here - the Quality Design Xpress



here - the Quality Design Xpress
Mar/Apr 2015
The Circus Fans Association of America
John and Mary Ruth Herriott at Circus World Museum in 1964. More on page 3.
Vol 88 No 2
photo from Circus World Museum
It’s in the genes
The Kelly family
by Bethany Kelly
Ever think about running away with the
circus? Who wouldn’t want to be in the
circus, right? The glamour and spectacle
of it all is as exciting as it is captivating.
Having the opportunity to entertain
the audience with feats of strength and
grace is an experience like none other.
As a member of a circus family, I didn’t
have to run away with the circus. I grew
up around sawdust and spangles. I am
blessed to have a family tree rooted
deeply in the center ring of circus
My name is Bethany Kelly. My great
grandfather was world renowned clown
Emmett Kelly. My family has its own
colorful clown alley with the likes of
Cop Clown Joe Lewis, Dinky Moore,
Emmett Kelly, Jr., Pat Kelly, Lindy, my
ringmistress mother, and of course my
father Joey Kelly. The clown gene has
been passed down through the Kelly
family for generations. Even I have
donned the red nose on occasion, having
performed comedy trapeze and silks.
While I loved performing, and still do,
recently I stepped out of the spotlight to
pursue a college degree.
I have recently graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Art Education from
Missouri State University. My time there was marvelous. Although there was not a
circus program at MSU, much of my art was influenced by my circus heritage. My
new hope is to be accepted at Florida State University in their Master of Fine Arts
program so that I can continue to study art and perform in the Flying High Circus.
The arts have always beckoned me, whether it was visual or performing. Although
I was gifted with the opportunity to perform, my abilities have always been stronger
in the art studio than the center ring.
My love for the circus is so ingrained that it flows into the art that I create. The
rendering of my great grandfather is a charcoal drawing on brown paper, measuring
3 feet by four feet. It was originally a photograph that was reproduced on postcards.
The image has been a multi-generational favorite which was one of the reasons that
I chose to draw it. I am captivated by this image because of the way Emmett seems
to move across the page. He doesn’t look at the audience, like a normal portrait, but
instead gazes at something in the distance. I often wonder what he was thinking.
I think that it is important to know where we came from and to appreciate the
history our family leaves us. I appreciate my circus heritage, and its influence upon
my life and art. I’m equally proud of my great grandfather and the impact his life
made upon America and generations of people. I look forward to sharing my circus
art, heritage and experiences with you.
The White Tops
March/April, 2015
Volume 88 Number 2
A publication of the
Circus Fans Association of America
since 1927
The cover photo of John and Mary Ruth was taken at Circus World and used to
promote the summer performance season on posters, brochures and in press
releases. A variation of it was also used in color on a postcard sold in the gift
shop. Johnny trained a huge variety of animal acts for Circus World during his
years there...high school horse, 12 liberty ponies, draft horse teams, mixed
menagerie acts, dog acts (poodles) for Mary Ruth, and the elephants which were
bought for Circus World by Wilbur Deppe and a couple of partners for appearances
at Circus World and also with his own circus. The Deppe Classic Country Circus
traveled around Wisconsin during the summer. The elephants names were Topsy,
Eva and Toby. The elephants also made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
by David SaLoutos
2 The Kelly family Art and family
4 Cotton candy – now and then Mike Straka history
5 Under the Marquee Peter Wagner and Gary Payne
6 CFA Word Interview with Gary Payne
9 Worldwide Circus Summit Details
12 Secretary/Treasurer’s report
14 Mileposts and remembrances
17 Preserving animals in the circus
18 Bulletin Board
21 Circus Sarasota Fearless
26 Ringling Gold Built to Amaze!
31 Tale of an old-timer Why?
34 Cirque Éloize The artists concluded
39 Circus Celebrity Night at the Ringling
40 Sailor Circus The Enchanted Wand
44 Gibsonton Annual circus
46 Sideshow semantics Circus science
48 Yankee Doodle Circus
50 Circo Hermanos Vázquez
51 A wedding in the clouds
52 Ring of Fame Induction
54 Paul’s Pages Remembering
56 Tanbark Topics Alfred Court
62 Reactions to Feld announcement
Wrapper 1 No elephants Feld announcement
Wrapper 2 Tents & tops & members
Wrapper 4 OABA celebrates 50 years
The Nik Wallenda Troupe at Circus Sarasota
photo by Richard Czina
Straka Struts
The White Tops
or “How we got it done”
The official publication of the
Circus Fans Association of America
John and Mardi Wells • 614-261-0454
40 Winthrop Rd
Columbus OH 43214-3629
<[email protected]>
by Mike Straka
Cotton candy – now and then
If my memory serves me right, we sold cotton candy on
the circus for fifty-cents in 1972. Of course, the price
would vary a little depending on the town and the general
economy. I was new to the business and wondered why it
cost so much. You have to remember that a loaf of bread cost
twenty-five cents, milk was one dollar and thirty-three cents a
gallon and gas was fifty-two cents at the pump. The price of spun sugar and
coloring seemed a little high. Our concession manager patiently explained
that in order for the circus to move and stay in business, the price had to be
that high.
Fast forward ahead forty-two years to 2014. How much should cotton
candy sell for today? To answer this question, I used a formula called the
time value of money function. The formula takes into account the purchasing
value of money, for a given year, and calculates the rates of inflation during
the given time period.
Let me give you an example.
If you had fifty-cents in 1972, you would need to have $2.14 to $6.54 to
have the same relative value today. The range in price is different because
the formula distinguishes between commodities, labor and a host of other
categories. Cotton candy is considered a commodity. So using the formula,
our theoretical cotton candy should retail for $2.78 a unit - (factoring in
labor and sugar prices).
I have seen prices that range from $3.00, up to $12.00. I’m aware that all
buildings scoop twenty to thirty-five percent off the gross sales, so a circus
would have to adjust their prices. However, this seems to be a pretty healthy
profit margin.
I’m not complaining. Years ago, I worked a Hanneford Circus date in
Charleston WA. – (it may have been Bluefield). Herbie Weber was working
the cotton candy stand and asked me if I could help out. I told him that I
could be available for some of the show, but I had to be backstage before the
spec number. Even on this part-time basis, I made the equivalent of three
weeks salary working for Philip Morris.
If the circus was a medieval court, cotton candy would be the king and
snow-cones its princess.
photo by John Wells
Commercial Advertising
Maxine House • 201-723-6384
<[email protected]>
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Barbara Moore • 207-273-3920
53 Main Street
Warren ME 04864-4233
<[email protected]>
Back Issues
Barry DeChant • 941-351-6572
<[email protected]>
White Tops Advisory Committee
Mort Gamble, Chair
Don Covington
Peter Wagner
Mardi Wells
John Wells
News, articles & photographs
To send your materials for The White Tops
magazine, first contact the editors for the
password to the website. Then go to
Select the White Tops button and follow
the directions. You may submit as many
stories and photographs as you wish. There
is no limit to file size. Any file format will
be fine. See page 18, July/August 2014
White Tops for more detailed instructions.
Submissions by U. S. Mail should go to:
The White Tops; 40 Winthrop Road;
Columbus OH 43214-3629.
Circus Fans Association of America
©2015 Circus Fans Association of America.
Circus Pages food concession at Delaware OH in 2014. Pages is one of several
shows that sells food and toys at very reasonable prices. Good for them!
The White Tops
The White Tops (USPS 683000) (ISSN
0043-499X) is published bimonthly for
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by Peter Wagner, President
by Gary C. Payne, President Elect
The Circus Fans Association of America has come a
long way the last few years through the leadership of
many individuals.
Don Covington, immediate past president, nurtured
Gary Payne and me by keeping us constantly in
the loop regarding all of CFA’s challenges,
opportunities and reasons to celebrate.
Clark Beurlen and Pete Adams,
also past CFA presidents, regularly
weighed in when needed. Clark
provided much guidance regarding
all the constitutional questions and
Pete reduced operation overhead as chairman of the CFA finance
And we can’t forget the everyday efforts of Cheryl Deptula, who
has put in endless hours as CFA’s secretary and treasurer.
The progress has not been easy. Circus Fans Association of
America, like the majority of other national and local organizations,
is having understandable difficulty attracting and keeping members.
In the age of instant electronic messaging, they don’t want to join
anything and only ask “What’s in it for me?”
For me the answer is oblivious. My two-year term as CFA
president provided the opportunity to oversee a national convention
that attracted fans from all across America, put CFA in front of
hundreds of potential new members and made over $7,000 profit
for the association.
It wasn’t easy, and it was personally expensive. My wife and I
made six round trips across Iowa at our own expense to Dubuque to
complete arrangements for the “Circus Iowa” convention.
But it was worth all the time and investment. The relationships
we developed with the people in the Dubuque area who arranged
the convention and the hundred-plus fans who attended are
How else would I ever have had the opportunity to work and
bond with individuals in such diverse areas of circus life?
Jarrold Jimmerson, conductor, and Nancy R. Olson, the archivist
of the Fort Dodge Karl King Community Band, and the gracious
Peggy Williams with Feld Entertainment, for example.
Then there was Sarah Lind, author, lecturer and circus performer,
and the crew at the Felix Adler Discover Center in Clinton, as well
as the members of the Felix Adler family.
And I can’t overlook John Ringling North II and Jim Royal of
Kelly Miller Circus fame; Iowa’s own Ron “Toto” Johnson; and
Scott O’Donnell and Pete Shrake at Circus World Museum.
But most of all, being president resulted in a marvelous, almost
daily relationship with your next president, Gary Payne. Gary has
been an endless source of suggestions and support. His upcoming
Worldwide Circus Summit convention is something you need to
attend. As P. T. Barnum would have put it: “There has never been
nor will there ever be anything like it.”
True, I’ve received a few dozen negative comments about
discontinuing Big Top for Life memberships. I can understand the
disappointment, but many came from members I’ve never met at
a convention or seen published in White Tops. As good as White
Tops has become, if it is your only connection with Circus Fans
Association of America, you’ve missed a lot. Come see what I mean
at Gary Payne’s convention in July.
Wishing you blue skies and straw houses.
The column of the CFA national president and a few words from
your president elect side by side in White Tops. Why?
Well, it’s because Peter Wagner and myself feel that the
future of circus and fandom depends upon our ability to
work together. Cooperation trumps all.
Last issue I spoke of the importance of
asking not what the circus and CFA can do
for you, but rather what each of us can
do for the circus and CFA. Your
trustees have led by example. They
worked hard toward making CFA
financially well. Despite the bitter
taste, the Big Top for Life (BTFL) program was ended. I’d have
been critical if that was the only thing done, but budgets were cut
across the board, and everyone cooperated to make it work.
These decisions and the resulting cooperation might mean I won’t
have to seek a dues increase!
Does it seem that circuses and fan clubs are in competition with
one another? What can happen when you push that aside and
cooperate? We plan to show what can happen when we convene the
Worldwide Circus Summit 2015 (WCS2015) which is CFA’s 2015
national convention. You’ll find continuing coverage of this July 14
through 18, 2015 convention on pages 9-11 and 13 of this issue and
in virtually all circus related publications, too.
What can I accomplish as your president? It’s in direct
proportion to what each of you decide to do for CFA. The following
are some recent efforts to step up:
• Your nominating committee named ten candidates for
trustee and one candidate for Vice President and asked for
your votes to select the leadership. Did you vote?
• A record number of members have stepped up to serve on
your 2015 and 2016 convention committees.
• We received a check to CFA’s National Circus Preservation
Society (NCPS) in the amount of $10,000.00, from a CFA
“angel” who asked not to be named, but asked us to invest in
the efforts of CFA’s Animal Welfare Committee and towards
the maintenance of the Walter L. Main train wreck site.
During my term of office I aspire to inspire you to step up!
We will re-launch a new CFA logo merchandise program, selling
the CFA logo on jackets, shirts, hats, etc. We ask your support in
purchasing and using these tools to show your pride in CFA and in
recruiting members on a regular basis. Our new CFA online store
will be part of the brand new CFA website we’re about to launch!
We’ll also expand our presence on Facebook (visit us there), all
thanks to members cooperating – and stepping up – to make it
Think outside the box seats! Be willing to push aside complaints
and be open to cooperation!
I’ve been amazed these last few months as we’ve moved
Worldwide Circus Summit 2015 from planning to execution. A
stampede of fans and friends are pushing obstacles to the side and
You too will be surprised when you ask not what the circus and
CFA can do for you and instead ask what you can do for circus and
Poles to engine!
March/April 2015
by Mort Gamble
Director of Public Relations/Media
As Director of Media Relations, I recently
sat down with incoming CFA President
Gary Payne for a wide-ranging and frank
interview about our organization, the circus
industry, animal activists and the coming
Worldwide Circus Summit.
Mort: Gary, I once heard you compare CFA
members to a cat act. Some individuals
perform, you said, and others are “seatwarmers”. Can you explain what you
Gary: We have some magnificent fans
but not nearly enough that are willing to
get out of the seats and act on behalf of
CFA and circus. I believe that everyone
has something they can offer that will
promote the circus and CFA. But will they?
Our challenge is to inspire and coach our
members to take action more than ever on
behalf of our organization.
Mort: What are your goals as president of
CFA? What are our biggest challenges
other than the usual menu of membership,
financial stability and public outreach?
Gary: I want to make a difference. I need to
communicate with our membership in such
a way that we are inspired to work together
to make a difference to one another, to
the circus and to our CFA. We’ve got to
advocate for our organization and for the
circus if we are to thrive, not merely survive.
I need the help of every single member of
Mort: We’ve noticed, by the way, that you’re
beginning your term of office early. The way
it works out, you have two conventions to
Gary: Yes. I have sort of started early. It’s
a matter of logistics and interpretation.
Peter Wagner passed the CFA’s elephantguide tool ceremoniously at his convention
in Iowa. That created the general feeling
that I’d started early. Peter is actually our
first two-year President, but he was able
to schedule his convention between that
of San Diego CA and my upcoming July
14-18, 2015 Worldwide
Circus Summit. Because my
convention occurs early in
my term, I have formed a
second committee, and we
are looking at a location and
concepts for a 2016 CFA
Mort: You held two key CFA
chairmanships in the past, membership and
animal welfare, and have since relinquished
those posts. Where do we stand as an
organization on each of those priorities?
Gary: If we were in a hospital, the doctor
would be telling us that “membership” is
in critical condition. Code red! When I
chaired membership, we actually inched up
a bit by using tried and true methods like
ask, ask, ask…that is, if every one of our
current members brought in just one new
member this year, our roster would double
and every one of our major concerns would
improve. When I was in retail, we used to
say, “sales cure all”.
The chief executive officer of CFA
has more responsibilities than recruiting
members. So here it is, an “executive order”
from the office of the CFA President to our
members: It is part of your obligation as
a member of CFA to bring in at least one
new member this year.
Regarding the animal welfare
Committee...knowing that as I moved on
to the CFA’s office of national president,
I wanted someone to take over for me on
that committee that could take us to a
higher level. I was able to replace myself
with Sarah Conley who is clearly doing just
And back to membership, I have asked
Joe Colossa to step up as our new National
Membership Chair. Joe on Membership
and Sarah on Animal Welfare will work
closely with me to amplify our efforts. Code
red. But we need everyone to pitch in if we
are going to make a difference. You’re all
under executive order. Code red.
Mort: I know that many of us faithfully
respond to the calls for action and
legislative alerts pertaining to animals in
the circus. Yet perhaps no one
displays the sheer outrage over the activists
on the other side as much as you
do. It seems that for you, every problem
that comes up requires establishing a
beachhead. Where does that come from?
Gary: We almost lost the circus on more
The White Tops
than one occasion in my home state of
Connecticut. There, we had no choice but
to learn to stand up for the circus and for
responsible performing animal handlers.
We wrote letters, went on radio shows,
circulated petitions, emailed and called
elected officials, and stood on the curb
with pro-circus signs. We learned that the
circus makes a strong case itself for animal
preservation, but needs people to stand up
with it.
We were successful. We now help
others to do the same. Although we do
recommend that members follow certain
guidelines in advocating for the circus,
you can’t be afraid to make mistakes when
the stakes are so high for the industry and
tradition we love.
Mort: Are we who advocate for animals in
the circus winning or losing?
Gary: The recent Feld decision, to phase
out performing elephants by 2018, is the
circus fans equivalent of the space shuttle
Challenger disaster, obviously a major
malfunction. Nobody did more than the
Feld family to fight back. Our side won
every major court decision. If you add wins
and subtract losses right off the CFA’s
Grassroots site, we have more wins than
losses. That being said, one can’t turn on the
television without seeing commercials for
the major animal rights fund raising groups.
They’ve created a multi million dollar fund
raising racket (and it is a racket) and they’ve
got to sustain their business. The American
public doesn’t know that as little as 1% of
that money finds its way to animals. To
win, we’ve got to muster public outcry and
we’ve got to get our legislators to agree on
standardization of the regulations involved
in presenting performing animals. Did the
Feld decision end our efforts? No! Think
about what happened at Pearl Harbor. Were
we defeated or did it awaken a sleeping
Mort: How can we best educate CFA
members on the urgency of this issue? And
how important is it for us to get down and
dirty in the fight – as it were?
Gary: It may seem more down and dirty for
our current CFA’s Animal Committee than
it was say 15 years ago, but I still believe
that we must differentiate ourselves from
the tactics of the animal rights racket. If
every one of our members would work with
our committee rather than sniping at the
industry or at each other, it could make a
difference. It’s the American public that
failed to come to our aid. I don’t blame
the Feld family. Nobody has done more
than they have on behalf of the industry
and its fans. I worked hard very recently
to overcome the emotional piece and drill
down to the facts. Will there now be a
public outcry? I hope so. At what point will
the sleeping giant be awakened? Will it be
at the loss of the elephants? What is next?
Will it be when they come to take away
your fishing rod, your horses, dogs and cats?
I like salad, but I’d prefer to eat salad when
I wish. It’s about freedom of choice.
Mort: Can you foresee a time when the tide
of public opinion – or legislative action –
will shift to the extent that animals will not
be featured in circuses?
Gary: We’ve arrived at that time. It’s
necessary for two things to happen before
2018. We need that public outcry. We
also need legislators to pass some “enough
is enough” legislation. For the circus to
continue to feature animals, any animals,
we’d need legislators to know that the circus
is indeed a living national treasure and if
it’s to be saved it must be looked upon in a
manner similar to our National Parks. We
need government officials to standardize
the regulations from the point of view of
doing what it takes to save the circus! If we
are poised to lose elephants or all animals
for that matter, will this serve these animals
any better?
Mort: One assumes that a membership
driven, volunteer dependent organization
such as ours, with no full-time staff
positions and limited budget, should pick
its battles and priorities carefully. That we
should be cautions taking on well-financed
animal rights groups is also a concern we’ve
heard voiced by some of our members.
I am among the least obtrusive fans in the
world. We, as fans, are not “in” the circus
business. We should never feel slighted if a
circus does not take our suggestions.
“Pay as you go” is our motto, so please
make your first stop the ticket wagon.
Remember that the circus venue is “home”
to the circus people. Don’t go knocking on
doors. Ask permission to take photographs.
Wear your CFA logo. Introduce yourself.
You will be more welcome than you realize
if you are professional and respectful of the
circus people.
Some fans, in their excitement, can get a
little carried away. Those show people who
want to interact with you will let you know.
Ask if you can be of any help. Provide
a ride to Walmart. Things like that are
Gary: Let’s be smart. Exercise your First
Amendment rights, but work with your
CFA’s organized committee. Don’t be
confrontational. Don’t call them by name,
they’re “animal rights extremists”. Our
CFA Committee can give you dozens of
important Do’s and Don’ts based on the
latest information. If you fail to ask people
to join CFA or to join you in the seats at
the circus, it’s all over right now.
Mort: Where do you see the circus industry
heading five, ten years out?
Gary: Look for innovations. A very few
will enjoy the exclusive of Asian elephants
as a feature act. The circus has always
been known for something traditional,
something new, something unexpected.
When a family goes to the circus, it should
be obvious there is a circus fan club and
that club is CFA. No circus in America
currently makes that obvious. That needs to
change. Look at what Jimmy Buffett does
for his fans and what his fans do for him.
CFA needs to be to the circus what the
Parrotheads are to Jimmy Buffett, and vice
Mort: I would imagine that as it did for
most of us, the circus beckoned you at an
early age. Tell us about that, please.
Gary: Thank goodness. A question that
isn’t so pointed! Mom and dad took me to
the circus, Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus,
1961, in Prospect CT. I sat on the edge
of my seat watching Clyde Beatty. I was
fascinated by the here today/gone tomorrow
logistics of the circus coming to a new town
every single day.
I am still there in that same seat. I never
ever left. Amy will tell you that I love the
circus in the same place in my heart that
I love her. I tear up at the sight of the
elephants, at the sight of certain circus acts,
when I see the big top go up or come down.
I am emotional when the circus leaves the
areas I can access. I glance over my shoulder
as I leave a circus...
Mort: You’re well known in the circus
community by virtue of your long-standing
CFA membership, activism and visibility.
Not every member can or may want to
replicate that kind of presence. How
important is it for CFA members to
interact directly with circus personnel?
Some of us may not always feel welcome or
needed on the lot.
Mort: For many CFA members, circus
day has changed, perhaps because fewer
Gary: You know, I get told that a lot. But
now among the general public share the
excitement we have. Has it been altered
substantially in your own experience,
perhaps because of your experience with
the industry and its challenges?
personnel and many others. What do we do
for an encore?
Gary: (Laughter). See the previous
question! I can tell you that we’re getting a
lot of people and a lot of organizations all
together in the same place at the same time.
Circus fans refer to the annual convention
by the hosting president’s name. But this
isn’t Gary Payne’s convention. It’s yours.
It’s the Worldwide Circus Summit 2015.
So what is your endgame, fans? Where do
you want to take this CFA...what is our
encore? We will address this together at the
Gary: I can still spin the same excitement,
for myself, and for others. Think about it.
If, as a fan, you struggle with this, consider
what you can do to change it.
The past few seasons, I took a number
of children to their first circus. Wow! It
took me right back to 1961 and my first
experience. I don’t think that circus day has
really changed at all, because children can
be affected in the same manner as we were.
I highly recommend that we all use that
little trick. It’s priceless.
Mort: Give us a preview, please, of the
Gary: What we have “ready” as of January
2015 is but the tip of the iceberg. Fans who
participate in Worldwide Circus Summit
2015 will become “Summiteers.” At this
writing, 23 organizations are involved...
all pro bono, all pay as we go. The dates
are July 14th through 18th. Our venue is
the grounds and buildings of the Eastern
States Exposition (ESE), West Springfield
MA USA. Our theme is: “The Circus of
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. The
seminars and panel discussions are without
precedent. It’s a circus fan’s convention on
steroids! It’s Disney World for circus fans.
There will be so much to do and so many
choices to make that you will not be able to
Mort: Would you say that your circus
enjoyment and advocacy will continue to
evolve? If so, how so?
Gary: Yes, it will. I am looking for it to
evolve. But how? I don’t know. I pose
that question to the members of CFA...
to the circus...How can/how should our
enjoyment and advocacy for the circus
evolve? Again, what can we do to make a
Mort: The Worldwide Circus Summit of
2015 promises to be a sensational and
unifying event for circus fans, friends,
historians, model-builders, show
Worldwide Circus Summit 2015
Tentative Schedule as of 03-09-15
Subject to Change
Tuesday - July 14th
Registration Desk (EH)
3:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Hospitality Tent (ST)
11:30 AM to 11:00 PM
Exhibition Hall (EH)
3:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Hotel Shuttle Service
8:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Exhibitors, vendors and
model builders may move
into Exhibition Hall
12:30 PM to 3:30 PM
Dutch Treat working
luncheon CFA & NCPS
Board Meetings (ST)
7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Opening Reception (CH)
9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Circus Film Festival (ST)
Tentative Schedule-At-A-Glance
Wednesday - July 15th
Registration Desk (EH)
Hospitality Tent (ST)
11:30 AM to 11:00 PM
Exhibition Hall (EH)
11:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Hotel Shuttle Service
8:30 AM to 9:30 AM
Welcome & Opening Speaker
9:30 to 11:30 AM
11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Lunch Break
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
3:30 PM to 4:00 PM
World Circus Federation
Speaker (CH)
5:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Summit Sideshow
Performance (CT)
6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
CFA Auction (CH)
9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Circus Film
Festival (ST)
do it all.
Cole Bros. Circus will be our official
host circus, playing the same lot we’re
on. John Pugh will be our CFA banquet
speaker. We’ll kick off with a Gala Opening
Reception the evening of the 14th of July.
Ringling Ringmaster Johnathan Lee
Iverson is our opening speaker on the
morning of the 15th. Imagine a “bull room”
on steroids; it will actually be an exhibition
hall with a trade-show atmosphere,
featuring the Circus Model Builders show,
sales tables, authors, unique sales features,
and some amazing displays! (Several
sponsors will not allow us to release details
yet.) We will all come together and will be
each other’s entertainment.
If you are a collector, there will be two
auctions, one the CHS and one the CFA,
as well as unprecedented sales tables with
unique offerings. For full details, refer to the
latest press releases.
Your hotels (there are seven so far)
are but your bed and your breakfast...
most WCS2015 events take place at the
grounds of the ESE. Event parking charges
of $10.00 per day are waived with your
WCS2015 identification badge. Register
early for a discount. Sign up on the
registration for what you want. We know
we will have sold-out events. First come,
first served. Following registration, stay
tuned for developments. There will be a lot
Thursday - July 16th
Friday - July 17th
Registration Desk (EH)
Hospitality Tent (ST)
11:30 AM to 11:00 PM
Exhibition Hall (EH)
11:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Hotel Shuttle Service
6:00 AM to 10:00 AM
Cole Brothers Circus Set
8:30 AM to 9:00 AM
CHS Auction Preview (CH)
9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
CHS Auction (CH)
11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
1:30 PM to 6:00 PM
TODAY Seminars (CH)
6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Windjammers Concert &
Cole Brothers Circus
9:00 PM to 12:00 AM
Cole Brothers Load Out
Registration Desk (EH)
Hospitality Tent (ST)
11:30 AM to 11:00 PM
Exhibition Hall (EH)
11:30 AM to 7:00 PM
Hotel Shuttle Service
8:30 AM to 9:00 AM
CHS Member Meeting (Sheraton)
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
CHS Papers
Seminars (CH)
11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
CHS Annual
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
TOMORROW Seminars (CH)
4:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Ecumenical Worship Service (MH)
5:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Jackpot Junction – Youth Session (CT)
7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Summit Circus Showcase (Tentative)
9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Circus Film
Festival (ST)
Jackpot Junction
Summit Website:
Saturday - July 18th
Registration Desk (EH)
Hospitality Tent (ST)
11:30 AM to 11:00 PM
Exhibition Hall (EH)
10:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Hotel Shuttle Service
9 AM - 10
9 AM – 1 PM
rehearsals &
9 AM – 2 PM
Meeting &
11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
Lunch Break
1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
AYCO Youth Circus Showcase (SG)
3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
AYCO Youth
Reception (HT)
Individual meetings
and workshops
6:30 PM to 10:30 PM
CFA Banquet &
WJU Banquet
Closing Speaker
(La Quinta)
Sunday – July 19th
Registration Desk (EH)
Hospitality Tent (ST)
Exhibition Hall (EH)
Hotel Shuttle Service
Departure of shuttle buses
from Summit hotels to
Circus Smirkus
Schedule TBA
Performance Time TBA
Circus Smirkus
South Windsor, CT
Schedule TBA
Departure of shuttle buses
from Summit hotels to
Circus Smirkus
The Worldwide Circus Summit 2015
July 14-19, 2015 – Springfield MA
by Don Covington
Even if you have attended all of the CFA conventions for the
past 50 years, you have never seen anything like the upcoming
Worldwide Circus Summit 2015 (WCS 2015), an unprecedented
gathering of circus affinity groups from across the country and
around the globe. This first ever event will focus the spotlight
on West Springfield, Massachusetts where the Eastern States
Exposition (Big E) Fairgrounds will become the headquarters for a
nonstop round of circus related activities from July 14 to July 18.
One registration admits you to the grounds of the Worldwide
Circus Summit 2015. There you will enjoy more than 47
organizations (as of press time) and likely more to come. This
includes the national conventions of the Circus Fans Association
of America and the Circus Historical Society. It also includes
the summer meeting of the Windjammers Unlimited, a special
exhibition of the Circus Model Builders and the Carousel Organ
Society of America, several Clown Clubs including the World
Clown Association, the Clowns of America and Mid Atlantic
Clown Clubs, and the American Youth Circus Organization.
Consult the WCS2015 website for the long list of other
participating organizations. Your credentials admit you, at no extra
charge, to the gala opening reception, the exhibition hall, opening
ceremony with Johnathan Lee Iverson (Ringling Bros. and Barnum
& Bailey Ringmaster), and the hospitality tent. Also included are
an authentic recreation of a traditional circus sideshow, a nightly
circus film festival, daily jackpot sessions with circus veterans, a
series of seminars and panel discussions. Add on tickets to see Cole
Bros. Circus that will be right there with us on the grounds, and
you may also add on a bus/ticket package (to be announced) to see
Circus Smirkus off site on Sunday July 19th.
As we go to press, here are some of the highlights of the Summit:
Opening reception (Tuesday July 14)
Every Summit attendee is invited to participate in the Summit’s
gala kick-off. Here is your chance to reunite with friends, mingle
with circus celebrities, enjoy samples of upcoming activities and
plan your personal agenda for the Summit.
Opening speaker (Wednesday July 15)
Johnathan Lee Iverson,
the charismatic ringmaster of
Ringling Bros. and Barnum
and Bailey Circus, will set the
tone for the Summit with what
is expected to be a stirring
account of his own introduction
to American circus and his
subsequent career as a respected
spokesperson for the industry
and art form.
Hospitality tent (Open daily during the Summit)
Stop by the conveniently located hospitality tent any time
during operating hours to meet friends, check schedules or take
a break from all of the varied activities. There will be food and
drink available as well
as information on late
breaking developments. It
will also be a convenient
spot to consult the daily
update provided by our
friends at Circus Report.
Circus film festival (Nightly during the Summit)
The Summit staff has assembled a not to be missed line-up
of circus related films, from vintage footage of historic circuses
to contemporary documentaries. Each evening, there will be
screenings of a variety of titles, often with commentary by experts
and filmmakers. You won’t want to miss this chance to view the
circus in a whole new way.
Summit seminar series
(Wednesday, Thursday and Friday)
In concert with the WCS 2015 theme of “Circus Yesterday,
Today and Tomorrow”, there will be a series of seminars and panel
discussions where attendees can explore in depth the heritage of
circus past, the challenges and rewards in contemporary circus and
the possibilities for circus in the future. Subject matter experts,
circus artists, producers and directors will interact with Summit
attendees providing everyone involved with a global perspective on
an evolving cultural art form.
World Circus Federation presentation ( July 15)
Laura van der Meer, the
Executive Director of the
World Circus Federation, will
update Summit attendees on
the Federation’s initiatives to
promote and support the circus
around the world. Working from
its headquarters in Monte Carlo,
the organization provides vitally
important validation of circus as
a cultural asset. Learn how you
can become more involved in
supporting initiatives that will have
wide-ranging impact here and abroad.
Circus sideshow
(Wednesday July 15)
During the golden
age of the sideshow
every circus large or
small offered patrons
the opportunity to
explore the odd, unusual
and exotic. Variety
performer (and CFA
member) Scott Nelson
March/April 2015
has assembled a cast of artists with
unique skills who will remind
Summit visitors how captivating
this type of entertainment can
Contact Barb Moore at
be. His colleagues include
<[email protected]>
representatives from the
Coney Island Sideshow,
Full page, inside front cover, inside
Venice Beach Sideshow,
back cover, back cover – $750
Family Cirkus
Full page – $500
television series
Half page – $250
Quarter page – $125
“Don’t be disappointed, come
inside the tent and see what your friends
are talking about. Today and today only, it’s all
live on the inside and going on now.”
I am collecting
ads for the WCS 2015
program. Prices below.
Auctions of circus collectibles ( July 15-16)
For the first time ever, collectors will have the opportunity to
bid on a wide variety of circus memorabilia offered by the two
preeminent American circus affinity organizations over a period
of two days. Each auction will include unique lots, many of which
have never before been available to the public. In the past, bidders
have marveled at the quality and consistency of the offerings as
well as the reasonable cost. Proceeds from the events will bolster
the treasuries of the organizations themselves and provide lasting
benefit to the circus. Anyone with valid Summit credentials may
participate in both auctions.
Jackpot Junction (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday)
Sit down with circus legends as they discuss their lives under
the big tops. Stories and recollections often reveal some of the
most accurate impressions of what it was like on the sawdust trail.
A team of videographers will record the discussions to provide a
permanent record for future generations of fans.
Exhibit Hall (Open every day during the Summit)
Here is your
chance to marvel
at the intricate
detail in a series
of displays from
the Circus Model
Builders, plus
you’ll be able to
explore the wide
variety of circus
activities going
on around the
world. State-ofthe-art interactive
displays will
allow you to
experience circus
related activities that will spark your interest and encourage you to
become even more involved in supporting the circus. Participating
organizations will be available in the hall to provide information
and advice.
Circus directors’ forum (Thursday July 16)
An unprecedented gathering of circus owners and managers from
around the globe will provide Summit visitors the rare opportunity
to listen in as top circus directors discuss the rewards and challenges
facing circus management in the twenty-first century.
Cole Bros Circus (Thursday July 16)
photo by John Wells
The Summit will host Cole Bros. Circus on the grounds of the
Big E for two performances on Thursday July 16. Summit attendees
can add the purchase of tickets to the evening performance to
their registration package. In addition to the regular action packed
circus extravaganza, the dedicated WCS 2015 show will include a
preshow concert by Windjammers Unlimited and special Summit
features during the performance. Cole Bros. one-day stand will
afford Summit attendees the opportunity to watch the show load
in, perform and load out – all in the same day.
Ecumenical worship service (Friday July 17)
Members of the Circus and Traveling Shows Ministry (CATS)
will offer a non-denominational worship service open to all Summit
attendees. CATS includes members of the clergy who specialize in
meeting the needs of traveling show people.
All star circus (Friday July 17)
A delightful assembly of circus talent demonstrates the variety
and diversity of contemporary sawdust skills in an intimate setting
sure to satisfy your tanbark appetite.
Windjammers Unlimited summer meet ( July 14-18)
The circus music historical society will hold their annual summer
meet in conjunction with WCS 2015. Summit attendees will have
the rare opportunity to enjoy live traditional circus music performed
by top musicians who specialize in music written specifically to
accompany big top performances. Your Summit credentials enable
you to attend open rehearsals and recording sessions where a
recording band will read vintage musical charts, performing show
music that, in some cases, has not been heard for over a century. The
Windjammers Circus Band will present a public concert in the ring
prior to the evening performance of Cole Bros Circus on Thursday
July 16 and smaller musical groups made up of Windjammers can
The White Tops
be heard during the seminar series, at the circus sideshow and at the
opening reception.
Circus Historical Society convention ( July 14-18)
photo by Mernyó Ferenc
You are invited to join esteemed
scholars, researchers and educators for an
in depth examination of circus history.
The Society’s annual convention will be
held concurrently with the Summit and
everyone with WCS 2015 credentials
is encouraged to take advantage of
presentations, discussions and social
events. On Friday July 17, Barry Lubin
(Grandma the Clown) will be the
speaker at a CHS luncheon. Limited
seating is available for that event and
may be requested as an option on the
WCS registration form.
Carousel organ demonstrations ( July 14-18)
Not one, not two, but dozens of carousel and band organs will
provide music on the grounds of the Big E during the Summit.
Everything from small “organ grinder” units to full orchestral
mechanical organs will serenade Summit attendees every day of the
Sales room (Open daily during the Summit)
Looking for something for your circus room, or maybe a gift to
take back home? The vendors in the sales room will offer a wide
variety of souvenirs and collectibles – and promise something for
everyone. Stop by anytime during the Summit to sample what is
that will astound and delight fans of all ages. It is a not-to-be
-missed opportunity to witness the potential for circus to change
CFA annual banquet (Saturday July 18)
Circus Fans of America is
honored to have Cole Bros.
Circus owner John Pugh as its
guest speaker at the organization’s
annual banquet on Saturday
evening. Don’t miss a chance
to hear what it takes to manage
one of America’s most successful
circuses. This event is expected to
sell out and is being sold on a first
come first served basis.
Circus Smirkus (Sunday July 19)
photos by Richard Czina
There will be an excursion to attend a performance of Circus
Smirkus, Vermont’s award winning youth circus, on Sunday July 19.
The show will be performing in nearby Connecticut and Summit
attendees can order tickets and bus transportation as part of their
WCS 2015 registration package. If you have never attended a
Circus Smirkus performance, you will be astounded at the level of
skill, technical expertise and enthusiasm present under the little
big top. Summit attendees who have flights later in the day from
Hartford International Airport will be pleased to know that Circus
Smirkus will be playing in close proximity to the airport.
Clowns of America, World Clown Association
and Mid Atlantic Clown Club
It wouldn’t be a
circus without clowns
and the Summit is
fortunate to have
partnered with
organizations that
are dedicated to the
art of laughter. You
will find clowns
everywhere that you
go at the Summit. If your experience with clowning is limited to
the circus ring, you will be fascinated to learn of all of the other
ways in which clowns enrich the lives of people
around the world. Come to the Summit to laugh
and learn from the dedicated folks who are proud
to call themselves clowns.
Don’t delay; make plans now to attend the Worldwide Circus
Summit. Registration is still open for all Summit activities.
Consult the WCS 2015 website at <http://> for details on hotels,
transportation and late breaking developments.
See you in Springfield in July.
Youth Circus Showcase
(Saturday July 18)
Share the wonder and enthusiasm that youth
circus participants bring to the ring when
representatives from a wide spectrum of youth,
community and social circuses gather to perform
for Summit attendees. The American Youth Circus
Organization (AYCO) has assembled a program
photo by David Rose
Circus Fans
of America
Peter W. Wagner, President
<[email protected]> 712-348-3550
Gary C. Payne, President Elect
<[email protected]> 860-833-7925
Connie M. Thomas, Vice President
<[email protected]> 937-434-6690
Don Covington III, Immediate Past President
<[email protected]> 619-437-4146
Beverly Abderrahman
<[email protected]>
Daniel J. Baltulonis
<[email protected]>
To 4/30/15
To 4/30/17
Jan Y. Biggerstaff
<[email protected]>
To 4/30/17
Priscilla Johnson
<[email protected]>
To 4/30/15
Beverly Gebhardt To 4/30/17
<[email protected]> 727-772-6387
Ed Limbach To 4/30/17
<[email protected]> 330-995-3378
Ruth A. Luckasson, J.D. To 4/30/15
<[email protected]> 505-268-6358
James F. Stegall To 4/30/17
<[email protected]> 940-748-2542
William G. Troxell To 4/30/15
<[email protected]> 814-931-3009
April Zink
<[email protected]>
Cheryl L. Deptula Executive Sect./Treas.
<[email protected]> 440-897-4895
John & Mardi Wells White Tops Co-editors
<[email protected]
Mort Gamble Director of Public Relations
<[email protected]> 301-788-9015
Fr. Richard Notter Chaplain
<[email protected]> 419-351-9035
by Cheryl Deptula
We are quickly approaching that time of year when
your CFA membership is due for renewal. Toward the
end of March I will be mailing your dues notice and
membership card(s) to you as well as any additional
family and/or friend memberships you pay. The
statement will be in a new format so please take note when you receive it and don’t
Last year our Finance Chair, Pete Adams, asked me to come up with a new
method of sending dues notices to the CFA membership because the statement style
envelope was becoming very expensive to print. Therefore, the Annual Dues Notice
will be printed on an 8½ x 11 sheet of paper, and “Z” folded so the statement is easily
identified. Membership card(s) will be enclosed and an identifying label(s) attached
(front and back) for you and for each member you pay dues. The cost savings by
switching from the statement style envelope to this new format will be almost
$300.00 in printing costs.
Saving money is every organization’s goal so I am asking that you please pay
your dues before June 1, 2015 so that a second mailing isn’t required – thus saving
CFA postage (49¢ each), envelope and dues notice which would eat up the savings
described above.
Several members make tax deductible donations to the National Circus
Preservation Society (NCPS) and include that amount with their dues check. In
the past I have accepted these donations and transferred the amount from the
CFA checking account to the NCPS checking account. This is unacceptable because
NCPS is a 501(c)(3) organization. Therefore, when making a tax deductible donation
to NCPS, please write a separate check. This is an IRS requirement for easy tracking
of donations. Thank you in advance for your understanding as we must comply with
IRS guidelines.
This has been a long, snowy and frigid winter for those of us up north, so we are
looking forward to the warmer weather which brings the shows under canvas to
our areas. In addition it means that the Worldwide Circus Summit in July 2015
will be even closer. You don’t want to miss this event. Check out the website at
<> for details which will blow you away. You definitely want to
experience this once-in-a-lifetime gathering. The website changes frequently with
added news so stay tuned for the most current updates.
I am here to assist you in any way possible so please feel free to contact me. Phone
440-897-4895, email <[email protected]> or USPS to 5537 Beavercrest
Dr, #203; Lorain OH 44053-1740.
To 4/30/15
Appointed Officers
Richard Flint
<[email protected]>
Report of the
New members
Michele P. Barker, #11464
129 Somers Rd
East Longmeadow MA
Cindi Cavallini, #11458
4879 Dulin Rd
Fallbrook CA 92028
Jillian Davis, #11457 Y
Wenatchee Youth Circus
Wenatchee WA
The White Tops
Firebird Productions,
#11466 INST
Peter Dubinsky
10043 Chatham Oaks Ct
Orlando FL 32836
Angelo Pino Fuentes,
c/o RB&BB Blue Unit
2001 US Hwy. 301
Palmetto FL 34221
Alice & Lillian Hafner,
#11461 Y
Sailor Circus
Sarasota FL
Tommy & Grace Johnson,
#11462 Y
Sailor Circus
Sarasota FL
David L. Kettering,
171 Valleyside Dr.
St. Paul MN 55119
Ann McCoy, #11459 Y
Sailor Circus
Sarasota FL
Kevin Moore, #11460 Y
Sailor Circus
Sarasota FL
The Worldwide Circus Summit 2015
July 14-19, 2015 – Springfield MA
The Big E Fairgrounds
photos from the Big E
Above, the entrance and exhibition hall for the Worldwide Circus Summit.
Below is the Storrowton Tavern, site of wonderful meals to come.
Above Storrowton Green – center of many activities and performances.
Below, Big E Circus Museum
Frank A. Panzer, #11456
39 Lawrence Ave
Milford CT 06460
Jose Eduardo Valeiras,
3417 Morningside Dr
Kissimmee FL 34744
Jorge Rafael Videla,
3417 Morningside Dr
Kissimmee FL 34744
Elisabeth Zerbini,
#11455 INST
2317 S Hall St
Webb City MO 64870
Address change
Craig Altschul, #9645
120 Rio Chama Cir SW
Los Lunas NM 87031
Ronald N. Batts, #8822
9544 Heatherdale Dr
Dallas TX 75243
Johnny Kahlua Meha,
437 Terrace Road
Bayport, Long Island,
NY 11705
Pamela V. Meier, #11178
204 Winthrop St, 1st Fl
Torrington CT 06790
Michael P. Taylor,
914 Middlebrook Ct
Sevierville TN 37862
Paul Pugh
Wenatchee WA
To General Fund
A total of $155.00 has
been donated in memory of
deceased CFA members as
noted at right.
March/April 2015
In memory of
Lt. Col. Frank Robie
by Paul Gutheil
Glen Rock NJ
To General Fund
In memory of
Jean Hildreth
by Gordon E. Turner
Schenectady NY
To General Fund
In memory of
Jean Hildreth
by Margaret “Peg” Earl
Lake George NY
In memory of
Lt. Col. Frank Robie
by Bluch Landolf/Fr.
Jack Toner Tent
Wethersfield CT
In memory of
Robert Goldsack
by Fr. Ed Sullivan Tent
Fall River MA
Jerry Marvin Bisbee, January 6,
1951-January 28, 2015).
It is with heartfelt sadness that I report
the passing of my dear friend, colleague,
and former partner, Jerry Bisbee.
Jerry was
a graduate of
the first-ever
Ringling Bros.
and Barnum
& Bailey
Clown College
in 1968, and
was awarded
a contract
to tour with the Red Unit of the Greatest
Show on Earth in 1969, trouping with the
show for that entire season as a whiteface
clown, bringing away from the experience a
trunkful of marvelous stories and memories,
which he often recalled in the years that
He returned to the Ringling show briefly
– the Blue show, I believe – in mid-1970,
but not as member of the alley. Instead, he
worked in concessions. It wasn’t long before
his love of clowning and comedy took
precedence and he soon left RB&BB to
follow his calling.
I first met Jerry in 1984 when I joined
up with the Gatti-owned American
Continental Circus, late in the season. We
struck up an immediate friendship, which
spanned 30 years. By the end of 1985, I
formed a clown trio: Tegge, Bisbee and
[Harry] Johnson, which spent the better
half of the 1986 season working on the
Gatti show, followed by assorted spot dates
in the fall of the same year. The trio also
played the Hamid-Morton route in 1987,
but by late spring, both professional and
personal difficulties with Johnson soon
whittled the partnership down to a duo, and
that was when Tegge & Bisbee really took
off. We trouped together for the next four
seasons, playing dates stateside and in Japan
for Paul Kaye, and in the U.S. and Canada
for Tarzan Zerbini, in addition to working
for several other producers.
In the ring, I honestly believe that Jerry
was probably the finest clown I ever had
the pleasure of working with. We had a
chemistry together that was unique and
extremely rare, complementing each other’s
moves and gestures in an almost telepathic
Away from the spotlight, Jerry was one
of the most genuine, caring human beings
anyone could ever hope to be associated
with. He was a gentle, easy-going and very
sincere guy. Whether we were on a show
mired in mud over our ankles or plotting
how to revolutionize the art of clowning
over gallons of coffee into the wee hours of
morning, Jerry was always in tune with me
and everyone else in his life.
The last time Jerry and I worked together
was in 1999 when we, with our respective
wives, worked Chicago’s Medinah Shrine
Circus engagement together. That was the
last time Jerry put on the makeup. I often
fantasized about a reunion in the ring, if
only for a date or two, but it was obviously
not meant to happen. Instead, we enjoyed a
marvelous day together just this last August,
at their home, in Southern California,
reminiscing about our adventures along the
Jerry left this world on Wednesday
January 28 after a long, valiant battle with
colon cancer. He was 64 years old. Survivors
include his wife of 25 years, Marcie; a
daughter, Jessica; a son, Cody; and a
grandson, Nicholas, 10 months old.
Timothy Noel Tegge
Michael A. Cecere
, 57, passed
away on Wednesday February 4, 2015 at the
Crown Center Nursing Home in Cortland,
New York following a long illness.
He was a lion & elephant trainer for the
Hoxie Brothers Circus along with several
other circus organizations, traveling to
South America, Europe, Canada, Mexico
and all over the U.S. His life was working
with and training animals.
When he started at age 17, Michael was
known as the youngest person ever to train
From the 1978 Hoxie Bros. Circus program:
The White Tops
lions. Michael always put the animals first
and frequently said if there was a problem
with an animal, it was not the animal’s fault
but the fault of the person training the
Michael was predeceased by his parents
who were his only family. Surviving are
friends Jim and Steve Cronk, their families,
and other close friends he kept in touch
Services were February 6 at the Traub
Funeral Home in Central Square NY.
from Don Covington & Pete Adams
William Lee Guisewite
October 13, 1920-January 25, 2015, died
at age 94 holding hands with his three
daughters and his beloved bride of 69 years,
around the
world who
weren’t lucky
enough to
know Bill in
person knew
him on the
comic pages as
the character of ‘Dad’ in the ‘Cathy’ comic
strip created by his daughter.
Bill was born in Rochester PA to Lee
and Mary Aileen Guisewite. He grew up
in Youngstown, Ohio where he earned the
highest Boy Scout honor of Eagle Scout.
Bill was a performer. His love of theater
began in high school and helped him
triumph at Kent State where he earned his
BA in 1943, was the President of the Junior
and Senior Class, repeatedly earned the title
‘Big Man on Campus’ and met the love of
his life, Anne.
Bill enlisted in the army reserve until
active duty on April 4, 1943. He was a staff
sergeant in the U.S. Army, 9th Air Force,
405th Fighter Group, with a specialty in
Intelligence. He landed in Normandy
several days after D-Day with a unit whose
initial job was to move ahead of the planes
and create landing strips in the French
Bill married his college sweetheart,
Anne Duly, exactly one month after
being discharged. He turned his creative
talents to the advertising business, where
he found great success as a writer, leader,
communicator and innovative thinker. He
was probably best known, though, for being
the sort of kind, inspiring boss who changes
lives by bringing out the very best in the
people around him.
by John and
Mardi Wells
While most fathers of the day left the
child-raising to the mothers, Bill was an
intensely involved, deeply devoted, handson dad for his three girls.
Bill was a huge fan of the circus and the
theater community in Sarasota, especially
the Golden Apple Dinner Theater. He
had a lifelong love of baseball and musical
theater and a deep faith that guided his
Bill is survived by his wife, Anne;
daughters Mary Anne Nagy, Cathy
Guisewite and Mickey Guisewite;
grandchildren Anna Beth and Mary Lee
Nagy, Jack and Mia DeCerchio and Ivy
Guisewite; step-grandson, Cooper SellersWilkinson; sons-in-law Bill Nagy and John
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations
may be sent to The Bottomless Toy
Chest; PO Box 623; Bloomfield Hills MI
48303 (providing toys and activities to
pediatric cancer patients) or Church of the
Redeemer; 222 S. Palm Ave; Sarasota FL
from Pete Adams
January 15, 1931-February 26, 2015.
some of the great animals trainers of the
time including Jorgen Christiansen, Bill
Woodcock, Hugo Schmidt and William
Wells. When speaking about his childhood,
John said, “I was extremely fortunate that
my father was an animal trainer and I was
around other good trainers.”1
Herriott went on to become one of the
world’s best animal trainers. “I’ve trained
elephants, camels, various domestic
animals,” Herriott said, “but horses are my
long suit. I just prefer them…”2 Herriott
also followed in his father’s and mentor
Col. Harry Thomas’ footsteps as a ring
John Herriott was not only an incredible
horse trainer and ringmaster, he was also
a mentor and friend to many. He always
had a great story to tell and shared his
passion for the circus and life through his
poetry. He was all circus. He lived, ate and
breathed sawdust. Even on his wedding day
to Mary Ruth – which was in a center ring
ceremony at the Fort Worth Shrine – he
filled his world with circus.3 During his life
Herriott raised four daughters and was able
to watch them each find success following
in the family footsteps. Three of them went
on to be ringmasters and he saw all find
success and work with animals.
Some of the more renowned experiences
in Herriott’s life include working in and
outside of the U.S. with the family’s
animals. In the states the Herriott family
John was an inspiring man with
a number of talents. Born on Schell
Brother’s Circus, a pre-depression show
of Minnesota, he began working with his
father Milton Herriott in the circus at the
age of 6. John Herriott was mentored by
has worked on Royal Hanneford, Cole
Bros., Clyde Beatty, Ringling Bros. and
Barnum & Bailey, King Bros., Grotto
Circus, John Robinson Circus, the Circus
World Museum, and too many other
shows to mention. He was president of the
of Circus Fans of Australasia, but missed
the first convention. Jim Fogarty offered
him the role of Queensland representative,
where he met more circus families than he
already knew. He would later also take on
the roles of secretary and treasurer.
Through his career as a printer, Horrie
organized most of the printing for CFA,
including organizing an ad for the group
in Michael Edgely’s Moscow Circus
programmes. He was named a life member
after he retired.
In the meantime, his friends in America
had heard of his connection to CFA
and joined him up with the Circus Fans
Association of America, which he also
became a life member of.
My brother Darren and I followed him
into the CFA and share his love for circus.
Over the years, circus provided many
great memories, such as riding Bimbo the
elephant in a circus parade for Bullens in
the 1960s.
Horrie died on Christmas Eve, aged 88,
and now joins his wife Edna in that Big
Top in the sky.
He is survived by his three children, four
grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
from Caryn Quinsey
We suffer the loss of another circus great.
Colonel John Herriott
Horace Burgess Harvey
known to his friends as Horrie, was born
March 22, 1926 in Bundaberg, Queensland.
He was introduced to circus by Bert
“Papa” Burgess
at the age of
four, straddling
Papa’s bike to
go down to the
circus lot.
In 1972,
Horrie became
number 10
March/April 2015
Showfolks Club and on January 15, 2000
he was inducted into the Sarasota Circus
Ring of Fame.
His legacy will live on through his wife
Mary Ruth, his four daughters Cristine
Herriott Plunkett, Heidi Herriott Koch,
Cindy Herriott Wells, Laura Herriott
Ortiz, many grandchildren, and great
grandchildren. His memory will live on
in the hearts of all whom he touched and
knew in his life, and through his poetry
and writing. To echo the words of Gary
Thomas when discussing circus legend
John Herriott: “He was always professional,
always put his animals first and was one
of the last great animal trainers of his
generation.” (Gary Thomas is the son
of John Herriott’s ringmaster mentor
Col. Harry Thomas who is referred to in
Herriott’s Old Showman’s Heaven.)
In lieu of flowers the family requests
that you please send donations in John
Herriott’s memory to Showfolks Club;
5204 North Lockwood Ridge Road;
Sarasota FL 34234
by Sara Gordon, photo by Paul Gutheil
The poem below is a eulogy that John wrote
and would read for all of his friends (Freddy
Logan, Rex Williams, etc...), always adding
their name at the end.
The Next Town
The circus moves with extraordinary skill
Testing the best of man and his will
Each day is a challenge for man and his beast
“The show must go on” to say the very least
It seems the main purpose of this business
of historic renown is the overwhelming
task to get to the next town!
Col. John Herriott
While surrounded by song, family and
friends January 30, 2015, Jean re-joined
her friend and husband of 31 years, Merritt
Calvin Hildreth, in the great beyond
after losing a seven-month battle against
multiple hospital-borne infections.
Jean Lillian Hildreth
(nee Cotter) was born an only child on
August 19, 1940 to her parents, Margaret
Abigail Fisk and James Kerr Cotter.
Jean was a 1958 graduate of Glens Falls
High School where she was active in music,
drama and many social activities. In 1962,
she graduated from Rochester Institute
of Technology with a Bachelor of Science
degree in merchandising. Shortly thereafter,
she began
working for the
New York State
of Labor,
from which
she retired as
manager of the
Greater Glens
Falls area job
service after
nearly 35 years.
Jean was
a lifelong member of the First Baptist
Church in Glens Falls, where she served as
a choir singer, teacher, deacon and trustee.
Jean was also a lifelong member of the
Circus Fans Association of America, where
she served as president of the Pedro Carillo
and the Felix Morales Tents, providing aid
and support to many circus performers.
She leaves behind daughter, Lindy Kerr
Gooden and her husband, Lee Gooden;
son, Jon Andrew Hildreth and his fiancé,
Amy Russell; and three granddaughters,
Autumn Malone and her husband, Patrick
Malone, Kerr Gooden and Hope Gooden.
She also leaves behind a sister-in-law; six
nieces; six nephews; several cousins; and
many great-nephews and great-nieces.
For now, Jean has run away to join the
circus. She is a first of May, the tent has
been staked under a bright blue sky on a
grassy lot; popcorn, cotton candy and hay
fills the air and accompanies the calliope
music as we all hear the hawker say, “Step
right up and get your tickets! Come one,
come all, children of all ages are welcome to
the Greatest Show on Earth!”
Please support and send your donations
to the First Baptist Church in Glens Falls,
<>; and the Circus Fans
Association of America in Lorain, Ohio,
from Jon Hildreth
Lois Hoover
passed away yesterday.
For those who did not know her, she was
the wife of Dave Hoover, famous for his
animal expertise and owner of a circus using
Lois’ name.
Cards may be sent to George Hoover,
520 W. Rich Ave, Deland FL 32720.
from Pete Adams
Nancy Mohler, an active circus fan
and the wife of Past President of CFA Irv
Mohler, has passed away.
Mass of Christian Burial was February
13. Cards may be sent to Irv Mohler and
The White Tops
his family at 6 Stratton Ct, Potomac, MD
from Pete Adams
Margaret D. Watson, 85,
of Bloomington, Illinois passed away
peacefully January 30, 2015) at Martin
Health Center, Bloomington.
Margaret was born March 21, 1929, in
Effingham, to Rolland and Ethel Davidson.
Raised and
educated in
Salem, she
left home to
attend college
at Illinois
There, she
met Dennis
Watson and
later on, June 27, 1951, they married in
Bloomington. Their 63-year marriage is a
testimony to the vow they took to love each
other in sickness and in health until parted
in death.
There are a number of organizations
where Margaret offered her support
and leadership. She was an elder of the
Second Presbyterian Church, president of
the Bloomington High School Booster
Club and president of two different PEO
chapters, DL in Newark, Ohio, and AW in
Bloomington. She always supported Illinois
Wesleyan University; and with her husband
Dennis, she was awarded the 2003 Illinois
Wesleyan Loyalty Award.
Margaret is loved and will be deeply
missed by her husband, Dennis; her
children, Mark (Kathy) Watson, Elmhurst,
and Meg (Ted) Boehne, Edina MN;
seven grandchildren, David, Christopher,
Virginia, Phill (Naomi), Anne, Scott
and Danielle; two great-grandchildren,
VerenaRae and Dustin; brother, Loren
( Jackie) Davidson; sisters, Ellen Marie
Read, Hazel Zimner, Marilyn (Dick)
Leckrone and Ethel Mae Leggett; brotherin-law, Tee Watson; sister-in-law, Sue Babb;
and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents,
Ethel and Rolland Davidson.
Memorials may be made to Second
Presbyterian Church or Illinois Wesleyan
from Pete Adams
1. Circus Report, February 16, 1976
2. Bangor Daily News, May 1, 1987
3. The Billboard, December 25, 1954
Preserving animals in the circus
acknowledge that that kind of contact with an animal is valuable
because they’ve replaced their elephant rides with camel and pony
rides (both options also on a circus midway). Just in the past few
by Sarah Conley, Animal Welfare Committee Chair
years, I’ve seen Ramos Brothers Circus do pony sweep with half
ponies and half llamas. How long until we see llama rides at a zoo?
The entire midway/menagerie experience literally leads you into
the circus tent, where even more animal majesty is on display. Lions
When I was a little girl, I loved spending the day at the circus.
and tigers, elephants, horses, zebras, camels and dogs are displayed
We didn’t just go for the show and leave; it was an all-day event.
by their trainers to show off the truly amazing things the animals
We’d get there early and spend what seemed like hours on the
are capable of. Yes, these displays had music, and sparkle, and were
midway. There was so much to do – elephant rides, pony rides, the
called acts, but are they any different than the shows that go on
menagerie tent, face painting, moon-bounces, small mechanical
daily at every zoo? Whether it’s the “Cheetah Run”, a sea lion show,
rides and more. While the circus was the main draw, there were
an elephant training demonstration or scheduled tiger enrichment
many times when the lasting memory of that day happened on the
activities, they are all ways to show off the cool things the animal is
midway, not in the tent. As I grew older, the opportunities for those
capable of. Maybe one has less production value than the other, but
experiences became less and less. Lots kept getting smaller, Cliff
they are still two sides of the same coin. Either way, spectators leave
Vargas died and eventually so did the traditional Circus Vargas of
appreciating that animal more than when they walked in.
legend, Carson & Barnes Circus stopped coming to California, but
The connection between zoos and circus midways even extends
there was another outside factor: zoos. As more and more zoos have
to non-animal activities. Both circuses and zoos do children’s face
become significant fixtures in urban life, they have taken over the
painting, sell coloring books and huge balloons, and have small
role of the circus midway and menagerie.
trains to ride. Snack options include
Zoos are basically a permanent
cotton candy and snow cones.
circus midway. Whether it is animals,
Many zoos now even have larger,
shows, rides or food, zoos have now
permanent versions of mechanical
built themselves into huge midway
rides that circuses used to carry with
menageries. The first time I ever saw
a zedonk was at a circus. Same with
None of this should really be a
a pigmy hippo. So many animals
surprise. Despite attempts by some
were there just to marvel at and learn
zoo people to distance themselves
about, and hardly any of them were in
from circus, both institutions
the show. I didn’t even know some of
share some of the same luminaries,
these critters existed until I saw the
including Morgan Berry. Many
circus menagerie. This is exactly what
zoo elephant departments relied
it’s like when you go to a good zoo,
on circus trainers to set up their
except on a much grander scale.
programs and teach their keepers.
As many zoos will tell you,
It’s nearly impossible to know how
proximity and display inspire
many zoo elephants legendary
learning. One beautiful circus day, I
elephant trainer, Robert “Smokey”
got to stand on a stool and hold up a
Jones, trained. One of Oakland
bowl to feed a giraffe. Anyone who’s
Zoo’s elephants, Smokey, was even
fed a giraffe knows exactly where this
named by zoo officials after Jones.
is going – that tongue! Their tongues
Smokey the elephant died in 2001,
are nearly 20 inches long, dark and
but a baby elephant he sired was
strong! That was the day I learned the
born shortly thereafter and named
word “prehensile”. This experience
Sarah Conley and a llama friend at Ramos Brothers Circus.
Dohani (Swahili for smoke), after
is one many zoos now offer. Google
Smokey. Jones’ zoo legacy continued.
“giraffe feeding” and one finds a page of zoos (Maryland Zoo,
Clearly circuses and zoos are cut from the same cloth, yet too
Houston Zoo, Zoo Atlanta, Dallas Zoo, Zoo Miami, San Diego
often people fall into an “us versus them” situation. I hear countless
Zoo, etc). The giraffe I fed was never in an act, didn’t perform a
people say statements like, “They aren’t doing it right, but my
trick; he was simply there to inspire the public like he did me –
institution is different.” This kind of thinking only plays into the
sounds exactly like what happens at a zoo.
attacks every animal steward faces. People who want to eliminate all
Let’s not forget about the rides! No circus day was ever complete
human-animal contact want to split the animal world and have us
without at least one elephant ride. I’ve been extremely lucky to have
fighting with each other – it only makes their job easier. The same
amazing access and contact with elephants, but for most people
people who attack circus attack SeaWorld and then announce their
an elephant ride is as intimate experience they will ever get with
intentions to end all zoos. We are all a part of the same fight. As
these magnificent creatures. I’ve seen first hand how powerful the
experience is, and how it can inspire a thirst for elephant knowledge John Donne wrote, “Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of
the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea…[it] diminishes me.”
and desire for conservation. While my first elephant ride was at a
Zoos and circuses share common ancestry, common features and
circus, many people have only ridden elephants at zoos. Elephant
common enemies. It’s time we recognize and embrace each other
rides were one of the main attractions at many zoos for decades.
not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of the animals.
Even though zoos have moved away from elephant rides, they
Zoos as modern circus midways
March/April 2015
Double Reunion at the
Kelly Miller Circus
by Bruce “Charlie” Johnson
This issue contains a review of
Ringling’s Circus Xtreme, Circus Oz and
Circuscope from the Actors Gymnasium in
Chicago. The features include interviews
with Mike Finch from Circus Oz and Nicole
and Alana Feld. Lots of news and four
photographic galleries.
Enjoy, and please pass this info on to
interested friends.
Ernest Albrecht
The CFA needs your
circus fine artifacts
by Pete Adams
The Circus Fans Association of America
needs you to bring to the Worldwide Circ
Summit for the CFA auction your
somewhat valuable artifacts of
could be costumes, circus prop
posters, and truthfully almost anything
that says circus. Sometimes as
we forget those early days whe
collecting almost anything and this is an
opportunity for you to clean house of your
doubles or unwanted circus stuff. Annu
the CFA makes about $2,400 on
which supplements the cost of
and supports the expenses of the
including the publication of Whi
and if
nothing is too small to consider donating
you have large items, you can
of time by making contact with
6 to
for delivery. Give me a call at 941-378-959
talk about your donations or ema
<[email protected]>.
The visit to the Kelly Miller Circus
in Clinton IA during the 2014 CFA
convention was a double reunion for
The first was with the elephant
named Lisa. My circus career began
with Circus Kirk in 1976. Lisa’s
first performances were with that
show the same year. Lisa was five at
the time. The accompanying photo
shows Mr. Kent, our local host, Liz
Boas, “Doc” Charles Boas, Lisa and
me in Chepachet RI on July 30,
1976. We were participating in the
dedication of a historical landmark
plaque commemorating the location
of the death of Little Beth, the second
elephant in America.
Lisa and I returned to tour with
Circus Kirk again in 1977. Among my
other duties I assisted in the animal
department so I got to know Lisa
very well. At the end of the season,
I handled Lisa for several scenes in
three episodes of a PBS children’s
series titled Vegetable Soup.
The second reunion at the Kelly
Miller show was with Armando
Loyal who works with Lisa. After I
graduated from college, I toured with
the Carson & Barnes Circus in 1980
and 1981. Lucy Loyal and her family
were touring with the show at that
time. During our short talk after the
Kelly Miller performance, Armando
said he was about eight or nine when
I first met him. He wasn’t performing
yet, but he helped other acts with
their props during the show. Lucy
gave me a lot of encouragement and I
enjoyed being around Armando and
his siblings.
I don’t remember the last time
that I saw Armando. I did visit
the Carson & Barnes Circus a few
times over the years and was a guest
clown on some of those occasions.
I remember Armando performing
in the equestrian act and Lucy as an
audience plant doing her comedy
It was nice having a chat with
Armando and seeing Lisa after all
these years.
I remember that Lisa loved
watermelon. When I toured with
Circus Kirk we all knew that if we
had watermelon we should keep
the rind for Lisa because it was her
favorite treat. In Clinton I went to the
grocery store across the street from
the Felix Adler Children’s Discovery
Center to purchase a watermelon for
Lisa. I delivered it before the show.
Armando told me he would save it
to give her later after she finished her
work for the day. I think if I write a
circus novel, I’ll call it Watermelon for
Photo shows (l to r) “Doc” Charles Boas, Lisa,
Liz Boas, me, and Mr. Kent, our local host, in
Chepachet RI on July 30, 1976 on Circus Kirk.
The White Tops
Me, the older Lisa and Armando
Loyal. We are not older. Right!
 Post bills here 
Send info for this bulletin board to:
<[email protected]>
or mail to: The White Tops
40 Winthrop Rd • Columbus, OH 43214
CFA needs free storage ps magazines. Best near
existing copies of White
where the magazines cur
the west coast of Florida
are stored.
rent storage cost and sav
Purpose is to eliminate cur
for next year.
over $700 in CFA budget
building or basement an
If you have a garage, ou
the current extra
would be willing to house
Adams at <[email protected]
magazines, contact Pete
net> or 941-378-9596.
Melha Shrine Circus/
Wayne McCary
Tent meeting
Sat. April 25
at Big E.
75 years of circus
memorabilia for sale
Books, full runs of circus
magazines, programs,
route books/cards – all bac
k to the 1930s, Hugo
Zacchini artwork, two ele
phant bull hooks, several
restored parade wagon wh
eels. For complete lists,
pictures, more info or spe
cific requests please
contact <[email protected]>.
Betty Waynick
Lunch and circus
Also Kelly Miller Circus/
Wayne McCary tent
meeting Tuesday July 7 in
Email Dan at <[email protected]> or call Dan or Mary
at 413-842-5212 for more info.
Dan & Mary
See you at the Summit!!
and more! For price lists, email:
<[email protected]
or snail mail $2.00 to: Paul Holley
620 Ohio St.
Racine, WI 53405
Come one, come all and join The Gollmar Moeller Ringling Tent #100
for their 56th OPENING DAY BANQUET on May 23, 2015 celebrating the
opening of the summer season at Circus World Museum.
The deadline for the May/June 2015
White Tops is April 26, 2015
Where: Clarion Hotel and Convention Center
(Offering special room rates)
626 W. Pine St, Baraboo WI 53913
Social time 6:00 P.M. Buffet dinner 6:30 P.M.
$25.00 per person
Reservations: Dennis Thurow
1104 Ash St, Baraboo WI 53913
Speaker: Ian Garden, Jr., a third generation circus performer
who has worked with dogs, ponies, horses,
elephants, cats and now camels.
March/April 2015
RINGMASTER Hi! I’m RINGMASTER ________________ of ____________ circus. We are very glad
you took the time and trouble to be here. We hope you enjoy the show. (There’s a commotion ringside)
SOURPUSS (Comes from audience)
RINGMASTER What are you doing in the audience? Boys & girls, this is SOURPUSS, the clown. He
doesn’t like to hear people laughing.
SOURPUSS (Whispers in RINGMASTER’S ear.)
RINGMASTER He says it gets on his nerves.
SOURPUSS (Shakes his head vigorously and whispers in RINGMASTER’S ear again)
RINGMASTER You’re going to do what?
RINGMASTER Stop the boys & girls from laughing!
SOURPUSS (Shake head vigorously)
RINGMASTER Is SOURPUSS going to stop you from laughing, boys & girls?
RINGMASTER As a matter of fact, bring out the LAUGH THERMOMETER with the balloon on top.
(Prop people bring it out) Now bring out the LAUGH FUNNEL we have to have that. (Prop people bring
it out) We’ll blow up the balloon with laughter and bust it. Would you like to do that, boys & girls?
SOURPUSS (Shakes his head “NO!” vigorously)
RINGMASTER Okay, boys & girls, when I say 3 – laugh! – the LAUGH FUNNEL will catch the laughter
and blow up the balloon. Ready?
RINGMASTER Here we go! 1–2–3! LAUGH!
AUDIENCE (Reaction)
SOURPUSS (Tries to stop them from laughing.) (The balloon visibly inflates but does not break)
(SOURPUSS exits with hands over ears.)
RINGMASTER WOW! You’re good laughers! Did you notice who didn’t like the laughter, boy & girls?
RINGMASTER Who was that, boys & girls?
RINGMASTER RIGHT! We’ll bust that balloon with laughter yet! (The prop is struck)
RINGMASTER (Blows whistle for next display)
May/June has 2nd Act of game.
The White Tops
Circus Sarasota
by Pete & Shirley Adams with photos by Richard Czina
The Circus Arts Conservatory of Sarasota, Florida presented
its annual Circus Sarasota production entitled Fearless featuring
Nik Wallenda and the World’s most talented circus artists from
February 6 to 22, 2015, in their beautiful big
top now located at the Benderson Park near
the new University Town Center Mall.
New this season for the comfort of the
patrons was brand new seating with
molded seats allowing each person
his/her unrestricted space. Pedro
Reis and Dolly Jacobs began this
journey back in 1997 and have seen
their show grow over the years
and it is now one of the prime
circus shows in the United States
featuring major performers from
around the world each February.
Their dream brought full houses
in 21 of the 24 shows which
showed their success in marketing
and production values as well as the
cultural opportunity for all citizens
of Sarasota and the environs. In
addition to this annual production, their
year-around programs are Sailor Circus
Academy, Education Outreach and Humor
Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs Reis
Therapy Outreach, thus reaching out to
all members of the community that they
Highlighting the show was Nik Wallenda
whose motto of “Never Give Up” inspires many
of the members of the circus community
both within and outside Sarasota.
He also represents the theme of
Fearless as he has followed in
the family footsteps with
challenging walks including
both Niagara Falls and
the Grand Canyon
and recently between
buildings in Chicago,
Illinois. You will have to
keep up with where his
next exciting walk will
take him.
Perhaps the finest
Joseph Dominick Bauer, Jr.
Sergei Byakin
March/April 2015
ringmaster in the circus today is Joseph Dominick Bauer, Jr. who
is a delight in leading the program announcements and is clear,
concise and expressive in his announcing of the performance. With
his commanding presence each of the circus artists receives the star
treatment they deserve.
The opening of this show was divine dressage by Sergei Byakin
with his enormous Clydesdale, a most unique and different act with
such a gigantic horse. Together the horse did the side step, rearing,
stepping backward and turning on one hoof. Sergei, due to illness
of the horse, was replaced during the last week with the elegant
dressage of Caroline Williams, who also presented a beautiful flow
of dressage moves and her beauty shined well along with her horse.
The moves directed by Caroline were very clean and precise and
filled the need for a change of acts beautifully.
Renaldo, one of the hilarious comics featured by Circus Sarasota,
returned this year with distracting acts such as ring juggling, plate
spinning and spinning a diablo as props were interchanged for the
various acts. Renaldo communicates well with the audience not
only in between acts, but prior to the show and even out in the
waiting areas. He has been featured by many of America’s favorite
Gamal David Garcia from Venezuela shows sparkling and fast
action in juggling as many as five clubs up and over his arms and
legs and around his back. He climbs stairs backwards with balls and
does high and low ball working and using the steps and completes
seven balls in his work. He is a focused entertainer and concentrates
heavily on his juggling throughout.
Dolly Jacobs and Raphael Palacios work with aerial straps as no
other team ever and build a beautiful and spectacular pas de deux.
They each work solo as well as jointly showing great stature and
strength. Especially noted was Raphael’s ability to hold Dolly with
only one arm as he lowers her to the ring. This act features great
strength but also wonderful trust. The maneuvers they accomplish
change each year as the act continues to develop from its beginning
when Pedro and Dolly started the act in 1994. The audience gave
Dolly Jacobs and Raphael Palacios
Gamal David Garcia
The White Tops
Plate spinning often found on small circuses took a new view
with French artist David Burlet with his added comedy and
precision moves of yes continuing to get the plates spinning but
adding other collective comical accidents and balances including
balancing multiple blocks and spoons into glasses. The audience is
as expected always involved and simply loved his comical moves
including the sudden loss of his hair piece. His timing of his tricks
and accidents is what makes this act very special.
The incredible Trio Stoian Russian Barre Act was then featured
and starred three wonderful Romanian athletes. Their first visit
to the USA continued to bring down the house and often they
were given standing ovations due to what she accomplished while
in the air from the bar. She accomplished many forward and
backward flips including those of flipping and flying. Following
her triple double somersaults she ended the performance with a
triple backward somersault. The amazing part of their act was the
precision and accuracy throughout the run of the circus. Truly
amazing the Trio Stoian led the audience into intermission.
David Burlet
Dolly and Raphael a standing ovation which they earned daily
with the splits done by Dolly in mid-air and the exquisite timing
of their moves as they circled the arena below them. They made the
audience feel as if they also were flying around the tent.
Trio Stoian Russian Barre Act
March/April 2015
Anton Monastrysky
Les Kimes
Following intermission the
unique Pork Chop Review by the
Kimes family was presented with
their spectacular swine. These pigs
are the smartest pigs in creation
and did many of the same style of
acts done with performing dogs.
The pigs do the roll overs, the
walk overs, the jumps and they
even sing during the playing of
“Old McDonald Had A Farm”.
The audience, especially the
kids, loved this sequence of good
old family entertainment even
including their significant exit
which always included getting
the mail out of the mail box and
of course that mail was a small
pig. This act will be there forever
even though surely the pigs will
Unique to the show was the
artistry of Anton Monastrysky
and his hula hoop presentation.
Obviously the surprise was that
a male was doing a traditionally
female act but he showed
great strength and moves that
were always well executed and
successful. His spins, catches with
his feet and his unusual neck
moves while spinning the rings
especially at high speeds made his
work exciting. He also displayed
much dance and choreography
training which added much to the
The Duo Shcherbak & Popov
Duo Shcherbak and Popov
were next and performed hand balancing
but again not in the style expected. Using
a very casual attire and routine and to the
music of “Singing in the Rain” they made
all of their moves easily and secure with
no false movements and precise and strong
holds. You never knew what move would
come next, whether it was parallel to each
other or one holding the other by his head,
leading to more and different holds. The
most unique hold was a neck hold and
the fact that both were in the air at the
same time with one person on the bottom
holding only by one arm. The act was also
the winner of the Gold Clown Award at
Monte Carlo International Circus Festival
in 2013 and there was no doubt to fans
in Sarasota why they won this prestigious
award. Often they received a standing
Back, but highlighted, was the principal
clown act of Renaldo doing his famous
movie producer routine with members of
the audience that he chose well almost all
nights. He almost always had the right
guy to be the director, the matador, the
beautiful woman and of course the main
character who was the bull. If you do not
The White Tops
Nik Wallenda
know the trick at the end, ask someone as we will not be giving it
away. The music and spirit prepared everyone for the next featured
Highlighting the show were Nik Wallenda and his 10 other
team members. Yes there were 11 persons on the wire at different
times with a minimum of 10 at each performance. Nik is the
7th generation of the legendary Wallenda family and is a very
The Wallenda Troupe
humble, honest and sincere person. In addition to being a superb
performer, he is a wonderful person who spends much time with the
public autographing after each performance. Appearing with him
were his mom Delilah, wife Erendira, Rietta and Blake Wallenda
directly from the family. In addition other team members included
Eric Allen, Alec Bryant, Dieter Galambos, Ian Laidlaw, Michael
Richter, and Nicholas Slimick. Of special note was that Ian Laidlaw
was a graduate of Sailor Circus a couple years ago and Alec Bryant
and Nicholas Slimick graduated from the program last year. Delilah
Wallenda came out of retirement for this special performance and
served in the high seat in the magnificent seven on the wire.
Following the traditional step opening and salute from Nik
Wallenda and several of his team members, Nik and his mom laid
down on the wire and this ended with him walking over her and
both returning to the platforms. Nik and Alec then walked the wire
with Erendira on the pole between them. Midway she twirled her
body around the mid pole multiple times. This then led into Nik
on a bicycle crossing the wire and in the middle raising his balance
bar above his head. Alec then returned riding backwards on another
bike and together with Nik they formed another pyramid, this time
with Rietta who midway did a split on the upper bar before all
returned to the safety of the platform. The main production was the
re-creation of the seven person pyramid led by Nik in the rear of the
troupe on the first level. Care was executed as each level was formed
before Delilah ascended to the upper level of the magnificent seven.
Halfway across the wire, his mom then raised her body from the
chair and ended by standing on the chair much to the delight of the
audience. Many of the audience who had been asked to hold applause
could be seen literally holding their breath during this sequence until
the entire team of performers was safe on the other side of the wire
platform. Every night the audience stood almost instantaneously to
the delight of the performers who were each introduced. Ringmaster
Joe Bauer, Jr. then introduced all performers and they entered the
front hospitality tent to sign autographs for the audience.
text by Gail Perr Czina with photos by Richard Czina
The Gold unit for the Ringling Brothers and
Barnum & Bailey show, “Built to Amaze! –
Nuts and Bolts Edition” opened in Naples,
Florida with pre-show audience participation
in the ring. The children that were seated
around the ring could volunteer to jump
rope, juggle, ride a unicycle, interact with the
clowns or try on circus costumes. Towards the
end of the preshow two Asian elephants were
brought to the ring. One of the elephants
painted a picture holding a brush in her trunk
while the other danced, waved a flag and
played musical instruments.
Clown Davis Vassallo (left) and Ringmaster Andre McClain
As the show began the red curtain opened to expose the back
end of a huge dump truck labeled CAUTION AMAZEMENT
AHEAD. The clowns, and dancers wore white overalls that were
splashed with bright pink, yellow and green paint. Wearing yellow
construction hard hats, they carried large sized screw drivers,
wrenches, saws and drills. Some of the entertainers that we would
see later in the show were riding unicycles, juggling and hanging
from trapezes, while all of the traffic was directed by clown Davis
Vassallo. The pointy haired clown kept the audience laughing
throughout the pre- show and show.
Ringmaster Andre McClain immediately introduced the first
act. One of the performers, from the Zoppe Equestrian and Aerial
Act, glided into the ring on red silks to gracefully land on the back
of a horse as it circled the ring. The troupe uses a variety of horses
in its act, one black Friesian, two Gypsy Vanners, one Suffolk
Punch, one Haflinger and one Belgian. The red and green costumed
would be set off in rapid succession until the
final arrow pierced an apple perched on his
head. As he exited the ring, clown Vassallo
entered to try his skills with a crossbow.
With the help of a blindfolded audience
member and two clowns, he pretended to
shoot balloons that were placed around the
man’s body.
The King Charles Troupe of unicyclists
dressed as two teams of basketball players
entered the ring next. While referees held
the basketball hoops, the cyclists did all
kinds of passing and dunking tricks similar
to those of the Harlem Globe Trotters. The
crowd enjoyed the comedic moves of the
players. Two members of the team added
more excitement and comedy to the act
when they entered the ring on double high
unicycles easily dunking the balls in the
The first half of the show ended with
a motorcycle troupe speeding around the
inside of a metal globe. They started with
two men in the globe, then added a third, and finally a woman
standing in the middle of the globe as the three sped around her
midway up the side of the globe.
During intermission a very thick mat with bar apparatus at both
ends was put in place at one side of the ring. The Dobrovitskiy
Zamperla-Zoppe Family, also above.
Ovidiu Pasarar
performers amazed the audience as they moved at a fast pace
mounting the horses from a running jump, Cossack style riding,
and back flips from one horse to the next, all the time circling the
ring. Two women balanced on the shoulders of the men added to
the excitement of the act. The act ended with all five performers
unfurling a flag as they stood or sat on two horses that were
tethered side by side.
Ovidiu Pasarar, a crossbow expert, entered the ring next. His
assistant, Ashley Vargas, held a flower in her teeth for him to shoot,
then a newspaper for him to cut into small pieces and balloons that
were held at different positions around her body. This dangerous,
amazing act concluded when Ovidiu set up eight crossbows that
March/April 2015
King Charles Troupe
Intermission Spec
Troupe performed a breathtaking routine casting a person through
the air from a tower at one end of the mat to a catcher at the other
end of the mat. The performers depend on their own strength, skill,
identical timing and well-practiced choreography to accomplish
their astonishing stunts. Double throws and catches were skillfully
Next Alex Petrov drew the crowd’s attention to the other side
of the ring with a loud roar from his motorcycle on an incline
wire. Two women rode on a trapeze that was suspended below the
motorcycle as it made its way to the top of the incline. At the top of
the incline they performed various balancing tricks and hand stands
ending with the motorcycle and them rotating around the wire
while they were suspended above the crowd.
Next was a cute group of dogs of all sizes and colors. They
charmed the audience with jumping rope, jumping hurdles, and
going up and down a slide forwards and backwards. They wagged
their tails as they danced around the ring and left doing a Conga
Duo Solys entered the ring next. This duo was an amazing
example of beauty, strength and agility. As they counterbalanced
each other, they moved with great grace from one pose to the
next. Tatiana Colaquy held her partner, Hector Gutierrez, parallel
to the floor with one arm, amazing! While she was holding a
backwards bend, her partner did arm balancing on her thighs.
Again in a back bend, a tower structure was placed on her
abdomen and her partner climbed to the top of the structure
doing more one arm balancing.
Ringmaster Andre McClain drew the audience’s attention
to the rear of the arena where a double steel wheel was being
balanced by Cristhian Marquez and Carlos Morales. They
The White Tops
Dobrovitskiy Troupe
Jose Olate
Alex Petrov
Duo Solys
March/April 2015
Cristhian Marquez
Carlos Morales
Ringmaster Andre McClain
Alex Petrov
performed amazing superhuman stunts as the wheel rotated.
Walking on the inside and outside of the wheel, jumping rope and
walking the wheel blindfolded took the crowd’s breath away.
Finally it was time for the elephants. Alex Petrov led the
elephants through their paces of dancing, standing on one foot
and one carrying Viktoria Zsilak in her mouth. Alex is head
elephant keeper for the show. He used this opportunity to let the
audience know that he trains the elephants using voice, touch and
food. At the end of the act the elephants were rewarded with their
favorite food, a whole loaf of bread.
As the show came to a close, all of the performers, clowns and
dancers returned to the center ring to dance and sing for the
finale. They exited the show in the same way as they had entered
at the beginning, through the red curtain into the back of the
huge dump truck. The ringmaster exclaimed to all, “May all your
days be circus days”.
The White Tops
Tale of an old-timer
Cirque du Soleil
by Frank Mellen
by Robert Viagas, <>
I am a wanna-be circus owner. The mental disorder of wanting your
name plastered on the side of trucks – or even a train! – advertising
your business genius at overcoming the almost impossible odds of
framing a show affects many circus fans from time to time. My
addiction to the dream lasted almost 50 years. I only recently quit
chasing it and is my reason for having my ideas published in White
Tops. My withdrawal happened rather suddenly when I realized I
wasn’t getting any younger – I thought I was!
I will explain my
persistence. I had a
revolutionary new
circus showmanship.
I had taken my
theatre experience and
combined it with the
circus performance,
which is now called
a theme circus and is
commonplace, but not
when I was doing it.
I wondered if
the combination of
theatre script had ever
been introduced into
a circus performance
before. So I traveled
to Baraboo in the
early 1970s and
Circus World
Museum to ask Mr.
Bob Parkinson – the
noted circus historian
Frank & Karol Mellen
– on the matter. He
consulted his extensive archives and determined the only show he
could find that had done that was an obscure circus named Haley’s
Fire Fighters in the 1880s.
Some of my scripts consist of Whatta Circus (in which a circus
is shrunk), Welcome Home (in which a circus lands back on
earth after a tour through space); 1492 (written for 500th year of
Columbus in 1992); No Rabbit in the Hat (interactive), and the
Christmas Clown (which my friends at Zoppé Circus still have.)
The main thrust of my full-scale shows has been around a clown
named Sourpuss. His trilogy of shows written for big circuses – Oh
Yeah (the condensation of that script will appear in the next three
issues of White Tops) – Ding (which featured a soccer playing
elephant) and Whonk (which is a clown love story).
Having pitched my scripts to circuses in America (both big and
small) plus some in Europe including the State Circus of Romania
in Bucharest, Netherlands, Russia, Germany and Australia with
only occasional nibbles despite the help, advice, encouragement
and experience all those decades of my friend and manager Brian
Morrissey, President of Miami Showmen and General Agent of
Midwest Midway, I discovered “being 20 years ahead of my time” is
a euphemism for failure and am currently giving my scripts newly
abridged into clown routines to the circus world in White Tops.
Cirque du Soleil, the Canada-based circus-style entertainment
company, is looking to take over Broadway’s Lyric Theatre after the
current tenant, On the Town, completes its run there, according to a
report in The New York Post.
Columnist Michael Riedel quoted unspecified sources saying that
the theatre, which was recently purchased by London’s Ambassador
Theatre Group, would “be happy to have a longtime tenant”.
Founded in 1980 as a dance troupe, Cirque du Soleil (Circus
of the Sun) has had spectacular success internationally with its
touring New Vaudeville-style circus shows including “Dralion”,
“Saltimbanco”, “Quidam” and “Zarkana”, and with specialty shows
like “Viva Elvis!” and “Michael Jackson: One in Las Vegas”.
In New York the shows have generally played at Radio City
Music Hall and sometimes in a big top tent set up on Randall’s
Island in the East River. For several years the Tony Awards had
to vacate Radio City because Cirque had booked the theatre for
the entire month of June. One of its few failures was vaudevilleinfluenced show, Banana Shpeel, which played a cut-short five
weeks at the Beacon Theatre in 2011.
Riedel speculated that On the Town, which has not always
covered its weekly costs since opening to strongly positive reviews
last fall, could vacate the Lyric as soon as this spring, though no one
from the production was quoted about that. The report came on the
same day On the Town released its cast album.
Riedel said Cirque has been looking for a permanent home in
New York and is developing “traditional Broadway musicals that
will incorporate circus elements” a la Tony-winner, Pippin.
Seeking a Broadway home?
Why I did this
CFA’s new online store is now open
and running with a grand opening
special: $15. off jackets with logo!
Click on “Merchandise”
March/April 2015
For bookings please contact: Ian Garden, Jr. at
Follow and “LIKE” us
on Facebook. Search for
“America’s Show Camels”
Visit us at our Website
941-894-7659 or Ryan Henning at 941-526-6670
Its beginnings & the coming of age
A behind-the-scenes look at a contemporary
circus arts production and its artists* (part III)
*Cirkopolis Troupe (New York City, Off-Broadway
debut): Maude Arseneault, Angelica Bongiovonni,
Dominique Bouchard, Mikaël Bruyère-L’Abbé, Ashley Carr, Samuel Charlton, Myriam Deraîche, Lauren
Herley, Reuben Hosler and Ugo Laffolay, Yann Leblanc
and Frédéric Lemieux-Cormier
story and photos by Deborah Grosmark except as noted
Please note that you can read about Angelica Bongiovonni and
Ashley Carr in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of White Tops.
Myriam Deraîche
Contortionist and Aerial Artist/Dance Trapeze (Canada)
Background and Training
Myriam Deraîche’s artistic journey began in the suburbs of
Montreal at about the age of eight. She began to study gymnastics
and she excelled quickly. As with most young gymnasts, she had
been consistently training, and gaining her strength. She had also
Myriam Deraîche, contortionist, with Samuel Charlton, Frédéric LemieuxCormier, Yann Leblanc, Ugo Laffolay and Dominique Bouchard.
come to realize that she possessed the natural gift of flexibility,
not seeing the same range of motion in the others around her. She
continued her training, but felt that deep down, this discipline was
not enough to keep her focused on the sport.
While attending high school, she had heard about ENC
(Montreal) and its circus programs. Myriam instantly became
driven to pursue a career in contemporary circus arts. She
auditioned for its high school program, was accepted, and began to
explore circus, contortion, dance and theatre.
Her studies continued for three years with a primary focus in
aerial hoop (duo and single). During her senior year, she decided
to switch her specialty to contortion. Upon graduation in 2011,
Myriam learned about Cirque Éloize auditions and its training
workshops. She participated in the first set of classes, and was
invited to work for a second year among a “select” group of artists.
After Myriam’s additional training, she had officially become a
troupe member of Cirkopolis.
Cirkopolis: The Development
Until this point, Myriam had performed at numerous corporate
events such as the Minutes Complètement Cirque at the
Complètement Cirque Festival in Montréal and’s KARV
gala in Québec City. Cirque Éloize was to be her first professional
circus troupe experience; consequently she faced the many new and
challenging aspects of creating a professional circus production.
Myriam explains, “To me, one of the most difficult phases was
actually ‘the creation’ of a show. It was over a short time period,
about two to three months and the ‘finalization’ of the production
was a very intense experience.”
With Cirkopolis the directors worked very hard to develop a
production that they felt would be so strong and powerful that
it could have the potential of ‘living’ for many years to come.
Myriam speaks of the timing involved: “Towards the end of the
development process, work became very demanding, and in the
final few weeks, crucial. There seemed to be a general feeling about
‘completion’ that came over the troupe, similar to being ‘urgently
rushed.’ Everything culminated at a single, exact point and then
things begin to change. Many details would come up during our
group work. They were dispersed quickly, and then split into many
different directions. Our working days became longer, and because
we all wanted the show to be spectacular, an added level of tension
appeared. We worked diligently, meticulously and with intensity.
And all the while, we knew that we had to stop. There would be a
time when we had to allow the production to reach its final point
and let go”.
Myriam explained that while on tour, the Cirkopolis production
had been creatively assessed and at times slightly modified. “There
have been changes made to the show since it left home. There
has been a set of ‘exterior eyes’ to assist us.” At times, the troupe
would have a designated person to assist in the evaluation of their
characters, routines and to evaluate the show in its entirety. There
was a creative that attended performances, described what he had
The White Tops
extensively and discovered many new techniques that enabled us to
develop a beautiful ‘dream-like’ act.”
Myriam’s contortion act is unusual in that she uses the power,
motion and levels of her partners’ hands to propel her physically
across the stage. It is as if she is in a dream, almost “walking on
clouds” and the audience witnesses the visualizations that live
within her mind. The character that they see on the stage during
Cirkopolis is Myriam, herself. The atmosphere that develops from
the mood that immerses her is true and in the moment. Myriam
shares how she feels when performing on stage: “Sometimes it [her
performance] is dramatic and other times it is just ‘floating’ and
having fun. I was never actually given a concrete character baseline.
I was asked to just ‘feel the movement.’ With that being said, every
performance I complete is different. For me, that is what makes the
act and Cirkopolis intimate and very special.”
Samuel Charlton
Hand to Hand Acrobat, German Wheel, Juggling, Banquine and
Teeterboard (UK)
Background and Training
Samuel Charlton described his early academic environment as
nurturing, student-centered, and filled with the freedom to study
anything that had piqued his interest. As a young child, he was
home-schooled, discovering a great deal about his own learning
style and how to propel himself toward excellence. “My parents
Yann Leblanc works with Myriam Deraîche on the contortion act.
seen and shared his interpretations with the acrobats.” Myriam
explained that the creative assistance did not lead Cirkopolis
towards a new direction. She felt that the purpose of this early
involvement was to make its existing concept ‘deeper’ and the
unspoken narrative ‘clearer.’
Myriam described how she prepared for Cirkopolis’s
extraordinary aerial and contortion acts. “I had a history of aerial
hoop technique that included solo and duet work. I combined my
hoop experience with contortion, which ultimately prepared me
for the triple dance trapeze choreography. However, the contortion
routine is a bit similar to my audition piece, except that it became
interwoven with much more flexibility and dance.” She continues,
“I did not want to perform contortion ‘in one little spot,’ and I did
not want it to look like ‘split, after split, after split.’ Jeannot had
requested that our group begin to experiment with a five-minute
contortion act that would never touch the ground. We researched
Reuben Hosler and Samuel Charlton work on their hand-to-hand act.
March/April 2015
never pushed me in a direction that I did not wish to explore, and
they fully supported whatever I chose to learn.”
Samuel continued to talk about his interests. Outside of
academics, he enjoyed being physical and competing in a variety of
sports such as soccer, rugby, equestrian show jumping and judo. By
the age of 13, he had decided to concentrate solely on martial arts.
In just four years, he became a successful martial artist, winning
numerous international competitions and two consecutive UK
national championships.
performance and circus arts (Bristol). It was at this point he had
met his current Cirkopolis acro partner, Reuben Hosler. Samuel’s
focus had turned completely towards circus arts, and he would
continue his journey with a talented gymnast/acrobat at his side.
Without formal coaching, they had formed an instant connection
and worked together as hand to hand partners. They took it
upon themselves to research, experiment and share their learned
experiences. Samuel felt that a strong relationship existed between
his martial arts experience and acrobatics: “Judo, although it’s not
circus at all, actually has quite a lot of similarities such as basing,
hand to hand, lifting and throwing. We worked together and
advanced fairly quickly, for not having an acrobatic coach.”
Upon graduation, Samuel and Reuben remained a team attending
two years at École Nationale de Cirque de ROSNY-SOUS-BOIS
(ENACR) and then training for three additional years at ENC. In
their final year, Cirque Éloize contacted both acrobats to arrange an
audition. In terms of the Cirkopolis troupe, their audition was a bit
later than most of the selected artists.
Cirkopolis: The Development
Reuben Hosler and Samuel Charlton work on hand-to-hand, while Mikaël
Bruyère-L’Abbé and Maude Arseneault prepare to warm up on the
Chinese pole.
At 17, Samuel decided to pursue the artistic side of his athletic
talents at a new contemporary circus and physical theatre high
school program at Cirkomedia (Bristol). Just two weeks before the
semester commenced he applied, auditioning with a bit of selftaught juggling, acting and dance – he was accepted. Samuel was
a smart, strong, and a determined self-directed learner, graduating
from high school with honors.
The following year, he began intensive studies in both physical
In terms of experience, Samuel Charlton had training in most
of the disciplines represented in Cirkopolis. But German wheel
and banquine were the two disciplines that were quite new to
him. He explained that working with Cirque Éloize and listing
one’s experience within a discipline is something quite different. A
circus artist may be familiar with a typical skill and/or traditional
apparatus use. At Cirque Éloize how an artist utilizes a traditional
apparatus or presents a traditional discipline is constantly changed.
Samuel adds, “At Cirque Éloize it is especially new in the particular
way a traditional discipline is performed. One can see this in the
contortion act, as well as the German wheel.”
In January/February 2013, Samuel’s technical training began
with Fred [Frédéric Lemieux-Cormier] and continued for about
five months. From that point it became intensive. Samuel states, “I
attended school at that time, so we would meet whenever I could
find time: after classes, weekends, evenings and vacation days.
We began to work with the directors on development from June
through September. Cirkopolis rehearsals were full-time, five to
seven days a week. Two weeks before the tour, we had a Montreal
theater residency, so that we could run the show properly with
lighting, set, props, sound, etc.”
In terms of Samuel’s Cirkopolis character, he was not given a
pre-determined ‘baseline’ or any complex theatrical direction. He
was expected to develop his own character and play himself, while
on the stage. He explained, “My character was pretty much me
and what I had invented for myself, with a general story line.” He
described his character’s on stage transformation, “In the beginning,
my character is one of many people in a ‘workforce,’ creating an
acrobatic opening scene that represents the unity, efficiency and
teamwork of the hands on, union-like factory workers.” He said
that his character starts off very “hard.” But then he ‘softens!’
This softening is visually demonstrated by the hand to hand act
that is quite ‘rough’ in its choreography. The German wheel routine
is performed with a very similar feeling, while in the contortion
act with Myriam, he begins to change and ‘soften up.’ As the show
continues, he slowly develops into something softer. He discovers
a bit of “lightness” and humor in passing clubs, Chinese pole and
banquine. As he soars through the air during the teeterboard act,
the stage becomes a ‘celebration of freedom’ and Samuel’s character
can embrace ‘liberation.’”
The White Tops
Frédéric Lemieux-Cormier
Cirkopolis: The Development
German Wheel, Diablo, Juggling, Banquine
Once Cirkopolis began to take shape, Frédéric encountered a
and Teeterboard (Canada)
few disciplines that he had experienced, but not “in depth” such
Background and Training
as diablo, banquine and teeterboard. “When I first started diablo
Frédéric Lemieux-Cormier grew up in the world of circus
for Cirkopolis, I thought that it was going to be difficult. But then
arts with his mother Dominique Lemieux, a costume designer
little by little it started to come together and I am quite proud that
for Cirque du Soleil and most recently Broadway’s Tony Award
it was something I could accomplish.” He continues, “I really like
winning circus revival, Pippin. Fred grew up surrounded by
the feel of that act because for me, it is about being in a relationship
contemporary circus from Nouvelle Experience to La Nouba. He
with friends. And when I come up on stage with Yann [LeBlanc]
always had the dream of becoming an acrobat, and when he turned
and Dom [Dominique Bouchard], they are two really good friends
twelve his formal training commenced.
playing together. It is really a happy and uplifting moment.”
Originally, he had wanted to be a flier, but as he grew his
In terms of Frédéric’s character and the German wheel act, there
physicality became too “big” for that position. When he was about
was a lot of individual and group work, as well as deeper character
14, he began to work with a new coach who suggested that Frédéric
development during the touring process. He explains, “I was told
try German wheel. “From the first time I tried the German wheel I
that it was a ‘revolutionary act’. It was as if the character wanted to
really fell in love with the apparatus.”
break out of the rules and out of a larger structure.”
Frédéric spent six years at ENC (Montréal). There,
he completed the preparatory program and the circus
Frédéric Lemieux-Cormier, Dominique Bouchard, Yann Leblanc, Reuben Hosler
and high school studies program. Frédéric did not
and Samuel Charlton on the German wheel.
specialize in a discipline until his professional studies,
and then earned his diploma of collegial studies in the
school’s professional training program. Once graduated,
he performed in special events for Cirque du Soleil and
Les 7 doigts de la main. He became a member of the
Haut-Vol and Il Circo companies and toured with the
American circus Cirque Mechanics’s, Birdhouse Factory.
Frédéric’s televised performance credits include Défis
des champions, (Champions’ Challenge), a Canadian
reality program and Cirque Éloize’s La vie est. un cirque
(Life is a Circus), a Canadian program about worldclass circus performers. This was where Jeannot first saw
Frédéric perform, asked him to participate in workshops,
and eventually to audition for the company. Frédéric has
been a Cirque Éloize performer ever since.
Frédéric Lemieux-Cormier on the German wheel.
photo courtesy of Cirque Éloize
Frédéric created various mental
images of a Belgium revolution
among factory workers. “They took
apart all of their machinery and
brought a big wheel out to block
the streets. It created this image in
my mind where I am leading the
group of guys during a revolution
and showing the people what we
think and feel. As for my individual
character, at first it took me a while
to find my way through the show.
In my mind, we were more like
‘warriors,’ but it was not powerful
enough. Emmanuel Guillaume
(Artistic Coordinator) watched our
production and specifically brought
March/April 2015
this up for discussion. He helped to pave a way
towards a stronger purpose.”
Even though the German wheel would
typically present a solo, Frédéric enjoyed
working in a group. “I like doing my solo, but I
liked being able to play with the other guys on
my apparatus in a way that I was not used to.
It was really a good challenge, it was very hard
to accomplish and I was very happy to do it.”
As a group, they worked with choreographer,
Dave St-Pierre. At first they created the
choreography on the floor, and related it to
Frédéric’s work within the German wheel.
“We tried to transpose everything that I was
doing in the wheel to the floor, doing it exactly
the same. Then, it moved on, taking a life of
its own, transforming itself into acrobatic
Now that Frédéric has changed the context
with which his apparatus can be utilized, one
can wonder whether he will continue to strive
towards achieving additional skills within
this discipline or has set new goals. “Right
now I think about pushing the skills that I
have just started to explore with Cirkopolis,
like the teeterboard. Additionally, I would
like to pursue dance a bit more and hone my
theatrical skills. I think a part of the challenge
of circus is getting older. It is important to
find a way to remain very interesting on stage,
and be smart enough to downgrade a bit of
your technique in order to preserve your body.
You see, as I grow up the circus skill level will
have to go down a bit, and the rest of my skill
sets will have to come up. This is why I would
choose to work on my presence on stage.”
Reuben Hosler, Frédéric Lemieux-Cormier,
Yann Leblanc, Dominique Bouchard and
Samuel Charlton on the German wheel
(utilized in a unique form of
Practice continues backstage: Myriam Deraîche contortion act with
Frédéric Lemieux-Cormier and Samuel Charlton.
Final comments from the author
Upon experiencing Cirkopolis and meeting
just a few of the many Cirque Éloize artists,
I am left with newfound gifts of artistic
knowledge and insight. The world of Cirque
Éloize is filled with a culture of innovation
and a community of artists that cultivate
beauty. Sharing some of the developmental
aspects and individual processes of Cirkopolis
has helped me to discover a much stronger
sense of artistic process, interpretation,
implementation and accomplishment.
Painchaud and his troupe have expanded
this classic art form, bringing contemporary
circus to an entirely new artistic level. They
have triumphantly created new pathways that
I can only hope to experience in the future. I
want to thank them all for being so generously
giving of their time for my interviews and
photography. I highly recommend seeing
Cirkopolis and look forward to another 21
years of innovative circus-filled Cirque Éloize
The White Tops
Circus Celebrity Night at The Ringling
Heidi Herriott (left) and Victoria Unus
photo by Gail Czina
Ringling show during the 1960s and 70s. She also performed in
circuses in Germany and Spain and made appearances on “The Ed
Sullivan Show,” “To Tell the Truth” and in the John Wayne movie
“Circus World.” She retired in her prime in 1977 to a standing
Galla Shawn (1934-1992)
Great of the Past
from The Ringling with photos as attributed
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art honored stars of the
American Circus during its Circus Celebrity Night ceremony.
First awarded in 1970, the Circus Celebrity Awards are given to
circus performers and innovators who helped to turn the American
circus into the preeminent form of live family entertainment. During
the 2015 ceremony, three performers received accolades including
Circus Celebrity honoree Victoria Unus and Greats of the Past, Galla
Shawn and Unus. Heidi Herriott hosted the
awards ceremony, which began at 7:00 P.M. on
January 24th in the Historic Asolo Theater.
Victoria Unus, Circus Celebrity
Victoria Unus was born into a family of
circus performers. Her father Franz Furtner
was the acclaimed performer Unus. Young
Victoria took no interest in the circus until a
performance by her father at Madison Square
Garden swayed her to begin training at the
age of 15. Victoria spent hundreds of hours
practicing and choreographing a routine with
the celebrated trainer Wolfgang Roth. She
became a featured performer at the Sarasota
High School’s Sailor Circus, and after her
graduation from high school she debuted
with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Prior to the 1963 circus season, press
promised that a new star would emerge under
the big top of “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Originally billed as “La Toria,” Victoria
fulfilled her potential as an aerialist to become
that promised circus star. Her performance
included acts of amazing strength including
aerial splits, hand stands and other poses,
but “La Toria” was best known for looping
one-arm swings, where she would twirl in
consecutive rotations as a ringmaster shouted
out the count. Her record for swings is said to
be 250.
Victoria was a featured performer on the
Born on a circus lot in Sioux Falls, South
Dakota, Shawn (Mary “Tiny” Gallagher Cuttin)
was born into a family of acrobats, and she was
practicing balancing by age six. She performed in
a teeterboard act with her brothers and sisters as
a child performer before moving on to the act
that would make her famous – the trapeze.
Shawn’s act took her 40 feet in the air where
she would balance her head on the trapeze
with spinning hoops on each arm and leg. She
would conclude her act by switching to another
trapeze where she would spin upside down.
Shawn’s act was a feature show during the
1957 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
season. She spent eight years with Ringling
including as a member of the
first American circus troupe
to visit the Soviet Union.
She appeared in other circuses
including Shrine shows in the
Galla Shawn
photo from The Ringling
U.S. and Cirque Bouglione
Museum, Tibbals Collection
in Europe. She also appeared
in the movies “The Ring of Fire” and as Zsa Zsa
Gabor’s stunt double in “Three Ring Circus.”
Unus (1907-1994), Great of the Past
Best known for his trademark one-finger hand
balancing act, Unus (Franz Furtner) went from
the son of an Austrian lumber cutter to one of the
most acclaimed acts of his era. Known as the “Great
Unus,” his act took him to great heights including
180 feet above Royal Albert Hall in London, and
it is said that John Ringling North witnessed one
of Unus’ hand balancing stunts on a building above
He debuted in the Ringling show in 1948 as, “the
upside-down, gravity defying, equilibristic wonder,
the debonair, incredible Unus, the man who walks
on his forefinger.” He performed with Ringling
until 1965, performing for famous figures including
President Eisenhower and Ernest Hemingway.
Unus was on the cover of Time magazine, and he
appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The
Jackie Gleason Show.”
The Circus Celebrity award has been handed out
continuously since 1993.
photo from The Ringling Museum, Tibbals Collection
Bailey Sloan
Sailor Circus presents
“The Enchanted Wand”
photo by Richard Czina
by Pete and Shirley Adams with photos by Richard Czina and Rick Purdue
From December 27 to 30 in Sarasota, the Circus Arts Conservatory and specifically the Sailor Circus
Academy presented seven performances of “The Enchanted Wand” which was written by Karen Bell and
Robin Eurich of the circus staff. Well over 98% of the seats were filled for the shows which was wonderful
for the students who had worked for over four months in preparation of this show.
The show was based on three troubled youths who learned from
Fairy Queen Dani Bollier
the lessons of the past. They were first met by the Fairy Queen
who took them on a magical journey. The lessons they learned were
from the heart.
The director of the Sailor Circus Academy is Courtney Wyatt,
herself a graduate of the same program. She has a team of 29
additional coaches who work with the individual acts as well as
17 supporting riggers who care for the safety of the students. A
multitude of almost 100 parents, friends and volunteers supervise
and support the team backstage at the arena and in selling food,
novelties and tickets as well as ushering the people to their seats.
Sailor Circus clowns
photo by Richard Czina
The White Tops
photo by
Richard Czina
photo by Richard Czina
Beauties on the cargo net photo by Richard Czina
Prior to show time, the 13 clowns of Sailor presented individual
as well as group acts all around the arena. The ringmasters were
Bailey Sloan and Riley Board. Narration for the theme was done by
Tyler Kaiser and Jeannine Castro.
The first act contained unicorns on unicycles coached by the
father/daughter team of Don and Khera Smith and showed 26
unicycles. They did circles, breaks in the pattern, dance and then
were joined by eight high bikes which then intermingled with
the low bikes and featured triplets in the team productions. Their
movements were forwards and backwards going two high with one
small student between them, performing as well holding on to her
two partners as they rode the bikes around the arena. The bicycle
act then followed with 16 students getting down to two bikes each
carrying four people. Many patterns were completed with multiples
of two to four on a regular two wheeled bike.
A unique act with 10 students trained by Jojo Trujillo performed
Unicorns on unicycles
Siena Hartzell on the spider web photo by Rick Purdue
on a cargo net. At the same time, aerial hammocks were presented
by 16 students, thus filling the arena. The neat thing is, while the
team is working on cargo nets, they can flip side to side and be seen
through the net as they climb and thread themselves through it.
The hammocks are performed much like silks with different wraps,
holds and drops and as pairs giving both students in each net an
opportunity to perform. This transcends into the aerial silks which
involve another eight students who do some marvelous moves,
splits and drops through their routine.
The queen spider enters the scene on a giant web held by
four strong young men. She performs on the spider web in the
middle ring while her spider family take to the silks around her.
Teeterboard follows with 11 students. The ladder is uniquely
camouflaged with palms. They execute flips to the mat, soaring
over the ladder, double and triple flips to the mat, double flip and
layout also to the mat. Two girls flip together in tandem and a girl
photo by Richard Czina
photo by Rick Purdue
Katherine Lumpkin, Sophie Claxton and Olivia Milholland on side by side
is flipped to land on the crossed arms of two other students. They
do a triple flip to a chair and then grab a higher mechanism and
do a double layout to the chair. The clown unit then is playfully
expected to remove
the heavy teeterboard
equipment and of course
have difficulty doing so.
The multiple trapezes
includes 14 students
alongside of 14 students on
the side by side trapeze and
eight students on the triple
trapeze all covering the four
rings and the walk around
area. At that same time, the
ladder trapeze is featured
with 12 students. Thus, a
multitude of youth are all
working at various levels
of trapeze skill throughout
the arena. The aerial cradle
this season was superb with
six students and three pairs
working over three of the
rings. This act, coached by
Kathy and Lee Merritt, is
Ryley Marquis
most impressive in their
and Sarah Barg
moves in midair catching
on cradle
each other and ending with
an arm to arm spin. They
show precision and accuracy
as well as being very
enthusiastic about their part
of the show. A display of
butterflies themed to the
story surrounds the arena
and includes well over 25
students of varying abilities
riding bikes, unicycles,
photo by Richard Czina
three wheelers and specialty
Duo on one silk
The Merritts are
also the coaches
of the high wire
which is a significant
and a high level
performing act
of this show and
contains nine
students on the wire.
They begin their
presentation with
a traditional walkon from each side
(much like you think
of the Wallenda
Troupe’s), a bow
and then return to
the platforms. One
student crosses
without a pole and
photo by Richard Czina
performs a split.
This is followed by
a two high walk which is also done from platform to platform.
Then, two students approach the center walking the rim of a bike
and then there is a unicycle across the wire. Two students do an
over and under with the pole and one completes a stretch from her
foot paralleling the wire. This is followed by a walk over. Their finale
is a three person
Lillian Hafner on high wire
photo by Rick Purdue
intermission two
girls do a duet
on one silk with
graceful moves
and a delightful
Four students
actually do this
act and they
work every other
The Roman rings
are coached by
none other than
Dolly Jacobs, the
“Queen of the
Air,” with three
students over
the arena floor.
They are well
and precise with
high swings and
flips as well as
splits with their
feet in the rings.
Their drops are
A clown
The White Tops
Grace Gordon on rings
photo by Rick Purdue
Jacob Swe flying to Ryley Marquis
photo by Rick Purdue
presentation including the table slide followed showing just what
the globes on various attached apparatus. The rolling globes was a
clowns will do to have fun. In the costume of Knights of Old, a
beautiful act.
large group of jugglers are presented. The students do conventional
The flying trapeze team coached by Mike Redpath was up next
juggling passes and also the two high, ending with of course the
and included Ryley Marquis as the catcher and Laurel Clemence,
fire juggling.
Rolling globes
photo by Richard Czina
This brings forth the large tumbling team of 24 with
some particularly great work of Jacob Swe flying over
top of the others in the troupe. They present on the
long mats as well as the spring mats to develop flips
and various tricks. Twelve ladies of the Spanish web
then are presented around the arena floor. This actually
involves 24 students as each has a person controlling
their movements. Although the act is typical, we note
that some very new students in the program have already
mastered this skill and are represented during this
production. They all move graciously through the routine
in synch with the music. Rolling globes are presented
and trained by Carolina Collins and Emily Wyatt with
an active 18 students engaging them both on and off the
globe with various students used to present acts between
Jacob Swe
photo by Richard Czina
March/April 2015
Morgan McCarthy, Bailey
Sloan, Grace Gordon and Jacob
Swe as the fliers. Although each
of the fliers were well presented
and executed their tricks to
Ryley, Jacob Swe, who presents
the double and is working on
the triple as well as his partner
who does the over and under, is
the lead flyer and could easily be
part of any major flying act. The
team does a single somersault, a
split, and knees over the fly bar
in addition to the other tricks
mentioned. This concluded the
annual holiday show for Sailor
Circus with the next show to
be presented the last week of
March and the first week of
April 2015.
Gibsonton Annual Circus
text by Pete and Shirley Adams with photos by Richard Czina
Annually presented by the International
Independent Showmen’s Association
headquartered in Gibsonton, Florida
were three performances presented
on January 10, 2015. Lee Stevens
continues to serve as the chairperson for
this event and took time to recognize
John Herriott at the performance we
attended. The circus band was led for
the 64th year by Charles Schlarbaum.
The color guard was the Showmen’s
Shrine Club. The ringmaster for this
event was Chris Connors well-known
for his work on the Cole Bros. Circus.
Johnny Peers entertained in the ring
prior to the opening of the show.
Jennifer Walker
Rebecca Ostroff
The opening act was Jennifer
Walker with her canine capers
including three giant poodles and
six smaller dogs. Typically they
walked the barrel, walked between
her legs, hopped, did a leap frog
and walked on front feet. Adding
a pony gave her the opportunity
to do an exchange from several
platforms with the dogs.
Chris Connors
Rebecca Ostroff appeared with
elegant butterfly wings and entered
in a grand style and presented graceful holds, daring falls
and exquisite balance. Her splits, toe hangs and high swings
falling to drops excited the audiences. She completed her
routine with an iron jaw spin.
Magic was next with Lance Gifford and company doing
the metamorphosis best known by Harry Houdini. Johnny
Peers returned as the prince of pantomime and involved
four children in his work. A big and little horse display was
then featured by new circus artist Brandon Ford keeping the
side by side and ballet turns and even completing the figure
eight under the big horse with the little fellow. The little guy
rears and bows. At this one show only the Ashton Family
returned to the ring with seven year old Cheyenne, Susan
The White Tops
Jennifer Vidbel
Brandon Ford’s Big and Little
and Mike Ashton and
Miles Ashton. This was a
delightful return of a Risley
act presented for so many
years by Mike and his son
Miles. Now third generation
Cheyenne took an active role
in the production and did
some flips. Mike still “has
it” with the ability to propel
Miles through hoops, flips,
twists and successive flips.
What a delight it was to
see the father and son back
working again even though
just for this one show.
Johnny Peers
Lamount, featured on Kelly Miller Circus, presented his fire eating
act putting out torches with his mouth and of course doing the volcano.
He also did other moves with balls on a short string and then on long
ropes. The intermission followed and, as customary, the audience was
advised that all workers both in the ring and working concessions
and novelties donate their time for this benefit event. The local model
builders presented in one of the buildings a full range of 35 tables of
circus models. This was led by Randy Peterson, the ringmaster of the
Diamond Jim Parker Ring.
The second half opened with Martillaso, a clown with the broom and
paper cup gag as well as a shouting match between the girls and the
boys. Jennifer Herriott Walker returned with white dromedaries, two
zebras and two white ponies in a managed production within the ring.
They moved by singles, pairs and by the entire group of animals in a
straight line fashion. They left the ring two by two just like Noah’s Ark.
A delightful cloud swing was presented by Jennifer Vidbel who uses slow
motion and also graceful moves
and then valiantly changes to
quick drops and balances. She did
multiple flips, high swings and
then knee drops as well as a back
balance with those surprising
drops and twists. She ends with
an ankle drop.
Okha was presented by Brian
Franzen with traditional moves
on various tubs and spindles
and is best known as the only
walking elephant on a balanced
ball. Although seen by us often,
Okha’s act never gets old when
you realize how many pounds of
elephant are on that single ball.
All four feet remain on the ball
as Okha maneuvers down the
track. This was a delightful end
to the show.
March/April 2015
Circus Science
Sideshow Semantics
by Matthew “Phineas” Lish
Hup Squad – American Youth Circus Organization
Traditionally, sideshows consist of a “10-in-1 bill”, in which you
could see 10 different acts perform for the price of one admission.
What has always struck me as fascinating is the amount of science
behind many of the classic sideshow acts. Both fire eating and
lying on a bed of nails, for example, are based in science. In my last
article, I talked about the science involved in pulling a tablecloth
out from under dishes. Well bust out your lab coat and goggles one
more time, because it’s time to look at your favorite sideshow acts,
one scientific principle at a time...
Fire eating
Fire is weird; you can touch it, but you can’t really
hold it. What is fire anyway? Good question! Fire
is actually a continuous chemical reaction, which
means that a new substance is produced due to the
rearranging of a substance’s molecules. Specifically,
fire is a chemical reaction known as oxidation in
which one substance gains oxygen molecules. This
is the same type of reaction that causes metal to
rust and turns fruit brown when left out. The only
difference is the rapid rate at which the reaction
photo by John Wells
occurs when there is fire.
Fire needs three things in order to work: fuel, heat and oxygen. If
any of these three components are not present, the fire won’t burn,
which is exactly how fire eating works.
 The end of the torch
is wrapped in cotton,
which is then dipped
in lighter fluid. Fuel:
 Then heat is needed
to ignite the lighter
fluid and start the
chemical reaction. A
lighter is used to start
the fire. Heat: Check!
Bed of nails
The bed of nails is one of my favorite acts because of how difficult
and dangerous it looks compared to how simple and safe it actually
is. The bed of nails consists of a performer laying down on the
spikes of a few hundred nails. The trick relies on the properties of
pressure. Pressure (P) is the ratio of force (F) to the area (A) over
which the force is distributed, and is represented by the equation
P = F/A. The force in this case, is the weight of the performer. The
area is the area of all of the nail spikes. This trick works not because
of the area of a singular nail spike, but because of the large quantity
of the spikes.
Think about it
this way: if you
laid down on
one singe nail, it
would probably go
straight through
your back. You
would have a very
large force, your
weight, distributed
over an area that
was less than one
square centimeter
A vintage bed of nails.
(I apologize to all
of you fans of the
inch out there, but the metric system is used in science), resulting in
a very large pressure.
However, when you increase the total area over which the force
is distributed by a factor of over 100, the resulting pressure is very
small. Your weight is now distributed among all of the nail spikes.
Now don’t get me wrong, just because there are lots of nails doesn’t
mean that it’s like lying in your bed. It’s still uncomfortable, but
bearable enough and too small of a pressure to
pierce the skin.
 The oxygen needed
for the oxidation is in
the air. Oxygen: Check!
The performer takes
the torch and puts the
fire into their mouth so
that they don’t touch
Lamount Dias on Kelly Miller.
photo by Richard Czina their lips or gums to
the cotton (that would
result in a nasty burn). The performer then closes their
mouth tightly, cutting off a majority of the incoming air
and oxygen. With very little oxygen left, the fire goes out.
The fire is not “eaten” as much as it is just extinguished,
but “fire eating” certainly sounds much more dangerous
than “fire extinguishing with the mouth” – don’t you
Now remember, just because you know how these tricks work
and they’re based in science, does not mean that they are 100% safe.
For this reason, please do not try either one of these tricks at home.
On that note, until next time, science!
Matthew “Phineas” Lish, 17, is an award-winning clown and
juggler, and has been trained by members of the Big Apple Circus Clown
Care Units, as well as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown
College graduates. Notable performances include off-Broadway, the
Ronald McDonald House, the Century Club with Dick Cavett, and
guest ringmaster at the Big Apple Circus. He currently holds the world
record for juggling clubs while bouncing on a pogo stick.
The White Tops
The new AYCO website is live!
New book
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the awesome designers
at Isometric Studio and our skilled developer Richard Peng,
we’re thrilled to announce that the new AYCO website is up and
Visit the new site for National AYCO Festival information,
regional festival dates, showcase opportunities and applications,
Hup Squad application.
Plus – a secret code hidden in our site will give three lucky people
a $40 credit towards merchandise from our store! Explore our new
site at <> today.
Tall Tales of a Short Clown
A book by Barry Lubin
this story by Kim Campbell
Barry Lubin, better known to
the world for the past 40 years as
“Grandma”, has released his new
book Tall Tales of a Short Clown.
He discusses his work with
Ringling Brothers and Big Apple,
his current work and life abroad,
his mentors, the toll long absences
took on his relationships with
family, his struggle with drugs and
alcohol, his battle with cancer,
and his deep affection for his
Yes, Lubin likes to drop names,
but when he does, there is usually
a funny story involved, and he
doesn’t come out looking like the hero, so you can forgive him and
feel his pain. He admits, “I have a history throughout my life of
putting my foot in my mouth and saying the wrong thing. It just
happens the alternative is to say nothing and risk nothing. That’s
too boring, and I can’t possibly do that.”
When Lubin was a young man growing up in Atlantic City, New
Jersey, his father gave him a job for the summer rewinding reels of
silent film classics starring Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harold
Lloyd, and the like. Through his dad’s work, he got to study many
great film comedians and unknowingly store away the knowledge
for his future career as a silent clown. Like most kids at some point,
Lubin dreamed of being in show business, and he was drawn to
comedy, having benefited from such an early education in it. By
high school age, he had come up with a more sensible plan to
attend college and go into the back end of show biz via television
production, but in his third year at Emerson College in Boston, he
ran away to audition for Ringling Brothers Clown College. He was
accepted. After eight weeks, he graduated with honors and never
looked back.
In his book, Lubin describes the world of circus as a contracting
one. He explains that the part that is contracting is the traditional
circus, while the contemporary circus appears to be expanding.
He is aware of tensions existing as a result of this and takes a fair
though brave position: “This is a good controversy in my opinion,
but I notice there are a few contemporary circus organizations
that put down traditional circus and distance themselves from
traditional circus. The only thing wrong with that is that they are
not recognizing that their roots lie absolutely in traditional circus.
Why not be polite about it and respect the art? Putting down
traditional circus makes people become defensive about what they
do and the inclination then is to put down contemporary circus. If I
go to a show, contemporary or traditional, I want to be entertained,
and I will respect you for doing it.”
Tall Tales of a Short Clown, 186 pages in English with
photographs. Published by Author Mike Ink. Available in print and
e-versions. ISBN-10: 0991033027. ISBN-13: 978-0991033027.
Purchase through <> or <>.
March/April 2015
text and photos by Paul Gutheil
Now in its 30th year, I had not seen Mike Naughton’s top notch Yankee Doodle
Circus in far too many years. That changed on January 31st when I saw the 1, 4, and
7:00 o’clock shows at East Brook Middle School in Paramus, New Jersey, a scant
five miles from my front door. Everything was as I remembered it; a beautiful,
well-run operation.
In 1998, while she was a student at New York City’s College of Mount Saint
Vincent, Mike’s daughter Margaret interned at The Feld Entertainment office in
the Empire State Building, assisting the promoters responsible for the Ringling
Circuses and Disney Ice Shows. She is now the engagement director for her
family’s circus and oversees contracts, marketing, lodging and transportation
logistics. Jay Walther is operations manager and his wife Tosca (Zoppé) is the retail
The refreshment and souvenir stands were very busy throughout the day. In fact
all three shows were sold out. The sponsor was so pleased with everything that
they are bringing the show back next year. I believe Mike said that three other
Ringmaster Mike Naughton
Tosca (Zoppé) and husband Jay Walther
Trudy, Elfie and Hannelore Darnell
Igor and Tatiana Arestov
The White Tops
Ivan Arestov on the Cyr wheel
The one ring show presented a fine program which featured:
George Arestov on rola bola
prospective sponsors so liked what they saw that they have booked
the show for next year too.
As always, Mike ring mastered the show and was resplendent in
several magnificent outfits.
• The Darnells, Trudy, Elfie and Hannelore – “Magic With
A Touch of Class” – always a crowd pleaser
• Igor, Tatiana and George Arestov – juggling, rola bola and
hula hoops
• Alex, Elena, Ivan (19) and Sascha (13) Arestov – inflatable
man, unicycle, Cyr wheel, quick change and jump rope.
All in all it was a great day for me and all who were at this top
notch circus performance.
My great thanks to my old friend Mike, the consummate
showman, and everyone on the Yankee Doodle Circus. As always I
look forward to seeing you all down the road.
Sascha Arestov
Alex and Elena Arestov’s quick change
March/April 2015
Citi Field, Flushing, Queens NY
story by Maxine House with photos by Paul Gutheil
Since 2006 I’ve been trekking over to Flushing, Queens, NYC, to the
parking lot of the Mets baseball team’s home, Shea Stadium/now Citi
Field, to visit Circo Hermanos Vázquez. The constant factors of this visit
have been the large lavender and pink big top and the highly entertaining
circus performance. During those years I’ve seen the members of the
Vázquez family members grow up and grow older – haven’t we all? But
other changes can be observed as well.
While there still are eight peaks, there are no longer three separate
tents (a small oval lobby, a round big top, and a square backstage) to
encompass the circus. Now all three have been combined into one large
oval tent holding all three elements. The diagram in the $20.00 program
labels it as “la vanguardia de la tecnologia!” More astonishing, the
entrances to the tent are actual doors with locks! Patrons can’t help but
feel that they are entering an actual building!
The large lobby is now more theater-like. The high cathedral ceiling
arises above the high quality wooden flooring below. Here one can buy
concessions before entering the main part of the tent. This section also
looks less tent-like. The solid red plastic chairs of other years have been
replaced by cushioned black seats that pop up to allow one to stand up
easily for others to pass by.
The performance we saw on December 4th was much the same as was
reviewed in the September/October issue of White Tops. However, with
two US editions of the circus this year, fewer Vázquez family members
were in Queens – they now have another show to cover! In fact, on this
night the trainer Klaus Dieter, the quintessential “horse whisperer,”
presented the liberty act instead of the usual Aldo Vázquez who was with
the other US unit.
Of course, the addition of the American clowns Steve Copeland and
Ryan Combs this season was a real departure from the usual Hispanic
clowns on Circo Vázquez who use a lot of spoken Spanish in their gags.
But these two utilize pantomime with wonderful timing and capture the
Hispanic audience immediately.
The Chilean clown Carmelo balances Steve and Ryan. Near the end
of the performance the three displayed true, “the show must go on”
professionalism when there was a partial power failure. Carmelo’s comic
trapeze act was abbreviated, but he carried on with his Spanish repartee
with lots of laughter from the crowd. We didn’t learn until after the show
that there really had been a serious problem!
The Brazilian dancing girls of other years were gone, replaced by four
Doors leading into lobby.
tall and leggy British girls more like the Rockettes of Radio
Music Hall than the previous “cha-cha style” dancers. They
have been under a one-year contract; another contingent will
join the show next year.
Circo Hermanos Vázquez ended its season in Queens NY
on December 7th after another successful tour of the United
States. I verbally marveled at the continuous good attendance
at this Queens’ date. Steve explained that the Hispanic people
and Mexicans especially love the circus and bring their
children annually to enjoy it. Well, we enjoyed it too!
Lobby. Entrance to the arena is on the far right.
A wedding in the clouds
John, Paula and Tony
by Dan Stapleton
Novel weddings are nothing new. “Aquamaniacs” get married under
the sea, paratroopers have recited vows while falling from the sky,
and I know of one magician (not me) who married his bride while
she floated in the air. But on December 27, a “circus” wedding
witnessed by nearly 250 guests in small Haines City, Florida lit
up the sky with a high flying duo brightly lit with the sun shining
behind them. Former circus flyers John Zimmerman and Paula
Blackwelder tied the knot that day and away they flew, not to a
honeymoon destination, but rather 50 feet above the spectators
heads. Blackwelder and Zimmerman actually recited vows while
Veteran, and left the military as a Chief Warrant Officer Huey
standing on the flyer’s platform and then...
Helicopter Pilot.
Below was Guinness World Record holder, flying legend (and
He moved to Florida and was employed at Circus World (theme
friend) Tony Steele, who as a notary public for the State of Florida,
gave the nuptials. A huge tent served as the out-of-the-sun meeting park) from 1976 to 1981. As a flyer he did the triple. In January
1981, he caught Tom Robin Edelston on the first triple-twisting
area with plenty of long tables and chairs for everyone to mingle
double layout. This is recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records.
and reacquaint their days in the ring, since many of the guests were
A year later he caught the 3½ somersault by Miguel Caceres on
past or present circus performers and enthusiasts.
the Ringling Blue Unit. He worked
The entire Tommy Liebel family
fairs, special events and Shrine circus
was present as well as the well
dates that also included the helicopter
known juggling family of Victor,
trapeze act.
Hugo and Manuel Zuniga. Former
In 1990, he began a 20 year career
flyer Pedro Murillo, circus clowns
coordinating live stunt shows for
Brian Davies, Barry Brazell &
Universal, Disney and other theme
Jaimie Ryan and Dan Thurman
parks around the world. He also
(juggler) were also on hand. There
worked as a professional stuntman in
were ringmasters, former animal act
television and major feature movies
performers, acrobats and magicians
and has 125 film credits. Zimmerman
throughout. Food and drinks were
has taught trapeze to many flyers and
aplenty and it couldn’t have been a
hundreds of professional live show
nicer day.
and film stunt performers. John will
Then came the entertainment.
be retiring in the fall of this year.
A stage was erected inside the
Paula Blackwelder entered the
tent and on stage were performing
world of live entertainment at the
magicians, jugglers and balancing
acts. The audience was then directed age of 16. With her passion for the
flying trapeze, she was driven to soar
outside where we witnessed various
The couple high on the
by the encouragement of her first
circus acts.
platform as Steele says the
trapeze coach, none other than John
But it was the “couple of the day” who truly was in center ring.
nuptials below.
After the nuptials, Paula and John took hold of the bar and with a
She performed aerial artistry in
leap they have each done hundreds of came the bride
five amusement parks, two casinos and several traveling shows for
and groom, both swinging away together high over head, first Paula
Shriners hospitals. Her aerial work included working with troupes
gracefully falling to the net and then John, both with a perfect
such as the Flying Farfans to performing high-acts with famous
landing to thunderous applause. Zimmerman teaches stunt men
sky-walker, the late Jay Cochran. After touring
and flyers as part of his business. Back of his house
the United States and performing for Circo
is a high wire, low wire, slack wire, trampolines
Atayde in Mexico City, she left life on the road
and a full trapeze from which his students practice.
for entrepreneurship and family. For 10 years,
John Zimmerman was born in southern
she has written as a correspondent for Central
California and spent his teenage years with
Florida newspapers and wrote five columns
professional stuntmen and retired trapeze artists.
weekly for three newspapers, formerly owned
He spent countless days on the flying rings at
by the New York Times. Most recently, Paula
Muscle Beach and on the trampoline in the Los
authored the new Tony Steele biography, From
Angeles gyms.
Gazoonie To Greatness.
Although not born into the circus business, at
What a day, what a circus, what a wedding!
age 18 he was doing doubles and 2½ somersaults
John Zimmerman, Paula Blackwelder and Tony
on the flying trapeze to a catcher. From 1970
Away they swing.
Steele are all members of the CFA.
through 1976, he was active duty army, a Vietnam
March/April 2015
Circus Ring of Fame Induction
by Pete Adams with photos by Richard Czina
1955 he produced and owned the Fred
J. Mack Circus which was out for about
13 weeks. He then decided to study and
support the circus in another way by
writing a book about Tim McCoy in 1955.
He joined the Circus Historical Society
and was the longest running editor of its
magazine from 1961 to 2010, serving 49
years and producing 294 issues of what is
classified today as the most comprehensive
publication of circus history. Fred, Jr. was
dedicated to the CHS and gave much of
himself while also collecting materials to be
used in the articles, thus establishing a large
personal circus collection as well.
The annual St. Armands Circle Circus Ring
of Fame induction was held at the circle on
January 11, 2015.
Charles Schlarbaum and his Sarasota
Circus Band (above) were in concert for
a half hour prior to the ceremony. Chuck
Sidlow was the Ringmaster and host. Ron
Morris asked the audience to recognize the
dedication of Floyd Kruger who recently
passed away and had led the Ring of Fame
Committee for over 20 years as its director.
Additional introductions of merit
were that of Herta Klauser Cuneo and
the Circus Fans Association of America
Showfolks Tent #122 for their financial
assistance in improving and managing the
existing wheels which needed attention.
The first inductee was the Del Moral
Perch Pole Act Troupe and Eddie Del
Moral gave an introduction about his
family. He mentioned the 25 foot high
pole used on the forehead where various
tricks were performed including a one arm
handstand as well as balancing on the head.
The act was active from 1940 to 1970 and
performed on many circuses including
Dailey Bros. Circus and Ringling Bros. and
Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Also introduced was Frank Hopper who
was the person who made the original
design for the wheel (above). Following
the introduction of the Ring of Fame
Committee, appreciation was also given
by Chuck Sidlow for the many fans of the
circus and he introduced Connie Thomas,
the CFA Vice President.
The second inductee was Fred Pfening,
Jr. well known author and circus historian.
His son Fred III gave a synopsis of his
background which started with a backyard
circus in 1935 at a young age. He fell in
love with Billboard, the magazine, in 1937
and subscribed till it closed publication.
He had a taste of the circus when he was
an usher for Ringling in 1942 and by
The White Tops
The third inductee was Miguel Vasquez
for his amazing flying ability including the
quad summersault. Philip Wehland gave the
introduction of Miguel who was born into
the circus in Mexico with his family and
even at age 6 played drums in the circus.
Together with multiple family members
he progressed to being the greatest flyer
in the world. Mention was given of many
of his family members, especially his wife
Rosa who joined the act and then joined
him in life. He performed for many circuses
including Hanneford, Zerbini, and Big
Apple and of course Ringling Bros. and
Barnum & Bailey where he was featured
for nine seasons. His first quad was caught
at Palm Beach in 1981 during practice and
his first quad to the public was in 1982 in
July at Tucson, Arizona. He earned the
Gold Clown at the International Festival of
Monte Carlo. Miguel publicly thanked his
many family members present and his other
fellow trapeze artists as well as the members
of the Ring of Fame.
The fourth inductee was Jacqueline
Zerbini and all three of her daughters
participated in her introduction, making
sure the audience knew she was a circus star
but also a great mother and grandmother
now with eight grandchildren. During her
career she was known for her spectacular
trapeze work and her heel catch as well
as her one toe hang. In later life she also
presented animals with the Hawthorn
Corporation and is noted as a trainer for
eight different species of animals. From
Paris, France she is very proud that she is
an American citizen. At age 16 she came
to the U.S. with aerial rigging to work with
Mills Bros. Circus and the Aerial Stars.
She retired in 1993 and is often referred to
as “Queen of the Air”. Jackie in her own
remarks showed great love for her family of
three daughters and her extended family.
The fifth inductee was H.S.H. Prince
Ranier of Monaco in recognition of his
development of the International Circus
Festival of Monte Carlo. Bill Powell, Vice
President of the Feld Entertainment,
presented the background on Prince Ranier.
Ranier was the founder of the International
Circus Festival of Monte Carlo in 1974 in
order to recognize outstanding performers
in the art of the circus. Under his direction
for many years the festival grew and
although it was the first international
circus festival, it inspired other circus based
festivals around the world today. But today
it is consider the highlight of all circus
festivals and winning a Gold, Silver or
Bronze Clown at this festival is the highest
achievement in the circus world. The
event is now hosted by Princess Stephanie
following his death and continues to honor
the circus arts. His grandson Louis accepted
the recognition for his granddad with great
emotion and appreciation.
Following the ceremony, the plaques
located around the circle were unveiled.
March/April 2015
Paul’s Pages
photos and comments from Paul Gutheil
Johnny Herriott
from Dave SaLoutos with photos from CWM except as noted
Circus World joins the entire Circus community in honoring the
rich life of that magnificent showman Johnny Herriott. Johnny was
quite simply the master, the colonel, the dean, the performer you
wanted to impress or be yourself. His training skills… legendary, his
poems… engrossing, and his story telling… monumental.
Johnny was one of Circus World’s founding fathers whose
immense skills and passion for all things circus helped put our
institution on the map. His legacy will live on through his family;
the love of his life Mary Ruth, his daughters – all talented in
their own right, and his grandchildren who embody Johnny’s
As a performer, when Johnny was in the house, you wanted to
please him out of infinite respect for his unequaled animal training
skills, classic stature as a ringmaster and circus knowledge. After the
show you would anxiously await his suggestions followed by hours
John Herriott, Baraboo, CWM, early 1960s
John Herriott, Hershey CFA convention, 2007
photo by Paul Gutheil
John Herriott, Baraboo, CWM
of enjoyable jackpots. In his crisp classic red ringmaster coat he
would exclaim, “You’re going to see pretty girls, happy animals and
funny clowns”.
He was our collective elder statesman of all things circus; the
twinkle in his eye, perched atop his trusted steed, led you to know
such. So Johnny, as you join the heavenly sawdust ring with the
greats that have gone before you, know that all of us are better
for knowing you and your passion for the circus. Bravo Johnny!
Your legacy will live on in every circus, every laugh, every gasp of
excitement, and in every “Children of all Ages”.
Above, John Herriott, Baraboo, CWM
Below, John Herriott, Baraboo, CWM, 1967
“Circus Vista Gallery” opens at CWM displaying
Photography by Paul Gutheil
from Dave SaLoutos at Circus World Museum
Specializing in unique views of the circus, the “Circus Vista
Gallery” will debut on opening day May 22, 2015. A red frame
building that opens onto Ringlingville will be the venue for a
new rotating exhibit. The Vista Gallery will showcase aspects of
circus life that few people have the opportunity to experience.
The displays will change yearly with the inaugural gallery
showcasing the work of circus photographer Paul Gutheil.
Paul, a circus enthusiast and true fan of the circus, is based in
Glen Rock NJ, and has traveled far and wide capturing circus
artistry through the lens of his camera. In his sojourns over
the past decades, circus people have willingly allowed him to
document their performances. Mr. Gutheil has also developed
friendships with many of these circus folk who have allowed
him access to their lives in the backyard. Paul is always
generous, and shares
his photography with
the circus entertainers
he admires. Now, Circus
World will share some
of his best images with
all of you. It’s a unique
view of the circus that
you’ll want to see. So step
this way to the Circus Vista
by William B. Hall III
<[email protected]>
Tanbark: shredded bark from
which the tannin has
been extracted, used
to cover circus arenas.
Tanbark Topics: Right here for 52 years.
Hawthorn Corp., a performing animals
operation headed by John F. Cuneo, Jr.
Prior Aguilar credits, informed Bale,
include Ringling-Barnum Circus tours.
Additionally, Cole’s performance includes
a returnee from the 2013 and 2014 formats,
German Fassio, “Back with a new dog act,”
said Bale, and Fassio’s previously shown
aerial hand balancing feats on an elevated,
cleverly lighted apparatus (below).
Blending new and returning troupers,
two daily big top performances (starting at
11:15 A.M. and 3:30 P.M.) will be featured
from May 22-Aug. 30 at the Baraboo WI
Circus World Museum.
Included in the upcoming spring/summer
lineup, advised CWM Executive Director
Scott O’Donnell, will be the multi-talented
Valla/Bertini family, presenting comedy
trampoline and unicycling (below);
“To the Max...!” That’s a new approach
theme for the 131st edition of
Cole Bros Circus
of the Stars, which launched its current
season with March 21-22 performances at
DeLand FL, the show’s home base.
A dwarf comic, Marving Prada, plays the
“Max” character who has a darting in-andout presence for portions of the undercanvas program.
Other features, according to a late
February, preseason report from onetime
aerial daredevil and 2001 International
Circus Hall of Fame inductee Elvin Bale,
Cole’s veteran Vice President-Operations,
include the renowned German training
couple, Juergen and Judit Nerger, presenting
a big cage display of 13 tigers; an Aguilar
high wire trio of Marcio Aguilar, wife
Nadia, and son Luis; and the retirementminded Tim Frisco’s trained and directed
group of Carson & Barnes Circus Asian
The Nergers (below) and their feline
charges returned to Cole after a two-year
absence. In the interim, Vicenta Pages held
Cole’s big cage spot with her tiger sextet
(five white and a standard color mix).
Previously, the Nergers spent two
consecutive seasons (2011 and 2012)
with Cole. Their act originated with the
Versatile Svetlana Gololobova, seen over
recent Cole seasons in a variety of numbers,
has also returned with an aerial hand
balancing turn premiered in 2014 with her
teenage son, Nik, who also appears this year
in a comedy strong man bit.
The aforementioned
mother/son pair are
also doing illusions
and a quick costume
changing routine in
“To the Max... !” The
ever-busy Svetlana
also performs as an
aerial silks soloist.
“We’ve also
brought new clown
gags into the present
Specialty Insurance was born out of the need for
show,” noted Bale –
another option in the amusement/entertainment
“a boxing bout and
industries. We tailor unique solutions to your very
a ‘Duck Dynasty’
special insurance need.
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Email: <[email protected]>
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“If it’s insurable, we can do it!”
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Thomas A. Plouffe PO Box 16901
Michael A. Plouffe West Haven, CT 06516
Henry L. Plouffe Phone: 203-931-7095
Fax: 203-931-0682
Cole photographs from Renee Story
The White Tops
“America’s Show Camels”, a sextet owned
by Ryan Henning (who works Asian
elephants with Ringling-Barnum’s Red
“Circus Xtreme” Unit) and circus ring
directed by Ian Garden, Jr. (seen above);
Adriana Poema Parker’s aerial display; and
hula hoopster Clara Garden.
Holdovers from the 2014 CWM
performance include Carson & Barnes
Circus Asian elephants, cued by Chip
Arthurs; the trained dogs of Arthurs’ wife,
Dallas (nee Zoppe); resident clown Roger
(actually Neal Skoy); ringmaster David
SaLoutos; and musicians Larry Stout,
keyboard virtuoso, and drummer Tristen
For the second successive year, twicedaily performances will occur in a Royal
Hanneford Circus big top.
Kim Sue Valla, said O’Donnell, will also
offer a daily and descending “slide-for-life”
stunt, via an inclined wire stretched above
the Baraboo River, which splits CWM
Commenting further on his 2015
attractions, O’Donnell informed that
“Illusionist Tristan Crist (below) celebrates
his 10th anniversary with us, and will be
featuring an appearing motorcycle illusion.”
CWM has also renovated its main
lobby and gift shop, experienced restroom
restorations and launched membership and
“Adopt a (circus) Wagon” programs, said
“The Third Annual Baraboo Big Top
Parade and Circus Celebration,” continued
O’Donnell, “will occur Saturday July 25
starting at 2:00 P.M. and feature more
than a dozen wagons from our collection
and roughly 80-plus entries.” Details are
available on the CWM website at <www.>.
Having begun its 30th year of indoor
circus productions on January 24 at Valley
Stream, Long Island, NY, Mike Naughton’s
Yankee Doodle Circus
expected to play into the end of March
– eight weeks of engagements within
a route “that doesn’t go more than 200
miles from New York City.” So said show
owner, producer
and performance
ringmaster Mike
Naughton (right)
The recent cast
consisted of the
Darnells, magic
and dress poodles
turns, and scores
of Arestov acts:
Alex and Elena
photo by Richard Czina
Arestov, and sons
Ivan and Alex, Jr., a cyr wheel, unicycles,
quick costume switches, jump rope skills,
hand-to-hand balancing, and an inflatable
man. And by Igor and Tatiana Arestov and
son George, a juggling duo, rola-bola, hula
hoops and cube spinning. For more on
Yankee Doodle, see <
YankeeDoodle Circus>. See page 48 of this
White Tops.
When Massachusetts circus fan Eddy
Motta telephoned earlier this year, we
inquired about the well-being of his fellowBay Stater,
Richard Whitmarsh
CWM photographs from John Wells
of East Bridgewater, conductor of the
South Shore Concert Band. Starting in
the 1970s, the band periodically recorded a
Whitmarsh-inspired-and-originated Sounds
of the Circus musical series.
We told Motta that an email we sent
in 2014 to Whitmarsh had been returned
as undeliverable. Minutes after our talk
with Motta, who resides in New Bedford,
March/April 2015
a spry-speaking, 91year-old Whitmarsh
telephoned us
(Thanks, Eddy!).
Our last and
previous Whitmarsh
contact occurred in
late summer of 2012,
when he was working
on volumes 59 and
60 of his circus series
(Tanbark Topics, September/October,
2012). Then, explained the maestro, one of
the new volumes was to feature “The music
of Charly Baumann”, whose 24-year career
with the Ringling-Barnum Circus began in
1964 as trainer and presenter of a heralded
tiger act, imported from Germany’s Circus
Barum. A native German, Baumann (19282001) was enshrined in 2001 as a circus
great by the International Circus Hall of
Fame at Peru IN.
Volumes 59 and 60 are yet to be
marketed, said Whitmarsh, whose Sounds of
the Circus tapes and successor compact discs
(CDs) were often advertised for sale in this
Whitmarsh photographs from Lane Talburt
Recording and advertising costs, advised
Whitman, have delayed issuance and
marketing of the aforementioned volumes,
as well as future albums.
He stated that his albums (priced at
$15.00 each) have, over recent years, been
affected by a minimal market. “It’s become
so that there are less and less of us who
appreciate traditional circus music, which
is what Sounds of the Circus is all about.
Right now I have 30,000 circus series
CDs.” (Perhaps preservation of circus
music from the past may be a project worth
consideration by groups such as the Circus
World Museum, International Circus Hall
of Fame and/or the magnificent Tibbals
Learning Center of the Ringling Circus
Museum in Sarasota FL.)
For those interested, Whitmarsh is
reachable by phone at 508-378-9967 or
email to <[email protected]
from page 57
Looking ahead, the venerable conductor
plans to attend The Worldwide Circus
Summit 2015 from July 14-19 at West
Springfield, MA. “I’ll be accompanied
there by my band’s drummer and a
trumpet player, as well as its historian.
No playing for us – that’s been assigned
to the Windjammers (band),” observed
Ringling dates
Ringling’s newest edition, the Red Unit’s
“Circus Xtreme”, travels from a Hershey PA
stand of May 20-25 to mid-America and
Omaha NE for a May 29-31 engagement.
Ahead for Ringling’s Blue “Legends”
Unit are visits to
Albany NY – April 30-May 3
Youngstown OH – May 7-10
Louisville KY – May 14-17
New Orleans LA – June 8-21
Oklahoma City OK – June 25-28
San Antonio TX – July 1-5
native to northern China and (Russia’s)
“How would you know anything about
snow leopards?” she inquired, which
brought our “We’ve known about and dealt
with some animal trainers who’ve been
involved with snow leopards – part of our
“Oh, yes, I’d forgotten about that,” said
Janice, who is aware of our circus-show
business connections and activities.
The snow leopard topic recollected for us
Master Trainer Alfred Court, whose myriad
of four-footed pupils included two trained
snow leopards. Later that Sunday we went
to Court’s book, My Life with the Big Cats,
published in 1955 by Simon and Schuster
of New York City, and translated from the
French tome La cage aux fauves.
“The Built to Amaze! Nuts and Boltz
Edition” of Ringling’s gold unit will play
Houma LA – June 11-4
Lafayette LA – July 9-12.
Great shot of Martin Lacey, Jr. and his
mixed act of 27 lions and tigers in the big
cage of Germany’s Circus Krone ran last
January 26 on “May All Your Days Be
Circus Days” Internet blog of retired circus
publicist and Circus Hall of Fame inductee
(2011) Jack Ryan. Pix was supplied by
Martin’s brother, celebrated Ringling Blue
Unit trainer Alexander Lacey, which is an
apt segue for what follows.
“Your vest has a unique pattern,” said
we to retired nurse Janice Kaufmann as
she, husband Ron, and a handful of cocongregants were leaving after the 7:45
A.M. holy communion service of a recent
winter Sunday at our Anglican church in
the Philadelphia suburb of Abington PA.
“Oh,” she responded, “it (the garment)
was reduced in price so bought it.”
“It appears to be a snow leopard pattern,”
we observed.
“Snow leopard – what’s that?” said Janice,
to which we answered, “An animal species
Alfred Court about 1930.
photo: Louis Chabrillac
Born into French aristocracy at
Marseilles on January 1, 1883, Court – a
onetime boyhood champion gymnast, then
an acrobat, juggler, circus owner and later
a trainer of great note in Europe – began
in the 1930s to “create a mixed group of
smaller cats.
“In old books, both French and English,”
wrote Court, “I had read accounts of small
groups of leopards that had been trained, or
rather tamed, in ancient times. I was sure,
however, that no one had ever presented
to the public a group of over 20 leopards.
I decided to mix them with all the other
small cats: pumas, jaguars and perhaps even
black leopards. Never in all my years in the
circus had I seen either jaguars or black
The White Tops
leopards trained. They were regarded as
untamable. However, I bought two leopards
from the Berlin Zoo and paid marks,
cash down, to the Zoological Gardens of
Hanover for two-recently imported jaguars.
These four animals, bought in Germany,
became some of my favorite pupils...
“In Antwerp (Holland) I made more
purchases, bringing my group to 10 in all;
but this was an inadequate number from
which to make a good selection. For the
following year, as I worked with the beasts
I had, I was in continued correspondence
with wild animal dealers all over Europe. I
bought all that were offered to me, animals
that were tame, or reputed to be so, animals
classified as ferocious, adults and young
ones. My pupils now numbered 30 and
included pumas, spotted and black jaguars,
African leopards, and leopards from India,
Java and the snows of Siberia. My black
jaguars were the only ones in Europe except
for two in the zoo in Hanover, and my six
black leopards which had come direct from
Java were an assembly unique in the whole
“I had also in my collection one of the
two pairs of snow leopards in Europe.
The other pair belonged to the Dresden
(Germany) Zoo, which would not part with
them at any price. I had acquired my pair
of these rare animals by Soviet ship from
Archangel (northern Russia). When the
ship put in at Antwerp to deliver them,
the somewhat shady intermediary who
had arranged the deal took me abroad. The
vessel was dirty, deserted and somehow
sinister. My unsavory guide, who was none
the less a cheerful fellow, explained that
the boat was crammed with weapons and
munitions and carried technicians who were
secretly on their way to the Spanish War. I
thought only of my leopards. In the depths
of the hold, I was shown three cases, almost
hermetically sealed, in which, I was told, I
would find three animals. I tried in vain to
get a look at them; all I could ascertain was
that each contained a live animal. I took
“When I arrived with them at the circus
I had the animals removed from their
cages and put into their wagon-cage. Poor
snow leopards! Their lovely angora fur was
nothing but a repulsive mat, covered with
vermin and excrement. From the day they
had been sealed into their prisons they
had obviously received not the slightest
attention – or, it seemed, any food whatever,
for they were as thin as skeletons. They were
terribly wild and cowered motionless in a
corner of the cage. Only their huge eyes
shone luminously as if imploring my pity.
“I stood by the cage for a long time
and told myself that the animals I had
such trouble acquiring would surely die. I
tried to get them to drink, but they sent
the trough flying with their paws. Then
I passed a little horse meat to them, but
they would not touch it. That night, hoping
they would feed themselves when all was
quiet, I had the shutters of the cage closed.
But the next morning the pieces of meat
were untouched, and the leopards were still
lying in the corner. Chicken was no more
successful than horse meat; freshly killed
fowl were put in the cage at nightfall, but I
found them whole in the morning.
“Finally in desperation I had live rabbits
put into the cage and then hid to watch the
leopards’ reactions. An hour later the rabbits
were still scuttling in the front of the cage,
but the leopards seemed to have turned to
stone. Only their eyes moved from time to
time, but they were staring into the distance
and would not even deign to look at the
rabbits within six feet of them. Another
night and still no change. At this rate the
leopards would surely die. The hunger strike
had to be stopped.
“In a final effort the next day I
approached the cage with two long sticks in
my hands. The stick in my left hand had a
piece of meat on the end of it. As I passed
this through the bars I excited one leopard
by poking it in the chest with the stick in
my right hand. The animal sprang at me
suddenly, jaws wide, and I got the stick with
the bit of meat into its mouth. The leopard
bit furiously on the stick and the meat and
then, astonished and blinking his eyes, he
stood still for a moment and swallowed. In
half an hour, using this method, I had fed
my snow leopard 10 pieces of meat, each
the size of an egg.
“For over a month I had to employ this
procedure of forcible feeding with two
of the leopards. The third persisted in
spitting out whatever meat I got into its
mouth and finally died of starvation. On
sunshiny days I gave the animals a shower
and combed them with a rake through the
bars to untangle their long fur. It took me
three months in all to get them into good
condition. Then and only then could I begin
to think of their training.
“The leopards were adults of about
seven or eight years, judging from their
teeth. There was evidence that they
had been trapped: slight scars were still
visible on their paws. Beyond these facts I
knew nothing whatever of them or their
characters or the way they might react
to their first training. Their paws were
powerful and their claws nearly as large and
as strong as those of lions. It was obviously
advisable to be on one’s guard, and I was so
much afraid of losing this rarest of game
that I had to invent new training methods.
The patience that these snow leopards
required of me defies all description. It was
only after months and months of work
that I modified their characters and turned
them into big pussy cats who would let
themselves be picked up in my arms and
Alfred Court and his snow leopard, Douchka in
photo taken about 1938. photo from private collection
“These leopards became my favorite
animals, and the one called Doutschka,
which is Russian for “sweetheart”, was
the real queen of the group. I have rarely
been so much attached to an animal. The
day came when Doutschka was killed by
another kind of leopard in New York, and
I wept like a child. Even today I am still
proud of the fact that I am – I believe – the
only trainer in the world to have trained
this species of animal.”
Among trainer/cat photos in Court’s
book is one captioned: “Doutschka, my
beloved snow leopard. It was only after two
years of patient coaxing that I was able to
take her in my arms like this.”
March/April 2015
In 1933 Court began training big cat
acts that he could rent to various European
circuses, and when his days as a circus
owner ended in 1935 he began again
working as a performer, reports <www.>. In February, 1936 at
France’s Cirque Medrano in Paris, he
presented a cage act, “Peace in the Jungle”
(La Paix dans la Jungle). It included three
lions, two tigers, a leopard pair, three polar
bears and a black bears’ trio.
In 1937 Court developed a new group
of 15 small cats – nine leopards (three
were black), a snow leopard, four cougars
and a black jaguar – and was then playing
Europe’s top circus and variety theater
Subsequently, Court refused an offer
by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Circus President and Director John
Ringling North (1903-1985) to come to
America and join The Greatest Show on
Earth with his animal troupes.
But when North later reiterated his offer
and World War II began in Europe in
September, 1939, Court accepted. In hectic
but successful fashion, he gathered his four
wild animal groups from performances in
Scandinavia and England – 80 animals,
20 employees and related equipment – for
cargo boats shipment to the U.S.A.
Court and his acts made their American
and Ringling debuts with an April 4, 1940
performance at New York City’s Madison
Square Garden – the start of a multi-year
engagement that carried through the giant
tenter’s 1945 season.
The morning of April 3 (1940), “before
eight o’clock,” recalled Court in his book,
“I had my dress rehearsal in the presence
of ‘a select few’, as John Ringling North
had suggested. I was disagreeably surprised
to see over a thousand guests around the
ring, with a score of photographers and
a battalion of reporters clamoring for
“I had barely crossed the threshold of
the cage when one of my assistants called
me back. I followed him to the end of the
tunnel that led to the center cage. There an
Indian leopard called Bombay, a particularly
vicious animal, had succeeded in sliding
open the partition that separated him from
Doutschka, my favorite snow leopard. He
had taken her by surprise, leaped on her
and struck her down. I could not see how
badly she was injured, but he was holding
her with his claws, his sharp teeth sunk in
from page 59
the nape of her neck. Without forks we had
trouble making him let go, and my poor
Doutschka was bathed in a pool of blood.
“I went back to the center cage and had
the leopards sent in. Terrified by the noise
and confusion, the new surroundings,
the music and the hundreds of spotlights
blinding them, the animals were
exceedingly nervous and I had endless
trouble getting them in their places.
Alfred Court and his wide-eyed cat in a
photograph of about 1938.
photo from private collection
“One of the black leopards attacked
me savagely, and I barely escaped being
hooked. I was on my guard with Bombay
after his attack on Doutschka, but even so
I could not prevent him from attacking his
neighbor, Mignonne. When I had separated
them I punished Bombay severely, and all at
once with the speed of lightning he leaped
to the top of the cage. The overhead net,
once again, had been badly fitted by the
circus hands, and in less time than it takes
to write, this leopard slipped between bars
and net and was out of the cage.
“He crouched for a moment, then spotted
a gangway and rushed up to it. There was a
ludicrous panic. The privileged guests took
to their heels by the hundreds, climbing
over barriers and rushing into the galleries,
making as much noise as a cavalry brigade.
Cameras lay in confusion on the ground;
their owners had vanished.
“I was in the cage with all the cats; there
was no question of my taking part in the
chase. My assistants went after Bombay
with forks, ropes and nets, cornered him
in a first-class corridor, and caught him in
no time. Tied with lassos, he was deposited
at the entrance to the tunnel. There, freed
from his restraints, he was made to enter
the cage again and went grumbling to his
place, breathless and slightly sheepish. The
spectators now thought this was a first class
prologue. Little by little they trickled back
and once again the photographers’ bulbs
“All this upset naturally did nothing
toward establishing peace and concord
among the inhabitants of the big cage,
but I had now reached the last routine but
one. It involved 12 spotted leopards lying
down in a line in the middle of the ring.
At this point Mignonne decided to avenge
Bombay’s attack and sprang on him. The
two cats rolled-roaring on the ground. I
made Mignonne let go with a sharp cut of
the whip but the terrified Bombay leapt
to the top of the cage again. While I was
watching to see if he would escape again,
Mignonne came at me like an arrow. Her
attack was so sudden that by the time I saw
her coming I could not hold her off. I got
a violent blow from her paw in my face. At
the time I felt nothing except the warmth
of my blood trickling down my cheek. I was
forced to let the wounds go on bleeding
since my hands were dirty from handling
the whip and I had no desire to risk
septicemia. The pain was slight and I went
on to finish the act. Actually my wounds
were superficial, but they looked very
serious to the audience, for almost at once
my whole white silk shirt was drenched
with blood.
“When I left the cage everyone rushed
toward me, especially the photographers,
who wanted shots of a tamer covered with
blood. John Ringling North asked, ‘Nothing
serious, Alfred, my friend?’
‘ “I don’t think so,’ I said, laughing, ‘but I
haven’t a mirror. You can judge better than
“My laughter made him lean over and
whisper in my ear, ‘I bet you did it on
“With the straightest face I could
manage, lying shamelessly, I replied, ‘Sure.’
“And at once, with a sense of timing
The White Tops
and publicity that I admire to this day, he
addressed the reporters: ‘You’ve got to admit
we’re beating all records for sensationalism
this year! You can tell your readers that
trainers like Court are born once in a
century, and in a lucky century at that!’
“I swallowed the compliment and hurried
off to the leopards’ cages. (The doctor was
surprised – he had wanted to drag me right
off to the sick bay.) When I got there I
found that Doutschka, my beautiful snow
leopard, was dead. I wept.
“The next evening we opened before the
New York audience. My three groups took
their places in the three rings. I was in the
middle with my leopards, (Fritz) Schultz
This was a close call for Alfred. During a
performance two of his leopards got into a
fight and Alfred tried to break them up without
success. There is an old saying, “never get
between the cats during a fight” as bad things
can happen as you see here. I know for a fact
that our animals come first and you will do just
about anything to keep them from harms way.
Their well being is as important to them and to
you the trainer. The act comes first even before
ourselves. They are our livelihood and our
responsibility. This photo of Alfred was taken on
the Ringling show 1940.
on my right, (Harry and May) Kovar on
my left. My nephew, Willy Storey, stop
watch in hand, whistle between his lips, set
in motion the machinery of the ‘combined
operations’. To be frank, I worked the act
a little too ‘wild’ that night, but the effect
it produced was sensational and suited the
tempo of American life.
“Over 14,000 spectators were present.
Twenty-eight thousand hands applauding
makes a lot of noise, and, believe me, the
noise is intoxicating. I learned later that
Ringling’s profit over five weeks was more
than half a million dollars. As for me, I
again thought of the boy from Marseilles I
had been. After so many years of struggle,
perseverance and effort, fate crowned my
career that evening at Madison Square
Garden. The circus-smitten boy was at last a
star of the biggest circus in the biggest city
in the world.”
1997), a popular American clown from
the late 1940s into the 1980s.
On December 30, 1974 the jury of
the first International Circus Festival
of Monte Carlo, occurring in the
Mediterranean Sea-bordering principality
of Monaco, awarded Court a gold clown
in tribute to his exceptional career. A
few days later Monaco’s reigning Prince
Rainier, III (1923-2005) personally
presented the award to Court at his
French villa in Nice. Court died July 1,
1977 at age 84 and is buried in Nice’s
Caucade Cemetery.
Having begun his animal training
career at age 35 (most trainer aspirants
As a youngster attending RinglingBarnum circuses, it was our edifying and
great fortune to have personally seen three
rings of simultaneously performing Court
acts in the six-year span of 1940-1945.
(Frankly, it was most challenging in trying
to see three acts at once, so we took the
advice of adult spectators to
concentrate on center ring
action – “the acts
go there”, we were told.)
When he appeared, Court
was always centered, and
flanked by his assistant
trainers, a cadre that included
the aforementioned Schultz,
the Kovars and Storey, as well
as Joseph Walsh and Damoo
Dhotre, among others.
Dhotre (1902-1973),
a native of India and of
swarthy-complexion, made
a lasting impression in our
Alfred Court and his leopards at Ringling Bros. and Barnum
developing mind. Wearing
& Bailey Circus in 1940.
photo Time-Life
a turban headdress, and of
muscular build, he worked barechested above jodhpurs, usually
start well before that time of life), when
gold colored, and sported wide jeweled or
he unexpectedly took over a lion act with
gold bands just above his biceps. Dhotre,
his circus in Mexico (the regular trainer
because of his demeanor, good looks, quick
was inebriated), Court established a
smile and in-cage skills (we once saw
one and done legacy. Guaranteeing that
him with a spotted leopard draped ‘round
belief is the changing nature of today’s
his neck) became a favorite of American
21st century world and its effects on
audiences and was enshrined as a circus
international circusdom, particularly
great by the International Circus Hall of
with governments banning or strictly
Fame, then located at Sarasota FL, in 1973.
regulating those who own, train or present
(What could Hall of Fame voters of that
wild animals. Court was a legend of his
era been thinking, according such an honor
time, and what an era it was for him and
to Dhotre before enshrining his gifted
those fortunate enough to have seen the
mentor, Alfred Court?)
assorted and acclaimed attainments of
Court was elected into the Hall of
this master trainer
Fame in 1975 (this writer nominated him
for circus great recognition). He is also
often recalled and
immortalized at the Circus Ring of Fame
heralded as the
on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota. There,
greatest animal
his plaque is imbedded within the north
trainer ever!
quadrant, with flanking stones honoring
John Herriott, an American trainer of
horses, elephants, dogs and assorted exotic
breeds, and Ernie (Blinko) Burch (1923-
March/April 2015
Altoona Circus Bonanza
& World Circus Weekend
April 17-18, 2015
Hosted by Adam Forepaugh-Barry Lubin “Grandma”
and Emmett Kelly-Bello Nock Tents
Royal Hanneford Circus featuring
in person Barry Lubin “Grandma”
Paul Binder, founder of the Big Apple
Circus will meet and greet at the April 17th
Emmett Kelly-Bello Nock Tent banquet
and is featured speaker for the Barry Lubin
“Grandma” Tent banquet on the 18th.
Official hotel: Comfort Inn, Altoona PA
Special Rate $93.00 (includes tax)
Free admission to the Bull Room at the
hotel Friday April 17, 9:00 A.M.-4:30 P.M.
and Saturday April 18, 8:00-10:30 A.M.
Friday night April 17: annual Emmett
Kelly-Bello Nock Tent #41 banquet and
meeting at Hoss’s Restaurant (adjacent to
Comfort Inn), 6:00 P.M. Order off menu.
Information: Mort Gamble (301-7889015). Members, prospective members and
friends welcome!
Saturday April 18: Adam ForepaughBarry Lubin Tent #2 banquet at Marzoni’s
Restaurant. Social hour 3:00-4:00 P.M.,
Cookhouse flag 4:00 P.M. Program at 5:00
P.M. Circus at 8:00 P.M.
$39.00 registration fee includes Adam
Forepaugh-Barry Lubin #2 banquet at
Marzoni’s Restaurant and circus ticket.
Registration deadline is April 1, 2015.
Make registration fee payable to ForepaughLubin Tent #2. Send check and data below
to David P. Orr, Sec./Treas.; 737 Brentwood
Drive; Duncansville PA 16635.
Information: Forepaugh-Lubin
Facebook, <>, White Tops,
<[email protected]>.
Sorry, no refunds.
Total registrations:
@ $39.00/person
Total amount enclosed $
Sat. banquet preference, number for each:
Baked Haddock
Gargonzola Chicken
Beef Tips Marsala
Reactions to Feld announcement of no more elephants
From the Associated Press
The Feld announcement is on the front of the wrapper
The family that owns the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Circus won’t say just what it was that made them finally decide to
remove elephant acts from the Greatest Show on Earth.
The move announced March 5, 2015 is bittersweet and didn’t
come easily, Feld family members said as they broke the news to
The Associated Press.
Elephants have symbolized this circus since P. T. Barnum brought
an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882. Animals
have been part of their show since Barnum formed his “traveling
menagerie” in 1870.
“It was a decision 145 years in the making,” said Juliette Feld,
who now helps run the circus company with her sisters and father,
Feld Enterprises Inc. President Kenneth Feld.
Animal rights groups immediately took credit Thursday, saying it
was their pressure that led to Feld’s decision.
Kenneth Feld denied that.
“We’re not reacting to our critics; we’re creating the greatest
resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant,” he said as he
described plans to retire the company’s 13 performing elephants by
2018. They’ll join 29 other pachyderms at the company’s 200-acre
Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida.
But Feld acknowledged that because so many cities and counties
have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances, it’s difficult
to organize the tours of three traveling circuses visiting 115 cities
throughout the year. Fighting legislation in each jurisdiction is
expensive, he said.
“All of the resources used to fight these things can be put toward
the elephants,” Feld said.
Los Angeles prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant
trainers and handlers last April. Oakland, California did likewise in
December, banning the devices used to keep elephants in control.
Last month, the city of Asheville, North Carolina nixed wild or
exotic animals from performing in the municipally-owned, 7,600seat U.S. Cellular Center.
“There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,”
said Alana Feld, the company’s executive vice president. “A lot of
people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”
Ingrid E. Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals, says her group made that happen.
“For 35 years PETA has protested Ringling Bros.’ cruelty to
elephants,” she wrote in a statement. “We know extreme abuse to
these majestic animals occurs every single day, so if Ringling is
really telling the truth about ending this horror, it will be a day to
pop the champagne corks, and rejoice. ... If the decision is serious,
then the circus needs to do it NOW.”
Carol Bradley, the author of the book Last Chain on Billie: How
One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top, which is about
a non-Ringling circus elephant, said she believes the Feld family
“realized it was a losing PR battle.”
“This is an enormous, earth-moving decision,” she said. “When I
heard the news, my jaw hit the floor. I never thought they’d change
their minds about this.”
Bradley wondered if the Feld family’s decision had anything to
do with the fallout for SeaWorld over the documentary “Blackfish”,
which explored what may have caused the orca Tilikum to kill
SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.
The documentary argues that killer whales in captivity become
more aggressive to humans and each other. Since it aired, several
entertainers pulled out of planned performances at SeaWorld
Entertainment, Inc. parks, and Southwest Airlines ended its
marketing partnership.
Ringling also has been targeted by activists who say forcing
animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary.
In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements
from animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the
United States, ending a 14-year legal battle over allegations that
circus employees mistreated elephants.
The initial lawsuit was filed by a former Ringling barn helper
who accepted at least $190,000 from animal-rights groups. The
judge called him “essentially a paid plaintiff ” who lacked credibility
and standing to sue, and rejected the abuse claims.
Kenneth Feld testified about the elephants’ importance to the
show during that 2009 trial.
“The symbol of the Greatest Show on Earth is the elephant, and
that’s what we’ve been known for throughout the world for more
than a hundred years,” he said.
Asked by a lawyer whether the show would be the same without
elephants, Feld replied, “No, it wouldn’t.”
Asked again this week, Feld said, “Things have changed.”
Pat Cuviello, a San Mateo, California-based animal activist who
has protested and videotaped Ringling’s animals since 1988, said he
was ecstatic to hear the news.
“I hope at some point they get rid of all the animals in all the
circuses,” he said.
For now, animals remain part of this circus: tigers, dogs and
goats are still performing, and a Mongolian troupe of camel stunt
riders joined its Circus Xtreme show this year. But audiences can
expect more motor sports, daredevils and feats of human physical
capabilities to be showcased in the future.
In 2008, Feld acquired motor sports properties including monster
truck shows, motocross and the International Hot Rod Association,
which promotes drag races and other events. In 2010, it created a
theatrical motorcycle stunt show called Nuclear Cowboyz. Roughly
30 million people attend Feld’s 5,000 live entertainment shows
every year.
Ringling’s popular Canada-based competitor, Cirque du Soleil,
features human acts and doesn’t use wild animals.
But elephants are still being used by other, smaller circuses in the
U.S. – and in places like Russia, France and Thailand.
With a total of 43 elephants, Feld owns the largest herd in North
America, and spends about $65,000 yearly to care for each one.
New structures will be needed to house the retiring elephants at the
rural center, which is close enough to Orlando to attract tourists
eventually if that’s what Feld decides to offer.
Kenneth Feld said initially the center will be open only to
scientists and others studying the Asian elephant, but he “hopes it
expands to something the public will be able to see.”
“I want everybody’s grandkids to be able to see Asian elephants,”
he said.
The center’s youngest elephant is Mike, who will be two in
The White Tops
August, and the oldest is Mysore, who is 69. One elephant, sixyear-old Barack, was conceived by artificial insemination. Since the
center opened in 1995, 26 elephants have been born there.
After Feld’s father bought the circus in 1967, he did away with a
sideshow featuring human acts such as the bearded lady and other
human oddities, he said.
“We’re always changing and we’re always learning,” Feld said.
From the New York Post
Goodbye to elephants? Ringling Bros.’ foolish cave in
by Steve Cuozzo
Only love can save the elephants – a commitment to protecting
Earth’s most enchanting creatures from rampant poaching in East
Africa and Southeast Asia.
But Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ decision, at
PETA’s behest, to boot its elephants by 2018 can only promote the
opposite effect.
For millions, including me, childhood encounters with these
magnificent beasts under the big top inspired a lifelong obsession.
That in turn translates into the only thing which might postpone
elephant extinction or perhaps prevent it – awareness of the
unfolding catastrophe and cash contributions to stave it off. The
once-mighty Greatest Show on Earth has turned into the greatest
pushover on earth. Its craven capitulation to PETA will only
embolden zealots to agitate for elimination of all circus animals
– if not eventually to bestow upon all living creatures the same
“inalienable rights” as humans.
The elephant exile embraces a cruel irony – as does Mayor Bill
de Blasio’s campaign to shut down Central Park carriage rides on
“humane” grounds, which would likely condemn the horses to the
glue factory.
In the interest of sparing a handful of elephants from alleged
backstage brutality – a highly questionable premise – the bozos at
circus parent Feld Entertainment may accelerate the massacre of
the world’s remaining wild herds.
The collapse of Africa’s elephant population is appalling — from
3 million to 5 million in the 1940s to 470,000 to 690,000 today,
according to the World Wildlife Fund.
But the slaughter might be far, far worse without well-funded,
well-publicized conservationist efforts such as WWF’s, which are a
stronger counterweight to the poaching scourge than the efforts of
corrupt and/or cash-strapped governments.
And a commitment to saving elephants starts close up, which
traditionally has meant circuses – even more so now that most
zoos put them in “habitats” where they’re too far away to see.
Animal Planet documentaries can’t match the living spectacle of
an elephant “standing tall” before you, while YouTube clips reduce
them to the comedic level of funny cats.
My affection was born at a traveling circus on Long Island where
the animals were treated no worse than at Ringling Bros. today. I
loved watching the all-too-human giants go through their trunkand-tail-holding paces, and hoist a pretty girl precariously in the air
and gracefully set her down without a scratch.
It may have been a cheap burlesque of elephant behavior in the
wild – or maybe not.
One night in Kenya, a monumental bull traipsed past our tent,
compressed the canvas enough to compress us, crushed a fence and
left us to shudder in silence – but considerately did us no harm. We
could imagine it chuckling as it went on its way.
That elephant came by its fun with us naturally, with no circus
trainers to teach it tricks.
By caving in to PETA, Ringling Bros. will make itself extinct
before the elephants.
Who wants two hours of expensive “family” tedium full of
unfunny clowns and aerial acts that can end in catastrophe, like the
“human chandelier” that sent nine acrobats to the hospital last year?
If The Greatest Show on Earth goes the way of the woolly
mammoth, it will have only itself to blame.
From Ryan Henning
Assistant Animal Superintendent on RB&BB Red Unit
Ryan Henning also owns the paint camel act currently being presented
by Ian Garden, Jr. in Hanneford Shrine shows this spring. He is proanimals through and through.
Thursday, a bittersweet decision was announced by the Feld
family, the first family of the circus/live entertainment business
around the world, to remove Asian elephants from their traveling
circus performances. The traveling elephants will be relocated to
their Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida by 2018. This
announcement was heard and felt around the world in just a short
amount of time as practically every news organization around the
world covered the story.
The Feld family has spent millions of dollars to preserve the
endangered Asian elephant species the past 20 years, paving the
way for other circuses and private individuals to showcase this
beautiful creature while fighting litigation on the front lines.
Animal extremists can be defeated, as proven by the Felds time
after time through all their legal victories over the years. However,
new legislation cannot be overcome as easily, and more and more
politicians are caving to political pressure.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been in the
Feld family for 45 years. I can’t imagine how difficult of a decision
this must have been for them to make. For decades, they have been
committed to preserving this magnificent species. This decision
only strengthens that commitment and reinforces their vow to
ensure that the Asian elephant will be around for future generations
to enjoy. The results of this planned transition will allow so much
more of their resources to be spent on conservation efforts, rather
than wasted on legal battles. Everyone in the circus/elephant
community probably saw this coming. It was just a matter of time.
But the absolute highest standard of care provided to the Ringling
elephants, by the best animal care specialists, has never been a
question or a concern. The Feld family has not in any way given
up, but is reinforcing its enduring commitment to these brilliant,
gentle, loving giants.
At this time, in this circus/animal family we are all a part of, we
must come together and continue to support the Feld family, thank
them for everything they have done and will continue to do for the
Asian elephant species, not to mention the circus industry. I call
on all of my friends and colleagues to stand together as a family
and cherish the limited time remaining that we have to spend with
our “divas”. This change will close one chapter for the elephants,
but also begin a new one as new opportunities arise. Change is
inevitable. Kenneth Feld once said, “People who can’t embrace
change have a difficult time succeeding at anything. Life is about
change.” I completely agree with that statement.
more on the next page
March/April 2015
From Randy Peterson
I received a nice reply from Randy Peterson on my Facebook
page on a post I made about RB&BB retiring their elephants. His
comment really calmed me down because my real concern was for
the continuation of the elephant conservation center established by
the Feld family.
Robert Zopfi
Glad you got a grip, Bob. Thought we lost ya for a minute...
there are a lot of factors that went into has NOTHING
to do with the activist, and NOTHING to do with the cost
of transportation. I have spent my whole life caring for these
animals, and will continue to do so. The steel industry changed, the
automobile industry has changed, the airline industry has changed,
and so we must change also. We are not leaving, we are not giving
up, or getting rid of the elephants. We will continue to give 24/7
care to the largest group of elephants in the northern hemisphere.
We also are continuing the world’s best breeding program with
Asian elephants. Everyone step back, take a break, and trust us. We,
at Feld Entertainment, are the experts. It’s not world ending stuff.
We are still a circus family.
them safe. O’Donnell says state and federal inspectors visit the
circus regularly.
From Venues Today
by Doug Kruest
Thanks to Gary Payne for pointing out this article. It
comes from Venues Today, an entertainment industry oriented
magazine and website at <
From Circus World Museum
Committed to keeping elephants
by WKOW-TV, Madison WI
Circus World, with its roots in the Ringling Bros., says it’s
committed to keeping elephants in its shows in Baraboo.
Baraboo was home to the Ringling Brothers when they
began their first tour as a circus in 1884. Today, Circus World
continues big top shows with performers from all over the world.
Executive Director Scott O’Donnell says Circus World has a great
environment for the elephants and an exemplary record for keeping
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Summit 2015 – Registration Form
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Circus Fans Association of America
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The White Tops
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Second part of form on page 3 of the wrapper
White Tops
Mar/Apr 2015
The Circus Fans Association of America
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
will discontinue elephants in shows
Ringling herd of Asian elephants will be moved to the
Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida
The Feld Family, owners of Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parent
company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, announced plans
March 5, 2015 to remove Asian elephants from their traveling
circus performances. Under the plan, 13 elephants currently
traveling with the three Ringling Bros. circus units will be relocated
to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant for Conservation in
Florida by 2018. There they will join the rest of the Ringling Bros.
herd of more than 40 elephants.
The Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation is already
home to the largest herd of Asian elephants and the most successful
breeding program for this endangered species in the Western
Hemisphere. The circus will continue to feature other extraordinary
animal performers including tigers, lions, horses, dogs and camels.
This unprecedented change in the 145-year old Greatest Show
on Earth will allow the company to focus on its Asian elephant
conservation programs, both here in North America and through
its partnership
with the island
nation of Sri Lanka.
The company will
also continue to
collaborate with
other conservation
working to preserve
this magnificent
species for future
generations. For
example, the company
has placed elephants
at eight zoos, either
on loan or through
donations, and will
continue to support
the Smithsonian
Institution’s research
Vol 88 No 2
lab working to find a cure for diseases that impact juvenile
“This is the most significant change we have made since we
founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in
1995. When we did so, we knew we would play a critical role in
saving the endangered Asian elephant for future generations, given
how few Asian elephants are left in the wild,” said Kenneth Feld,
Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “Since then, we have
had 26 elephant births. No other institution has done or is doing
more to save this species from extinction, and that is something of
which I and my family are extremely proud. This decision was not
easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and
our customers,” he added.
“Our family has been the proud steward of the American
institution that is Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, and our
elephants, for 45 years. It is a legacy that we hold near and dear
to our hearts, and as producers of The Greatest Show on Earth, we
feel we have a responsibility to preserve the esteemed traditions
that everyone expects from a Ringling Bros. performance while
striving to keep the show fresh and contemporary for today’s
families,” said Nicole Feld and Alana Feld, Ringling Bros. producers
and Executive Vice Presidents with Feld Entertainment. “As the
circus evolves, we can
maintain our focus on
elephant conservation
while allowing our
business to continue to
meet shifting consumer
preferences,” they added.
information on Ringling
Bros. and Barnum
& Bailey Circus and
the Ringling Bros.
Center for Elephant
Conservation can be
found online at <www.> and
more about reactions
on pages 62-64
March/April 2015
photo by Paul Gutheil
Wrapper 1
d by
Landolf-Toner Tent
o p s
What’s happening out there!
by Ken & Jan Sopelak
For over 75 years the Landolf-Toner Tent has met the first Tuesday
of the month from September through June. This season, during
our first several months, we have been fortunate to have been
visited by some wonderful guests. Our tent members have also been
hard at work preparing for the Worldwide Circus Summit <www.>.
Eric Lehman, author of Becoming Tom Thumb, kicked off the
year with a fascinating lecture of unknown facts and a book
signing. Jan Sopelak also displayed her photos highlighting
the Iowa Convention. It gave those who could not attend an
opportunity to share the Iowa experience. The group photo of
all the conventioneers standing in front of the Baraboo Ringling
Home was the tent’s favorite. The home is being restored by CFA
members Don Horowitz and Joe Colossa.
Chris and Greg Connors from Cole Bros. Circus, sons of devoted
tent member Barbara Connors Pelli, stopped by and brought
us up-to-date on a wide variety of winter circus news from the
Sarasota area. Cole Bros. Circus is the CFA featured circus of the
Worldwide Circus Summit and they are busy producing a first class
show that you will not want to miss. Cole is the last three-ring
American circus under the big top.
Joe Barney, ringmaster, magician, producer, and one of the
nation’s finest Santa Clauses, stopped in to provide us with news
of his performances, upcoming shows and family updates. As
usual, his quick and sharp wit plus funny stories kept us filled with
Josh ‘Meatball’ Dummit (left), the
clown, was another featured guest. Josh
is a dedicated performer who really ran
away with the circus. He shared his
adventures and travels with Cole Bros.
and Ringling Bros. Circuses. We are
happy to hear that he is returning to
Cole Bros this season.
One of our highlights was a World
Federation calendar signing by one
of the winners, Julie Kycia, and her
subject, Leah Reeves (little Miss February at right). We are proud
that they are both members of our tent and that this photo was
taken during our first annual celebration of “Circus” April 2014.
Distinguished videographer, Lane Talburt, often premieres his latest
work at our meetings in which we do not have a special guest.
Even though we are busy working on the CFA WCS convention,
we will take time out in April to celebrate “Circus” by having our
second annual backyard circus in the Great Room of J. Timothy’s
in Plainville CT. Many tent members will share their talents both
beginner, amateur and professional, ranging in ages from 4-??; well,
let’s just say ‘mature’. It’s a fun night to let our hair down and be
kids again. Thanks to our President, Jane Kycia, for starting this
great tradition.
We are all looking forward to seeing you at the fun filled, highly
entertaining and informative Worldwide Circus Summit.
Wrapper 2
Showfolks of Sarasota Tent
Mardi We
by Brian Liddicoat
On February
2015, members and guests of the tent gathered at
Primo’s Restaurant in Sarasota for our annual banquet. Following
cocktails and conversation, we were served house-dressed salad and
family style helpings of baked ziti, chicken parmesan and penne
with seafood, followed by spumoni for dessert. Our waitresses were
excellent, and compliments for food and service were abundant.
Guest speaker was Bill Powell (right with tent president Brian
Liddicoat on the left), Vice President Event Marketing and Sales
for Feld Entertainment. Bill covered his incredible early life in
the circus, and then gave a lengthy and very detailed PowerPoint
presentation on the expansion of the world of Feld. He also showed
us the production process in creating an edition of The Greatest
Show On Earth. Thanks to Bill, and to his Executive Assistant
Alexandria Naghtin. Also attending from Feld were Melinda
Hartline, Mark Riddell and Peggy Williams.
Very colorful table decor by Charmaine Liddicoat included
inflatable circus horses with added balloons, and plush white tigers
and elephants provided by Feld Entertainment. Each attendee also
received a souvenir Feld umbrella.
Next meeting of the tent was on March 4 at the Showfolks
of Sarasota Club, and included the annual auction of circus
memorabilia and a potluck dinner.
Calendar signing: L-R are Julie Kycia, Leah Reeves, and Gary Cooper.
The White Tops
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First part of form on page 64
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<[email protected]>.
Cheryl Deptula
5537 Beavercrest Dr., #203
Lorain OH 44053-1740
OABA celebrates 50 years
Serving and protecting the mobile amusement industry
Recently at the OABA’s 50th annual member meeting held in
Tampa, Florida, the industry’s national trade association kicked
off its 50th Golden Jubilee Celebration, chaired by Chris Lopez
with Ray Cammack Shows, then turning the gavel over to the
association’s 2015 Chair, Michael Wood with Wood Entertainment.
This gala event and celebration was helped and supported by many
industry manufacturers and suppliers and attended by some 400
members and guests.
Organized in February 1965, the Outdoor Amusement Business
Association was discussed by a group of
showmen, organized by the Strates and Vivona
carnival families, who met at the Sherman House
in Chicago to conceive a national lobbying
organization to protect the future of the family
carnival and outdoor amusement industry, for
generations to follow. They were later assisted by
Bob Blundred, then Secretary of the International
Association of Amusement Parks (now known as
IAAPA), who helped frame this new association’s
constitution and by-laws, with headquarters
incorporated in the State of Michigan. This new
association’s membership was to include carnival,
ride and circus owners.
At the first general meeting of this non-profit trade association
that year, directors elected were Rod Link, C. C. Groscurth, Irvin
Deggeller, Charles Edens, Al Kunz, H. W. Luehrs, John Portemont,
Jr., Albert Steele, E. James Strates, Jr., Bernard Thomas, John
Vivona and Hal Eifort.
The first elected officers included: W. G. Glenn Wade, President;
Robert A. Reid, First Vice President & Secretary, William T.
Collins; Second Vice President; John Vivona, Third Vice President;
and John Reid as Treasurer. The association’s headquarters later
moved and was incorporated in Bloomington, Minnesota in May,
Today the OABA is headquartered in a suburb of Orlando,
Florida, continuing its mission to “promote the preservation and
growth of the outdoor amusement industry through leadership,
advocacy and education”. The board is a geographically dispersed
representation of all segments of the mobile amusement industry,
Wrapper 4
with over 2,500 members including carnivals, food/game
concessionaires, independent ride owners, manufacturers and
suppliers, fairs and festivals, as well as individual membership.
Members are mostly U.S. based; however many are located in
Canada and Australia.
The OABA continues its strong foundation for 50 years of
promoting and protecting the mobile amusement industry for
future generations of predominately family-owned businesses,
continuing to be challenged with seasonal labor issues, state
regulations, federal agencies such as DOT, OSHA, CPSC, and
protecting the rights of exotic performing animal owners and
America’s circus tradition. The OABA relies on seasoned lobbyists,
attorneys and consultants who are well versed
in various segments of the outdoor amusement
industry and various state and federal regulatory
The Association values its relationships
with other industry trade associations such as
International Association of Fairs and Expositions
(IAFE), the International Association of
Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the
International Festivals and Events Association
(IFEA) and the National Independent
Concessionaire’s Association (NICA), as well as
other independent showmen’s organizations and
showmen’s clubs, and ASTM International to
promote ride safety and to have a united front on many state and
federal issues of concern to all.
OABA Chair Michael Wood, whose early business career was
with W. G. Wade Shows working for his father F. G. “Red” Wood,
a former OABA Trustee and Hall of Fame recipient, credits Mr.
Wade and its founders for the first 50 years by saying, “It’s ironic
how things have come full circle since our founding. Fifty years
ago, we put aside our competitive nature and came together to
stand our ground against big government and big labor, and today
we continue to do the same. Our very survival in the short term
relies heavily on the H-2B visa program and the valuable seasonal
labor it provides, something unions and government have worked
hard to take away from us. No such victory will come without the
support of our members, along with the fairs and festivals we serve.
Please remember this – individually we are noticed, but together we
succeed; so keep supporting the OABA and do your part to ensure
our future!”
The White Tops
Mar/Apr 2015

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