There are no juggling groups here in South Africa as you have in America and Europe. If fact, there are very few jugglers in our population of 24 million. The only venue near us that can remotely be compared to the Las Vegas cabaret setting is Sun City, located in Bophuthaswana, one of our neighboring states. The top act in the world are booked there, including jugglers like Francis Brunn and Steve Bor from Australia.
It is impossible to make a living juggling here unless you join the circus. Presently there are only two in this country, Boswell-Wilkie and Brian Boswell's Circus.
Boswell-Wilkie is the bigger one, and this year they have the 12-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter of the Biasini bicycle family from Italy doing a juggling act under the name of the Tylers. The son does most of the juggling, using clubs with some fantastic kick-up moves, balls, rings and cigar boxes. He and his sister open and end the act with some club passing.
The best local juggler is still Colin Underwood, who worked Boswell-Wilkie's Circus two years ago with fellow juggler Charles Stron. Stron has since teamed up with an American who was in a "Barnum" production, and they now tour resort hotels in America as Willie & Stron.
Underwood worked the Robert Brothers Circus in England last year, but is not keen on circus now. He reckons he can make more money locally with his Woody the Clown act and mini-circus that he takes to shopping malls. It is quite a cute show.
The present juggler for Brian Boswell's Circus is the Spaniard Oscar Logano, a member of the famous Logano contortionist family. I will join that circus this season to do some comedy juggling as a sort of parody on his act.
In Cape Town the independently-operated South African College of Magic has opened a juggling branch, but I don't know who is in charge. More later!
Germiston, South Africa
I enjoyed the latest edition of Juggler's World very much. Having read the section on the Karamazov Brothers in "Jewel of the Nile," I went to see how the Brothers came across on celluloid. I had expected the storyline to be a lot of romantic rubbish, but I hadn't expected there to be so little of interest to juggling fans, and that was the annoying thing.
It seemed to me that the Karamazovs were treated by director and cutter just like any old extras, who might just as well not have been juggling. It raised the question for me as to whether juggling acts do themselves any good by working for a medium -- the Hollywood movie -- that is totally insensitive to their art. The positive effect of increased exposure to the filmgoing public seems to me to be more than offset by the negative effect of having your routine subsumed to the bombastic aesthetic of big-screen action cinema.
Concerning the recent IJA "Bulletin" report on the IJA winter meeting... What struck me was the frequency of references to awards, championships, competitions, titles and the like. Of course I'm in no position to say whether these will help promote the IJA in the U.S., but I believe it's of no use at all as far as promotion in Europe is concerned.
We are simply not very interested in who bears the official title "greatest this, that or the other." I would maintain that European jugglers are prouder and more pleased with their plastic Viking helmets for winning the ice-cube juggling in Copenhagen, or indeed with their gingerbread heart prizes, than they would be if they won a flash trophy or a gold ring. I suppose we are simply allergic to being categorised and classified. Indeed, the few North American subscribers who have made critical comparisons with the IJA and Kaskade have said they object to the IJA's tendency to do just this.
The Grand Slam Award is fine for people like Albert Lucas, or at least people who aspire to be like him, but how many jugglers fit into that category? And what effect does this kind of hero-worship and legend-building have on the rest of us?
Wiesbaden, W. Germany
This is a little note to the juggling world. My fiance and I were very inspired by the Atlanta convention last summer. At that time we were 2/3 of The All American Mini Circus. The inspiration of the convention led us to believe that we could make it on our own. Now Mardene Rubio and I combine our juggling, unicycling, dance, acrobatics and humor in a fast-paced show of togetherness called "Variety In Motion." Thanks for a great convention, IJA!
A few years ago I read about Sativa, a group in California that performs folk song concerts at nursing homes. I decided that if they could do it with singing, I could do it with juggling. There's no money in it, but I'm amply rewarded in other ways for my time.
I visited Champagne County Nursing Home recently and performed an especially successful gig. By arriving a half-hour early, I got to introduce myself by pushing some of the residents to the auditorium in their wheelchairs. It was a spacious, bright, airy room with a high ceiling, and I even had accompaniment from a pianist. Live music adds zing to any performance!
No specific set routine was necessary. In fact, my spontaneity gave this audience a better show because I could tune in to what they wanted. One trick that worked well in this low pressure situation was juggling three nursing home volunteers -- simple when done on a horizontal plane!
After finishing the performance, I left the stage and talked with the audience, showing them my props and playing catch with those who were able. A little bit of one-on-one really enhanced the show.
I left feeling great, with an invitation to return any time. I recommend the experience to anyone who wants to polish their performance skills. By showing what talent you have, you can do so much for shut-in populations and get good experience to boot!
Headline: "Blau juggles while comet flys in 1910 and 1986!" This old juggler turned 83 in October, and I hope all jugglers will be as lucky and happy as I have been between sightings.
In 1910 an undersized eight-year-old kid juggler known as Fumble Fingers Blau looked up and saw a flying object known as Halley's comet, which I was told had made many passes without a drop. At that age I had been taught a couple of magic tricks by my parents and on my own was trying to imitate the jugglers who were nearly always included on the vaudeville bills of those days. On the very day that most people in Houston were expecting the comet to crash and eliminate everybody, my father had tickets for a vaudeville show, so off we go. We forgot about the comet and when the show was over, lo and behold, the world was still there.
It could have been that day that I first saw a juggler doing the coin roll on parasol. I liked that trick but I was about 12 before I could afford a parasol and a coin. The trick went in the act and it's still there. Gonna keep at it until I get it right!
Speaking of ancient things, my son Dean and I resurrected our juggling duo, "The Aldo Brothers (1946-1950) for a couple of gigs recently then put it back in mothballs. The photo shows our pride and joy props in our heyday. All Harry Lind clubs (the one hanging on the right is part of another set of five given to me by Ben Beri). The rings are our own design, narrow and thick for outdoors or in. Parasols were a gift from Bobby May.
I'm still at it solo. I'll be making my 12th annual return to Galveston County park in May 1986 working the fair!