Saturday, February 28, 2009

CLOWN ALLEY: Polack Bros. Circus (1959)

Scan courtesy of Bill Strong

SLIVERS OAKLEY: New York Times (November 21, 1905)

The New York Times reporting that Slivers and Marceline were doing the Boxing Gag at the Hippodrome in 1905. Montgomery and Stone also did a boxing gag, and opened in The Wizard of Oz in 1902, but I don't know if their version inspired or was inspired by the version done by Slivers and Marceline.

Their version, however, most certainly inspired the version performed by Poodles Hanneford who taught it to Otto Griebling who taught it to Freddie Freeman.

The rest is history.

Not to slight Lou Jacobs, Chesty Mortimer or any of the others who performed the gag in 20s or 30s on Ringling but, in America, the Otto Griebling/Freddie Freeman version as performed on the Cole Bros. Circus has become the definitive version.


"Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk."


Friday, February 27, 2009


Boys and Girls, Children of All Ages...
Producers Pat and Terry Cashin Proudly Present...

Thank You and May All Your Days Be 
First Look at the New Baby Days!!!


Photos very generously supplied courtesy of Bertha and Frank Campisi

The Aquacade audience at the Flushing Meadow Amphitheatere in 1952

This is clearly not the same group of Aqua Zanies who appeared at the Flushing Meadow Amphitheatere in 1952 but it should serve to give you an idea of what their material was like. I remember some of these same gags being done at Great Adventure's diving show back in the 70s and getting me into trouble with the lifeguards at the YMCA when I tried to imitate them.


"Human potential is the same for all. Your feeling, "I am not of value" is wrong. Absolutely wrong. You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought - so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, then you can do anything. It is usually said that you are your own master."



I think that we've finally found the perfect venue; something that will be ideal for the New York crowd as well as folks coming in from out of town.

Plans are to hold a two day video show screening classic rare and hard-to-find circus, vaudeville, burlesque, music hall and related film and television videos from the Cashin Comedy and DeSanto (with possibly more) vaults and archives.

So everybody start saving up your money now because THIS will be the mother of all clown video shows!

ROBERT MCKIMSON: "He's a, I Say, He's a Great Director of the Animated Cartoonies!"

Yesterday, as a special treat for being the only kindergardener in his school to NOT ONLY take first grade reading BUT ALSO to have received his 16th consecutive perfect score on his spelling test, I introduced my son to one of my favorite things in the whole, wide world... Foghorn Leghorn.

For six years now he's heard me say things like "I say, I say, that's a joke son. You missed it!", "Get it through your bone head, boy!" and "He's a nice kid but he's about as sharp as a bowling ball!" and now he knows why.

To say that Foghorn Leghorn rocked his little kindergarden world would be a gross understatement...

From Wikipedia...

Robert "Bob" McKimson, Sr. 
(October 13, 1910—September 29, 1977) 

Robert McKimson was an American animator, illustrator, and director best known for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons from Warner Bros.

McKimson was born in Denver, Colorado. After ten years of art education, he went to work for the Romer Grey Studio located in Alta Dena California, a would-be animation shop started by the son of Western author Zane Grey, and financed by Zane Grey's wife. Several cartoons were animated at the Romer Grey Studio, but none were ever released. Most never made it to camera. 

From there he went to work for Walt Disney. He stayed with Disney's studio for two years before moving to that of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising. At that time, he had an accident that gave him a concussion. As a result, he was able to visualise better, thus increasing his production and animation. 

In 1945, McKimson was promoted to director, replacing Frank Tashlin. In 1946 when Bob Clampett left McKimson (along with Warren Foster) Moved to Clampett's unit and Art Davis was given McKimson's old unit. He shared this position with Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones from 1949 until 1962, when several other animators had brief directorial stints just before the studio closed over a period from 1963-65. 
During this period, McKimson created the characters Foghorn Leghorn and Tasmanian Devil, and directed every Hippety Hopper/Sylvester pairing. He also created Speedy Gonzales for the 1953 short Cat-Tails For Two. From 1946 to 1950, Robert McKimson had his very own version of the modern design of Bugs Bunny. Art Davis borrowed it for the rabbit's cameo in The Goofy Gophers and his own Bugs' cartoon. Mckimson also had his own design of Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.

Critics, perhaps unfairly, routinely dismiss McKimson's work — that is, when the critics deem to discuss McKimson's work at all. Much of this critical neglect likely stems from two factors: McKimson's early death, and his extreme shyness. He died well before animation became a respected art form, and when he was alive, he gave few interviews. Also, there have been no theatrically-released anthology films showcasing McKimson's directorial work at Warners (Jones had one, and Freleng had two), which have arguably contributed to his cartoons being less familiar than those of Freleng and Jones.

McKimson is often cited as being a better animator than a director; his shorts are described as having a "squarer" style than his fellow directors, Freleng and Jones. Critics describe his style as somewhat prosaic, literal, and not as innovative, clever or impeccably crafted as the films of Jones or Freleng. In addition, McKimson favored an overstated, hammy style of "acting" for his characters, in contrast to the cool, studied, Method-like underplaying that Jones imbued in his versions of the same characters. In many ways, his cartoons, extremely violent and irreverent, are a continuation of the style of Bob Clampett, who left the studio just after McKimson's promotion to director. 

His first directorial work, Daffy Doodles (at least his first released directorial work; he cut his directorial teeth on a Seaman Hook wartime cartoon for military audiences in 1944), wherein Daffy draws moustaches on all the pre-drawn (and even some natural) faces in his sight, was released in early April 1946. His cartoons became somewhat more tame after 1950 however, when his story artist, Warren Foster was taken by Freleng in a swap for Tedd Pierce.

But if McKimson's cartoons did not reach the intellectual heights of Jones or enjoy the musical freedom of Freleng, or even have the distinctive cinematic style of Arthur Davis, who took over Clampett's unit in the late 1940s, he is seen by animation scholars as being, individually, the most artistically talented of the Termite Terrace cartoon directors. He may not have had the highs or the lows of Freleng and Jones, but he performed consistently well in the middle. 

In 1942, McKimson drew a single portrait of Bugs Bunny, leaning against a tree and smiling as he was eating a carrot, that became known as the definitive portrait of the character; this picture has been imitated many times by later artists, including McKimson's peers. McKimson was, for many years, the studio's most prominent animator and character designer; he created the definitive Bugs Bunny model sheet in 1943. Also, in the aforementioned Daffy Doodles, McKimson helped to design a wiser, more society-savvy coal-coloured waterfowl, in marked contrast to the crazy duck of works by Tex Avery and Clampett. 

His peers acknowledged McKimson's ability to draw images and figures without any construction lines. Even when Warner Bros. acknowledged the influence of UPA and abandoned extreme "realism" in cartoons during the early 1950s, the characters in McKimson's cartoons continued to reflect his craftsmanship, including two of the studio's most popular, Foghorn Leghorn and the Tasmanian Devil.

In 1953, however, the Warner Bros. cartoon studio laid off most of its staff for six months. After the studio reopened, Freleng and Jones were able to quickly re-assemble their respective units, but McKimson lost every member of his previous team, apart from Pierce and background painter Dick Thomas. Some of his post-lay-off cartoons he animated himself. Most of McKimson's weak cartoons were released from 1955 on. These later cartoons have slow timing since McKimson no longer had Rod Scribner or Charles McKimson, his younger brother. At the start of this period, McKimson animated several of his shorts himself. This later period had some merits, including the consistent work of layout artist Robert Gribbroek and occasional brilliance from story man Pierce. 

Within the studio structure, however, the McKimson unit was valued as the one in which new animators honed their craft, and some of those who excelled (Art Leonardi and Tom Ray, for example) were recruited by Freleng or Jones. Due to McKimson's non-competitive spirit and affability, he simply accepted the arrangement that his unit was the training ground for animators who would then be grabbed up by the studio's two "important" units.

McKimson soldiered on at Warner's cartoon studio as it began to lose people, including Jones, in 1962. Over this time, he directed his share of shorts and worked on the feature The Incredible Mr. Limpet. 

After the studio closed, he joined DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, co-owned by his old associate Friz Freleng and David H. DePatie, who had been a producer at the Warners studio. At DePatie-Freleng, McKimson directed several Inspector Clouseu shorts and worked on some of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies contracted out to DePatie-Freleng by Warner Bros. 

In 1967, Warners opened its studio again; McKimson went back to Warners in 1968 and stayed until the studio finally shut down for absolute good in 1969. His last Warner Bros. cartoon was Injun Trouble with Cool Cat. Injun Trouble was also the last of the original Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies cartoon to be produced before the Warner Bros. cartoon studio was closed.

In 1972, he went back to DePatie-Freleng to direct The Pink Panther Show shorts, among their other series.

In his personal life, McKimson was a skilled horseman and polo player, a dedicated bowler, and a master Mason.

McKimson died suddenly in 1977. He suffered a massive heart attack while eating lunch with Friz Freleng and David H. DePatie.

He had two brothers — Charles McKimson and Tom McKimson — who also worked as animators.

McKimson also directed the Honey Mousers series which led to Jack Benny asking if a cartoon could be done of him and his cast of characters...

I would argue that The Hole Idea was McKimson's masterpiece. He animated and directed the entire thing just about single handedly.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


CLOWN ALLEY: Lou Jacobs, Chuck Sidlow and Frosty Little (1987)

Video courtesy of Kevin Starr

Lou Jacobs, Chuck Sidlow and Frosty Little at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College Reunion at the Venice Arena in Venice, FL in 1987.


I need to track down my own copies of these three books at a reasonable price. If anyone has spares to sell, or better yet is willing to trade, please let me know ASAP!


"Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet in whatever circumstances is a brother or a sister."


This is going to be my new strolling act.

ARCHAOS: "METAL CLOWN" - Archaos Cirque de Caractère (Paris 1991)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009




This one isn't a mystery, it's our old pal Dick "Rocko" Lewis!


Some of you have already seen this, some of you may not have.

I think that it's the best tool so far for clearly showing what's happened to us all.


"What science finds as nonexistent, we must accept as nonexistent, but what science merely does not find is a completely different matter. It is quite clear that there are many, many mysterious things."


ALAN "TWEEDY" DIGWEED: Mr. Gravity and the Ladder

What a difference a decade makes. I worked on the same show, same unit, 10 years ago but don't remember the kids ever "narrating" the gags the way the kids do in this clip. I think that it's the influence of Bill Irwin's Mr. Noodle segments on Sesame Street.

I once attended a screening of Buster Keaton shorts at the New Victory Theater in NY with live accompaniment by Blue Grassy Knoll. The musicians instructed the kids to actively participate by booing the villian and cheering Buster. As soon as "One Week" started a little girl of three or four just across the aisle started to talk to the screen telling Buster "No, no! That's not the way to do it! Turn it around!"

Her father was mortified and begged her to please be quiet. He didn't realize that she saw Buster the same way that she saw Mr. Noodle, as a grown up who was having trouble doing simple things and desperately needed her assistance and advice.

Sitting directly behind me, Bill Irwin.

Having sat and now watched half of Buster's early shorts with Shane (who finds Buster hysterical) I am convinced that there is an amazing educational television show that could be created from silent physical comedy with kids talking back to the screen and reading the title cards.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Happy 29th birthday wishes go out tonight to one of my very best friends, the best man at my wedding, Shane's godfather, and one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, Mr. Robert J. Hoitela.

Mr. Hoitela is pictured here, in his living room, being eaten alive by a angry pack of rabid dogs.

MYSTERY CLOWN: Dumbo (1941)

Disney Artists Barbara Gorham and Wilma Streech at the Cole Bros. Circus in a staged publicity shot, supposedly doing research for Walt Disney's 1941 film Dumbo.

TOM DOUGHERTY: The Tramp Years

Photos courtesy of Jeff Darnell

Tom and Joe Wesson at the White House

Tom and cello by Steve Meltzer from Circus Sarasota's Dan Rice and the American Circus

MODERN MECHANIX: Circus Laugh Making Requires Inventive Genius (Jun, 1936)

CIRCUS Laugh Making Requires Inventive Genius

INSTEAD of provoking laughter with comic songs, funny quips and conundrums as did the great circus clowns of the past, the modern Joeys of the big top rely on explosive microphones and slapsticks, collapsible motor cars, ingenious mechanical devices and papier-mache figures for their fun. Owing to the increased size of the modern circus, clowning has adopted the mass-production methods of our age. There are two types of chalk-face laugh- makers in the present day circus, the fill-in clown who merely imitates the others, and the producing clown, who originates and builds new acts and gags. Clowning itself divides into two parts also, the “walk-around,” a quick, flashy turn performed on the hippodrome track between regular program numbers, and the “clown stop,” an interval allotted exclusively to the clowns for the presentation of a feature gag.

Clown gags usually are worked by two or more persons because the stunt must tell a story. It is, in reality, a short-short comedy, embodying action and atmosphere and suggesting an incident or a series of incidents. The producing clown’s job is no sinecure these days. His antecedent could use a pantomime routine year in and year out but the modern clown must be thinking up new tricks constantly. Selling laughs to a world weighed down with worries is exacting work that taxes the ingenuity of even the greatest clowns.

The Joey must not only think up his gags but also build whatever “props” are necessary. A gag may be born of pure inspiration or progressive workmanship. Otto Griebling of the Cole Brothers-Clyde Beatty show thinks up most of his turns while lying in bed. He keeps a notebook at his bedside so he won’t forget his ideas by morning. Lew Hersey of the Al G. Barnes circus, works out his stunts with the aid of a circus-loving merchant in the Kansas town where he spends his winters. But no matter where the ideas originate or who helps produce them, the clowns must come up each spring with a new series of sure-fire laugh hits. Even on the road during the season, the clown constantly is eradicating out-moded stunts and substituting new ones. A stunt that required months of thought and labor may prove a failure when presented, while some simple one coined on the spur of the moment may become a high light.

Clowning is an exact science. If there is a single flaw in the execution of a gag it may not produce a single smile. Nemo’s experience with the Ringling, Barnum and Bailey show a few seasons ago illustrates the point. Garbed in a woman’s nightgown and a boudoir cap, Nemo would render “How Dry I Am” on a sour-toned cornet until a bucket of water fell on him. The first few times he tried it the audience did not respond with even a smile. One day he accidentally picked up the dripping nightgown and held it about him differently than on previous attempts. This simple movement struck a responsive chord in the audience and transformed an erstwhile dud into a screamingly funny gag. A clown will do an endless amount of work and research to devise a stunt. Lew Hersey knew if he could build a prop in which a lifelike goose would appear to be chasing him he could garner a bumper crop of laughs. He knew the force of the gag would be lost with a poor imitation of a real goose, so with his merchant partner, he set out to build a perfect prop. They scanned dozens of goose pictures until they found one in a half-running, half-flying position. The framework was then fashioned out of more than 400 feet of wire, requiring approximately 500 soldered joints. To facilitate packing the goose in a prop trunk, the body, wings, neck and head were built separately and equipped with assembly screws. Covering the framework with muslin, the workers then enlisted aid in applying real feathers. When completed, the goose was fastened to the clown’s body with steel rods and canvas straps so that as he raced around the hippodrome track the goose was right on his heels with wings flapping wildly.

Newspapers, magazines and the radio furnish the clowns with inspiration. Otto Griebling’s impersonation of a political figure giving a radio speech caused wide comment. In pantomime, the clown ranted and gesticulated into a dummy microphone. At the conclusion of the stunt, he was flat on his back, kicking and waving wildly and breaking the microphone to pieces. Milt Taylor’s travesty of Arctic explorers is a typical clown stunt. Donning a decrepit fur coat, he drives a wheel-driven sled around the hippodrome track with three small fox terriers as malemutes.

There are many burlesques of other acts in the show, too, such as Chesty Harmon’s imitation of Clyde Beatty’s animal act. Wearing a pith helmet and white duck shorts, the giant clown puts a diminutive fox terrier in a lion suit through its paces. Circus fans who laughed at Silvers Oakley’s one-man baseball game, or saw Lon Moore wrestle him-self a few years ago are equally amused watching Felix Adler of the Ringling show give an imitation of a Victorian dowager attempting to pick up her purse. As he bends over, his hoop skirt goes over his head, and he goes through several funny stunts before solving the problem.

George White of the Hagenbeck-Wallace troupe gets plenty of laughs with his patented cigar lighter. To set the lighter in motion, a billiard ball is started down a wire chute and then passes through a trough, striking a lever that tips a sprinkling can. Thus are the paper flowers in a near-by pot watered and when they spring up, a parrot bends over to pluck them, but in so doing riles a stuffed cat whose tail shoots up to the trigger of a revolver. This causes the gun to explode and the flash from the blank cartridge ignites a torch. From this White procures a light. He spends his spare time keeping the device in working order.

Papier-mache figures are widely used, each clown being required to make at least one walk-around in one. The comic strips and animated movie characters come in for a lion’s share of attention here. A few clowns do two characters on the same trip. The elongated Kinko of the Cole Brothers-Clyde Beatty show has a prop in which he is Mutt when he stands up but by bending over he becomes Jeff. The change is effected by means of a false head strapped under the folds of his costume. Jimmy McCoy of the same show works his evolution theory, “Man to Monkey,” on a similar principle.

The most elaborate make-up used by any of the modern clowns is, perhaps, Paul Jerome’s. He has been the No. 1 clown tramp of the past twenty years. He must take unusual precautions in putting on his make-up because in his putty nose is encased a small light bulb that flashes whenever he pulls a string. His dog adds to the stunt with a light on the tip of its tail. And Ray Barret of the Al G. Barnes show, whose immaculate props have won for him the title of America’s “neatest clown,” has an imitation stove built on his head that flares up as soon as he pulls the string.


"The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis."

LOUIS C.K. : Everything is Amazing and Nobody Is Happy


Monday, February 23, 2009


Very happy 29th birthday wishes go out from all of us to one of the very best of the best,
Michael "Coco" Polakovs


Happy Birthday to one of my very best friends, Shane Hansen.

Shane, his beautiful wife Alecia and their two adorable daughters Olivia and Madison can be seen this spring with the Hamid Shrine Circus and at larger fairs and festivals throughout the summer with their own Hansen's Spectacular Circus Thrill Show.


Happy 29th birthday wishes go out today to...

My friend actor, comedian and Knucklehead's Comedy Club owner Curt Carlson.

and fellow Ringling Clown College class of '97 alumus and current Red Unit clown Lance Brown.


"When people get angry they lose all sense of happiness. Even if they are good-looking and normally peaceful, their faces turn livid and ugly. Anger upsets their physical well-being and disturbs their rest; it destroys their appetites and makes them age prematurely. Happiness, peace, and sleep evade them, and they no longer appreciate people who have helped them and deserve their trust and gratitude."

CORINA & GRIGO: Musical Clowns

GEORGE CARL: Danish Television (1975)