Juggler's World: Vol. 39, No. 2


How They Got Started

Compiled by Charlton Chute

From the Feb. 1947 "Juggler's Bulletin."

Great as they became, they all started like everyone else:

Cinquevalli: As a school boy, he would toss his chalk and slate board into the air, catch the chalk and write "A" on the slate before it hit the ground.

W.C. Fields: Learned with three apples.

Rupert Ingalese (Paul Wingrave): As a child in England, he was inspired by a street juggler.

Bobby May: Inspired as a child by the tramp juggling act of Phil LaTosca.

Charles Carrer: Suffered eye strain while working in a factory in Europe and took up juggling on the advice of a doctor to strengthen his eye muscles. Later married Dell O'Dell, who was no strain on his eyes at all!

Doug Couden: In the third or fourth grade, he saw a performer do a shower and taught himself with three rocks in ten minutes. Never saw a cascade until years later.

Bert Hansen: Taught by his mother, who had learned in Denmark where it was a game among girls.

Bobby May in Skating Vanities

A review by Bert Hansen

Juggler's Bulletin, 1945

May presents his entire act on roller skates, beginning with a three club routine. He includes continuous back throws with both hands, then spins alternate ones on top of his head while balancing the other on his chin. He did kickups of a single club and closed with a four club juggle.

He threw a cigarette from behind his back over his shoulder and caught it in his mouth, then did the same with a match. He lit the cigarette from the match and smoked.

The three ball routine was exceptionally fine, with controlled bounces, off-rhythm work and a head roll with a single ball.

He did single hat manipulation, then place a lighted cigar on the brim of the hat held in his hand. He threw the hat in the air, caught the cigar in his mouth and caught the hat in a brim balance on the cigar. He kicked the hat from his foot and caught it in a balance on the cigar while he skated around the arena.

He did a headstand on a raised prop while juggling and then bounced three balls upside down to music.

At the close he juggled five electrically lit balls, spun a hoop on one leg and a large ball on his head simultaneously. All props are electricly lit in various colors and the trick is done in blackout.

W.C. Fields Gets Help From His Friends

by H.M. Lorette, the Original Dancing Juggler

From the "Newsletter," May, 1957

Claude William Dukenfield and I were teenagers when we first met. We had several sessions at my home at 15th and Cumberland Sts. in Philadelphia. Fields was born and lived around 9th and Cambria Sts. about 12 blocks from me.

He was a nondescript character, and we both profited from our association. We were both able to do about all that Harrigan did with cigar boxes, and we both had good routines with tennis balls and high hats. We had lots of ideas of our own, too.

He did not care anything about club juggling. I had some heavy clubs in the room, but he wouldn't even touch them. He said, "a single juggler can't get any comedy out of clubs and I'm not interested." I also tried to teach him a little tap dancing, but his sense of rhythm was very inadequate. I finally got him into doing a comedy break fairly well.

He dubbed around and got a week at an amusement park on the Delaware River and a week at Plymouth Park near Norristown. He worked there for $5 and transportation, which was 10 cents from Philadelphia.

Later on I was booked at Fortesque Pavilion in Atlantic City. I recommended Fields to him the manager he gave him two weeks following me. Fields wrote me asking where he could board. I told him to come to the Biscayne Hotel on Arkansas Ave. near the beach. Performers got a rate of $7 per week for a nice room and three swell meals.

I was finishing my two weeks when he came in on Sunday and we sat on the porch and talked things over. He was a little nervous, which wasn't characteristic for him because he had plenty of guts. I stayed over Monday since he wanted me to start applause for certain moves and give him my opinion on the whole arrangement. He did fairly well and I left.

He became acquainted with a team of Irish comedians, the Spencer Brothers, who were on the bill with him. They persuaded him to go out with a Turkey Burlesque Show called "The Monte Carlo Girls" and he accepted. It was one of those affairs that paid you according to the business done, I heard. He met his wife, Hattie, who was in the chorus, and she proved to be a good assistant.

He survived the season and was engaged for the next season by Fred Irwin for his burlesque show, "The Majestics." He worked the full season and improved his act wonderfully. He was engaged for the second season and about the middle of the season, Martin Beck saw the show in Chicago and immediately booked him for the Orpheum Circuit at a good salary. Now he was on the road to fame.

I often think he might never have attained the heights he did if I had not landed that Fortesque date for him.

Brunn comes to America

(Newsletter, November 1951)

Denver was impressed with the performance of Francis Brunn, juggler colossal, during his recent appearance with the Polack Brothers Shrine Circus. One impressive act given by Mr. Brunn was juggling three beach balls, at the same time passing one beach ball from foot to foot, while at the same time skipping a rope handled by his assistant.

This is a new routine for Mr. Brunn, requiring endless practice which is continuous every day, and it is an act which is extremely well accepted by his audiences.

Before `Lite' Beer Commercials

Probably the first time a juggler appeared in a beer advertisement was in 1946 when Trixie, "The Ice Skating Girl Juggler," was displayed in a "moving electric light sign" advertising Schaefer Beer with their slogan, "Our hand has never lost its skill." She was depicted doing four plates, catching a ball on a mouthstick and doing a series of handsprings on ice skates.

The `Really Big Shews'

With the advent of television and its desperate need to fill time, jugglers and other visual vaudeville acts had another medium. But TV had its drawbacks. The bright lights and tremendous heat they generated made certain feats nearly impossible in front of the camera.

Recognition was slim to none, with the likes of Truzzi and Francis Brunn being put on as fillers with no mention of their great standing in the entertainment world. Nevertheless, the early '50s saw a revival in terms of the number of people who were seeing jugglers.

Besides the great Ed Sullivan Show, that one-man vaudeville revival, juggling appeared regularly on such shows as the Bob Hope, Danny Thomas, Jimmy Durante, and Captain Kangaroo shows. A litany of others reads like the answer sheet for Trivial Pursuit: My Little Margie, Ida Lupino's Under the Big Top, the Spade Cooley Show, Kiddies Spectacular, Super Circus, Contest Carnival, Kraft Theater, the M&M Kandy Karnival, All-In-One Show and the Sealtest Big Top.

Before Cat Juggling

We have this suggestion from the July 1946 Juggler's Bulletin:

"For balancing with other than inanimate objects, a small dog broken to front and hind leg walking is socko. This pooch juggling with the tossing, catching and balancing biz has great audience appeal and has been used by few jugs. The late Dick Ricton worked a balancing dog and we've heard that Lorello balanced a staff with platform on top on his head. A small dog sat up on the platform while Lorello played mandolin."

A Sharp Start for the Kenyons

From the "Newsletter," November 1951

Cal Kenyon started juggling when he was a little shaver, around 1902, with his brother, George. They were self taught, as most American jugglers were in those days. Instead of the conventional clubs, they used pop bottles to practice with.

I can imagine the heap of broken glass that stacked up around their back yard, to say nothing of the cuts from flying glass when they crashed together. Cal says they must have broken many thousands of bottles in their practicing sessions.

Cal and George Kenyon broke into show business as professional jugglers with the Guy Brothers Minstrels with their double act under the name of the Kenyon Brothers. Cal later joined the Five Elgins, who were himself, Jim and Rose Baggett, Lillian Millar and Tom Breen.

Their hat routine was hilarious, with the small dunce hat always landing on Cal's head. Their multiple boomeranging of the hats over the audience was very good. Call and Tommy passed three clubs with continuous shoulder throws. Their rule was to never practice unless they had a foul-up in the act that day.

For the finale they did the box and a feed to Cal, who caught all the clubs.

Entertainers / Index, Vol. 39, No. 2 / jis@juggling.org
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