Friday, December 25, 2009


Peace on Earth,
Good Will to All!

(For those waiting patiently for this year's Video Christmas Card, technical
snafus have caused a delay. We hope to have it ready later this weekend)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

G. FRANCESCO SHEPPERD: Circus Maximum (2009)

NINO & NINETTO: Wilkes-Barre, PA

Giovanni "Nino" Zoppe and young James "Nineto" Hamid at the Hamid Shrine Circus in Wilkes-Barre, PA. I know the YouTube post says that the video was shot in Hamburg, PA but I don't remember the building in Hamburg having windows like that. I'm pretty sure that this was shot at the National Guard Armory in Wilkes-Barre.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Shane is finally embracing his resemblance to Ralphie,
much to the delight of his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

COCO TRIBUTES: Continue...

Keith Crabbs at the local Perkins' in Delaware for Kid's Night.

A close up of Graham's tribute board from the lobby of the Robarts Arena for the Showfolks Circus.


MICKEY: Circo Rolex

This reminds me of something...

Jamie is still sleeping. I'm surprised. He's usually awake by now.

Maybe I still have time to fix myself a bowl of oatmeal.

Shane has a half day of school today. Maybe we'll see Avatar and then watch some Christmas DVDs.


Not "Politically Correct", and would probably be stronger without his character's negative cultural stereotyping (that was downplayed later in his career) but...

From Wikipedia...

Ali Bongo (8 December 1929 – 8 March 2009) was a British comedy magician, and president of The Magic Circle who performed an act in which he was known as the "Shriek of Araby".

Born as William Oliver Wallace in Bangalore, India, where his father (also called William ) was serving as a Sergeant Major with the 1st Battalion of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, he spent his early years on a British station in Trimulgherry, Secunderabad, going to Britain with his mother Lillian at the age of seven.

After William Wallace senior had ended his army service, the family moved to Sutton Valence in Kent and young William won a scholarship to Sutton Valence School, leaving at 16 to begin his career as an entertainer. His time in the National Service was spent with the Royal Army Pay Corps. He worked for Harry Stanley's Unique Magic Studio and was manager of the magic department on Hamleys toy shop in London's Regent Street.

He created his Shriek of Araby character with a cod oriental costume (robes, golden curly-toed slippers, horn-rimmed spectacles and a headgear that incorporated a fez and a turban) and took the name Ali Bongo from a character he had created for a youth club pantomime he had co-written and appeared in while in his teens. The original character had sung a song which began: "My name is Ali Bongo and I come from Pongo, pong-tiddley-pongo land." Among his later magic catch-phrases were "Uju Buju Suck Another Juju", "Aldy Bority Phostico Formio", "Hocus Pocus Fishbones Chokus".

He made his British TV debut on The Good Old Days in 1965 on a bill topped by Tommy Trinder.

Ali Bongo wrote many books on magic, many containing tricks of his own. He also illustrated them in his instantly recognisable style. He acted as magic consultant for many plays, opera, ballets and TV shows including David Nixon's Magic Box, The David Nixon Magic Show for Thames Television and The Paul Daniels Magic Show for the BBC.

Ali Bongo was the presenter of the Ali Bongo’s Cartoon Carnival, which featured himself and his assistant Oscar. It aired on UK TV BBC1 on Saturdays between 23 October and 18 December 1971, a total of nine episodes.

Bongo was featured in an episode of Children's TV show Rainbow, appeared in the science-fiction show The Tomorrow People in the serial "Revenge of Jedikiah" and had a slot in Zokko. He also acted as the magical advisor on the TV show Dr Who and the 70s cult series, Ace of Wands. His legendary ability for devising tricks and illusions and solving magical problems inspired the TV writer, David Renwick, to create a character who was a magician's assistant and amateur sleuth in the series Jonathan Creek. Bongo was magical adviser to the series.

Bongo joined The Magic Circle in 1960 and, two years later was made a Member of The Inner Magic Circle. He won The Magic Circle Magician of the Year in 1972, the Carlton Comedy Award in 1983 and the David Berglas Award in 1991. He served twice as vice-president of The Magic Circle before being elected president on 8 September 2008.

At the beginning of February 2009, Bongo collapsed while giving a lecture in Paris. He was taken to hospital and, whilst there, suffered a stroke. Bongo was subsequently returned to the United Kingdom and cared for in St Thomas' Hospital, London, where he later died from complications arising from pneumonia on March 8.

Ali Bongo was cited in a song by the band Half Man Half Biscuit in the mid 1980s, reflecting his status in UK popular culture at that time:

"My story seems so tragic, Ali Bongo's good at contortionism. He's much better Than David Nixon ever was..."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Shane came home from school today to find a box from Elmo Gibb waiting on the dining room table. In it, a custom made "Cashin Comedy Co." slapstick! We spent the afternoon whacking each other (and fighting the urge to give Jamie a swat on his diaper-protected rump).

It's the perfect Christmas gift, a blow-off to the Elastic Gag!

(Shane, pictured above in his new Christmas Story "Ralphie" glasses)

Thank you, Elmo! Merry Christmas!

IN MEMORIAM: Arnold Stang (1918-2009)


Arnold Stang (28 September 1918 – 20 December 2009) was an American comic actor who played a small and bespectacled, yet brash and knowing big-city type. Never known as a solo performer, he worked best in an ensemble cast in which he played one of a diverse group of comic characters.

Early life

Stang was born in New York City in 1918, but often claimed Chelsea, Massachusetts as his birthplace and 1925 as his birthdate.


He was popular on radio in the 1940s as a sidekick to cantankerous comedian Henry Morgan. That led to a recurring role in the TV show The School House on the DuMont Television Network in 1949. Then, during television's Golden Age, Stang became a supporting player on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater, often berating or heckling the big-egoed star for big laughs. Stang also had guest roles on several variety shows of the day including The Colgate Comedy Hour.

In films, he played Sparrow in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) with Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak. In It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) he played Ray, who along with his partner Irwin (played by Marvin Kaplan), owns a gas station that is destroyed by Jonathan Winters. He appeared in Hello Down There (1969). In one of the oddest movie pairings, he partnered with Arnold Schwarzenegger (billed as "Arnold Strong") in the latter's first film, the camp classic Hercules in New York (1970).

As a voice actor for animated cartoons, Stang provided the voice for Popeye's pal Shorty (a caricature of Stang), Herman the mouse in a number of Famous Studios cartoons, Tubby Tompkins in a few Little Lulu shorts, the famous Hanna-Barbera lead character Top Cat (modeled explicitly on Phil Silvers's Sgt. Bilko), and Catfish on Misterjaw. He also provided many extra voices for the Cartoon Network series Courage the Cowardly Dog. On television, he appeared in commercials for the Chunky candy bar, where he would list all of its ingredients, smile and say, "Chunky, what a chunk of chocolate!" He provided the voice of the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee in the 1980s and was also a spokesman for Vicks Vapo-Rub.

Stang appeared on an episode of The Cosby Show with guest star Sammy Davis Jr. In one TV ad he played Luther Burbank, proudly showing off his newly-invented "square tomato" to fit neatly in typical square slices of commercial bread, then being informed that the advertising bakery had beat him to it by producing round loaves of bread. He played the photographer in the 1993 film Dennis the Menace.


Arnold and his wife, the former JoAnne Taggart, lived until his later years in New Rochelle, New York, moving toward the end of his life to Needham, Massachusetts. He died of pneumonia in Newton, Massachusetts on December 20, 2009. The Stangs had two children, David and Deborah.

And another holiday gem (featuring the voice of Mr. Stang at Herman) courtesy of Drew Friedman...

CRICKET & SON: Aladdin (2004/05)

Jimmy Cricket and son, Frankie Doodle do some slapstick in the pantomime Aladdin at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre.

SALTO MORTAL: Eliseu & Katina

SLAVA: Pre-Snow Show

Monday, December 21, 2009

COCO TRIBUTES: Mr. Bill on the Slopes

From my friend Bill "Mr. Bill" Machtel...
"I'm loving all the Coco hats on everyone.

I didn't know him, but it was fun seeing him laugh at our slap stick routine in Baraboo last year at the reunion. I feel privileged to be doing many of the things that he did so well, stilt walking, performing all around the globe and adding my own skiing skills to the clown world.

Here are three photos that I took today on the mountain with the race team and in my Kinderkids class. This is my 20th season at Alpine Valley in East Troy WI. Then check out ski school. I'm booked through March so between teaching 3rd grade in Milwaukee and Skiing all weekends and holidays I don't get a single day off until spring break when I take my family to Mexico for 10 days.

Let's hear a big Awwwwwww for Mr. Bill who is so busy working. Stinking skiing and getting paid to ski and clown? Not a bad gig!"

BELLO NOCK: Big Apple Circus' "Bello is Back (2009)


Sunday, December 20, 2009

SHOWFOLKS CIRCUS 2009: Photo Club Photos

The local photo club came out and took some beautiful photos of the clowns as we made up. Please click the title of this post to see 177 shots of us and the rest of the show.

SHOWFOLKS CIRCUS 2009: Even More Photos

Photos courtesy of Toby Circus Ballantine...

Robin's shirt reads "Keep Staring, I Might Do a Trick".

It's Elmo's World, the rest of us just live in it.

Jackie upon learning that he was the only one who'd be doing full whiteface.


Barry in Repose

Elmo Gibb, King of the Ring


2009 SHOWFOLKS CIRCUS: More Photos

Photos courtesy of Penny Wilson Rodriguez (Dime's daughter ; )

Toby Circus Ballantine witha Coco tribute of his own, on high stilts during come-in

Toby with Henrietta

Karen, Robin and Barry's expressions as I explain to them that we aren't getting paid for this.

(All the performers and crew at the Showfolks Circus volunteer their time and talents)

Elmo Gibb

Jackie LeClaire

Barry "Bonzo" DeChant
(This poor guy made the mistake of visiting the arena that morning and wound up stuffed in the clown car!)

Robin "Rusty the Handyman" Eurich

Karen Bell

Barry Phillips

Jackie had them eating out of the palm of his hand trom the very moment that he stepped into the ring. Never underestimate an audience's response (especially a Sarasota audience) to a honest-to-goodness three ring circus clown!

Karen Bell steps out

Toby yanking the long shirt off of Elmo

Like I said, I don't think that I've seen a long shirt longer or better made than the one Toby has

Smile, style and then profile as all clown exit running
(and not Shrine gag running either, running ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE CURTAIN!)

Jackie and Robin
(Batman has a yonger partner named Robin, Jackie has a
younger partner named Robin, ergo: Jackie LeClaire is Batman)

Another shot of everyone with the Coco tribute board that Graham had left to be placed in the lobby.

(Left to right: Toby Circus Ballantine, Pat Cashin, Robin Eurich,
Barry Phillips, Elmo Gibb, Karen Bell & Barry DeChant)



Photos courtesy of Barry Phillips...

It's been a week since the show and, thanks to the storm, the pace here has settled enough to finally post some photos from it here...

Rehearsing the clown car, Saturday morning. We had limited time in the ring to get things up and running with a group that either had never done a clown car before or hadn't done one in at least 20 years. Elmo took the lead and was instrumental at bringing all the elements together quickly.

(Left to right: Robin Eurich, Karen Bell, Toby Circus Ballantine, Barry DeChant, Pat Cashin)

Karen, Elmo, me and Robin. Elmo and I spent the summer teaching together.
Karen and Robin both work together at Circus Sarsota. We were very fortunate to have several performers who had previous experience working together.

International Clown Hall of Famer Jackie LeClaire with Barry Phillips and Karen Bell.

A Coco hat sat on the end of the wardrobe rack for the first show. It was later moved
to Graham Coco's tribute board out in the lobby for the second show.

The wardrobe rack for the 2009 Showfolks Circus Clown Alley, the
largest gathering of professional clowns at the Showfolks show in decades.

Barry Phillips and Robin Eurich fell in love and were married backstage. It's hard to believe but their union is still not recognized in 47 of the 50 states. Barry's rainbow colored pants will be flown when they proudly march hand-in-hand at this year's Pride Parade.

Toby Circus Ballantine, Jackie LeClaire, Barry Phillips and Elmo Gibb.

You could pose just about question on just about any subject to this
group of four and one of them would know the exact answer.

Circus legends and friends of, Sue and Rudy Lenz with Barry Phillips

Elmo getting into Toby Ballantine's long shirt, the best I've ever seen!

Me talking with Carlos Swenson, a fellow survivor of the Ringling 129th.

Stepping out of the clown car with assistance from Jackie

Barry Phillips (who stands 11' 7") stepping out just before putting
on the top hat that makes him taller than most high stilt walkers.

Me, Mike Naughton, Elmo and Karen Bell at the Showfolks Club after the show.
I believe that is Elizabeth Naughton at the MacBook.