Thursday, January 29, 2009

CLOWN ALLEY: Spike Jones Gag, RBB&B (1994)

Video courtesy of Greg DeSanto

Ringmaster Jim Ragona, ringleader Greg DeSanto and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Clown Alley in the "Spike Jones Gag" from the 124th edition Blue Unit Show performed 3 days after the massive train derailment outside of Lakeland, FL in January of 1994.

Roles have been switched around, some business cut and virtually everyone (including the person holding the camera) is working with a painful scrape, cut, bruise, sprain or break of some kind.

But, in that time-honored show business tradition,"The Show Must Go On"!

I hope Greg and some of the other clowns who were on the show at the time will post their memories of picking up the pieces and working through the aftermath.


Anonymous said...

The strongest memory of doing this gag in Orlando was the support and affection we all felt from the audiences. Reading about the train accident in the papers for days, so many came to see just what kind of show the circus was going to put on. This particular film clip of the gag dosen't really do justice to what the gag became as we performed it along the tour. Ceasar was still out from his injuries and of course Ceslee's part had to be recast. I worked with a dislocated shoulder and I can see myself not using the arm much in this version, nor am I taking any falls. But for the 3 minutes we got to do this gag our minds were elsewhere and the responses from the audiences help make a difficult time slighly better.


Anonymous said...

ive always liked the ringmaster verses clown gags this was really a gem to watch I heard from one of our performers who was rbbbcc grad that your were a great writer for gags ceslee was sure watching you guys from above with a big smile on her face,thank you for placing this on clownalley i will for sure to tell my clownalley friends to watch this gag at our practice thanks Rob....triton troupers circus river grove il...

Mike Naughton said...

Greg -- I hope you don't mind my adding this --
the lovely Laura Weiss was in the air (lyra?) and Jim Ragona was serenading her. With this melodic show of affection, the mayhem and hilarity exploded around the Ringmaster, unaware of the calamity.

Nice somersault by the Mr. Ragona.

You guys really got your money's worth out of Jim -- didn't you hit him with a pie at the start of the "LUCKY MEMBER FROM THE AUDIENCE" bit, starring the always believable Gloria Wilkerson as the surprised winner.
This is from memory--which can be askew -- please excuse and corrections appreciated.

Anonymous said...


Jim Ragona was a great sport about the various "bits" we would ask of him. Laura Weiss along with Gloria were honorary members of the clown alley stooge club and added alot to the routines over the years.

Dinny MaGuire also spent the second half of the year in this gag and gave us a run for the money in the clown department.


GothamTomato said...

You're right that this tape doesn't do the gag justice. I hope there's better tape somewhere, to surface, because I thought this was one of the best gags of all time.

I saw it a bunch of times in NYC, (where it just SANG!) and I LOVED it. So much so that I wish we did it when I was on the show!

Total silly fun.

Mike Naughton said...

I saw Gloria for a moment at the Show Folks Circus last month -- I waved a hello but she was so busy with her fan club that I don't know if she saw me.
We visited, briefly, with Jon and Laura when the Gold Unit played upstate New York in 2007; we were in complete shock staring at each other's kids and how grown-up they have gotten.
Where does time go?
Remember when you were just a kid from Tuckahoe? "A Kid from Tuckahoe", sounds like a Movie of the Week.

Ted Hering said...

Some good gags on "Laura" - especially the balloon lift-off!

Spike Jones himself would sometimes "borrow" a gag from the circus clowns of his day.

Barry said...

I saw Jim working the box office at Circus Sarasota yesterday. Only saw him long enough to say hi but he's looking good and they've got an outstanding production this year!

Very impressive somersault at the end...I never knew he was that flexible!

Hey Greg, did you have anything to do with the "Rapunzel" gag that they did on the Red show the following year? That one is another modern-day classic.

Anonymous said...


I think the Rapunzel gag was on the blue unit, the year after this one. I had left the show by then, but I seem to remember it was sort of structured along the same lines as the Spike Jones gag.

PS. The Ragona roll at the blow-off didn't last too long into the season if memory serves.