HOWDY, MY NAME IS BILL STRONG, I'LL BE YOUR "24 HOUR MAN", ROUTING YOU INTO THE PAST TO SEE WHAT THE CIRCUS WAS IN DAYS GONE BY. IF YOU'RE LIKE ME, AND MISS WHAT IT USED TO BE, THEN COME ON ALONG AS WE GO DOWN THE ROAD FOLLOWING THE ARROWS BACKWARDS, TO "YESTERDAY'S TOWNS"!
IF YOU HAVE CIRCUS RELATED PICTURES YOU WOULD LIKE POSTED, SEND THEM TO,,,,firstname.lastname@example.org,,,,AND WE WILL TRY TO FIT THEM IN. "24 HOUR MAN" WILL HAVE THE FINAL DECISION ON POSTING.
Three years at CWM made me a real traditionalist, and I keep remembering Bob Parkinson saying, "I want the people to see what the circus used to be, not what it is today. That's what this site is about!
IN MEMORY OF: SYLVANNA "CHA CHA" MELUZZI, ANOTHER TROUPER GONE TO REST
Cha Cha Meluzzi passed away yesterday morning,(Thursday October 30, 2008).
VIEWING WILL BE AT TOALE BROS. FUNERAL HOME, MONDAY FROM 2PM-4PM & 6PM-8PM WITH A SMALL SERVICE AT 7PM. THE FUNERAL SERVICE WILL BE TUESDAY, AT ST. MARTHA'S CHURCH AT 1PM, FOLLOWED BY BURIAL AT MANISOTA MEMORIAL CEMETARY. THERE WILL THEN BE A CELEBRATION OF LIFE AT SHOWFOLKS CLUB.
CHA CHA "ZACCHINI" This picture is from Dorothy Grotenfent's book, "Circus Potpourri", in which Cha Cha is described as the first woman to do the cannon, starting training at age 14.
THERE WILL BE A CELEBRATION OF LIFE FOR ROBERT (BOBBY) WAINMAN ON SUNDAY NOV. 22rd AT 4:00PM AT SHOWFOLKS OF SARASOTA. NETTA MACMAHON
Robert (Bobby) Jon Wainman passed away Oct. 19th. I don't know if you know him. He lost both his legs and is always in a wheel chair at the club. He was a concessionaire Ticket taker you name it. Services are being handled by Covell Funeral home in Bradenton. Day and date will be announced later. He is well known at the club. I remember him, and I also remember in spite of everything, he always had a smile on his face. Sleep well Bobby!!!!
BARS #1: FOR NEIL COCKERLINE: ABOUT HORIZONTAL BARS
As far as I know, all Horizontal Bars were made of Hickory, probably for it's strength, & flexibility, the same reason it was used for tool handles, shovels, rakes, & hoes in particular. Thus the terms, "Hoe Handlers", & "Hickory Stick Artists", applied to "Bar Actors"
Years ago when "Craftsmen", were plentiful it was easy to get bars, Blondie LaBlonde said they got them from a man in Oregon, and if they weren't pure white they would send them back. The difficult part of making bars is that it was necessary to drill a 5/8" hole lengthwise, through the center and insert a steel core up to 6ft long for added strength, if the drill bit started following the grain it would come out the side, and that bar scrapped. About 6" of each end of the bar was left square so it could be put in a socket to keep it from turning, the socket also had the connections for guy lines, in the old days these were made of brass. The core was threaded on the ends to keep it in the socket. I have heard of people using bars without a core, but I also heard of them breaking, if a bar "cracked" length-wise while you were on it some serious damage to the palms of the hands could result. Years ago a cracked bar would be discarded, as they became harder to get we would repair them by wrapping fine wire around the cracked area, and cover that with non-waterproof adhesive tape that was not slippery. In later years Johnny Hartzel made his own bars, and a man in Cleveland experimented making two halves, grooving them out, & gluing them on each side of a steel rod, they weren't overly popular. The only act I ever saw use Steel bars was The Three Merkys(sp?), and they wrapped them with a very fine twine.
As for what was applied to the bars, it was referred to as “dope”, and in the early days it consisted of resin, & mutton tallow,(sheep fat), cooked together to form a sticky substance to give a better grip on the bar, most acts had several different batches, that they could choose from according to weather conditions. Of course working in the rain was out because if the bars got wet it was not possible to maintain a grip. In later years the tallow was replaced by petroleum jelly, the Merkys mixed resin & gasoline.
The dope was applied in a line along the top of the bar and a piece of ¼” cotton rope was wrapped twice around the bar and the ends pulled alternately as it was moved back & forth across the bar spreading the dope evenly. It was applied before every show, usually by the “straight man” as he did the “big” tricks, he would then put covers, made of rubber hose over the bars to protect them until time to work.
ROPIN THE BARS!
PUTTIN THE COVERS ON. The bars were covered outside, or inside, and even when stored, they were "doped" periodically to keep them from drying out.
Bar actors wore pads to protect their hands, in fact some flyers would also wear them when their hands got sore, the pads, as you can see below did not protect the fingers from developing blisters, or callouses, for that matter, some times they didn't protect the hands that good either. When you worked theaters you sometimes did 5 shows a day, that was rough on the hands. I remember working a nightclub in Montreal, doing three shows a day, & during that time we worked a TV show, doing four rehearsals plus the show, I had 14 blisters with the skin peeled off.
Some guys developed callouses, personally I preferred to keep my hands soft, I would rather tear the skin off a blister than tear off a big thick callous. Blondie used to shave his callouses with a razor-blade, he refused to wear hand pads which made Bruce & I unhappy because bare hands tended to take the dope off the bar. He would put some on for practice, do a couple giant swings and take them back off.
The pads as you can see were home made, & rather simple, a leather strap, & two pieces of wick from a kerosene lamp, there were some tailor mades for gymnastics high bar, but you know how show bums are about changing from the old ways. We sort of resent the pads gymnasts use now because they have a piece of dowel stick in them that aids in holding onto the bar.
MY LAST HAND PADS When they fit properly, & the length right it was not possible to straighten the hand. If you ever noticed, George Hubler had a habit of having his wrists bent, that came from wearing bar act pads.
As far as I know the shoes they wore were much like most acrobats, leather, with a soft rough leather sole, made by the "Griffin Theatrical Shoe Co.", of Rochester, N.Y., when I started, I wore canvas gymnastic pumps because that's what I was used to from my gymnastic days. Later I wore a cut down version of a big clown shoe,(not quite as long) that I made myself, they had hard leather soles which didn't seem to bother me much.
PULL UP RIGGINGS: This was the term we used for riggings that had steel pipe supports & were held up by guy wires & pulley blocks.
THE THREE WILLARDS I am not familiar with this act.
DICK HERDINK I'm not sure which one is Dick, or the names of the other members of the act. I met Dick later in his career when he had a portable rigging equipped with electric motors, when the act was over it would fold up & roll off the stage by it's self.,,,,Is anyone out there familiar with the line,"More Resin"????
PORTABLE RIGGINGS: These riggings were quite handy, & necessary, in places where there was no way to use guy lines.
THE LA BLONDE TRIO The extra pole in front was used to rotate vertically while holding by one hand.
JOHNSON & OWENS This was a very good Bar Act that spent many years on the Orrin Davenport Show, here Owens is seen doing a feet first "Shoot Over".
SHELBY "JACK" JACKSON I believe this is on Hoxie Bros.
NOVELTY BAR ACT RIGGINGS:
THE HANELS Here you see a single horizontal bar with a cradle, making it a Casting Act.
THE SILAGHI TROUPEThis photo is from William Wilson's presentation of Hagenbeck's Wonder Circus, in Isslington, England, 1936,(Courtesy of Buckles' Blog). It shows a rigging similar to Hanel's, however the cables on the left side of the horizontal bar go straight out, leading me to believe there is more than one bar. It is described in the program as a "Comedy Bar Act", & the dwarf in the catchers's hands is named Papp.
VASSELI STOLLIAOV Trudy & I worked on a show in Holland with this act and I asked them if they were related to a similar act that appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show years ago. They said they were not, they saw a movie of the original act, & framed one like it.
AERIAL BARS: Most aerial bar act riggings I see in old photos are 4 bars like the ones below.
FOUR BAR AERIAL BARS This four bar act, on Ringling in the late '20's or early '30's is probably one of three.
THREE BAR AERIAL BAR ACTS:
THE LA BLONDES. After an opening routine by the straight man, the next trick in most comedy aerial bar acts was the "strip shirt". This is Blondie LaBlonde, Xenia Ohio, 1953.
STEP-A-LEAN To stand on one bar & lean forward to the next bar, was naturally called a "lean", thus when the comic pretended to step to the other bar, then do the lean it became the "step-a-lean" This is Jim LaBlonde, Xenia, Ohio 1953.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT. This is yours truly, Detroit Shrine Circus, 1956
GIANT SWING This is when you completely encircle the bar, mostly used to gain momentum for more dificult tricks from bar to bar.
Orrin Davenport said the best way to open the show was a Comedy Aerial Bar Act, so,,,,,,,,
Both of these clips were taken at Olympic Park in New Jersey, the first is one from the Pedro Morales' home movies, & the night show from Frank Clark's collection.
FIVE BAR AERIAL BARS:
THE PABLO RODRIGUEZ TROUPE The first five bar act I saw was "The Ibarra Brothers", on Ringling, later when I first saw Pablo on Gil Gray it was a five bar ground bar act. Later after going to Europe he moved the act to the air, Paplo had done aerial bars before.
BROCK #1: HOE HANDLERS, HICKORY STICK ARTISTS, BAR ACTORS, & MORE
How lucky can a retired "bar actor" be to come across this scrapbook that belonged to an old time "hoe handler" like Alex Brock, I met Alex when I first came to Florida with the Wilson family he was a long time retired by then, in fact was confined to a wheelchair, but we had some interesting discussions about days when every Circus had at least two "Aerial Bar" acts. Alex gave me one of his old Hickory bars to practice on, even though I had also retired, it's a shame that bar disappeared through the years. Finally after all these years I can put faces with some of the names he talked about, the only one I met other than Alex was Stuart Roberts, from the old Eugene Troupe.
THE BROCK BROS.
CHARLIE FORREST, ALEX BROCK, & RED FINNIGEL(sp?) I'm having a little problem matching faces & names here??
A "THROW UP TO FEET", BY CHARLIE FORREST If you swing under one bar, let go doing a half twist, landing sitting on the next bar, facing the bar you were on before, it was referred to as a "throw up to seat", or "seat jump". The extreme version of this trick was to land in a standing position, or, "throw up to feet"
As I remember, most old fashioned aerial bar acts had three people, a straight man, & two comics, the size of this troupe would lead me to think it was three acts, the center one having two straight men.
THE EUGENE TROUPE
EUGENE TROUPE NUMBER TWO I can only guess that this is two acts.