Saturday, December 06, 2008

PRINCE PAUL: "The Prince" by Dean Chambers

Photo courtesy of Dean "Elmo Gibb" Chambers

Prince Paul Alpert as photographed by Dean Chambers.

From Dean...

Backstage at the Spectrum in Philadelphia way back in June of 1978. It's a shot off of the only roll of film and prints I ever developed myself. I would kill for the negatives today, as I love this study of Prince in a pensive mood.


Photos and information courtesy of Don Stacey and George Garrard

Gaston Hani, Pipo Sosman Jr and Rolf Knie circa 1986

Gaston Hani, Pipo Sosman Jr and Rolf Knie in the mid-80s when they were leaving Switzerland's Circus Knie for a series of variety dates (sans traditional makeup and costumes) all around the world.

Rolf Knie was born in Bern in 1949 into the sixth generation of one of the most famous of European circus dynasties. He excelled as an animal trainer, in the best traditions of his family, and as an acrobat, but found his metier was clowning in 1973. He is now retired from performing and is well known and respected as a painter.

Gaston Hani, born in Zurich in 1951, is from another famous Swiss circus family and is the nephew of the famous clown, Andreff. By the mid 80s he had been partnered with Rolf Knie for about a decade

Pipo Sosman Jr, born in Paris in 1949, is the son of one of Europe's most famous whiteface clowns. He starting out playing auguste but later adopted his late father's distinctive makeup. After working for Gruss in France he joined Circus Knie in 1980 where he partnered up with Rolf and Gaston.

American audiences will remember Pipo Jr working alongside David Larible in Feld Entertainment's Barnum's Kaleidoscape. I believe that Pipo is currently performing in Madrid on Circo Price.

BOB WILLIAMS AND LOUIE: Hollywood Palace, December 1965

Another act that I call "dibs" on, if ever I get a dog who can sit still for 10 seconds...

From Mark Evanier's NEWS TO ME...

I think that he had a couple of different dogs over the years, including one named Red Dust.

I worked on a show once where they tried to book Bob Williams. As I recall, he wanted a sum of money that our producer thought was excessive and some agent had an imitation act that was priced more they hired this other guy, who wasn't nearly as funny.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Photos personally selected by Shane Cashin

Gather 'round children, I'm going to tell you a story...

Six years ago today Mike Rosman crashed over at our house after a nearby gig. We stayed up late watching clown videos and talking shop.

Terry was quite pregnant and in her fourth week of doctor ordered bed-rest. We woke up on December 5th, 2002 to the first big snowstorm of the season and the worst in several years. By 7 AM there was already about 8 inches of snow on the ground with no end in sight.

Michael and I got up to shovel the driveway and walk so that Terry could make a doctor's appointment she refused to cancel. The doctor's office is only a few miles away but I was concerned about the roads. She was adamant. Her Mom arrived to pick her up and they drove off in some of the worst conditions imaginable. 

Not long after she arrived there she called to say that she had arrived safely but the doctor had determined that she was sending Terry to the hospital and that she was going to induce her right away.

Michael wished me well before heading off on what I'm sure was five or six hour of an awful trip home to Reisterstown. I grabbed Terry's suitcase and started off to the hospital to join my wife and mother-in-law driving into what was now a full-fledged blizzard.  At about 6:00 PM my friend John was able to make it over to the hospital from the Red Bank train station after work with some coffee and donuts. By then there was about 2 feet of snow on the ground. 

At 9:11 PM (during the commercial break of an episode of Will and Grace) we all met Shane for the first time.

He didn't just "enter" this world. He exploded into it, Evel Knievel-style. He rocketed out and the doctor caught him from what seemed like three feet away like she was catching a football.

Two days later he was released from the hospital and Terry took him across town to meet Knucklehead and I at our Santa gig at the Galleria in Red Bank. Our first family photo...

Since then he's been known around here by many names... Schmoove Baby Shay Shay, Poo-Poo Magoo, Pee-Pee Magee, Pootie McDiapermuffin, il Bastardo, the Red Menace, Prince Charmless, Nerdlinger, Doof Magoof, Shanye West but most often he's known around here as "Buddy Boy".

So in honor of the Buddy Boy's sixth birthday I've invited him to choose the clowns that he'd like to see featured on today's

In the order that they occurred to Shane, here they are:

Lou Jacobs (photo supplied by Jeff Darnell) 

Barry Lubin (cartoon by Rocco Paris) 

Drew Richardson

Mr. Noodle (Bill Irwin) 

Andrew Scharff

and Daddy Clown!

Happy Birthday, Buddy Boy!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Just to clear up any misunderstanding (a number of people emailed me privately), I am not angry at the Big Apple Circus for hosting Britney Spears, just disappointed that a much greater opportunity was missed. On the contrary, I think Ms. Spears was an extremely poor guest.

I would liken it to being invited into someone else's home only to tell them that they are stupid, their spouse is fat, their kids are ugly, the house is a dump and that dinner wasn't very good. 

It is just bad manners to treat your host so poorly.

Not that Ms. Spears did anything out of character. Her lip-synched performance was the same tacky, tasteless warmed over Madonna that she's been selling for years. 

What I objected to so strongly was that she decided to theme her album and tour around "circus" without spending so much as a moment learning what a circus actually is.

See, she thinks that her life is like a circus. Really? How so? I watched the video and I still don't see any tangible connection between the tabloid hungry celebu-tard lifestyle she is internationally famous for and any aspect of the circus as I know it.

Had she actually sung, selected a better song (one that didn't sound like a half-forgotten Janet Jackson album track that you didn't really care about from 20 years ago) and actively collaborated with the stellar cast of this year's Big Apple Circus she might have created something really interesting; something of merit that was mutually beneficial to both parties.

Instead she claimed to be like a "ringleader" in the "center of the ring" and prance around like the chowderheaded piece of fluffy puff pastry that she is, loudly proclaiming her inflated sense of self-importance while surrounded by the cast of HBO's Carnevale and some members of the Red Triangle Circus Gang from Batman Returns.

Yup, that's circus for 'ya, in all of it's glory.

With such a wealth of talent in this year's show it's a shame that she and her handlers weren't more interested in promoting circus in general and the Big Apple Circus specifically, rather than choosing to callously exploit it.

But then, exploitation is really what the Britney Spears story is all about, isn't it?

I mean how much can you blame her? She doesn't really strike me as a terribly bad person. Just a sad, undereducated young woman ill-equipped to deal with the machine that is eating her alive for the amusement of a global audience. 

An audience that now thinks that the Big Apple Circus is a tawdry little Fellini-esque museum piece that condones keeping women in cages.

That said, once again I remind you that I am fully aware that absolutely no one involved gives a fig what I think.

Anyway, here's a clip from the Today Show promoting a previous edition of the BAC with the type of media exposure that might actually bring paying customers in to see the show for themselves. 

And Al Roker makes a comment at the end far more risque than anything Britney did...

FUMAGALLI: Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione

To help cleanse the palate after yesterday's post about the Big Apple Circus' recent Britney blunder, let's look at this video featuring one of the BAC's recent better moves and focus on the positive, shall we?

Here's Fumagalli, featured last season's at the BAC, at Cirque d'Hiver Bouglione.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

PROP 8: The Musical

Whether you find this funny or not you have to admit, this is still considerably less ghey than Britney Spears at the Big Apple Circus.

BRITNEY SPEARS: Good Morning America from the Big Apple Circus

Just in case anyone cares what I think, I hate every single moment of this with the intensity of a million white dwarf stars exploding into supernova simultaneously.

I hate it like I hate war.

I hate it like I hate cancer.

I hate it like I hate Nazis.

I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate it.

I find the fact that the Big Apple Circus would knowingly and actively participate in yet another crass ma$$-media degradation of the image and medium of circus deeply disheartening.

That said, I am well aware that absolutely no one involved gives a damn what I think.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

MICROFEST: Bill Irwin Workshop, December 1, 2008

We had a wonderful time with Mr. Irwin yesterday...

Bill getting ready and setting the props to perform his Spaghetti Gag. He told us that the gag was created in Clown College in 1974 and the inspiration for the piece came after Mike Naughton taught him some plate moves.

I spoke with Mr. Naughton this evening and he told me that they had been working together in Clown College on a variation on the plate entree that the Francescos performed in the film Rings Around the World.

Tuning up his uke

Bill with Michael Rosman

Michael cracking Bill up

Working with Drew Richardson

with Andrew Scharff

and with Mark Lohr

Clockwise from the top: Bill Irwin, Mark Lohr, Andrew Scharff, myself, Jeff "Gordoon" Gordon

Sunday, November 30, 2008

BILL IRWIN: The Regard of Flight, PBS 1983

Tomorrow I will be taking part in a full day intensive workshop with Tony award winning actor and clown, Bill Irwin.

The workshop is made all the more special in that I will be taking it alongside friends from just about every phase of my clowning career as well as some of the very best physical and visual comedians in America. 

Needless to say, I'm very excited.

Below are a few scenes from Mr. Irwin's The Regard of Flight...

Free Association

The First Homesickness Song

The Rise of the Actor

The Second Homesickness Song

The Clown Bagatelles