The Phenomenal Rudy Horn

by Bob Brock

IJA Newsletter, Vol. 17, No. 1, January 1965

(This article, written by Bob Brock, is a sequel to another article on this marvelous juggler also written by Bob Brock which appeared in the Oct., 1964 newsletter.)

Could you have survived the French revolution? Well, in a way, that is what Rudy Horn manages to do at least twice every evening. While the curtain falls to an audience still jolted by a fantastic extravaganza of revolutionary pomp, blood and thunder, Rudy must move onstage and solitarily meet the unbelievable task of topping the preceding production. He does this by tossing some balls, clubs and rings and by balancing some kitchenware. Believe it, he succeeds magnificently.

Three clubsRudy begins with a 45-second manipulation of three undecorated white clubs, and though it is only his opener he presents the finest demonstration of club-juggling ever performed. Starting with triples, he moves on to a series of tossed under the legs from the front and from behind. Next, with arms spread, he laterals triples across his chest. Then, from under his legs, he lobs singles up from behind, then moves into doubles which are all thrown from under the legs in front and caught out over the shoulders. Then, while his arms are extended over his head, Rudy polishes off his opener by throwing doubles.

Bouncing sevenHis five-ball routine follows, moving from a cascade to back throws, then up over the head, finishing in a shower. He then cascades seven balls and bounces them on a drum to complete an astonishing exhibition of virtuoso ball tossing.

Because he does not have large hands, and uses a custom made ball that is larger and heavier than the lacrosse ball, the finish catch of the seven ball cascade presents for Rudy a more difficult task than the spectators would realize.

Lamp and 7 ringsRudy's next routine consists of flipping a floor lamp back and forth from one foot to the other, then kicking it up to balance on his forehead. While balancing the lamp, he then cascades seven rings. He is not stingy with his tossing. He could get by with cascading the rings around three times, but instead he does about 45 throws - that is over six times around. When practicing without the lamp, Rudy can keep seven rings going for one minute with hardly any noticeable effort. He wonders if any of the IJAers can do the same. A minute does not sound very long, but if you think in terms of over 300 throws, then this is indeed a challenge.

Having warmed up with clubs, balls, rings, and a floor lamp, Rudy now introduces his spoon trick. Measured in terms of the type of objects balanced this would appear to be like following up a stunt using a cannon ball with one using a spit ball. Showing a spoon to the audience, he remarks off-hand, "Just a teaspoon." Then he places the spoon on his right instep, and all at once kicks it up to balance on his forehead. After letting the spoon fall, he catches it in the fold of his right ear and concludes by saying simply, "That is all."

Thus, in a matter of seconds, he presents the greatest balancing feat being performed anywhere in the world today, and perhaps for all time. This stunt is all the more remarkable for the fact that Horn remains the only performer capable of doing it. If no one has successfully copied this feat, it is not because the prop is an unfamiliar object, or one difficult to obtain.

Because of the time factor in this show, Rudy does not do his incredible follow up stunt of flipping the balanced spoon from a bowl-down to a bowl-up balance on his forehead.

Cups Rudy's trademark, in which he kicks up and stacks on his head six cups and saucers followed by a spoon and a sugar cube, all of which he balances while riding a unicycle, is the insuperable climax to his astonishing act.

Speaking in accent-free English (and if this were Paris, he could speak equally well in French) he enjoys kidding with the audience, which helps to "sell" his act tremendously. He warns the audience not to get nervous when the cups pile up precariously on his head. And after the sixth cup has been kicked into place, he gets a laugh from the devotees of this gambling Mecca by quipping, "Six the hard way."

As he bows for his curtain call, the audience sees him only as a smiling gracious entertainer. A closer look would reveal the perspiration and fatigue of a brilliant performer, who in the eight preceding minutes had skillfully presented a display of combined throwing and balancing talent rarely equaled in the long history of the juggling art.

Rudy begins his warm-up period backstage about an hour and a half before going on the dinner show. Practicing with clubs, balls, rings, and the lamp, he is usually through in about 45 minutes - and in full sweat he returns to his dressing room. Ordinarily, this is all the practicing he does in the entire evening except for a few minutes of kicking up a spoon to his forehead while waiting in the wings for his cue.

7 ballsRudy believes practice is primarily a matter of limbering the muscles: he does not believe in the school of thought that believes a trick or routine once perfected must be repeated incessantly every day to be performed well. If he loses his confidence in doing a trick, he will first determine what is wrong, then do the entire practice needed to correct the problem. As an example, Rudy currently finds that his stance is a little off because of an unconscious tendency to turn away from the powerful lights. Therefore, he is spending additional time practicing to straighten it. If he feels that his ball juggling is not "right," he practices by tossing up seven while sitting in a chair in his dressing room. This is not a stunt, nor is it to rest his feet. Rudy contends that proper throwing results mainly from the efforts of the forearms. Thus by throwing from a sitting position, the shoulders and upper arms cannot move easily and the forearms are thereby forced to do the work.

While warming up Rudy does some of the things that are not part of the repertoire that an audience sees. Sometimes out of a three club cascade he tosses one of the clubs to a balance on his forehead, heavy end down. At one time this trick was included in his regular stage routine but had to be cut because it was slowing the tempo of his act. He warns: Do not practice this one too often as it has a tendency to cause throbbing headaches.

Rudy is just as adept with four clubs as he is with three while doing all the standard moves such as showers and kickups, however, the following four club stunt caught the writer's eye and it is a lulu: alternating two clubs in each hand, one is thrown from the right hand for a five-turn toss about 18 feet up into the air. Then, in a three club cascade, four catches are made before the club thrown high returns and is caught in the left hand (the fifth catch) to return to the four juggle. This trick, although much more difficult, is related to the concluding trick that the late Serge Flash used for his three stick routine. From a cascade, he would toss a stick up a few turns, then flip the two in his hands one turn over before catching the third one.

Juggling eight rings during the warm up period hinders the timing of the seven rings on the stage. Nevertheless occasionally, he throws eight rings six times around without any trouble. While juggling five balls, Rudy goes from a standing position to a flat-on-the-back horizontal, and then returns to his original stance. He considers this item his most difficult tossing trick. Small wonder!

Here is another friendly challenge of Rudy's: Can anyone using one arm do the coin stunt with five coins? Rudy does it well, catching the fifth coin just above the shoelaces.

A few years ago, for his own amusement, he practices a nine-ball toss up a few minutes every day. For this, he used black rubber balls the size of golf balls that were dead of bounce. Before he gave up practicing, he managed to accomplish throwing them around twice, completing the toss by catching four in each hand. Only the ninth ball was caught against the chest "basket style."

Rudy has no immediate plans to change his act, other than superficial ones. He says, "Sure, I could add a double shower to the seven ball cascade and do eight rings instead of seven, but who other than a few of the jugglers would notice the difference?"

Rudy is a very sure performer - making very few mistakes in his act. This year he has missed the spoon balance stunt on the first attempt an average of less than once out of the 65 performances he does each month. During last year while appearing in Switzerland he dropped only about a half-dozen pieces of china from the unicycle in many hundreds of performances.

Nevertheless mistakes will happen even to the greatest jugglers in their battle against gravity. In a one-in-a- million chance occurrence Rudy recently dropped a cup which shattered behind his unicycle tire. He could not avoid running over it, and the tire popped. Although Mr. Gravity had "floored" him, he completed his act sans unicycle and with the aid of a patch was back for another round on the next performance.

Possessing perfect posture (and why not after balancing thousands of cups) Rudy, who is 5' 8" and 165 pounds, is rather chunky for a juggler and does have a problem with muscle binding. A very modest and friendly person, he is well liked particularly by his fellow performers and is especially close to the Alwardos, the hand-balancing act from Denmark now in the Stardust Lido Revue. Another trait advantageous to him as a performing artist is his calm temperament - nothing much seems to bother him. On his opening night at the Dunes he took the excitement in stride just as though he had been performing every show of his life there.

Did you know that Rudy had been juggling professionally for a dozen years before he saw any other juggler perform and already had done a command performance before Queen Elizabeth by that time?

In developing his own act, Rudy was influenced by nothing more than the advice he received from his family. Thus relying entirely on his own ideas he produced what all great performers must have; an individual style of his own. Rudy Horn juggles only like Rudy Horn. It is to his credit that so many of the tricks he does after so many years still remain unique to him. To make a real Ripley "Believe it or not" item, the first juggler whom Rudy saw perform was none other than Francis Brunn.

Rudy does not like to take his juggling or himself too seriously. Once when involved in a discussion as to whether it was Hartly or Mader who originated the cup and saucer trick, Rudy tactfully dismissed the matter surmising that the Chinese probably did the trick hundreds of years ago. Moreover, in his deluxe apartment near the Dunes, there is nothing to indicate he is a famous juggler or that he is even in show business. He has an accordion with him, and in a table is his coin collection. These are hobbies that fill a place in is life as juggling does for most of the IJAers. There are no juggling props, no show biz books or pictures. As he explains neither boastfully nor shamefully, but as a simple fact, "For me juggling is my work and not my life."

Next year with Francis Brunn in the Follies Bergere, Rudy Cardenas back in the Lido and Rudy Horn held over at the Casino De Paris, the Strip becomes a jugglers' "Hall of Fame."

So, jugglers, in 1965 fly, drive, or take the bus to Las Vegas (and leave the juggling to them.) Take your choice. If you prefer juggling that is high wide and handsome and full of suspense you should certainly see the phenomenal Rudy Horn. On the other hand you may prefer juggling in the classic style, but seasoned by the tendency toward the dramatic. If so, you would enjoy watching the great Francis Brunn, the Antonio of the Nijinsky of the jugglers who can out-Rastelli Rastelli. Or you may desire a blend that combines elements from both styles, but flavored with a fantasy of novelty. Then don't miss little Rudy Cardenas.

Whatever your taste, however, you will be well advised to see all three incredible artists - each of whom is a supreme premier jongleur noble of our contemporary world.

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