Saturday, March 14, 2009

IN MEMORIAM: Alan W. Livingston

Alan W. Livingston dies at 91;
former president of Capitol Records

Livingston created the character Bozo the Clown for popular children's read-along record albums in the 1940s and signed the Beatles during his tenure as president of Capitol Records in the 1960s.

By Dennis McLellan
March 14, 2009

Alan W. Livingston, an entertainment industry veteran whose career included creating the character of Bozo the Clown for popular children's read-along record albums in the 1940s and signing the Beatles during his tenure as president of Capitol Records in the 1960s, died Friday. He was 91.

Livingston died of age-related causes at his home in Beverly Hills, said his step-daughter, Jennifer Lerner.

"Alan had a great passion and love of music, and he was a great friend to the artist community," said Neil Portnow, president and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.

"He had great taste and judgment, as far as musical talent, and as an executive, he was always very mentoring, very supportive," said Portnow, who as president of 20th Century Fox Records in the late '70s reported to Livingston when he was a senior executive at 20th Century Fox Corp.

Livingston was best-known for his years as president of Capitol Records during the 1960s, when he signed artists such as the Beach Boys, Steve Miller and the Band.

His most famous signing, however, took longer than might be expected.

Livingston first heard about the Beatles in 1963 when he read about the group in the English music press.

The Beatles' records were being released in the United Kingdom by EMI. And because EMI was Capitol's major stockholder, Capitol had the right of first refusal on the Beatles in America. But Capitol rejected the Beatles' early hit singles as unsuitable for the American market.

At a meeting with Capitol's producers, Livingston asked Dave Dexter, who screened all of the English records, what he thought of the Beatles.

"He said, 'Alan, forget it,' " Livingston recalled in a 2004 Billboard interview. " 'They're a bunch of long-haired kids. They're nothing.' I said, 'OK,' and I had no reason to be concerned, because nothing from England was selling here."

Livingston finally received a call from the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein, from London wanting to know why there was no interest in the group. When Livingston said he hadn't even heard the Beatles sing, Epstein told him to listen to one of their records and call him back.

Livingston did, and the Beatles signed with Capitol, which agreed on a $40,000 budget to promote their first single.

Livingston later recalled taking the Beatles' new single home to play for his wife, actress Nancy Olson.

"I had great respect for her because she had a good ear," he recalled in the 2004 interview. "She looked at me and said, 'I want to hold your hand? Are you kidding?' I said, 'God, I made a mistake!' "

In February 1964, the Beatles made their first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," and Beatlemania in America was in full swing.

The youngest of three children, Livingston was born in McDonald, Pa., on Oct. 15, 1917.

While growing up, he took saxophone and clarinet lessons, and his brother, Jay, studied piano. Jay later teamed with fellow songwriter Ray Evans, and they shared Oscars for writing "Buttons and Bows," "Mona Lisa" and "Que Sera, Sera." Jay Livingston died in 2001.

While at the University of Pennsylvania, Livingston and his brother paid expenses by forming an orchestra that played at fraternity dances and school events.

Alan Livingston graduated from the university's Wharton School of Finance and Commerce with a bachelor's degree in economics. He then moved to New York and worked in advertising for three years.

After serving in the Army as a second lieutenant during World War II, Livingston was hired by Capitol Records in Hollywood in 1946 as a writer and producer of storytelling record albums with illustrated read-along books for children.

He called the new concept a "record-reader."

After writing "Bozo at the Circus," Livingston worked with an artist to create the clown narrator -- a composite design of Livingston's based on various clown pictures -- and he hired former clown and cartoon voice-over artist Pinto Colvig to supply Bozo's voice.

"Bozo at the Circus," with music produced by Billy May, was a big hit, with the series reportedly selling more than 8 million copies over the next several years and spawning Bozo merchandise and Bozo-hosted TV shows.

Other Livingston-written and produced children's recordings followed, featuring Woody Woodpecker and various Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon characters.

In the early '50s, after becoming vice president in charge of creative operations at Capitol Records, Livingston signed Frank Sinatra, then at a low point in his career, and teamed him up with arranger Nelson Riddle -- a pairing that launched Sinatra's comeback on the charts.

Livingston, who was married for several years to actress Betty Hutton, left Capitol in the late '50s. He became vice president of NBC network television programming, during which he supervised the pilot for the western series "Bonanza."

Livingston returned to Capitol Records as president in the early '60s and became chairman of the board before leaving again in 1968. He later formed his own company, Mediarts, which was involved in movies, records and music publishing.

From 1976 to 1980, he was group president for 20th Century Fox Film Corp.'s television production, records, music and film processing operations.

He then became president of Atalanta Investment Co., a position he resigned in 1987. He also wrote a novel, "Ronnie Finkelhoff, Superstar."

In addition to his step-daughter Jennifer Lerner, Livingston is survived by his wife, Nancy; his son, Christopher Livingston; his daughter, Laura Gibson; his stepdaughter Liza Lerner; his sister, Vera Drazen; five grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.

A private service for family members will be held.

In this July 12, 2001 file photo Bozo the Clown, played by Joey D'Auria, shares a laugh with Alan Livingston, who created the original Bozo character in 1946, following the taping of 'Bozo: 40 Years of Fun.' Livingston, the music executive who created Bozo the Clown and signed the Beatles during his tenure as president of Capitol Records, has died. He was 91. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SHANE: Spelling Test Champ!

For those of you who have not been following the story on Facebook, my son Shane is the only kindergardener in his school who tested into first grade reading this year. While they weren't sure at first, Shane quickly showed them that he was more than capable of handling the work.

Now here we are in mid-March. This week Shane received his 18th consecutive perfect score on his first grade spelling test; this in addition to 18 perfect scores in kindergarden spelling as well, which means each week Shane has to complete class work and homework for both grades as well as memorize the correct spelling of 17 (10 plus the extra credit word for first grade, 6 for kindergarden) words every week.

Pretty impressive for a kindergardener!

The reason he's working so hard? I told him at the beginning of the year that if he did well in first grade reading that we'd go to on a special trip to Sesame Place at the end of the year.

This week Shane received this message of encouragement from Elmo, thanks to Sesame Place Entertainment Director (and fellow Clown College alumnus) Michael Joyce...

Shane was completely bowled over and sent this message in reply...


Happy 29th Birthday wishes go out today to the former ms. marnij. sussman,
now ms. marni j. zalben, seen above eating tapas in Orlando, FL.


Flat Hat, an English clown working in France since 1996, seen here doing his solo show at l'école de cirque Cirqu'en Cavale.

I've never seen him before but I'd like to see more! I love the look (and not just because of the oversized yellow vest with stripes down the back), the material and the character. I'd really like to see what he could do in a more lavish production setting.


"When you engage in fulfilling the needs of others, your own needs are fulfilled as a by-product."

CLOWN ALLEY: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey ? (circa 1950s)

Photos courtesy of the collection of Mr. Edumund O'Neill

These backstage snapshots were in color, but the colors have so badly faded over the years that I have reproduced them here in black & white. The date on the back says "week of September 9, 1957" but that is the date that the photos were processed, not taken.

They look to be photos of Ringling at Madison Square Garden. I'm guessing the Garden because I have another backstage photo of Otto Griebling where the hallway walls have the same two tone paint scheme.

Another clue is that in one photo, Otto is standing in front of something that reads "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey" but that isn't proof positive. It doesn't look to me like a parade float and could be something created by Shriners and/or Circus Fans.

In fact, Otto, Felix, Jojo Lewis, Paul Jerome and Gene Lewis could just have easily been photographed together on a indoor winter Shrine date and these pictures could be from Detroit.

Does anyone have see any clues that confirm that this is the Garden and give some idea of the date?

Amelia Adler, Felix Adler, Amelia the Pig and Gene Lewis

OK, Amelia is in there, which dates this picture post-1948. Amelia didn't perform for
the first few years of their marriage, so we can guess that this dates the photo as post-1950.

Unknown clown on the left, Jojo Lewis on the right

Jojo Lewis had left the Ringling show long before 1950 so this photo of a very
old Jojo reinforces the idea that these could have been taken at a Shrine date.

But Ringling was known to bolster it's alley for the New York run,
which could also prove that these are from the Garden

Felix Adler and Gene Lewis in the background, Otto Griebling
in the middle and I'm not sure of the identities of the two whitefaces in front

Again, back in the days before the Shrine clowns began working the show for free it was not uncommon
to have pros like Otto, Felix and Gene Lewis working dates like these together

Paul Jerome in whiteface

Paul Jerome drives me crazy. he has two very distinct makeups and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to when or where he decides to wear one or the other. It makes it just about impossible to date photos of him but I do think that he too had left the Ringling show by 1957.

Amelia, Amelia and Felix Adler

Again, Amelia in makeup, Felix's weight, the eyebrows of his makeup
and those shoes all date this firmly as being taken in the 1950s

Otto Griebling

What is that thing behind him???

It looks to chintzy to me to be a 1950s John Ringling North spec float although it might be and might provide
a firm clue as to whether or not this series of pictures are from the Garden and from what season


Terry just came back from the bakery with egg bagels.

Egg bagels are probably my favorite kind of bagels.

Friday, March 13, 2009

EMMETT KELLY: "WInd Across the Everglades" (1959)

Photo courtesy of Michael Rainwater from the archives of Ms. Janette Rainwater


I have been going through some more of my mother’s (Janette Rainwater) slides from the ‘50s, and came across two that were taken on the set of “Wind Across the Everglades” that was filmed in 1955 (but not released until 1959). These were taken on location in Everglades City, FL. Emmett Kelly (as Bigamy Bob) and Gypsy Rose Lee are featured, but I cannot identify any of the others. I hope that you can use them.

Michael Rainwater

Emmett Kelly as Weary Willie as "Bygamy Bob"??? BYGAMY BOB?!? What happened to Emmett's strong feelings about not having his beloved circus character appear in a negative light, as with his whiteface appearance in The Fat Man???

Post-Ringling and post-Brooklyn Dodgers did he really need the money that badly? Is this what lead to the split with Leonard Green? Or was the lure of working with Miss Gypsy Rose Lee just too much?


"Happiness is a state of mind. With physical comforts... if your mind is still in a state of confusion and agitation, it is not happiness. Happiness means calmness of mind."


Thursday, March 12, 2009

JIM RUTHERFORD: "Evolution of the Circus Clown" (March 29, 1914)

From the Detroit Free Press...

If you've got a copy of this, and are willing to scan it or transcribe the article,
PLEASE let me know!

MARCELINE: October 5, 1905

From Punch magazine...

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"What irritates us in the first place is that our wishes are not fulfilled. But remaining upset does nothing to help fulfill those wishes. So we neither fulfill our wishes nor regain our cheerfulness. This disconcerted state, from which anger can grow is most dangerous. We should never try to let our happy frame of mind be disturbed. Whether we are suffering at present or have suffered in the past, there is no reason to be unhappy."




I have seen an Elsie Jung, in her late 90s, listed as still residing in the Tampa, FL area.

If it's true then this MUST be Paul Jung's widow. Is anyone down there in Sarasota aware of Elsie Jung, or any of her relatives, still residing in the area???

Elsie was still leasing props and costumes created at their "Laugh Factory" to circus clowns until the mid 1970s.


I can't imagine that there would be any questions. I think this piece should explain everything.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

THE HANLON-LEES: Le Voyage en Suisse, April 17, 1880

From Punch magazine...

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Happy 29th Birthday today to my friends...

Brad Weston

J.T Sikes


Former voice of "Lucy" on the Peanuts cartoon and well known radical animal rights activist Pamelyn Ferdin is scheduled to appear in Parsippany, NJ at the upcoming Chiller Theater convention.

Wouldn't it be great if the entire New York metro circus community were outside the Sheraton handing out leaflets to the public letting them know what type of things Ms. Ferdin has been arrested for and why they shouldn't support her financially by paying for her autograph?

You know, they way that the AR folks do when the circus is in town?

I'm not saying that anyone should do that, I'm just saying that it would be really great if they did.

COCO: Photo by A. E. Middleton

Photo courtesy of BUCKLES' BLOG


Pipo, Leoncio and Nicki Sosman

Pipo and Rhum

Pipo and his son, Pipo Sosman Jr.


"If the mind is tranquil and occupied with positive thoughts, the body will not easily fall prey to disease."


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Photo courtesy of AUCIRQUE

BRITNEY SPEARS: Donates $100,000. to the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit

Britney Spears visits sick kids in Miami hospital

The Associated Press
MIAMI — Just hours before taking the stage, pop singer Britney Spears made a surprise visit to a group of sick children at Miami Children's Hospital.

The 27-year-old Spears posed for photos with the children on Saturday.

She's also donating $100,000 to the Big Apple Circus Clown Care program, which brings clowns to young hospital patients.

Spears played at the American Airlines Arena in Miami as part of her "Circus" tour.

The tour to support her hit album of the same name kicked off last week before a nearly sold-out crowd in New Orleans.

Spears' last toured in 2004.

While it is very nice that Ms. Spears donated much needed funds to the Clown Care Unit I still think that the American circus, as an art and as an industry, needs Ms. Spears and her tour like a fish needs a bicycle.


"It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others."

CLOWN ALLEY: Water Gag, Circus Charlie (1999)

Tanya,Sasha,Andrey and Gena



Happy 29th Birthday wishes go out today to Ms. Tiffany Riley!

Monday, March 09, 2009

CLOWN ALLEY: Susan Felter Photographs

Photos posted with the permission of the artist

Tuba Heatherton on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, 1982

Scott Parker on Circus Vargas, 1984-85

To see more of Ms. Felter's circus photographs please click here.


"I always believe that it is better to have a variety of religions, a variety of philosophies, rather than one single religion or philosophy. This is necessary because of the different mental dispositions of each human being. Each religion has certain unique ideas or techniques, and learning about them can only enrich one's faith."

CIRCUS FOLKS: By Arthur William Brown, Pearson's Magazine, August 1909

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THE DEATH OF MARCELINE: TIME Magazine Monday, November 14, 1927

Text not available

Essie Goodman, Negro maid in a smallish Manhattan hotel, at two o'clock in the afternoon, tiptoed into a room, followed by the manager and a policeman. The room was in some disorder. Photographs were littered across the bed; a few had slid down to the floor. A picture of a girl was propped up on a chair near the window and in the corner three theatrical costumes were heaped on top of a trunk. A man was kneeling by the bed, .his hands stiffly and desperately twisted together, his head pushed down against his arms. He did not say anything when the three people came into the room. The policeman touched him, shook him a little, then saw the smear of blood that ran down his cheek from a hole in his temple. "I guess he bumped himself off," said the policeman, "I'll have to have his name." "Orbes," the manager told him, "Marceline Orbes."

Twenty years ago the policeman would not have had to ask how to spell "Marceline." He would have been accustomed to seeing it in big shiny letters over the entrance to the Hippodrome, biggest Manhattan theatre. The little, inexpressive brown face with the smear of blood would have reminded him of another face, with the same features, set in a foolish pointed smile. He would have recognized the dusty, madly tailored evening clothes that Marceline had taken out of his trunk before he killed himself, as the uniform of the most famous clown since the days of Grimaldi.

According to legend, in 1876, aged three, Marceline, perched on the shoulder of an old clown, entered a bullfight arena where his helpless sprawlings made him funny. Marceline preferred to say that he had run away from the tailor to whom he had been apprenticed, crawled under a circus tent and fallen asleep. Then an old clown had saved him from the crouching lion against whose cage he had dozed and taught him the astonishing art of making people laugh. All the legends made Marceline a Spaniard, but he talked with a tight cockney whine in his voice.

In 1905, already famous after a five years' run in London, Marceline came to New York. The people who saw him during the nine years he played at the Hippodrome, damaged his reputation by trying to tell their friends how funny he was. "He just comes out," they said. "He sort of comes out on the stage and moves around ... he looks so funny . . . and his shoes, well they look like broken coal shovels . . . you have to see his face ... it makes you laugh. . . ." Marceline hated to be called a clown in those days. Clowns are the silly fellows in the circus who get guffaws by contorting their inane rubber faces, by painting big spots on their cheeks and putting putty on their noses. Marceline was a droll, or better still, an "auguste;" he wore, not pantaloons, but a baggy tailcoat; he could make a thousand people roar with laughter by saying nothing, merely looking at his left foot.

In 1912, Silvers, his partner, killed himself. When Marceline came back to the Hippodrome in 1915 after a trip abroad, his crowds were already beginning to prefer the silent flutter of faces on a screen to the gayeties of a nimble droll. A mocking shadow ran after him for the next few years, whispering an insult in his ear every time the crowds at Ringling's sat silent when he twisted an eyebrow at them. By 1920, he used to pick up dollars by coming in at business men's dinners and trying to make the solemn faces crack.

All his money was gone, but he still gave his wife, who had left him, $35 every month. At the last he pawned his ring for $15. . . .

In his hotel room he got out the photographs that had been taken of him years ago. Marceline himself had to smile a little at those merry mocking faces. Then, at four o'clock in the morning, he reached for his revolver and shot himself. His body slumped down by the bed on which the photographs were spread out; when Essie Goodman came in the first time, she went out again very quietly, because she thought he was praying.

KOKHA: Tea for Two

PASCALINO: Circus Royale (December 30, 2008)

SHRINE CLOWNS: Meet and Greet

Do you have a car?

I drive a Saturn Vue. I used to have a PT Cruiser. I liked it a lot but I needed a little more room for props.

My wife has a Honda Odyssey. It's got a DVD player and everything.

We got our Girl Scout cookies yesterday. They sure don't give you as many Tagalongs in the box as they used to.

Sunday, March 08, 2009



Duane "Uncle Soapy" Thorpe

Lou Jacobs


"A new way of thinking has become the necessary condition for responsible living and acting. If we maintain obsolete values and beliefs, a fragmented consciousness and self-centered spirit, we will continue to hold onto outdated goals and behaviors. Such an attitude by a large number of people would block the entire transition to an interdependent yet peaceful and cooperative global society."


Link suggested by Michael Karp

From Wikipedia...

Anny Ondra

Anna Sophie Ondráková, known as Anny Ondra (May 15, 1903, Tarnów, Galicia, Austria–Hungary, now Poland – February 28, 1987, Hollenstedt near Harburg, Germany) was a Czech film actress.

As the daughter of a k.u.k. officer, she spent her childhood in Prague. She starred in Czech, Austrian and German comedies in the 1920s, but can also be seen in some British dramas, most notably in Alfred Hitchcock's The Manxman and Blackmail (both 1929). However, when Blackmail was reshot with sound, Ondra's thick accent was considered unacceptable, so her dialogue was recorded by actress Joan Barry. Ondra made some forty more films in the sound era before retiring in the late-1930s.

She had a production company with her first husband, director Carl Lamac. Lamac had directed her in several silent films and also acted with her in films directed by other filmmakers. They worked together, even after their divorce. On July 6, 1933, she married the boxer Max Schmeling, with whom she appeared with in the film Knock-out (1935). The happy marriage lasted until her death in 1987. They have no children.

She was portrayed by Britt Ekland in the television movie Ring of Passion (1978), where the character was named "Amy Ondra Schleming." She was also portrayed by Peta Wilson in another television movie Joe and Max (2002).

Ondra was buried in the Saint Andreas Friedhof cemetery in Hollenstedt, Germany. Her husband Schmeling, who didn't remarry after her death, died in 2005 and is buried next to her.