (but always known as Chocolate), performed hundreds of backwards somersaults in sequence (his record was said to be 508).

Young Alfredo was initiated into clowning in boyhood and made his debut with his father's act in Germany in 1928 when he was only four. He later joined the trampoline act.

In the early 1930s the family were forced to leave Paris after they were suspected of being Italian spies, and in the winter of 1934-35 they appeared at the Crystal Palace Circus in London, followed by winter seasons in Manchester, Glasgow and at the Royal Agricultural Hall, London in 1937-38.

On the outbreak of war, they were in Germany with the Circus Krone, and did not return to England until the winter of 1948, when the great impresario Tom Arnold invited them to appear in his Mammoth Circus, staged annually at the Harringay Arena in London. Arnold then took them to the Alhambra Theatre, Glasgow, for pantomime.

Each member of the Rastelli family team was a first-class musician, and between them they could play almost every instrument in the orchestra. But they added a rich vein of comedy by knocking each other's heads off, smashing guitars over themselves, and blowing up a piano which one of them had been playing only seconds before. Putting the instrument together again in time for the next performance took two hours.

Alfredo Rastelli was an exceptionally talented musician; he had a solo act in which he played 22 instruments in one sitting, and as part of the family's best-known clown act, Chocolate and Company, he would play two trumpets simultaneously in perfect harmony while accompanying himself on drums.

In the post-war years the Rastellis were very popular with British audiences. Their act was ideally suited to vast ice rinks such as the Wembley Empire Pool, where they appeared in Dick Whittington on Ice in 1950-51; Robinson Crusoe (1951-52); Sleeping Beauty (1952-53); Humpty Dumpty (1953-54); Aladdin 1954-55); Cinderella, with the skater Gloria Nord, in 1956-57; and Peter Pan (1962-63). They returned to Britain to appear in more ice shows in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and later performed in the Holiday on Ice spectaculars, touring Europe, Asia and South America, and making one American apearance, at the New York Expo, in 1964.

Alfredo Rastelli met his wife, Agnese, in Czechoslovakia while appearing with Circus Henry. Allied bombing had forced the performers to flee for their lives and take shelter in the cellar of a brewery in Jegnitz. Although none of the family was killed, the Rastellis lost all their belongings apart from their precious musical instruments.

Alfredo and Agnese were married, at Lugano, Swizerland, in 1946, while appearing with the Swiss National Circus Knie. They later returned to work at Knie, one of Europe's most prestigious circuses, in 1956 and 1967.

The original clown act had consisted of Oreste and Alfredo Rastelli (assisted by their wives) and the Brazilian, Chocolate, along with the Italian white-face clown, Antonio Poletto. After Oreste's death in 1962 he was replaced by Alfredo's 16-year-old son, Oreste Jnr, who had forsaken a promising career as a concert pianist to continue the family tradition. When Chocolate retired in 1969, Alfredo's other son, Vittorio, took his place, and developed a juggling act in the vein of his famous forebear. Poletto was eventually replaced by Oreste Jnr's wife, Francesca, a Swiss ice skater.

When the great clown Charlie Cairoli died in 1980, he was replaced, after a record run of 39 years, at the Blackpool Tower Circus, by the Rastellis. For three years they enjoyed considerable success in the Lancashire resort. They have continued to work around Europe with Holiday on Ice, and have also appeared in the British television series It's a Knockout from Blackpool.

In 2000, at the International Circus Festival in Monaco, Prince Rainier awarded Rastelli a citation in recognition of his career. Two years later Rastelli won the Golden Clown award in Copenhagen.

Rastelli, who died on May 1, is survived by his sons.

Monday, August 11, 2008

PAUL JEROME: Whiteface, undated

A photo for Dean Chambers, who just this morning was telling me how much he loved the classic grotesque whiteface makeup of Paul Jerome.

GIJON POLIDOR: Whiteface, undated

Gijon Polidor in an alternate whiteface makeup that might be from some early point in his career or could just be something that was done at Winter Quarters for the benefit of the Ringling photographers.

EVGENI SCHMARLOVSKI: Fur Coat, Circus Roncalli

Sunday, August 10, 2008

SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES: Laurel and Hardy in "The Chimp", 1932

Review Summary

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have been working for a circus as two halves of an ersatz horse. When the circus closes, in lieu of pay, each employee gets a portion of the show. Stan gets the flea circus and Ollie gets Ethel the chimp. They try to check into a boarding house, but the proprietor (Billy Gilbert) -- who also has a wife named Ethel -- turns the chimp away. To get her in, the boys dress her in Ollie's clothes, while Ollie puts on her tutu. After the usual Laurel and Hardy confusion, they all wind up in the same room together -- Stan and Ollie, sharing a bed, unfortunately, with the flea circus. Someone in another room puts on some music; Ethel, overhearing it, starts to dance. The boys start yelling at Ethel, and the boarding house proprietor, thinking it is his wife, dashes in brandishing a gun. Ethel, the wife, actually does walk in, but runs off when she sees the chimp. Ethel, the chimp, gets ahold of the gun, and Stan, Ollie, and the proprietor take off, too. This is a loose variant on the same situation that drives two other Laurel and Hardy shorts, 1929's Angora Love and 1931's Laughing Gravy. ~ Janiss Garza, All Movie Guide

Movie Details

Title: The Chimp

Running Time: 25 Minutes

Country: USA

Genre: Comedy, Short

Producer: Hal Roach

Director: James Parrott

Writer: H.M. Walker (dialogue)

Original Music: Marvin Hatley, Leroy Shield

Cinematographer: Walter Lundin

Release Date: May 21, 1932

Cast (in credits order):

Stan Laurel ... Stanley

Oliver Hardy ... Oliver

Additional cast (listed alphabetically):

Bobby Burns ... Tenant (uncredited)
Baldwin Cooke ... Bit Part (uncredited)
James Finlayson ... Ringmaster (uncredited)
Charles Gemora ... Ethel the chimp (uncredited)
Billy Gilbert ... Joe - the Landlord (uncredited)
Belle Hare ... Laid-off Circus Performer (uncredited)
Jack Hill ... Circus audience members (uncredited)
Lois Laurel ... Girl in Audience (uncredited)
Dorothy Layton ... Bit Part (uncredited)
George Miller ... Circus owner (uncredited)
William J. O'Brien... Circus Owner (uncredited)
Tiny Sandford ... Destructo (uncredited)
Martha Sleeper ... Landlord's wife Ethel (uncredited)

Opening Title Card: Mr. Hardy's aesthetic nature thrilled at the beauties of circus life - Mr. Laurel never got any further than the monkey cage.

SUNDAY MORNING ART GALLERY: Big Apple Circus by John Belfontaine, 1987

A painting insired by a visit to the Big Apple Circus which features Clown College alumni Barry Lubin, Jeff Gordon and Jim Tinsman.

Artist: John Belfontaine

Medium: oil on canvas

Size: 46 1/2" by 34 1/2"

Year: 1987

KARL KOSSMAYER: Holiday On Ice, 1960s

Video courtesy of Raffaele de Ritis

"No, it isn't very pretty, what a Town Without Pity can do..."

From Raffaele de Ritis:

The legendary act of Karl Kossmayer, with his comedy mule, one of the funniest circus pieces of last century.

This is an unusual version from one of his performances during his many years with Holiday on Ice in the 60s.

The act in his original version was later filmed by Jacques Tati in "Parade" (1974).