Saturday, March 28, 2009


Some Tim Eriksen photos from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Red Unit 109th edition

Anaheim, CA 1979

Animal Walk, New York City 1979


Comedy Car act, Great Yarmouth Circus


"What are reborn are our habits. Enlightenment is the ending of rebirth, which means a complete nonattachment or misidentification with all thoughts, feelings, perceptions, physical sensations, and ideas."


With all the love and adoration showered upon him it kinda makes you want to be a Latin American TV clown, doesn't it?


Friday, March 27, 2009

SHANE CASHIN: Notice Anything Missing???

ROBB ZEISER: Circo Ciudad de Albacete (2009)

Photo courtesy of AUCIRQUE.COM





"The person who has a tremendous reserve of patience and tolerance has a certain degree of tranquility and calmness in his or her life. Such a person is not only happy and more emotionally grounded, but also seems to be physically healthier and to experience less illness. This person possesses a strong will, has a good appetite, and can sleep with a clear conscience."

CLOWN ALLEY: Dentist Gag, Circus Vargas (1980s)

Italo Fornasari may be driving the gag here but keep an eye on whiteface Scott Parker, his moves are extremely neat and clean and really help to keep the fire going in the furnace of all this mishagoss.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SHANE CASHIN: 20 In a Row!!!


20 IN A ROW!!!



Is Victor De Jonghe the photographer or the subject because this looks to me like a Dario, a Bario, a Francesco or a Zavatta.




"If objects and people evoke attachment in us, we do not understand the true nature of phenomena. We can only become detached by realizing the true nature of things.

KARL VALENTIN: Die Orchesterprobe (1933)


Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi on the current economic meltdown and the bailout.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009






"Nonviolence is the only way. Even if you achieve your goal by violent means there are always side effects and these can be worse than the problem. Violence is against human nature."


You know, whenever I'm feeling down in the dumps all I need to do is open up my email and there are about 200 messages a day from Nigeria telling me that I am a winner.

And if I don't respond to them... I am!


Terry, Shane and I had a wonderful time Sunday afternoon at the Big Apple Circus, currently appearing in Bridgewater, NJ.

I saw the show early in it's New York run and it's always fascinating to see how it evolves on the road. It's a great show this year, heavy on comedy, with an excellent mix of returning favorites and new faces.

With New York and Atlanta finished, from Bridgewater it's on to Boston, Queens, Long Island and Charlestown, RI this season.

Tour dates and ticket info is available at the BAC website.

Thank you to Mark Gindick, Matthew Pauli, Glen Heroy, Carrie Harvey and especially to Don Covington for making it such a special day for Shane and his pal Neill who had never seen a circus before.

CLOWN ALLEY: Untitled Video (1970s)

I have no idea what this is but it features 70s era footage of Chris Bricker, Karandash and Emmett Kelly with a cyst over his left eye the size of a walnut.

From Mr. Christopher Bricker himself...
This footage of me was lifted from an NBC News profile that was done around 1972. I emphasize it was lifted. The entire piece is available in the TV archives. I know that snippets such as those that were used here were part of samplings put out by the archives and the entire piece has a purchase price on it for duplication. NBC had a live mic on me for an entire performance (soup to nuts) at Madison Square Garden, and, of course there was an interview.

The original piece was aired on the nightly national news, and did not include the other two clowns featured here. Instead, there was footage of gags, interaction in the Alley, and a shot of Swede taking a snooze. My comments in this version are a bit out of context. I had been answering a question about careers, and how important it is to be happy with the path that you choose. I was saying that the demographic was a bit different in the younger Alley, in that there were more life choices and directions available to the younger "First of Mays" than what the older circus veterans may have had.
Hope this helps.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

LOU JACOBS: With Dolly and Lou Ann (1970s)

ROBB ZEISER: Circo Ciudad de Albacete (2009)

Hi Pat !

Just a quick note from Spain. The International Festival Del Circo in Albacete, Spain was a great festival highlighted by some awesome clowning. 

I was honored to share the clowning responsibilities in the ring at the festival with some great Mexican clowns. Paquin, Jr. and his son Felipe who's dog routine was not only funny but sincere and very heart warming. Also at the festival was "Pedro Pedro, Tin Tin, and Peter" also from Mexico. They are wonderfully talented and extremely funny musical clowns. 

We were all invited to perform at the gala performance which was attended by government officials and some of the biggest circus producers in Europe. The audiences in Spain were great and really appreciate clowning! No wonder, Charlie Rivel is a national treasure!!

I included a photo of the big top that was set up inside the bullfighting ring. I thought that was uniquely Spain.


Happy 29th Birthday wishes go out today to Mr. Joel Jeske.


My friend Ralph Dewey is working on a book about the history of balloon twisting and many of it's early stars. He's asked me for information about the acts of Dime and Connie Wilson and of Blinko and Maran...

I've told him what I know of the two acts, which isn't much. I'm hoping some folks out there might be willing to share their memories of Dime & Connie and Blinko & Maran, both as acts and as fellow performers, for inclusion in the book.

And I'm hoping our pal Billy Vaughn is out there and might be willing to chime in on his recreation of that style of classic circus clown come-in.


"If one's life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation."



Well, here's a medical reason why the circus isn't "cool" to most teenagers, they aren't exposed to enough of it to maintain a need for it...

Teen Brains Clear Out Childhood Thoughts

Clara Moskowitz
LiveScience Staff Writer – Mon Mar 23, 6:11 pm ET

The mysterious goings-on inside teen brains have befuddled countless parents over the years. Now some insights are being provided by recent neuroscience research.

Between ages 11 and 17, children's brain waves reduce significantly while they sleep, a new study found. Scientists think this change reflects a trimming-down process going on inside teenagers' brains during these years, where extraneous mental connections made during childhood are lost.

"When a child is born, their brain is not fully-formed, and over the first few years there's a great proliferation of connections between cells," said physiologist Ian Campbell of the University of California, Davis. "Over adolescence there is a pruning back of these connections. The brain decides which connections are important to keep, and which can be let go."

Scientists call this process synaptic pruning, and speculate that the brain decides which neural links to keep based on how frequently they are used. Connections that are rarely called upon are deemed superfluous and eliminated. Sometimes in adolescence, that pruning process goes awry and important connections are lost, which could lead to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, the researchers think.

Brain pruning

Synaptic pruning is thought to help the brain transition from childhood, when it is able to learn and make new connections easily, to adulthood, when it is a bit more settled in its structure, but can focus on a single problem for longer and carry out more complex thought processes.

For example, if a child receives a brain injury before age 10, another area of the brain can often take over the functions of the damaged region. If the same injury occurs at age 20, however, the person may lose a vital ability, because the brain has lost the flexibility to transfer that function to another area.

"The fact that there are more connections [in a child's brain] allows things to be moved around," Campbell told LiveScience. "After adolescence, that alternate route is no longer available. You lose the ability to recover from a brain injury, or the ability to learn a language without an accent. But you gain adult cognitive powers."

Campbell and UC-Davis psychiatrist Irwin Feinberg recorded the sleep brain waves (called EEG) two times a year over five years in 59 children, beginning at either age 9 or age 12. They found that brain waves in the frequency range 1-4 Hz remained unchanged between ages 9 and 11 and then fell sharply, by about 66 percent, between ages 11 and 16.5. In the 4-8 Hz frequency range, which corresponds to a different part of the brain, brain waves started to decline earlier and fell by about 60 percent between ages 11 and 16.5 years.

Overall, these changes are consistent with synaptic pruning, because as neural connections are lost in those areas of the brain, brain waves in the corresponding frequencies decrease. Campbell and Feinberg report their findings in the March 23 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tumultuous years

Synaptic pruning is just one of many changes thought to be going on inside teenagers' brains. For example, a 2005 study found that teenagers can't multi-task as well as adults because their brains are still learning how to process multiple pieces of information at once they way adults can.

In addition to changes that affect how they think, teenagers' brains also undergo developments that affect how they feel. For example, during adolescence people begin to empathize more with others, and take into account how their actions will affect not just themselves, but people around them.

A 2006 study found that the teenage medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with higher-level thinking, empathy, and guilt, is underused compared to adults. But as adolescents mature, they begin to use this region more when making decisions, indicating that they increasingly consider others when making choices.

Monday, March 23, 2009

CHESTY MORTIMER: Makeup Is a Double-Edged Balloon Sword

This should serve as a reminder that classic circus makeup is meant to be viewed from a distance and, despite being professionally applied, can still end up looking like it was designed by a committee of syphilitic window lickers in a Martian insane asylum.

HAPPY KELLAMS: Gainesville Community Circus (1941)


In an attempt to alleviate the great pain and suffering a small but vocal minority are experiencing from misunderstanding...

You do not have to contact me to rant that we are remiss in not including such-and-such a performer, no matter how uniquely gifted and/or deserving they may be, from the ballot of this year's awards. No one was excluded. All eligible nominations made it onto the ballot.

Like last year, I nominated no one. The nominations were open to everyone except me. 

Nominations were even held open for an extra week this year.

If your favorite performer does not appear in any category to the right, please remember to nominate them again in the future.


"If a person has never encountered love toward himself or herself from any quarter, it is a very sad thing. But if that person can meet even one person who will show unconditional love - simply acceptance and compassion - if he knows that he is the object of someone else's affection and love, it is bound to have an impact, and this will be appreciated. Because there is a seed in himself, this act of love will start to catalyse or ripen that seed."

MENIQUE: Circo Arlequin

I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Jeff Gordon can find solace in the fact that there were probably more people on line for the bathrooms at Big Apple then there are in the seats watching Circo Arlequin.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


"Sleep is the best meditation."


Looking at that photo of Annie Fratellini the other day got me to thinking...

Seeing as how really good clown makeup design and application is such a difficult thing to master, and the proliferation of bad makeup design and application is such a large part of what is fueling the "scary clown" thing and killing clowning as a profession here is America, why don't we try this...

Why don't we just stop?

Why don't we ask the Shriner's to agree to stop using wearing circus makeup in parades? Why don't we ask the suppliers to stop stocking it? What don't we stop holding seminars and teaching circus-style makeup design and application at conventions?

Why don't we just stop?

We could probably end the non-circus use of whiteface, auguste and tramp makeup in America tomorrow simply by changing the WCA and COAI judging rules. Circus makeup? No trophy!

If we stopped makeup from being the very FIRST thing taught to amateurs to making makeup the very LAST thing a skilled clown EARNED after completion of training in many other aspects of performance then we might just be able to restore the public's perception of classical circus clowning.

"But what will we wear?"         "But what will we sell?"


Leon McBryde


Jackie LeClaire
Circus Sarasota


Rik Gern


Kenny Ahern

Proper, professional circus-style clown makeup was a closely guarded secret until the advent of Ringling's Clown College. The old timers believed that if their secrets got out then everyone would be able to approximate the look of a professional circus clown and their days would be numbered.

Which is, pretty much, exactly what happened.

Which is weird because the old timers secrets were passed to the young Clown College grads who taught it to the amateurs who watered down the product to the point where the professionals working in circus today have adopted lighter makeups to better distinguish themselves from the backyard amateurs.

Which means that circus makeup, which evolved in order for a performer's expressions to more easily be read from very far away is now usually worn by people working to audiences of 20 or less, up close, in a backyard setting and lighter makeups which were intended for more intimate venues are now worn by people playing Madison Square Garden.


Since "rules" have become such a popular feature in clowning organizations in the last 30 years or so, why don't we adopt these?

1) If you are strolling, doing "meet & greet", table hopping, or performing to an audience of 500 or less, a clown should forgo classic circus makeup and wear something lighter, less exaggerated and more naturalistic.

2) If you are working to an audience of 1000 or more, or performing in something larger than a one ring show, you should consider slapping it on big and thick if you want to be seen.

Which is not to say that these rules won't have exceptions (Tom Dougherty looks quite at home on the floor in Ringling arena shows, Barry Lubin is excellent at meet and greet outside the Big Apple tent in New York) but might be adopted as a general rule of thumb.

Any thoughts?


To read the Onion article, please click the title of this post.