This is a very personal view of the IJA festival. Apologies for misspelled names, and other gross distortions of the truth. I thought you folks would rather have it fast than good.
Packing presented its usual problems. Should I leave out toss juggling props altogether, in favor of motley collection of whips, ropes, cane, spinning ball, shaker cups and diabolo? Eventually decide to add six rings in the hope of a qualifying run by the end of the week. Through in equally motley collection of warm weather clothes, most of them dating back ten years or more, as we don't get much warm weather in San Francisco. Discover that suitcase is only two thirds full, and ponder the rival merits of video camera or additional props. Eventually decide to throw in four clubs, as being less likely to sustain damage in transit.
Briefly consider throwing in undoubtedly phallic bookend that was a wedding present from a friend with a questionable sense of humor, to be used as San Francisco Gutter Jugglers Golden Dick Award for the best dick joke of the festival, but reflect that it might have a deleterious effect on my electability, and anyway, it's too heavy.
Diabolo is stuffed into Quaker Oats package, which it exactly fits, to prevent it being squashed out of shape in the suitcase. Fill the rest of the package with socks, and hope that my feet will not smell of oats for the rest of the week.
Uneventful flight to Vegas, which has changed a little since I was last here four years ago. The Sphinx here is much better than the one in Egypt, as this one still has a nose. Am met at the door to the juggling space by Barry Bakalor, who announces that Francoise is here, and everything we have heard about her is true. Someone suggests that we find a tactful way of suggesting that she get together with Anthony, for breeding purposes. However eugenically sound this approach might be it transpires that Anthony is already engaged to a delightful young lady called Brandy.
Make contact with a number of old friends. Over in one corner of the gym, somebody is doing incredible things with two Renegade diabolos. Decide that he must be a space alien, as those tricks are not humanly possible, but wonder why a space alien should bother to speak with a broad Scottish accent.
In to dinner, awards and show. The event sold out, and a number of people are disappointed that they cannot get in. It takes place in a strange L-shaped room that tomorrow will be part of the juggling area. A stage was set up in the middle of the short bit of the L, so you could just about see it from the long bit. We wait for food, then we wait for our table number to be called so we could go up to the buffet and get food.
Somebody gives everyone squeakers shaped like small wooden bowling pins, with the IJA logo on them. There are, alas, no roving mimes to reduce the boredom, but there are roving photographers. Las Vegas roving photographers will never grok the concept that someone might want to be photographed with two little wooden squeakers up their nose. Frank Olivier and Mark Bakalor start bowling by sliding the non-dairy creamer containers across the table to try to knock down the squeakers.
Eventually we are all eating. Frank, determined to start a food fight, uses his fork to catapult creamer container in the general direction of Waldo and Butterfly Man who are at the next table. Mark is determined to assume the blame for this, and Butterfly puts on his best impression of being angry. The waitress freaks out: "That man over there is very angry. People don't come to a party to throw things." We try to explain to her that this is exactly why we have come to this party but to no avail. Mark and Butterfly stage a confrontation, and begin shoving at each other. Soon they decide it is more fun if they both shove Waldo.
There are door prizes, distributed by Butterfly and Waldo. There are awards, along with movie clips of some great jugglers: Ignatov, Popovich, Cardenas, Kremo, Gatto, Moschen, May and others. It seems like there are many, many awards. Dan Holtzman, Myron Wilcox. Rudy Cardenas, who talks movingly of a few jugglers who he likes, particularly Francis Brunn. Dick Franco, who manages to mention every professional juggler in the world, with the possible exception of Anthony Gatto. Ginny Rose gets a diploma for being a convention coordinator.
We have been sitting for almost three and a half hours before the live show starts. We have also watched movie clips of some of the juggling greats - the performers will have to work hard to hold our attention. Todd Strong has brought five acts from Germany with him. They are wonderful - creative, innovative and stylish. A couple of the acts have a few too many drops in them, but this is not after all the championships. There is a two club routine which is mostly club swinging, but with some exciting transfers throws in there, followed by Jochen Schell doing a ring routine that places him in the foremost class of ring manipulators. There is a gentleman juggler, who does hat, cane and cigar tricks as well as clubs and balls. There is a devil stick routine by someone called something like Wolfgang Maria Mayer [actually Volker Maria Maier] which is the most artistic I have ever seen, and finally, Martin Mall's high powered diabolo stuff. The performers may have been a little disappointed with the audience reaction, but that was only because we had been sitting around for so long before the show.
Out to the gym again. I check out the black light room, but it is dark and cramped and the visuals do not have any great appeal for me. Perhaps to fully experience this European import one needs the chemical enhancement so much more common at European festivals.
I chat with Tom Renegade. There will be no Club Renegade tonight, as we have spent too much time sitting down already. Fat rings are selling well, as are Renegade diabolos. I ask him about the problems with them breaking. He says that they have changed the plastic they are using, and have added a rubber washer to absorb some of the shock of landing, so he thinks they have the problem solved. They are also planning to manufacture a rubber diabolo, but that is a major investment - the mold costs $20,000.
Shamelessly ask everyone I meet all day to vote for me. Tomorrow I must get around to unpacking my props.