The Gentleman Juggler

Article from the collection of Mary Wilkins

Kara is generally recognized as the originator of the 'gentleman' juggling act. Wearing a top hat and top coat, carrying an umbrella and smoking a cigar, he would enter the stage that was set in a billiard parlor scene and begin juggling the top hat, umbrella and cigar - he would finish this routine by catching the hat on his head, the cigar in his mouth, and with a toss of the umbrella over his shoulder he would catch it under his arm. Within minutes, to slow waltz music, he would be juggling all of the props upon the stage.

"The table, the chair, and the newspaper flew through the air, or he juggled three sections of newspaper while sitting down, and at the same time made circles with lighted candles and handkerchiefs. Then at the end, the candleholders went onto the table and the candles went into the candleholders."

But Kara did not begin his juggling career as a gentleman juggler; his stage name and act evolved over a period of years. He was born on January 31, 1867, and his real name is Michael Steiner. Before he was ten a circus juggler made a strong impression upon young Michael and he became a self-taught juggler. His first public performance was on October 17, 1883. Wearing traditional tights with fringe, he juggled "3, 4, and 5 balls; 3 and 4 knives;...4 bottles; with 3 bottles that bounced on the floor in time to music; and...after 6 months he could juggle 4 balls with one hand."

By 1887 he was using the name Carradini which his agent thought was too long and they shortened to Kara. With a new agent and a new name his career began to take-off; his first engagement took him to Paris in the famous Folies Bergere, For a finish trick, he balanced a plate on his forehead, spun a plate on a pole with his left hand and juggled two plates with his right, then he let the plate fall from his forehead and juggled 3 plates with his right hand. "He brought the effect to a climax by continuing until the curtain fell. The curtain opened once again and he was still juggling as before."

Kara died on April 9th, Easter Sunday, 1939, after a long and world- renowned juggling career. He performed in the best theaters of the world and made several tours of America, his last in 1921.

Grateful acknowledgment for facts and quotes are made to the Olive Houston's translation of Hermann Sagemüller's book, MICHAEL KARA: KING OF JUGGLERS - JUGGLER TO KINGS.

Return to Kara home page