The IJA named Washington, D.C.'s, Phineas Indritz as its newest Honorary Life Member at the St. Louis festival. Indritz is known as "The Attorney Juggler" to his friends in Washington, D.C.'s, Department of Juggling club. The honorary cabinet-level appointment demonstrates their appreciation of his regular presence and support of weekly meetings.
He has also been a big supporter of the IJA almost since its inception, and may have attended more annual festivals than anyone. And his place in juggling history is assured by his having taught Allan Jacobs the basics of club swinging. Jacobs has since taught the art to thousands of people and made it part of the standard repertoire of juggling skills.
What most jugglers don't know is that Indritz has worked for many years
on Capitol Hill with the movers and shakers of American government. He
currently works with a congressional committee in the House of Representatives
and with a national veterans group. He has been involved in many crucial civil
rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated public
schools in the 1950s. His most significant litigation was in the Supreme Court
in 1948 when he and Thurgood Marshall argued the cases which struck down
racial and religious covenants in housing, and which were vital to the
strength of the arguments in Brown v. Board of Education.
Here are some excerpts from a recent conversation with Indritz about his involvement with juggling...
"I started juggling about 1944. I had been a good gymnast in college and qualified for the Olympics. But during the war gymnasium equipment wasn't available and I began to notice I was getting hurt. So I looked around for something I could do by myself or with others, indoors or out, at a high level or an easy level, and to a very old age. The only activity that met those qualifications was juggling.
"During the war I was stationed in various places, and I would go to a
circus or a show and ask jugglers in between performances to show me things. I
met people like Trixie Larue, Francis Brunn and Massimiliano Truzzi that way,
and they were all very nice to me.
"The first IJA convention I attended was the second one in 1948, and since then I've been to most of them. There were about 40 or 50 jugglers at the early ones, but they were all professionals working in circuses, vaudeville and comedy clubs. I remember one husband and wife couple who stood about 15 feet apart and bounced 11 or 12 balls to each other. They did another trick where she would stand and bounce five balls on the ground and he would stand on a chair, lean over her head facing the same way and do seven balls in front of her five. From the audience's point of view there were 12 balls bouncing. It was just magnificent!
"There used to be a couple of foot jugglers who came, too, but you don't see them anymore. That's too bad because they really can be very artistic.
"At one of the early conventions I was doing a little routine Trixie
Larue had shown me and Bobby May came up and asked, 'What is that you're
doing? I haven't seen it.' It was a little three club thing where one club
made a single turn, the second club made a double turn reversed and the third
one made a double turn to the side. The next one made a single turn, then
there'd be a triple turn, then a turn behind the back. Because there was no
repetition each club went in a different direction and that was unusual. Of
course it was nothing at all for Bobby to do, but imagine me doing something
Bobby May said he hadn't seen!...
"I keep coming back because I like to see what's going on, and I learn things, too. At the last festival Fred Garbo taught me a new diabolo trick. When I see him again I'm going to ask him to show me another little stunt!
"Allan Jacobs happened to see me doing club swinging at the Eugene, Ore.,
convention in 1978. Club swinging used to be an Olympic gymnastic event until
1948, but jugglers weren't doing it. It was done stiffly in a very military
style. Allan saw me swinging clubs and was so fascinated he asked me to show
him how. I did, and pointed him toward some old books he might look at for
"By combining the basic moves with body motion he's made a completely new art form. I have tremendous admiration for how he developed it. He says at the beginning of his workshop videotape that it's dedicated to Phineas Indritz, who showed him how to club swing! I am delighted to give something to the juggling world through him."