Friday, March 10, 2017

Andrew Kassino's Giant Telephone

  Popular Electricity and the World's Advance from 1913 has a great article describing


     Circus people on the road - as becomes happy-go-lucky folk engaged in a most healthful occupation - have no end of fun among themselves.  This season the employees of the largest American circus have been particularly regaled by the antics, "behind the scenes," of a dwarf clown, who has adopted as the vehicle of his merrymaking a giant toy telephone instrument - one of a number of such instruments which are carried by the show for use in the latest trained elephant act.  The clown who has been tickling the risibility of his associates, and particularly the circus electricians, is Andrew Kassino, a diminutive comedian known by sight to almost every American circus goer and who has lost none of his agility, although he is no longer young.
     Kassino varies his burlesque somewhat, posing one day as a lineman and again assuming the role of an operator, although he is so short in stature that it is only with effort that he can get within hailing distance of the transmitter.

Andrew was part of the Kassino Komics aka Kassino Midgets troupe (sometimes spelled "Casino"), started as a duo by Joe Kassino as a duo in 1908, grew to three by 1910,  and had as many as eight in the mid 1920s.  The group worked for many circuses during the first half of the 20th century.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

WOMEN'S DAY- Evetta, The Lady Clown 1895

International Women's Day is getting alot of attention this year, so I thought in honor of today I'd highlight a female pioneer who may be recognizable from her often-published circus poster - EVETTA.

The Barnum & Bailey show created quite the stir during the 1895 season with Josephine Mathews (also sometimes labeled as Williams in the press) aka Evetta, The Lady Clown.  That season the show posters advertised a female ringmaster, Millie Dunbar.
From Buckles Blog

The 1895 season was so successful that in 1896 posters advertised TWO lady clowns and TWO lady ring-masters.

The poster on the right is from the 1896 season.

I haven't been able to find much information as of yet on the second female clown, advertised as 'A Mathews Sister', other than she was briefly and namelessly interviewed in a article in 1896 about corsets and how wearing one didn't inhibit her from tumbling or being a clown (Evetta didn't wear a corset so I assume the quip came from the other clown, as pictured in the posters wearing a corset).

unidentified early female clown
photo courtesy of Christina Gelsone

The following is an interview with Evetta from April of 1895, who in this article is listed as Miss Williams for unknown reasons.

She Likes It, and Has Made Quite a Success
     "My reason for becoming a clown," said Miss Williams, the only lady clown on earth according to the circus bills, "was to make money.  My father was a clown for 40 years.  He was with the Barnum and Bailey show in this country for nearly 20 years.  He had 21 Children, and all of them were in this business in some capacity or other, generally as acrobats and tumblers.  My three brothers were clowns, and they used to come to me for ideas.  I was not suited for an acrobat.  It is too hard work.  I thought that I would become a clown myself and make use of the suggestions I used to furnish them.
From a Barnum & Bailey 1896 Newspaper Ad
There are 12 of our family now in the circus business.  Father has retired.  He keeps a little public house near London.  In the winter I go there and help him.  This is my first voyage to America.  I believe that a woman can do anything for a living that a man can do, and do it just as well as a man,.  All my people laughed at me when I told them that I was going in to the ring as a clown.  But they do not laugh now, when they see that I can keep in an engagement all the time and earn as much or more money than they can in other branches of the business.  I am paid for my ideas.  Every day I try to think out something new, and the management usually gives me pretty wide latitude.  My first engagement was with an English circus in the provinces.  I made a hit and managed to get into the Hippodrome in Paris.  I was there two years.  Then I went back to London and did pantomime work.  But I liked circus work best.  The chief difficulty is in making myself heard.  But, then, nobody ever listens to what a clown says.  Everything depends on the antics.  I am a fair tumbler, and manage to get along all right.  I shall probably stop in this business until I get married.  Of course, I hope to get married some day.  Every woman does.  But I do not believe in women sticking to the business after they are married, though the rule in a circus seems to be just the reverse.  These bareback riders and trapeze artists all have husbands or brothers about the building somewhere.  That is why the standard of morality in the circus is far better than it is in the theater.  That is a fact."
Miss Evetta, 1896
Miss Williams is a rather undersized woman, about 25 years old, with an abundance of health and energy.  She rides a bicycle, swings Indian clubs, and does everything else that a man does to keep herself in proper trim.  One of her favorite tricks as a clown is to put on a bonnet and a long cloak and sit by an innocent young man in the audience.  In nine cases out of ten he is very much preoccupied in the performance, and does not pay any attention to her.  Suddenly she astonishes him by shouting to the ringmaster for a job.  He takes the cue and begins to dicker with her.
     "How much will you give me?"
     "Ten dollars a performance."
     "Oh, no!  This young man here that I am engaged to will give me more than that to stop here with him."  (Great confusion of the young man referred to if he does not grasp the situation.)
     Finally the cloak and bonnet are tossed aside and the lady clown leaps into the ring.  This trick worked very successfully the other night.  The men in the clown business rather enjoy Miss Williams's antics but they do not regard her as a serious competitor or believe that any other women are likely to follow her example.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Felix Adler Hair Grower Gag 1930 & 1931

Here we have two newsreel clips of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey clowns entertaining the children at Bellevue Hospital, New York in the 1930s.  Both clips show the same hair grower gag performed by Felix Adler in subsequent years.
The first clip is silent, from 1930-

The second clip is a talkie from 1931, this time with audience participation-

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

An Interview With The 1908 Barnum & Bailey Clown Alley

The following interview appeared in several newspapers across the country in early April of 1908.  I think it's interesting that a woman is conducting the interview.  The clowns are socially awkward.  Hardly anything has changed in 108 years.  HA!  108!  

Before we begin, here's a listing of all 36 clowns who were in the alley that season 
(this is a clipping from the 1908 Barnum & Bailey program)

NEW YORK, April 4 - Many of the costumes that the Barnum & Bailey clowns offer for the inspection of the people who come to see them are worthy of special mention.  They are the very last cry in things sartorial, and if broadway does not copy them, well, it's a loss to the world of the Great White Way, that is all.  Here's a chance to get away from the rule of the conventional.
     One of these outfits has a waistcoat of large plaids.  It is worn with a coat of elephant's breath that has short bobby tails wired to give the required nonchalant air.  The trousers are modestly high and only exhibit four inches of snow white hose.  A long, light wig lends distinction.  The shoes are of the flapping kind.  Color, hay.
     A frock coat of the vintage of 1812 is worn with a dark red sweater, champagne-colored stockings and no shoes.  A mule, heavily belled, should accompany the wearer.
     With a swallowtail cut to half the usual length at the back, a bright red necktie with flowing ends is very effective.  This should enclose collar with six inch points, built so as to hold the head very erect.  Large loose shoes that beat time with the walk and visible stockings are worn.
     Thin white batiste with many frills.  Red belt drawn taut over expansive waist girth, black stockings, flap shoes, small linen cap set flirtatiously on the side of riotous yellow curls.
     A policeman's coat is worn over tip-tilted bustle and shoulder pads.  It has three rows of buttons down the front, the middle row very small.  A blue flower on the left breast gives a Paquin-like air.  A clay pipe and whiskers are absolutely indespensible.
    With the radiance of this accumulation of fashions and folly in the eyes, it is hard to realize that the rows of men who sit silently in the press room after the circus is over are the very ones who a few minutes before flaunted their magnificence before thousands of spectators.  All the white zinc and grease paint has been washed off, and the prismatic attire replaced by the common, ordinary Maison Square Garden kind of business suit, a little the worse for wear in a few instances, showing the storm and stress of life on the road.
     There is not the slightest attempt to get away from the current mode.  Everything is rigidly conventional and correct.  Each one of them has a clean shave, a shoe shine, and immaculate linen.
     There are fat men and thin men, old men and young, those experienced in circus ways and those to whom life has still something to offer besides a weekly salary and a problematic engagement for the next season.  But the cheerful ease of the ring is replaced by what in circus talk is called sawdust fright.
     It is caused by the unusual experience of being interviewed.  All the merry quips and cranks which people ordinarily associate the genus Clown are gone.  They sit on the extreme edges of their chairs and wait for each other to speak.  When one ventures, after explanatory cough, the rest admire and envy his eloquence and self-possession.
     "If we'd only known about it two days ago," one of them confesses, "we'd had a chance to think up something to say.  Lord, lady, we've got stories enough.  Some of us's been more'n forty years in the clowning business.  But you can't think of stories right off the bat, begging your pardon, this way."
Then they introduce themselves and each other.
     "Lady, I'm the policeman, the jockey and the ballet girl."
Dick "Foolish" Ford
     "I'm the man with the long rope and the short dog.  My! But I thought he'd bite my ankles today, exposed as they be."
     "I'm the one whose feet flap the most."
     "I'm Foolish Ford.  In my contract it says that I can come and go ad lib."
     "I call myself the most absurd, ridiculous individual in the world, abounding in the melody, mirth and madness.  Then when people say I'm so bad I'm good I don't have to make apologies.  I just point to my explanation that's written in the posters."
     "I'm the man that's got a sort of cousin on Park Row who gets all his funny ideas from me."
     Others content themselves with merely saying names, Austin Walsh, Arthur Borella, Fred Egener, Stanley, Baker, Gerome, Bennack, Ackley, Clemens.
     The tall man who is looking for some pictures of himself in the press album continues the apologies for being unprepared.  "We ought to have written the story ourselves," he adds, "and given it to you to fix it up if you think it needed it.  We're great on monologues.  We could have done you some corkin' ones if we'd only known.  Next year if we're with the show and you want us to--"
     The rows nod approval.
     "Is it to be a long story," another ventures, "or a short one?"  They all lean forward for the reply.
     "Oh, a long one with pictures."
     They are visibly more interested.  One or two prod the others to speak.  "Go 'long, Ford; you oughter have a heap o' things to say."
Arthur Borella
     "What's the matter with you, Arthur Borella?  Tight as a wad."
     "Look at Freddie Egener over there, dumb 's a clam.  He's got enough to gab about in the Clown's alley when we want him to shut up."
     "Oh, Austin's going to chirp.  Don't be afraid, Walsh.  It's all right.  Lady won't hurt yer.  Walsh's got the floor.  What, he's backed out, too?"
     "Well, I don't know, lady.  It's tough for you, and with pictures coming our way too.  Lord!  Seems as if we'd ought to think of something.  The trouble's right here, now.  We'll tell you.  There ain't nothing new in the business.  Clowning's the same story, year after year."
     "Oh, yes, of course we go to different places all over the world, in fact."  It is Foolish Ford who is speaking, a middle-aged man, with a deeply furrowed face and kind gray eyes.  "But it's all the same to us.  We don't care whether a town's up or down.  I'm thinking of San Francisco when I say that.  I was there before the earthquake and I was there after it.  Didn't see any difference to talk about.  Up above the ground or down below it, what's the odds?  It's just a town, that's what it is.  Now, I've been in London a heap o' times.  Lived right near Westminster abbey; and all last season I was so English that I had my trunk marked 'Sir Richard Conneford, Liverpool, England, but I never went near the abbey to go inside.  I don't know why clowning makes you feel that way, but it does.  You get so gol-darn tired of places where George Washington was shot and Abe Lincoln was born that you just leave 'em for the rubber-necks."
     "And, then, besides, we're thinking,"  This is from one of the other thirty-five clowns, "You see, when you're a clown it's up to you to think up something original, for no matter how good a stunt you may have you can't go on doing it forever.  You've got to have something every bit as good as you had before and a heap sight better.  It keeps you guessing in your spare minutes."
  One or two wipe off the perspiration from their brows at the memory thus evoked.
  "Some of the salaries of the clowns run as high as $100 a week, some don't get more'n $35.  The cleverest clown is the one that fools the manager the best.  He is the best if he can do that, for it ain't an easy trick.  He's stopped fooling and is the real thing.  Have you got that down?"
  "The way a clown does is to think up something smart and then submit it.  You needn't think it'll go because you write a letter sayin' it will or because you laugh at yourself."  It is the inventor of the rubberneck coach trick who now has the floor. "We tried that trick first in Brooklyn and they laughed at it and then we were up a tree because we thought it wouldn't take in New York, but it has.  New York's the ticklish place.  Take a trick all over the country and get a laugh wherever you strike the tent poles, and then tote it over here to this burg and you get the frozen mitts.  Then, again, some fool thing that the country jays would be ashamed to smile at will bring down the whole Garden.  People'll go home and talk about the button bursting clown comically for a week and bring over their mothers-in-law to see it."
     "Have you been to Paris, Lady?"  interrupts one whose name is unknown, "and did you ever get knocked down by a cab and get arrested for blocking traffic and fined for it?  Well,  that would remind you of one of the many joys of the merry clown's life.  If he gets kicked by a horse that is showing off in the acme of expert equitation and acrobatic equestrianism, or if he is knocked over by one of those graceful little Roamin' chariots, or perhaps if a trapezist in his marvelous aerial act forgets and falls on him instead of the net, why everybody wants to know what the clown's doing in the way there.  What business has he got to be under feet and interfering with the legitimate business?  It's up to the clown to look out for himself and when you've got everybody in your neighborhood interested in your stunt and you can only hold 'em there for a minute or two by the power of your marvelous personality, it's mighty hard work to have to be eternally and forever trying to crawl out from under the weight of half a dozen animals of one kind and another.  Lots of times I've taken my new costume, before anybody else had a chance to see it, and walked up and down in front of the horses so that when I did appear the wouldn't be too surprised and mistake me for the sawdust in their admiration or fright, whichever it might happen to be."
     The clowns are beginning to loose their fear.  Another would-be speaker can scarcely wait for his turn.  "You see, the old-time clown, which we nearly all of us used to be, was a one ring clown.  His stunt was to come out and talk with the ringmaster, and between them they managed to fire the changes on all the local gags and the jokes.  He would interpolate a comic song now and then and answer back if anyone asked him a question.  It was hard work, but it didn't begin with the work of the clown today.  Now it's action, something doin' and doin' quick and hard.  You've got to get a laugh as soon as people look at you.  You can't give 'em a chance to go home and talk it over and come to some family decision.  No sir-e-e.  So our surest way is the makeup, for the modern circus is too big to have talk in.  You wouldn't be heard.  A clown has to get up his own rig, buy it or have it made; then it belongs to him, and the value of a clown is oftentimes measured by the amount of funny costumes he has in his repertory.  Here at the Garden I suppose every clown has four or five changes which he puts on in the course of one show, never appearing in the ring in the same gown.  We don't spend much time browsing about libraries of Fifth averner auction rooms, but some-times we do get an idea from a cartoon, and junk shops are our favorite hunting ground.  Anything funny that we see we get and hang on us.  Many of the costumes are very expensive, $35 or $40 maybe, and as they don't last long the accumulation of this property represents quite an item of expenditure.  We do economize oftentimes by using one year's costume for the next season's rainy day suits.  That's our only way of getting anywhere near ahead of the game.  And if you get a funny idea be sure that it will be copied right away.  The flap feet when they first came into the business made a great hit, but the season wasn't over before every clown in the country was flapping his feet, as if he'd invented 'em."
     The policeman breaks in, " I suppose I'm considered the funniest clown in the the business."  There is a little choking sound heard from the rows, but it does not break out into articulate speech.  "This makeup of mine's a direct inspiration.  I was calling on a lady friend and telling her that I was looking for a long coat.  She was a good sized woman, somewhere near 200 pounds, and she opened the door of the wardrobe and showed me her last year's garment hanging there.  It was all right but the color, and she suggested that I have it died, which I did.  Then I sewed three rows of buttons
Harry LaPearl with his wife Loretta
down the front.  The small row in the middle, and borrowed from another lady friend her bustle and shoulder pads-the first one didn't have 'em in stock for obvious reasons.  You see what a success it is.  The children simply love me.  It's a queer thing about them kids.  Just as soon as they get old enough to throw a stone they're on the lookout for a cop to throw it at, but let there be a policeman clown, they can't see him too often.  They just go crazy over him."
     It is while the subject of children is being discussed that a letter is brought in by one of the officials, who reads it aloud.  It is from a Harlem parent who has lost two boys and thinks they must be with the circus.
     After its contents have been thoroughly digested by the assemblage there is a deep silence.  Walsh looks quite fussed up about it and Egener crosses his legs and uncrosses them nervously.
     Finally there was a chorus of protesting voices:  "oh, of course they've run away with the circus.  Led to their ruin by the clowns' talk.  Whenever there's a circus in town and the boy's mislead of course he must have joined.  And why do they always think they're going to be clowns?  It requires some training to ride bareback or swing on the bars but non, of course, to be a clown;  oh, none at all.  Think of it!  As if we don't have troubles enough without stealing children to train."
     "Well, but," begins a mild-voiced clown in the second row, "we couldn't get along without the kids.  That's true enough.  They come pleased in the beginning and all you've gotter do is to take a little notice of 'em, wave a day day and they're with you from start to finish.  No weary work trying to smooth out the glassy stares.  I remember one orphans' day.  Well, lady, I've been clowning now for some thirty odd years, and when I think of it I get a queer sort of feeling somewhere.  It was a benefit performance and a whole foundling establishment was there-- courtesy of the management.  How they did enjoy it!  Didn't seem to have too much fun in their lives, and they laughed as if it had been bottled up for a long time.  After the show was over the manager asked me as a great favor if I'd stand at the door and shake hands with the children as they went out.  Would I?  You bet I would!  I never enjoyed handshakes like those.  One by one the kids sidled up, some scared as could be, some brazen; those were the ones who were going to be clowns when they growed up.  Some of the littlest ones hesitated, not through fear--oh no--but they wanted to--what do you think?  Sure, kiss me!  Did I let 'em?  I lifted them one by one in my arms and they kissed me so hard that when they got through all the white zinc was kissed off in a smooth circle all around my mouth.  But what did I care?  White zinc's cheap, but it ain't often that a clown gets kissed that way; not often, lady."
  "Is it a clown's ambition to play Hamlet?  Not on your life!  We ain't any of us hankering after them melancholy parts."  This is from the stout clown with the polka dot tie.  "A clown's ambition is to play with the Barnum & Bailey show.  All through the country you'll see them with their eyes fastened on the point of the compass where the great show's billed.  When the offer comes to join that aggregation of wonders, a clown feels the same way that an actor that's been doing one night stands for fifteen or twenty years does when he's invited to play on the Great White Way and is guaranteed by the management that he won't have things thrown at him."

"How do we begin?  Well, we're willing to tell that if you'll promise not to ask how we end."  This is from one Egener in the rear, who looks as if his clowning had never interfered with sleep and appetite.  "It--well, it was a good many years ago and I didn't know anything about being a clown except that I wanted to be.  There was a little show in town-- in the middle west--and I put some glycerine and oxide of zinc on my face--I knew that much--and applied for a place, hearing that there was at that time a deficit of clowns.  I told the manager that I was great on the gab and could sing like a wren.  He hired me on my nerve and offered me $12 a week, which I took, after some hesitation.  I wasn't getting anything at the time and it seemed bigger than any salary I ever got since.  I made a great hit with my song, which was in the days before it got too common.  It ran:  'Willie had a little gun--now he's gone, gone, gone.'  The manager told me he considered me the greatest clown in the circus world, but he said it with one eye closed.  I drew my salary for six weeks regularly, then there was a lapse for sixteen, and I could only touch the manager for about two bits a day.  At the end of that time I went home in a box car and put my trunk in pawn before I started.  Same with you fellers?  Beginning's nearly always identical.  Next year I got $35.  Same with you fellers?  Thought so."
     The dark man who speaks next was with Walter Mains show in the beginning.  "I was in the concert that took place after the show, and one day it occurred to me if I could make $12  week for that, why couldn't I make $35 being a clown?  I put it up to the manager and he gave me a try.  I succeeded and am now at the top of my profession."
     There is a decided movement of disapproval.  One says:  "We ain't sayin' you ain't, but the profession of clowning is different from a turnip in that it has more'n one top."
     "Got that down in your notes?"  says the tall man, "for if you ain't, think I may use it myself.  We're always looking about for chunks of wit, for when the circus season is over nearly all of us go into vaudeville, and some of us have even tried the legit.  I played two seasons in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in a temperance drama called 'Dot, the Miner's Daughter.'  The neighbors said I was good but the general public agreed with my family.  I never went back."
     "Some people think that the clowns live together, herded like freaks, and I met someone around asking for the clowns' boarding house.  The truth is that most of us have been born and brought up in the business.  We married in it and our children are taught the circus stunts as soon as they begin to walk and talk  but we'd all of us like them to go into the legitimate and make a name for themselves, get away from them long footprints of the one-night stands and the seasons on the road."
     "We don't any of us retire rich.  Barney Baruato, the South African millionaire, was the only one and the disappointment of riches or the contrast between his life as was and is made him commit suicide in midocean.  There's many of us have left clowning for good.  Richard Golden and Billy Clifford, for instance, but perhaps you'd better not mention their names and give 'em free advertising."
     "The only real excitement of the clown's life begins when he starts in betting.  Every Saturday night in Clowns' alley, as we call the clowns' dressing room, we bet on the number of weeks and the town where the circus'll end.  It's in the Clowns' alley that all special announcements are made and anyone has the privilege of stepping on the table and making a little speech.
     "The isolation that has been thrust upon us by herding us together in a dressing room, where the proclivities for covering everything with white won't interfere with the rights of others, has resulted in the making of many fine orators and monologuists, whose talents are unknown to the general public."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gordon Bunch, Whiteface Clown of Color

Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library & Archives

There have been many African American clowns, but before Brian Wright, Jamarr Woodruff, Sean Davis, Gregory Parks, Onionhead, Huel Speight, Danise Payne, Reggie Montgomery, Bernice Collins, Dusty Fletcher, or Bert Williams (and many more) - there was Gordon Bunch.

Gordon Bunch clown at Jim Key Worlds Fair 1906
at the 1906 World's Fair

Gordon, to my knowledge, is the first man I can find record of being an African American "clown", calling himself as such, who wasn't just a white man in blackface like Eph Horn.
click to enlarge
In 1904, he was booked as a clown and pantomime artist at the St Louis World's Fair, promoting their top money-making exhibit: Beautiful Jim Key - The Educated Horse.  The horse was formerly owned by P.T. Barnum himself, and was purchased and raised by slave-born African American veterinarian Dr. William Key.  The horse could spell with letter cards, do math, and make change from a cash register.  According to a November 1904 St. Louis Republic newspaper article about clown acts at the World's Fair, "Gordon Bunch, whose pantomimic feats in front of Jim Key, and his excellent makeup as a clown, have been most attractive, is another old-timer in the profession, and his work during the summer has been remarkable at producing results at the box office".

If he was an old-timer in the profession in 1904, I wonder how far back his career went?  More research!

After the World's Fair, Bunch accompanied the horse on a midwestern tour, reaching Minneapolis on March 30, 1906, along with veterinarian Stanley Davis and groom Sam Davis.

Not long after, Bunch performed at Luna Park in Cleveland Ohio.  A reviewer called him "one of the good clowns."  He also took his clowning to the vaudeville circuit.  I found the following account of an adventure he had one night, posted in the book "Blacks in Blackface: A Source Book on Musical Shows" :

Indianapolis Freeman
April 9, 1910
Gordon Bunch-To the Rescue-Saves Life of White Woman-Gets in Bad
Recently while playing a vaudeville house in a small town Gordon Bunch, America's only colored ragtime clown and versatile comedian, met with an accident that goes as follows, from his own pen:
     "While doing my clown act in a vaudeville house in a small town where they don't like colored people to stop overnight, the theatre caught on fire.  Every-body got out safely except one young white lady, who was left behind.  Although I was in my make-up, I rushed back into the burning building and brought the young lady, who was half dead to safety in a few minutes.  She came to herself, then asked to kiss the man who saved her.  I was standing among the crowd, removing the make-up from my face the best I could, when she came to where I was standing.  She looked at me and then cried, 'It's a coon!' and fainted.  Afterwards I was held over for twenty-four hours for causing the young lady to faint.  However, I am faring exceedingly well and going big everywhere."
Courtesy of the Tennessee
State Library & Archives

He was billed as "The Mysterious Komedo - The Mechanical Wonder" on the vaudeville stage.  I found record of this act in the November 20th 1916 issue of the Xenia Daily Gazette (Xenia, Ohio) under the COLORED SOCIETY column-

  Hundreds of people were attracted to the windows of the Adair Furniture Company, Saturday evening, and marveled at the appearance of Mr. Gordon Bunch.  Mr. Bunch was made up as a mechanical figure or "dummy" in such a way that it was impossible to detect wether he was real or artificial.  On this coming Thursday evening, Mr. Bunch will present his big feature, "The Power of Man," at the opera house.

According to census records, he was listed as a "Ticket Taker" in Cleveland, Ohio in 1917.

Mr. Bunch, you will not be forgotten.  I hope further research proves fruitful!

Laughs for the Left Behind Variety Show April 8!

For those who do not know, Pat Cashin, the namesake and creator of this blog, passed away unexpectedly over six months ago.  His friends are putting together a comedy variety show dedicated to him on April 8 in New Jersey.  Here is the rundown:

Save the Date for something that will be very very special.
MotionFest and other friends present

Laughs for the Left Behind
A celebratory comedy show to benefit the family, friends and community Left Behind by the unexpected July passing of Patrick Cashin.

April 8, 2017
8 pm (an earlier show may be added in the afternoon)

Seashore Day Camp and School
404 Broadway
Long Branch, NJ 07740

Laughs for the Left Behind logo stickers to be worn on your left buttock will be available on site.

Here is the first release of performers rostered for the April 8 Laughs for the Left Behind show:
Hilary Chaplin
The NY Goofs (Dick Monday and Tiffany Riley)
Jeffrey Gordon
Bill Irwin
Kevin Carr
Greg DeSanto
Archie Cobblepot
Joey Klein
Fritz and Stephen (aka Eepybird)

Plus more soon to be released

More info soon!

Please note that all performers listed are scheduled to perform, but this lineup is subject to change.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

2 Scenes, 1 Gag

Behold, the power of adaptation!  The following clips show the same two clowns doing virtually the same routine as part of two separate productions and situations.  The clowns are James ThierrĂ©e (grandson of Charlie Chaplin) and Magnus Jakobsson.  The first clip is from La Chauve-Souris, an adaptation of the opera Die Fledermaus, directed by Coline Serreau (who wrote Trois Hommes et un Couffin which was re-made in Hollywood as the Tom Selleck classic "Three Men and a Baby").  The scene involves a man trying to escape an ugly woman who wants to dance with him. 

The second clip is from La Symphonie du Hanneton, in which a man is asleep dreaming and a stranger keeps entering his dream space. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

"Thus passes the glory of the world"-  these words are used to mark the passage of life onto the next phase, sort of a 'this too shall pass."; most historically during coronation ceremonies of a new Pope.  These words are also in popular culture as seen in Wes Anderson's film Rushmore, and even in the popular Blizzard game 'Overwatch', each time Soldier 76 re-spawns.  How do these words pertain to clowns?
With recent waves of "scary clown sightings" and the recent fall of several circuses, some ask, "is clowning dying?" or "is circus dying?"  The answer- to survive it must evolve and adapt.  I accidentally came across the following article, in which the style of clowning had to evolve as the circus did 132 years ago:

Chicago Tribune, March 29, 1885

THE CLOWN HAS HAD HIS DAY:  The Double Circus-Ring and the Wealth of Attractions Killed Him

New York Mail:  "It is a sad fact," mournfully said a veteran circus manager, "but it is beyond dispute that the days of the joke-cracking and song-singing clown are over.  He expired when the double circus-ring came into vogue.  In his place the horse-play or pantomime Grimaldi arose."
"How did the double ring kill the witty(?) clown?"  asked a reporter for the Mail and Express
"The vast audience could not hear him.  The miles of canvas, the ampitheatre, filled with 10,000 people, made the great lung power necessary to be heard an utter impossibility.  The large railroad travelling circuses have nothing but pantomime clowns.  In the small shows, where actors are few and something must be done to fill the time for the acrobats or whatever they may be to rest, before they appear in some other daring feats under other dazzling names, the song-singing, punning clown is used.  But he is fast going out for other reasons.  The newspapers and almanacs contain nearly all the jokes and puns and to repeat them in the ring over and over again becomes monotonous and tires even those who do not read.  Thus to supplant this, horse-play was invented."
"What do you mean by horse-play?"
"Broad humor.  For instance, the clown sticks a needle in a chair, and the ringmaster innocently sits down on it.  He gets up in a hurry.  This kind of fun tickles the audience.  They see it and understand the point made, but it is not so with a pun of joke.  I was a clown before I became a proprietor and I know all the inside tricks of the profes(ion).  When I traveled in the small towns of 8,000 and 10,000 inhabitants I always managed to pump some garrulous man in the town before the performance, so as to get off a local gag.  This always pleased the audience, and occasionally caused a little row if the 'gag' was at the expense of some fellow in the audience.  Then I would sing a song and hear all the little boys in the streets singing it afterwards.   There was some glory in that, but now the clown must be a first-class tumbler and a good pantomimist to succeed.  He sinks his individuality with some ten or fifteen others, who come out caparisoned in caps and bells.  The lines are drawn and the old order giveth way to the new.  Grimaldi's mask has more fun in it than Dan Rice's double entendre jokes.  Sic transit Gloria mundi."

     Don't let the title fool you- the witty joke-telling clowning didn't die, it found rebirth later on in smaller venues like the Vaudeville stages, burlesque halls, and again years later in talking pictures.
When Joseph Grimaldi retired from clowning back in 1823, people felt sure that pantomime was dead. 'We fear the spirit of Pantomime departed with Grimaldi' claimed one critic reviewing a pantomime in 1832, and again in 1848 in Mirror Monthly Magazine of London "The rollicking fun of Clown seems to have departed with Delpini and Grimaldi...the true spirit has evaporated."

Movements come and go, and eventually the old becomes the new again.  These cycles have been going around for centuries!

Thursday, January 19, 2017


I will never forget the sense of joy, connection, excitement, and longing I felt when I saw my first circus clown. 
Her name was Jennifer Edgerton, and as a 6 year old attending Carson and Barnes in the early 90s, I wanted to be like her some day.  As years went by, life and reality set in and I was encouraged to pursue academics and science, nearly mentally purging my secret ambition.  Several years later, upon attending Ringling Brothers for the first time, I felt like that child full of dreams again.  I was so taken by that experience I became a clown myself.
As a fledgling clown, my two biggest sources of learning were the Ringling clowns I had befriended and the rabbit hole that is Pat Cashin's Clown Alley web archive.

I feel, in the course of recent events, the need, now more than ever, to keep spirits and hope alive, to cary on, to continue to find inspiration and be an inspiration.

For a drought-ending first post, and with the recent heart-breaking Ringling closure announcement, I felt it fit to share the wonderful words of Steve Smith, former Dean of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College and current Creative Director of Circus Center San Francisco:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

As the news of the demise of the Big Apple Circus was finally finding a place of uncomfortable compromise in my psyche, came the thunderbolt announcement that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus would also more.

To some, these are just sad but true realities at the level of difficult business decisions - hard to make but necessary. To others, just another news story of yet another shop that has to shutter its doors. But for some of us, this is news that shakes the very foundation of our souls. This hits at the level of who we are, what we do and why we’re here. This is devastating.

For me, these were more than just places of employment. These were the incubators of my dreams;
These were the classrooms for my creative spirit;
These were the playgrounds for my imagination;
These were the places that gave me purpose. They gave my life purpose.

For 45 of my 65 years on the planet, this is what has forged my love & passion for performance art with all the different parts and pieces of who I am - This is what has

And so...where to from here? How do I make sense of it all? How do I unbreak my heart?

    I.    Get.    Up.

I feel the full force of my loss. I wail and howl and weep with grief. I fall to my knees asking why & how and cursing the cruel, heartless fickleness of fate...but, I.   Get.   Up.

I honor my teachers and my colleagues and my friends and my family by not giving in to despair. I salute all those who came before me by not giving up. I reach down into the depths of my shattered soul to find the strength to give this life my absolute best.

And I am painfully aware that this will take more than strength...this will require courage. There is a terrific quote from Mary Anne Radmacher that says:

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.”

And so, I must get up; I must try...again and again and again. It will most certainly not be easy...but it will be worth it. Because the alternative is not acceptable.

The circus ring is a circle...a symbol of unity. It is continuous - it has no beginning, it has no end. A great and glorious part of circus history has come to an end, but the circus, as an art form, didn’t die today. It is evolving. It is up to us to pick up the dimmed & tattered torch that has traveled across time and through the ages; to dust it off; to reignite the fire of wonder and awe and to fan that spark into an unquenchable flame that is the future of the circus. To do anything less is simply unthinkable.

And so, get up.

Onward,...ever onward!

~ steve ~

This site shall be maintained again.  Thanks to Pat Cashin's wife, in partnership with the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center, may it be a rabbit hole for years to come.

-Beth Grimes, Board Member, International Clown Hall of Fame