Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Circus Circus: Dave DeDera

Former Ringling Red Unit clown (and boss clown) Dave DeDera talks about his circus career and working in Las Vegas where he has been performing since the mid 1990s. 

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Emily Carragher: Varekai


Emily began her circus career on the Ringling Red Unit in 2006, and also toured with Fossett's Circus in Ireland before taking over the role Mooky Cornish originated in Cirque Du Soliel's Varekai.

She will soon be resuming rehearsals for Soliel's new Orlando based show, Drawn To Life.

This is an interview Emily did in 2015 to promote Varekai's engagement in Fairfax, VA.

Emily Carragher: A clown guide through ‘Varekai’ by Cirque Du Soleil

Written By  | Jul 16, 2015

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2015 – The story behind Cirque du Soleil’s “Varekai,” coming to the EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia July 22 to July 26, is one of journey and destination.

“It is about self discovery and reaching farther than you can grasp and allowing your self to fail, fall down and get back up again,” Emily Carragher who performs as Clown Feminine says. “My character tries so hard, but she falls – and then gets back up.”

“And that is more important “

30 year-old Carragher, one of the shows two narrators – Clown Feminine and Clown Masculine – has had her own journey. As a child, there were dance classes in both modern and ballet. Then as a teen it was drama classes and high school theater all of which the actor and comedienne credits with helping her to learn to express herself physically.

“Growing up, I liked anything dramatic, the challenge of telling a story through movement,” Carragher says. “ I went to circus camps, and took a circus class during college during which the teacher recommended clown school and I went the summer before I graduated and I got my first job at Ringling Bros.”

Unlike Ringling’s cars filled with clowns, Carragher’s clown, called Mooky after the character’s creator Mooky Cornish, is one of only two clowns that inhabit this wonderful world.

A very short clown act from Varekai feauturing Mooky Cornish and Claudio Corneiro, Cirque du Soleil

Carragher’s sees Mooky as a very empowered feminine character who speaks to the audience, particularly young girls. But she is not your typical show girl with a big red nose.

“She is not traditional show girl shaped, she represents the every woman standing on a stage with the world’s super toned and well chisled people” Carragher says. “She is full figured… and she is different than the other women in the show and I take that as a big responsibility. My smile is the connection I make. It’s the first thing I see, and it is everything.”

She describes her role as being a show within a show.

“The character and I are very similar, each findng the truth in the story playing out on the stage,” Carragher says. “Mooky’s story is the story of a wannabe show girl, someone who dreams bigger than they can hope to reach. But she is also very much an empowered character starting one place and landing someplace else.”

Mooky’s role is to guide us as we watch the whimsical and enchanted creatures that inhabit a captivating forest where the performers seemingly defy gravity and physical constraints.

Varekai, which means “wherever” in Romanian, takes place at the summit of a volcano where a world unique to what we know exists – a world where “something else is possible.”

The story celebrates the nomadic soul via while paying homage to the high-wire acts that take place beneath the more traditional circus tent apex.

Cirque de Soleil brings its trademark strength and physical agility along with incredible imagination to the show’s various acts that include acrobats hurled from Russian swings to fly through the air, contortionists that defy physical constraints, twirling and swinging performers that defy gravity while performing the seemingly impossible, and even a performer who show that even on canes, new heights can be reached.

We watch as a young man named Icarus, borrowed from Greek mythology, lands in the shadows of the forest, meeting the fantasy creatures that take us, as viewers, on to a journey that moves from the absurd to the delightful to the unbelievable.

Icarus, like his namesake, who flew too close to the sun only to plummet into the sea below, has been hurt in his fall. The journey he takes leads him to accept this odd world while overcoming his fear of the different forest denizens he meets.

And, like that Icarus of Greek mythology, our Icarus may learn a bit of humility as he meets The Betrothed, a creature of great beauty. She guides Icarus, and in her giving to the young stranger, discovers her own metamorphosis.

Looking over all that live in the forest of Varekai is The Guide, a wise old man who guides the changes that are necessary for the journey that Icarus is on.

And Mooky is there to guide the audience’s journey of discovery through Varekai.

“One of the more powerful scene is called Nightmare, and it is the most important scene as Icarus meets with the crippled angel. In this scene Icarus sees himself in both the future and present and he is taught what will happen if he does not get up and walk. Move forward,” Carragher says. “Like Icarus Mooky gets knocked down and comes back even stronger. She gets the last laugh.”

Which is important for a clown.

“There is no fourth wall between us and the audience, and when I see young kids in the audience I recognize that I was that kid, and I was in awe, and I hope to do the same for kids,” Carragher says.

Carragher describe Mooky as playful and like many a young child, wants to have a good time. She is very happy, playing against her partner, who is very serious.

“Clown Masculine is much more serious that Mooky,” Carragher says. “And because he is so serious, he create a perfect counter to Mooky’s playfulness.”

Varekai is the creation of a large crew and cast working behind the scenes including:

Guy Laliberté, founder and creative guide, Dominic Champagne, writer and director, Andrew Watson, director of creation, Stéphane Roy, set designer., Eiko Ishioka, costume designer, Violaine Corradi, composer and musical director, Michael Montanaro and Bill Shannon, choreographers, Jacque Paquin, acrobatic equipment and rigging designer, Cahal Mccrystal, clown act creator, François Bergeron, sound designer, Nol Van Genuchten, lighting designer, Francis Laporte, image and projection designer, Nathalie Gagné, makeup designer and André Simard, acrobatic performance designer.

If attending the show with children, first visit the biography pages of these talented people and discuss how they would contribute to a show like Varekai and then have them watch to see if they can see the work of a make up artist, hear the sounds of a sound designer, or marvel at the unique costumes that help to tell a story while allowing the performers to be able to move.

Monday, May 03, 2021

L.A. Circus


Photo shared by Tiffany Riley.

Bob Zraick, Danise Payne, and Dick Monday performing on the L.A. Circus in the 1990s.

All three are Ringling Clown College graduates and have had long and varied careers in the circus and entertainment worlds.

I would love to see video of the three of them working together if any exists!

Friday, April 30, 2021

Pricilla Mooseburger: Ringling Magic Gag

Tricia Manuel, aka Pricilla Mooseburger, performing her rabbit in the hat gag for Come In on the Blue Unit's 114th Edition in 1985.
Tricia still performs this routine as part of her shows.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

24 Hours in the Life of a Clown Trailer

This past weekend I signed up for the Criterion Channel, and one of the pleasant surprises I found was this short film from 1946 about a day in the life of Aristodemo Frediani, better known as Beby.
Beby was partnered for many years with Antonet.
At the time of the filming he is seen performing with his new partner, Maïss, at the Cirque Medrano in Paris, which was a filming location for Fellini's, I Clowns, and also where Buster Keaton performed in the 1940s.

It isn't ground breaking cinema, but it was a fun look at two real clowns of that era. The Criterion Channel offers a two week free trial, and the film is only 18 minutes long, so......

(Also, the film has English subtitles even though the trailer does not)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Dime and Connie Wilson


Photo by Paul Gutheil. 

Dime and Connie Wilson performing with ringmaster Billy Martin on Vidbel’s Olde Tyme Circus.

Monday, April 26, 2021

W.C. Fields - The Golf Specialist 1930

One thing I love about clowns and comics that came out of vaudeville and burlesque (and also older European clowns) is how polished yet natural their material is.
The Golf Specialist is a perfect example of an act that has been honed night after night on the road until every laugh is milked from the situation. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

In Memory of Domenico Caroli

Read the story here on CircusFansItaly site.

Domenico was the son of Enrico, one of my favorite clowns, a member of the fantastic trio, Les Francescos. 

Ryan and I were lucky to work with Domenico's son, Enrico, while we were in Amsterdam with the Wereldkerstcircus. We loved hearing stories about his family.

Our condolences to the whole Caroli family. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

R.I.P. Toby Ballantine

From ICHOF director Greg DeSanto:

Toby Ballantine got his trunk spotted in that glorious clown alley in the heavens today. Son of CC Dean, Bill Ballantine, Toby attended Clown College and taught stilt-walking. He toured with Ringling, Hoxie, Gatti-Charles, advance for Beatty-Cole and worked hard in later years to preserve his parents artistic legacy. RIP

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Saly Clowns at Circo Moira Orfei in 2005

Look everyone! Jimmy Stewart's Buttons the Clown finally got out of prison for murdering his wife!

Too bad he'll be going back soon for stealing the Rastellis' act.....

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Oleg Popov: 1957

Hey everyone, sorry I haven't been posting much lately. I received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and it knocked me on my keister.

Here is Popov performing on the television program "Thirty-Six Candles" in 1957.

When are we going to see the return of the comedy chicken sidekick?

Friday, April 09, 2021

Duane Thorpe

Long time Ringling clown Duane "Uncle Soapy" Thorpe photographed at the old Boston Garden, most likely in 1978. Photo credit Steven C. Borack.


Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Bobby Kay 1983


David Heim, Wayne Sidley, Nic Beery, Colleen Linnehan, Caren Hockenbury, and Stephanie Parks, all members of the Ringling Red Unit Clown Alley, visit with Bobby Kay in California shortly before his death in 1983.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Antoschka - Be A Clown

From Circopedia:

Born December 5, 1954 in South Western Siberia, Russia, Ekaterina Mikhailovna Mozhaeva dreamed as a child of becoming a ballet dancer. Unfortunately, a long childhood illness thwarted her aspirations—since ballet, if one wants to succeed in Russia, is a discipline for which training starts at an early age. Still, she wanted to perform, and when she recovered, friends suggested that she try the circus.

So, Ekaterina went on to train at the Circus’s Studio at Kemerovo, a Siberian city in the region of Novosibirsk. There, she learned a variety of circus disciplines, and partnered with another student, Anatoly Evgenevich Lotishev (b. March 10, 1949), to create an acrobatic clown duet under the name of Anton & Antoshka (spelled "Antoschka" in German). They began performing together in 1973 in Novosibirsk.

They soon became very successful; Ekaterina’s character, Antoschka, which comes out as a whimsical, mischievous, marionette-like tomboy, was immediately very popular with their audiences. Then, Anton & Antoshka appeared with the Leningrad Stage Circus, and in 1976, they were contracted by SoyuzGosTsirk, the central Soviet Circus organization; from then on, they were featured in all the major circuses of the Soviet Union, and on tour with the prestigious Moscow Circus companies. Ekaterina added dogs and cats to her act, with which she worked in a playful, engaging way that fit her character perfectly well.

Then, things began to change with the advent of Perestroika, and the fall of the USSR. It was a different atmosphere altogether, and Anatoly (Anton) decided to leave Ekaterina, and to continue his own clown career with his wife, Tatiana. But with Antoschka, Ekaterina had a strong, likeable character on which to build a new career of her own. In 1989, she went on an extensive tour abroad with the Moscow Circus On Ice, in a show built around Antoschka, and titled A Clown’s Dream.

Antoschka In Germany

The following year, after a tour of Germany, Antoschka decided to leave Russia and to settle there, in the town of Korschenbroich, near Dusseldorf. She began working with German and Austrian circuses, and in 1993, she starred in the ice revue Holiday On Ice, in a reprise of A Clown’s Dream built again around Antoschka’s character. She toured with Holiday On Ice until 1995, visiting The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Poland, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

After two years with Circus Busch-Roland, Antoschka went on to work with some of Northern Europe’s most important circuses, including Krone and Benneweis, and participated in European tours of the Germany-based Moscow State Circus (Moskau Staatszirkus). In 2005 she started performing her solo stage show, Ansichten eines Clowns, in Central America, and subsequently performed it regularly in Germany, while giving clown workshops and teaching clowning.

Meanwhile, Ekaterina/Antoschka had been involved in various global social projects, which culminated in her creating an international clown organization involved in social and peace issues, The World Parliament Of Clowns, in 2006. That same year, she created a new solo program, Antoschka und ihre WUNDERfreunde ("Antoshka and her WONDERful Friends"). Diva & Clown, and Solo für einen Clown would follow.

Dubbed "Die Königin der Clowns" ("The Queen of Clowns") by the German press, Antoschka has been sharing her time between Antoshka’s Clown-Theatre and her solo shows, further circus tours (including, in 2010, a tour of the Moskau Staatszircus, Planet of Smiles, in which she starred), and her work with the World Clown Parliament, the Jersusalem Peace Academy, and the German Water Foundation.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Lou Jacobs: Hunting Gag 1982

Lou Jacobs making a special appearance from the Red Unit, performing his hunting gag for the Blue Unit's 112th Edition television special.
The program was hosted by Richard Thomas, who traveled with his family on a circus when he was young.
If anybody has more information on that, I would love to hear it!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Monday, March 29, 2021

Vidbel: Scott O'Donnell and Mike Snider


Photo by Paul Gutheil.

Scott "Dusty" O'Donnell and Mike Snider ready for the washerwoman gag on Vidbel's Olde Tyme Circus in the 1990s.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Davis Vassallo: Bounding Rope

Press release from the Festival: 

Guest Star: Davis Vassallo, Italy - Clown
Representing: RINGLING AND BROS. CIRCUS - BARNUM & BAILEY SPECIAL PRIZE "GIULIO MONTICO" 2013 Davis Vassallo has already appeared at Latina as a "Special Guest" during the 12th edition of the "International Circus Festival -- City of Latina", and returns this year in honour of the "Special Anniversary Edition". Davis comes from a long pedigree of Circus performers: his grandfather and father were both clowns and he decided as a child to follow in the family tradition. With his father's help, Davis learnt to play a number of musical instruments, learnt the importance of long hours of rehearsal, and learnt the art of being funny: he became a clown. His long-awaited début was at the age of 15, and since then Davis has never looked back, performing in Belgium and Germany as well as in Italy. Audiences of all ages have appreciated his dynamic and witty performances, watching his antics with great attention and enthusiasm. His love for his art can be evinced from his own words: "to be a clown is to dream, and dreaming is the most wonderful thing in the world!" His appearance at the Festival at Latina is rather special, because it is also his last performance before his official début in America with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, one of the greatest Circuses in the world; a début that has all the signs of a new and brilliant phase in the career of this young Italian clown, who, we can safely say, is destined to be one of the brightest new lights to sparkle on the international Clown scene.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Ringling: Closing of Clown College 1998

An interesting read from 1998 talking about the future of Ringling clowning after it was announced that Clown College would be closing.

Seinfeldian skits, eh?

Clowns, then and now Circus: In the future, these well-trained performers will be more contemporary, just as they used to be.


If circus clown Bryan Fulton had to change the image of his Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey colleagues, he'd inject a little testosterone.

"I'd kinda like to be a superhero, all suave out of makeup," says Fulton, a 19-year-old Baltimore native wearing knee socks, shorts, checked blue and red vest and oversized red tie. "Then, I'd go into a phone booth and come out as Super Clown."

Fulton, in Baltimore for performances through Sunday, may have his chance, because the 127-year-old circus is changing the way it approaches clown training.

The Ringling Brothers Clown College, which was established in 1968 in Florida, is closed, and the circus is developing a Clown College Graduate Program. The program is still in the planning stages, but representatives of Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros., say it will include more specialized, theatrically oriented Masters of Comedy Workshops. The workshops will be tailored to the interests of performers looking to expand on basic clowning skills, including the approximately 1,500 graduates of Clown College.

The number of college programs and workshops nationwide that teach clowning basics have rendered the original Clown College unnecessary, according to spokesman Rodney Huey.

"There's no need to get those kids right out of high school," Huey says. "It's a different world."

The new workshops will also make clowning more contemporary, since other elements of the circus have become increasingly modern. Acts now involve basketball players unicycling to techno music, professional daredevil in-line skaters and an audience-participation "Macarena."

In the future, clowns may appear in Seinfeldian skits satirizing everyday life and doing contemporary gags centered on computers and the tribulations of today.

Throughout their history, clowns have been relating to contemporary events, according to LaVahn Hoh, a drama professor at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville who teaches the class "The Circus in America."

In the American one-ring circuses of the late 18th century, talking was common for clowns, says Hoh, who also taught at Clown College. In the late 18th century, a clown named Dan Rice appeared with his pig Lord Byron and mused on politics, and the pig would snort.

Rice, who wore a red and white suit and top hat, was the model for Uncle Sam. But as circuses evolved into three rings in the 19th century, gags had to become broader to work in the larger setting, and the talking clown became extinct. Still, Hoh says, clown acts remain relevant.

"There are a lot of stock bits that clowns do that poke fun at society," Hoh says. He said the pie-throwing routines have always been a vicarious outlet for aggression toward society.

Dominique Jando, associate artistic director at the one-ring Big Apple Circus in New York City, disagrees, saying clowns in the three-ring format can't relate to the audience. He sees Ringling's new clown training as an opportunity to instill the skills that were developed in the more intimate one-ring format.

Jando says the three-ring circus developed because entrepreneur-owned circuses were very popular in America in the late 1800s, and the owners thought that by adding more rings they could attract bigger audiences.

"That's an American accident," Jando says of the three-ring circus. "That killed clowning in this country."

Clowns shouldn't be the broadly humorous, exaggeratedly made-up characters in today's circuses, Jando says. Instead, he thinks they should be witty commentators on the human condition with whom audiences can identify.

Rice and the clowns of his age satirized society, and so did the bald-headed buffoons of ancient Greece who are considered the earliest ancestors of the clown. They were secondary characters who mocked the more serious actors in farces and mime acts. The look evolved in the acts of medieval minstrels and jugglers. In the late Middle Ages, the Italian commedia dell'arte's Harlequin introduced acrobatics into the clown repertoire.

The first professional stage clowns came from the Elizabethan theater. Shakespeare has been credited with coining the word "clown." During this time in Germany, the clown costume we've come to know -- floppy shoes, waistcoats and hats -- developed. But the makeup wasn't grotesque, Jando says. American clowns are the only ones with cartoonish makeup designed for recognition from a distance, Jando says.

The circus clown as we know it today appeared in 1805 in England. The late 19th century saw the birth of the American circus clown.

In the '60s, former Ringling Bros. owner and producer Irvin Feld noticed that the clowns in his circus, most of whom learned their skills through apprenticeships, were getting old. So he created the now-defunct Clown College, an eight-week program that accepted only about 30 of nearly 2,000 applicants annually.

The curriculum of clown college included such basic skills as unicycling, juggling and stilt-walking. Clowns also learned how to apply makeup, develop characters and write bits for the circus. In Clown College, a.k.a. clown boot camp, students worked six ** days a week for nearly 12 hours a day, says John Lynch, a Ringling clown who was trained at Clown College along with Fulton and Alan Rios.

Fulton has a bit of the surfer-clown look about him with his flat shock of orange- and yellow-streaked hair. He's an Auguste clown, meaning he uses a flesh-colored paint base with red and black features.

Rios, 28, has Jackie Gleason mannerisms and wears flannel pajamas and wins the lovable cornball award. He's also an Auguste.

Lynch is the sweetly goofy one in paint-splattered denim with three sprouts of hair and a trout in his back pocket. He's a whiteface clown.

"I'm not the traditional whiteface clown. I have Auguste tendencies," says Lynch, 32, who's been with the circus since 1995.

"Clowns with split personalities, next 'Oprah,' " says Fulton, who's been with the circus since 1997.

Lynch, Rios and Fulton do pseudo stomps and slaps, break into spastic dances and revel in cornball jokes with Three Stooges style.

Aside from learning skills and developing characters, at Clown College they were also instilled with the clown's code of honor.

They must always be in full costume in a professional setting and cannot engage in any un-clownlike behavior.

"We follow unwritten rules. You never see or hear a clown curse; no smoking," says Rios, a New York native. "It's like seeing Mickey Mouse without his head on. That can damage a kid."

However, pop culture representations of clowns, which are another facet of American clown history, can be equally damaging, Hoh says.

"We can take something as harmless as a clown and turn it into an ax murderer," he says. Or a strangler like the clown doll in "Poltergeist." Or a bawdy idiot, as in the movie "Shakes The Clown." Or washed-up sellout Krusty on "The Simpsons." Or the evil Pennywise of Stephen King's "It."

"They're very damaging to what clowns should portray," Hoh says.

If Americans understood the clowning tradition and considered the circus an art form, they might not produce such distorted images in the media, according to Hoh.

But Rios, Lynch and Fulton aren't too threatened by their creepy counterparts.

"It's funny. We can laugh at it," Rios says. "We all have a sense of humor."

And that will never change.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Where: Baltimore Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St.

When: Through Sunday, with performances tonight and

tomorrow at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Sunday at 1: 30 p.m. and 5: 30 p.m.

Tickets: $10.50 to $35

Call: 410-347-2010

Pub Date: 3/19/98

Monday, March 22, 2021

Aga-Boom: Airplane

Dimitri Bogatirev (Aga) and Iryna Ivanytska (Boom) perform at Moisture Fest in 2017. At the beginning you can see Stephanie Monseau and Keith Nelson of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Hilary Chaplain

From Hilary's website:

Since 2005, Hilary Chaplain has been touring internationally with her award winning solo show A LIFE IN HER DAY, directed by Avner Eisenberg, and in variety shows worldwide with her short comic numbers. In 2018 she created a show in collaboration with other artists called THE LAST RAT OF THERESIENSTADT which won the top four awards when it premiered at the Lalka Tez Cztowiek Puppet Festival in Warsaw, Poland. Drawing inspiration from clown theatre, movement, objects and puppetry, Hilary has been creating solo and ensemble work for the past 40 years. She was an original cast member in Bill Irwin’s LARGELY/NEW YORK and appeared on Broadway in the Public Theatre production of THE TEMPEST directed by George C. Wolfe. She played a featured role in Forrest Gump, and a lawyer on LAW AND ORDER CRIMINAL INTENT. Hilary entertained children in NYC hospitals as “Nurse Nice” of the renowned Big Apple Circus Hospital Clown Program® (since 1987) and is a founding member of the New York Goofs, a clown ensemble created in 1996. She has performed and taught worldwide in over 20 countries and 5 continents. She is currently in development with a new show called BITE ME! with CB Goodman and Aitor Basauri.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Clown College: Act I Finale

A bike, unicycle and car display performed by the Ringling Clown College class of 1990. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Nuts & Bolts 1985

Descended from Sid Millward's Nitwits, Nuts & Bolts appearing here at the Tyne Theatre, Newcastle perform some of their crazy musical routines. Band members are (l to r) Tony Traverci (Professor Nuts), Tom Shand (Dr. Bolts), Cyril Lagey (consultant), and Ron Regan (special assistant). The act toured UK, Europe, USA for 30 years.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Hamid Morton Clown Alley 1950s: Army Gag

Photo shared on Facebook by Joanne Wilson.

Slim Collins, Saso, Ray Cosmo

Bumpsy Anthony, Shorty Sylvester, and Dime and Connie Wilson

Would love to hear more info on Slim, Saso, Ray, and Shorty.

PS- Sorry about the text layout; I'm not sure what happened. I blame Gremlins.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Le Retraite du Clown I Pio Nock [1964]

Roughly translated, "The Retirement of the Clown".

"Soon the last lap for the clown Pio Nock who will be retiring. In 1964, his talent won the laughter of the big top and, even if it is foreseeable that his plate will break at the end of the number, how not to fall under the spell of his performance? As for the images at the time of make-up removal, they are very sensitive."

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Ringling: Schoolhouse Gag

The last Duane "Uncle Soapy" Thorpe produced ring gag on the Ringling show, the Schoolhouse, here performed by several members of the Red Unit Clown Alley and host, Ben Vereen, on the 115th Edition TV special aired in 1985.
Clowns featured are Jim Arneberg, Paul Wood, Barbara Pike, Kip Reynolds, Jim Vogelgesang, Greg Mooney, Colleen Linnehan, John O'Donnell, Peggy King, and Frankie Theriault. 

Major props to Ben Vereen for performing with a broken shoulder (?) from a botched teeterboard segment AND getting firecrackers set off on his butt. Not too many stars of stage and screen would be that game!

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Art of Tommy Cooper

A documentary about the life of Tommy Cooper.

From Wikipedia: 
Thomas Frederick Cooper (19 March 1921 – 15 April 1984) was a British prop comedian and magician. As an entertainer, his appearance was large and lumbering at 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m),[1] and he habitually wore a red fez when performing. He initially served in the British Army for seven years, before eventually developing his conjuring skills and becoming a member of the The Magic Circle. Although he spent time on tour performing his magical act, which specialised on magic tricks that appeared to "fail", he rose to international prominence when his career moved into television, with programmes for London Weekend Television and Thames Television.

By the end of the 1970s, Cooper slipped into heavy smoking and drinking, which affected his career and his health, effectively ending offers to front new programmes and relegating him to performing as a guest star on other entertainment shows. Ill health eventually claimed his life when, on 15 April 1984, Cooper died of a heart attack live on television.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

James "Tiny" Lambros

Photos courtesy of David Powell.

Tiny has had a life full of varied jobs, including circus clown. He performed with Culpepper Merriweather for the 2003 season and Kelly Miller for the 2004 season. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Ringling: Charivari 1980

Members of the 1980 Blue Unit Clown Alley perform an Olympics themed charivari for the 110th Edition's television special, hosted by Michael Landon.

I see Michael Goudeau, Andrea Waller, "Tuba" Heatherton, Tom and Tammy Parish, Lenny Ciaccio Dennis Struve, Gary Peare, Skip Lackey, Bob Kramer, Tom Dougherty, Joe Wesson, Jeff Darnell, and Peter Pitofsky.
There are two I'm not certain of. One might be Ron Quagiliata or Kelly Tansey, and the other is possibly Tommy Sheeter. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Obituary of Glenna "Polly" Chase

Thanks to Andrea Lynne Emeigh for the heads up. 

Glenna “Polly” Chase, passed away peacefully Sunday morning, Jan 31, 2021.

In a September 2020 interview with the Daily Sun, Chase said she had seen much in her 95 years, but she never expected to be counted as one of the world’s oldest living little people.

Growing up, Polly said she had wonderful parents, four brothers and two sisters, all of average height and all of whom she outlived.

She said she was never bullied or picked on but admitted having four brothers may have had something to do with it.

She graduated from Corsicana High School in 1944 and worked various jobs around town, as a secretary at Northside Baptist Church, in the offices at Sears, Roebuck and Collin Street Bakery and as a manicurist in a beauty salon.

She did not know any other little people until one fateful day when the circus came to town.

She met her future husband Clayton when he was working as a clown for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“It was love at first sight,” she said.

The couple married in 1948 and there was a story and photo of the front page of the Corsicana Daily Sun.

Clayton got a job at Chance Vought Aircraft and they moved to Dallas for about five years until heart trouble forced him to retire.

They moved back to Corsicana and started Clayton Chase Grocery and Market at 403 S. 20th St.

Polly was a resident at Legacy Rehabilitation and Healthcare and said she enjoyed it there, but could have used a little more room.

She considered her former caregiver and CNA Shawnda Witherspoon as one of her best friends.

Polly and Clayton

Clayton Chase on Ringling 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Acromaniacs

The comedy acrobatics of the Acromaniacs featured on the very strangely conceptual television show The Slammer in 2006.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Grock: Circus Performance

An excerpt from the film Au Revoir Monsiuer Grock, made in 1950, showing him performing his entreé with his partner, Maïss, in a circus setting.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Kelly Miller: Dead and Alive

Ted "Zippo" Tutwiler and.....maybe "Skippy" (?) performing that old circus clown chestnut, Dead and Alive, in the 1985 Kelly Miller Circus program.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Clown Karandash

Yes, I know this is in Russian......there's plenty of great footage to enjoy.

Clown Karandash, a documentary by Victor Golyvinov is a film dedicated to the outstanding Russian clown Rumyantsev Mikhail Nikolaevich - Karandash. When Karnadash was asked if he was happy with his fate on the arena, he smiled: "Never ask such a question to a man who for forty years I joked at the arena.  Every art form, every artist has his own way of knowing the truth. I chose the funny way."

Friday, February 05, 2021

Ringling: Tooth Fairy Gag

Danise Payne and Gregory Parks rehearsing their Tooth Fairy gag in Winter Quarters for the Blue Unit's 132nd Edition.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Bill Irwin: Tony Awards 1989

Bill Irwin and the cast of Largely New York (which included fellow clown Jeff "Gordoon" Gordon; however, I did not spot him in this video) performing an excerpt on the 1989 Tony Awards broadcast.

The show was nominated for several Tonys, including Best Play and Best Actor for Bill Irwin, and the show won a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience. 

At the end of the video Bill Irwin has a brief exchange with Steve Martin, who he worked with in the film My Blue Heaven, and in a production of Waiting For Godot also starring Robin Williams. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Ringling Red Unit Girl Clowns 1990


The Girl Clown Alley of the second year of Gunther Gebel-Williams' Farewell Tour. Pam Leonard Ramirez, Julia Thudium, Lara Heidtman Smith, Peggy Pozdol Hudert, Sara Lehman Laskey, and Nicole Marsh Portwood.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Foottit et Chocolat: Six Short Films

Six silent short films of the famous French clowning duo, Foottit et Chocolat filmed by the Lumiere brothers. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Charlie Cairoli Appreciation Society

A BBC interview from 1994 with Charlie's wife, son, and renowned ringmaster, Norman Barrett, discuss the launch of the Charlie Cairoli Appreciation Society. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Clyde Beatty Clown Alley


From the collection of Ralph Pierce. I'm gonna guess this is from the 1970s. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Would love to hear more about John Block and Larry Lawrence, as I haven't heard of them before. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Tina Aguirre-Groff


Tina Aguirre-Groff, photographed by long time Ringling Blue Unit Clown Alley Wardrobe man, Bill Swift.

Tina graduated from Ringling's Clown College in 1995 and toured with both the Red and Blue Units from 1996-1999. This photo was most likely taken in 1997.

After Ringling Tina continued clowning, notably with the Kinoshita Circus in Japan and with a troupe of theater clowns from L.A. who called themselves The Funky Punks. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Dick Monday and Tiffany Riley: The Laughter League

From the Laughter League Website:

Dick Monday and Tiffany Riley have been life partners and performing partners for the past twenty years, during which time they have headlined at circuses and festivals worldwide including Circus Sarasota, The Big Apple Circus, The Lone Star Circus, Hanneford Circus, Circo Atayde and Ringling Bros., and Barnum & Bailey.

They created the clown troupe, The New York Goofs, Slappy’s Puppet Playhouse, and the Funnyatrics Clown Program. They have now brought all endeavors under the label, Laughter League, which is a non-profit organization. You can currently see Laughter League clowns at Boston Children’s Hospital, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Cook Children’s Medical Center, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, and at public schools and libraries across Texas.

They most recently co-produced The Petite Palace, Big Fun in a Tiny Tent on the banks of White Rock Lake in collaboration with the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas. You can often find them performing Goofballs Cabaret at the Pocket Sandwich Theatre, or you can listen to their podcast, This American Goofball on iTunes. Monday and Riley’s mission is to prove that not only is laughter the best medicine, but that clowns are one of the best ways to inspire laughter and help people’s health improve. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Piccolini Trio: Circus in a Trunk

Highlights of the Piccolini Trio's show, Circus In A Trunk, performed by Josh Shack, Joy Powers, and John Stork at the Canal Park Playhouse in New York City in the winter of 2012.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Karen Bell: The Red Skelton Follies

Karen Bell performing at the 2010 Red Skelton Clown School Follies in Vincennes, IN, the birthplace of Red. 

Karen graduated from Ringling Clown College in 1985 and performed for many years with the Ringling Red Unit, as well as a year with the Gold Unit in Japan.

In addition to being a wonderful prop builder, she is also currently the Outreach Education Manager for the Circus Arts Conservatory in Sarasota, FL.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Annie Fratellini: Cirque Medrano


Annie Fratellini sitting among the ruins of the Cirque Medrano building in Paris, France in 1972. Both the building (before demolition) and Annie (in a segment about her family) can be seen in the Fellini film, I Clowns, just a couple of years before this photo was taken.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Clown College: The Pigeon

Josh Zehner and Todd Obuchowski perform "The Pigeon" during the graduation performance of the 1997 class of Ringling's Clown College.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tommy Fossett: Great Yarmouth Hippodrome

I don't have much information on this video aside from it is Tommy Fossett as Professor Grimble. One of my guesses for the location is Blackpool Tower Circus since it is in a building, but I am open to the correct answer. 
The female announcer is his wife, Vera, but I do not know who the whiteface is.

Please help out with any details. You don't know what you don't know. Thanks!

Update from John Cooper: "It's Great Yarmouth Hippodrome rather than Blackpool Tower Circus. This video is from the 1972 summer season, at which Tommy and Vera did their juggling act too."

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Circus Vargas: Johnny Peers and Zapata

From the collection of Ralph Pierce. Zapata, Johnny Peers and Stephen Brennan on Circus Vargas in 1974.
Zapata and Johnny Peers met at Ringling Clown College in 1969 and performed together for several years on the Red Unit. Later in the 70s they became a renowned clowning duo on Circus Vargas and Gatti. They were in the midst of their season on Tihany when Zapata passed away way too young.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Yuri Nikulin

The extremely talented artist, Elena Zaïka, has had two of her paintings chosen to be used as celebratory stamps for the Monaco Principality. The first is of the well known Russian clown, Yuri Nikulin.

Born in Demidov in 1921, Yuri Nikulin is Russia's most famous clown. Demobilized in May 1946, with the rank of sergeant and several military decorations, he failed to enter several acting schools. He finally joined Clowns in the Moscow training studio graduating from 1950. He will work there for more than 50 years and from 1982 until his death in 1997 will be the Director of this circus which is named after it today. He also has a film career and offers remarkable performances both in Leonid Ga ddai comedies including Le Bras de Diamond (1969), a film that became cult for generations of Soviet people, and in the dramatic register like When Trees were Big ( 1962) by Andrei Roublev. TV man, he created and hosted the comedy show The White Parrot Club. His natural style, precision of his prestions and sense of timing have made Nikulin an outstanding artist whom some consider to be the best Russian actor of all time.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Clown College Audition 1985

Prospective students for the Ringling Clown College audition for Frosty Little on the Blue Unit in 1985.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Robin Eurich

Many of you that watched the Bozo Show in the late 90s until the show's end in 2001 will remember Robin Eurich, who played Bozo's sidekick, Rusty the Handyman.

Robin has had a long career of acting, clowning, and teaching, but due to recent health problems has fallen on hard times. Joey D'Auria, who played Bozo for the show's final seventeen years has set up a Go Fund Me page to help Robin during these tough times.

If you are able, please make a donation, or share this link on social media to help a man who has brought happiness to so many people. Thank you.

Link: Help Robin Eurich