Fear and Loathing in Pittsburgh

This is my diary from the 1997 IJA Juggling Festival in Pittsburgh. This is mostly live real time reportage. I'm doing the best I can, but this may contain errors of spelling grammar and fact. What the hell! .


Saturday, August 2nd

Crushed in a plane seat in sardine class. I hate using a laptop when the person in front has their seat back fully reclined. Somewhere further forward in the plane is my attorney, Ron. Somewhere in the bowels of the plane is a large black bag with wheels on one end containing all my gear for the trip: tent, sleeping bag, six bottles of Sierra Nevada pale ale, bullwhips, video camera, diabolo, cane, clothes, sticky labels with e-mail addresses on for the r.j party, lariats and other goodies all packed together into a harmonious muddle. The only thing that worries me is the lariat. There's nothing more twisted or irresponsible than a man in the middle of a lariat binge. As it turns out, one VanWyck club from the 1920s is the only toss juggling prop I have brought along, and that is for display in the history lounge. I would have brought the set, but there simply wasn't enough room.

30,000 feet below, the stark ridges, basins and salt flats of the Great Basin have given way to the well ordered green and brown circles and rectangles of the Great Plains. We cross the Mississippi. I always like flying east to party, you can stay up two or three hours later and still go to bed at the same body time.

Later. In the tent, waiting for this evening's show. We landed safely, and my attorney picked up his rental car, and we headed for Moon. Busy with his coke, as we cruise the expressway, he does not notice our lane running merging with the one on the left. Luckily the road isn't crowed and the shoulders are hard. Registration is relatively fast and painless apart from the cost. This year they are using shiny metallic wrist/ankle band. However, nobody is checking them yet.

I do a quick circuit of the gym, dragging my camping gear and props. Talk to Jay Green who is showing off his collection of antique props. We are interviewed by a reporter from 'People' magazine. I tell him more than he ever wanted to know about the history of juggling. He asks me about Albert Lucas... As I leave, I point him at Neil Stammer for human interest. I head off to pitch my tent.

The directions to the campground were a little vague - "Go up the hill and down the other side and there will be a lot of tents there." I cross a parking lot behind the gym, and there are a couple of tents. A little more investigation reveals a little strip mall tent village, spread along a dirt road through some trees. It's actually a pleasant place to camp, though a little crowded. I drag my tent along to the end of the village where there is more space, and set up there.

Back to the gym, and hang out with Larry Weeks, who is selling off some of his collection of juggling memorabilia. He has some juggling sticks with bells on the ends which were used by an old time juggler who toured the West with a horse and wagon in pre-vaudeville days. Larry demonstrates how to juggle them to the tune of 'Jingle Bells'.

Neil Stammer is negotiating to buy Chinese wooden diabolos wholesale. Being Neil, he does it in Chinese. One of the diabolos, the heaviest one, sings to be. I have to have it. My first prop purchase of the festival. I wanted to buy some Renegade half inch fat rings, but they are sold out apart from the demo versions. Oh, well. I consider ordering a set from Renegade Bob, but decide I will get a better deal if I wait till Renegade Tom is around.

There is a comedy juggling show in the tent, emceed by Edward Jackman. It's a pretty good show, though I have seen many of the acts before. A couple of the bad acts are too long and a couple of the long acts are too bad. A high spot for me was Fred Garbo, the inflatable man, more puppetry than juggling, more dance than puppetry and more entertaining than flaming chainsaws. Waldo terrorized Butterfly with a bullwhip and a six-gun, the last shot removing Butterfly's toupee. Mark Faje kicked a bowling ball up to catch it on his ear, Edward gave us a review of some of his most embarrassing drops, and various awards were handed out. Sadly missing was Rich Chamberlin, who was given the IJA Really Super Person award in absentia. Still not rehabilitated, huh?

Back to the gym. Neil Stammer introduces me to Sergei Igantov and Ernest Montego. I'm star struck and tongue-tied. They leave, and I begin to notice that I have not had any food since breakfast on the plane, a long time ago. I scour the gym for food. The concession stand is closed, but there is Laura Green at the Pink Flamingo table. (This is the IJA's women's group.) Laura offers me a shot of Jack Daniels. And they have chocolate chip cookies. And bananas. Sounds like dinner to me. I stuff dollars into the donation box and banana into my face. They have a kiddie corral next to their table, a safe place to leave toddlers, cordoned off with corrugated cardboard. There are no kiddies in there, but about half a dozen bounce jugglers have determined that this is the ideal spot to work out without having to chase sillies all over the gym.

While I am typing this somebody thanks me for the camping facilities. I don't know if I persuaded the IJA to provided this or not, but anyway, it is an excellent step.

Sunday, August 3

I wake to the dawn chorus, tidy my tent, and head off to the gym, which at seven o'clock is deserted. My stomach is complaining bitterly that it hasn't seen nearly enough food lately, so I go a-questing for breakfast. Just outside the entrance to the college are some shops, including a supermarket which doesn't open until eight. As I walk back to the road I see a rabbit in the grass at the side of the parking lot. I consider the possibilities of raw rabbit for breakfast, but it scampers into the bushes. Further up the road there is a Dunkin' Donuts, open 24 hours. I never thought I would be glad to see one of those.

The business meeting starts at ten. Candidates make speeches, and there are reports from officers. Perry states that he has been on a world tour for the past year, and that the IJA has been entirely run by the employees! I am amazed that he did not state that he was planning to be away for a year the last time he ran for election. I think it says something about the IJA that the Chairman of the board was away for a year and none of the members noticed.

The IJA made a loss of over $44,000 last year, mostly because the Rapid City festival only broke even. If the IJA continues to ignore the wishes of its membership in picking festival sites, it will continue to risk dismal attendance. Next year's attendance will be really low, as it is going to be somewhere about thirty miles south of Las Vegas. (Vegas itself I could live with, but half an hour's drive outside? Yetch!)

Before we discuss motions from the floor, I attempt to establish if we have a quorum. The required number is 100. We have 80 people present and 67 absentee ballots, which according to the bylaws count towards the quorum. Perry and Sam Kilbourn attempt to ignore the bylaws and say that we do not have a quorum. It is pointed out that we cannot elect officers if this is the case. Eventually, after much argument from the floor, they agree that we have a quorum. I propose that the IJA be required to provide full and detailed financial information to members on request and it is carried by voice vote. Yes!

Other motions passed include a requirement that the IJA board set up a forum on the Internet for official communications with members, that no other events be scheduled at the same time as the business meeting, and that a membership director be appointed. While discussion membership, Neil Stammer points out that he knows about three dozen of his customers who paid for membership, but never received JW or were listed in the roster. A number of other people chime in with friends who had similar experiences. It seems that the IJA is losing a large number of members this way.

I point out that the bylaws require people voting in the elections to send in an absentee ballot a week in advance or attend the business meeting. The board decides to extend the business meeting to include people in the gym, which makes the whole argument about a quorum pretty academic. Throughout the meeting, Perry keeps confusing Richard Dingman with Rich Chamberlin. Something Freudian going on there, I fancy.

Back in the gym. Barry Bakalor has obtained permission from Roger Montandon to put the whole of 'Juggler's Bulletin' On line at the JIS. The first ever juggling magazine, which ran for about four years in the late 1940s, it set a standard of excellence which was not exceeded until JW came out thirty years later. Jug Juggleson rules!

Sergei Ignatov gives a workshop. This consists of him spending some time coaching his daughter, Katja. The entire dialog is in Russian. She juggles rings and balls, and does a lot of tricks on a rolling globe. She seems most comfortable with even numbers of rings, and flashes eight while on the globe. A typical ball routine consists of her standing on the globe holding a ball the size of a soccer ball. Dad throws her a much larger ball, maybe 0.8m in diameter. She tosses up her ball, catches the one from dad, then catches the smaller ball into a balance on the larger one. She bounces the small ball off the large one onto her head and back then rolls the large ball around an axis parallel to the ground while still balancing the smaller one on top of it.

The relationship between the two of them reminds me of seeing Nick coach Anthony Gatto. No trick is worked on for more than a few minutes, they build from simpler tricks to harder ones, and Sergei is talking the whole time, commenting and correcting everything she does. Sometimes they snap at each other - Nick and Ant did that, too!

OK, fast forward to the evening. There's lots of other stuff that happened in between, but I just have to tell you about the European Showcase. Simply, it was one of the best juggling shows I've ever seen. Both the opening and the closing acts had to stop in the middle of their routines for a standing ovation, as well as the one at the end. All the acts were fresh, creative, skilled, full of character and sly humor. Later I'll go and get everyone's names from Todd Strong, and tell you what they did, but for now, just let me say that the circus schools in Europe are turning out stunning performers.

OK, back to the main timeline. I trekked across the campus to the garden for the Lifers party. Far too much sugar was served, some of it in cookies, and some of it in the punch. Back to the gym for the election results. Jennings and Brown were re-elected, Brown edging out Tripp Holmgrain by four votes. But the big winner is Bill Giduz, who collects more votes than anybody else. I think Bill will be a great addition to an otherwise lackluster board.

I got 92 votes, which is two or three times what I got the last time I ran for election. I regard this as an important step in my inexorable rise to total world domination. Thanks to everyone who voted for me. Even though not elected, I will continue to do my best to help get the IJA back on track.

On to the rec.juggling party in the bar at the Holiday Inn. It's always nice to attach people to e-mail addresses. So that's what Viveca looks like. And there's JAG. The JIS committee on numbers juggling makes plans to meet tomorrow; eight of the nine members are here at the festival.

Greg Cohen, JAG and I head off in search of food. The local dead cow emporium, the Ground Round, has a forty minute wait, so we scamper through the rain to the local supermarket. I am buying ham when the guy behind the counter sees the conway@juggling.org on my nametag, and says, "Hey, I was at that web site yesterday." He has recently learned to juggle, and has no idea that there are a thousand jugglers right next door. I tell him to come over. Unfortunately, the public show is sold out, so he has no chance of getting in to see that.

I chat with Gabi Keast before Club Renegade. She informs me that French jugglers are so creative, because on all they days when they do not have a gig, they can claim unemployment benefit! Since being without a gig is the natural state for beginning jugglers, this gives them enough time to develop their acts without the pressure to be out on the streets every day making a buck. (You do need to get a certain minimum number of paid gigs every year to qualify as unemployed the rest of the time, though.) Circus in France is seen as part of the cultural life of the country, and is funded by the government and big companies in the same way that Opera and Classical music are. For some reason the only Circus that gets funded by big American companies is Cirque du Soleil. Is it perhaps harder to refuse a request for a grant if it is written with a French accent?

It is a good Renegade show. Mark Faje as MC is raunchy, funny and on the edge of being out of control. His large collection of dildos appears throughout the show. My personal favorite is the one he uses to squirt the first three rows, but perhaps that is because I am in row four. Most of the acts are funny and different and none of them are embarrassingly bad. There Laura Green in an outfit which gives new meaning decollete (or maybe she was wearing it backwards), persuading four hunky guys to go topless and manipulate coffee cans. There is "The Dancing Queen", doing a rola bola on stilts, and dropping his pants and waving his willy at us. There was a female contortionist whose act is short and very sweet, and brings out the male chauvinist in the MC. There is a guy who did string figures, a drunken magician who offers to explain all his tricks, yet another haircut, this one with baby powder, there's a high energy flower stick routine, a top act and other good stuff. Finally Mark brings up Butterfly and crack bullwhips in his general direction while Butterfly pines for the microphone. For most of the act, Butterfly has the black dildo hanging out of his trousers. Finally he sticks it in Mark's mouth, and removes it by wrapping it with a whip. It is then swung round and round until it files out into the audience. Now, that's entertainment.

I am sitting behind DanYell, a rabid exhibitionist, who is looking for an excuse to take her clothes off on the last night of the Renegade stage. I offer to make her breasts jiggle up and down by telepathy, a routine I've been working on for some time, but have yet to perform.

Neil Stammer has a hot date for tonight and wants to borrow my tent. I tell him it's too small for two athletic people and it's full of my shit, anyway. Besides, the people two tents down have promised to build a balloon igloo at four AM. "Camouflage," suggests Neil, but I am unconvinced.

OK, I'm tired and it's nearly three AM, which is past my bedtime even in California. Off to the balloon igloo party, I guess.

Monday, August 4

Woke early to the merry pitter pat of rain on the tent. Yesterday's downpour proved that my tent is not as waterproof as it used to be, but there is no serious damage. I head for the showers, then the gym. Over at the Renegade table I notice a large sign: "Tom Kidwell demands a recount." This is pretty unlikely, as Tom was frightened that he might actually get elected and have to butt heads with the rest of the board. However, I am so amused by the concept that I post the sign right next to the results where it will get more notice. The sign and results vanish minutes later.

The IJA is distributing a membership survey. My personal favorite question goes like this: "Do you prefer the festival to be in the same location every year, of would you rather see it move around year after year? Permanent site ___________ Same site each year ___________ Come back to the same site every three years ___________". The more astute among you (that is, anyone with a IQ above that of a bivalve) will notice that the first two options are essentially the same, and that there is no option for saying that you would like the festival to move around. Pretty neat, huh?

So why is the IJA trying to force us to say the festival should keep going back to the same place? Well, it makes it much easier for the festival organizer; it took me about a fifth of the time to put on the fifth annual Lodi juggling festival than it did the first. But is there more to it than that? It's clear where the IJA would like to have the permanent festival site; with next year we will have been to Vegas for three of the last fifteen summer fests, as well as all of the winter fests. Now, what is it about Vegas? It does not draw large attendances, there is nowhere to camp, and the gym space, though free to the IJA, is usually pretty miserable for juggling in. Well, I just don't know what it is about Vegas. But I do know in Vegas, a 'kickback' is not a juggling trick.

Off to the bullwhip workshop. Steve Salberg does a good job with this, while Forrest Hobbes grand master of whips and roping adds a host of tips and anecdotes from his many years of performing experience. After the workshop we hang around practicing. Takako, a young lady from Japan asks me if I will look at her form, but unfortunately she only wants me to watch how she cracks a whip.

Back to the gym by about noon. Neil Stammer finally arrives to open up the Juggling Capitol table, looking tired but happy.

I spend a while in the memorabilia auction, but the only thing I end up buying is some pictures of Bob Bramson, which will go on his Juggling Hall of Fame page when I get around to doing it. On the way out, I run into Bill Giduz, and corner him for a chat on the IJA. I offer to help draft new bylaws, but they already have somebody lined up for that. I also offer to help put the IJA archives on line, and we discuss a bunch of other stuff. I tell Bill to post proposed changes to the IJA bylaws to rec.juggling for feedback there, so that they find out about the problems before Gerry Shugart does. "Oh, we're not afraid of Gerry Shugart," says Bill. "Andrew Conway, on the other hand, we're afraid of."

And you thought I was joking when I called this 'Fear and Loathing in Pittsburgh.'

I interview Edward Jackman for Kaskade. I think we manage to capture the essential insecurities at the core of his identity so successfully that by the end he suggests we rewind the tape and start again. Edward has been one of my heroes for the past fifteen years, but I don't actually mention that fact, cause he would interpret it as meaningless media flattery and respond accordingly. Tomorrow his wife gets her revenge when I am interviewed for a documentary she is making about the juggling subculture. ('Subculture': something below or beneath culture. Right.)

Dinner at the Ground Round with friends old and new. The jugglers at the next table are having far too much fun applauding everybody who walks in the door. I wonder if they are being too rowdy for the restaurant, but this is just across the road from a college, so they are probably used to students suffering from indiscriminate youth.

OK, here's the straight dope on Ignatov's eleven rings. He never performed more than a flash. In practice he could get a qualifying run when he was at his prime, but it was never filmed. He is most proud of his seven ring with the pirouettes and half shower, and does not believe that anyone will ever perform a similar routine on a regular basis. Oh, Jason....

Ernest Montego gives a demonstration of his act in the gym. He is sixty one years old and recovering from a double hip replacement, but he still moves and performs at a standard few jugglers will ever reach. He shows us each section of his act, repeating it several times until he is satisfied with it. "Do it till you get it right!" he tells us. Neil Stammer lines up Heineken bottles behind him "You know me very well." he grins, and adds that his half-brother Francis Brunn and Sergei Ignatov are both great beer drinkers. He finishes with the classic Brunn combo, and tells us regretfully that he has not yet recovered to the point where he can do it as he normally does on a tall unicycle.

Club Renegade: the acts are bad but the audience is great. There are a few good acts, actually. Ben Jennings three ball routine, a plastic cup and trunk duo routine, five Japanese musicians playing a hypnotic piece of festival music, and me, waving a statue with an enormous dick at the kids in the front row. "Boys, if yours isn't as big as this then you're inadequate." OK, so I wasn't good, but I was at least short. I mean, my act was short. I long ago learned that you can do anything you like on the Renegade stage and get applauded so long as it is short. I'm going to say that again. In caps cause it's real important. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU LIKE ON THE RENEGADE STAGE SO LONG AS IT IS SHORT.

The statue I was gesticulating with is the Golden Dick Award, a gift from the San Francisco Gutter Jugglers to the most gross, the most tasteless, the most unnatural act on the Renegade stage; the act least suitable for the public show, the act that best sums up the spirit of Club Renegade. We'll be awarding it on the last night.

Gary Karp does a good job as MC. Scotty Meltzer is going to be so pleased when I tell him that the person sitting next to me said he is a good drummer. Laura Green isn't quite convincing as a whip wielding dominatrix. Mark Faje tries to get the pants off a number of people.

The act everyone goes away talking about is Cindy Marvell, reading an interminable poem while the band plays a jazzy backing and the audience goes through boredom, rebellion, chair balancing, hysteria, disbelief, and more boredom. Earlier today Edward told me he would like to give more of himself in his act, but then if he bombed he would have to take it personally. Cindy certainly tries to give of herself. I hope her feelings aren't too hurt by the audience reaction, but she really should know when to cut her losses. She could have stopped in the middle of a sentence and we wouldn't have noticed after the first ten minutes.

There is jello juggling and catching ice cream in the shorts, too.

It's about four in the morning. I spent the last hour hanging out with Tim Furst, Iman, Renegade Tom, and Karl-Heinz. Karl-Heinz tells us that Ignatov is having difficulty finding gigs these days, those night club ceilings are just too low, and that he was offended that his picture did not appear in the 50th anniversary edition of Juggler's World. I bet Bill Giduz is happy to be rid of that job, people are just so touchy. I arrange for my attorney to give Karl-Heinz a ride home.

Shit. I gotta go to bed.

Tuesday, August 5

Up at about eight, when my tent begins to get too hot and stuffy for comfort. Over to the gym, where Barb LaSalle feeds me breakfast. She seems intent on mothering everyone around her, as if she does not have enough on her hands with the twins and one other son. The JIS committee on numbers juggling holds a much delayed meeting. Eight of the nine committee members are here, and six of us make it to the meeting. It is much easier to get things done in person than on an e-mail committee, and we cover a fair amount of ground.

Bill Giduz has been handing out M&Ms all week, to court votes and celebrate his victory. Little Alex Salberg sees him across the gym and says, "Candy!" Like one of Pavlov's dogs he will not be able to see Bill ever again with out the urge to consume chocolate.

Bill asks me to help with an event for world juggling day. He wants to get each club to hold a meeting that day, and get as many people and props in action as possible. Each club will attempt to estimate the total numbers juggled worldwide. After the event they will send in their totals, the sum will be calculated and the nearest estimate will win a big prize. Todd Strong has already agreed to donate $2,500 in merchandise, and others will follow. I agree to help provided it is a genuine world effort; at minimum it must also be supported by the EJA. Tim Furst agrees to present the idea at the EJA business meeting in Torino. Other national or transnational juggling organizations please contact Bill if you wish to help support this effort.

Sarafian wins the ball numbers competition with 24 catches of nine, I forget the name of the guy who won the clubs with 17 catches of six in a doubles/triples pattern, and Scott Sorensen won the rings with 19 catches of eight.

There is a team led by Edward Jackman's wife Karen making a documentary about the juggling community. I rant about various things for about half an hour. It will be interesting to see if any of my ramblings make the final cut, especially the bit where I turn to the camera and say, "I'm sorry, Albert." I return to the gym and the man himself is there. Boppo informs me that Albert has brought along some really, really, really skinny clubs and is hoping to flash ten of them.

Vladik has arrived, and soon gathers a crowd. He shows ten catches of eight balls, a seven ball pirouette five high finishing by gathering in the five, a double pirouette with five balls (three high) and after many tries, a double pirouette under five balls, five high. With five clubs he shows us singles, doubles triples, back crosses, and full and half pirouettes, three high. He finishes with 24 catches of six clubs.

Ben Jennings and Morty Hansen win the ball bounce passing with 22 catches per hand of fifteen balls, a new IJA record. The numbers competitions have lasted four hours and forty minutes.

The rebellion of the younger generation is complete. The ideals and standards of the older and wiser heads in the juggling community have been rejected in toto. Not one, not a single solitary teenager in the juniors' competition wore a vest. The total breakdown of society cannot be far away. Before long, even the sequins and the bow ties will be gone, too.

It's intermission in the show, but it's already clear who has won the juniors. Adam Kariotis performed a stunning routine with three to seven balls and five and seven rings. He combines precisely executed site swaps with multiple pirouettes, and introduces comedy with a prop stand that keeps throwing objects at him. He does not drop once. There are very few years I can remember when that routine would not have won the seniors.

There were some other good acts in the show. I liked Emile Carey from Montreal, whose musician character was wonderfully presented, and who did hard and beautiful tricks with balls, but dropped a little too often in the club part of his routine. Luke Jay had a very interesting start to his act; two linked rings, one normal size and one larger, which he spun, twirled and tossed. He went on to do more standard ring juggling.

The Passing Zone MC, and provide a list of the top ten reasons why the IJA has lasted fifty years. My favorite: "The loose financial organization makes embezzling attractive year after year."

The teams competition is more difficult to call. The pundits seated around me think that Flight Patterns have a slight edge over Peachock, but the judges might disagree. Both are high powered club passing acts. Another cool act is Redefining Gravity, a cute couple who combine juggling and acrobatic poses, as well as club numbers. Unfortunately they miss their big finish trick: eight club singles from a high uni to a rolling globe. The best presentation is from the Stoolies, who do knockabout physical comedy with five balls and a stool.

On to the seniors. A number of really good acts lead up to two great ones. There's a tap dancing juggler, a large ball and traffic cone juggler and the Phantom of the Opera spinning balls. (I don't think the Phantom's glasses went with the half mask, though.) Matt Henry does a really nice routine with a baton and balls, followed by a terrific but not too technical routine rolling balls on an inclined ironing board. He has a charming, enthusiastic goofy stage character, and really sells his tricks. Jay Gilligan, with stardust in his hair, does an artistic routine with yellow rings. I'm starting to enjoy his stuff more, I wonder which of us is changing?

Brian Patz does a tremendously camp Vegas style act. He works with clubs, boxes, rings and charisma. He's clearly the best act so far, when up comes Vladik. Though he's the youngest competitor, he has elected to compete in the seniors, and kills. He flashes eight balls on the third attempt, and finishes with five clubs, seven balls, then five glow balls on a free standing ladder. He is acrobatic, charming and funny.

It's been a long evening, nineteen acts in all, but thankfully the Passing Zone don't have to fill for very long before the judges have made up their minds. In the juniors Adam Kariotis is clearly first, Emile Carey takes second, and Mark Friscia is third. In the teams Peachock edges out Flight Patterns for first, and Stoolies take third. Vladik wins the seniors, followed by Brian Patz and then Matt Henry.

It was a great show, one of the best competitions I can remember.

Fast forward through a forty minute bus ride while I write up the seniors to the club ren preshow. Laura Green is making audience members grovel for cookies. The show finally starts at one thirty. Peter Panic is MC, his face still scarred from an unpleasantness with a shopping trolley. (Or are those glue on scars from the local magic shop, there to add the spice of danger to the shopping trolley on the face act he closes the show with?) It as a small crowd, that gets smaller as it gets colder. The acts are good, though, even Bob Nickerson and his partner, reading from "To his Coy Mistress" by the other poet called Marvell. Duck and Cover throw garbage club passes, there is an out of control devil stick act, more stupid finger tricks, the contortionist from a couple of nights ago does a reprise, there is a simulated blow job back projected on the movie screen, and Gross juggles three used condoms. Typical Renegade fare, and very tasty, too, especially those yummy used condoms... Did I really say that? God it must be late.

Wednesday, August 6

Todd Strong is working on a new book about three balls. He asks me to pose for photographs to be used as illustrations, so I spend a lot of time juggling three balls in various column patterns. Barry Bakalor wonders by, and we talk about the judging in the competitions last night, as he was one of the judges. I ask where he thinks Adam Kariotis would have done had he competed in the seniors. Barry would have placed him first, ahead of Vladik.

I forgot to mention this last night. The Zoners were coming up with slang and insults for jugglers. "That Jeff Daymont, his cigar boxes just don't line up," and so on. Then they come to, "That Sergei Ignatov, what a killer eleven ring pattern. Yeah, like we're going to make fun of you. You're the man, dude!" Ignatov, sitting just behind me seems flattered as the audience applauds him. Jon and Owen really have class.

Interesting gossip: apparently Jay Gilligan and Ochen K. wanted to enter the teams competition as Blink. The use of the name was disputed, and there were arguments offstage as to how they should be announced. In the end, the Passing Zone simply announced them as "the next act".

Sky teaches me a cute three ball move. Personally, I don't like to waste time at a juggling festival actually juggling, but I make an exception for this.

The new chairman of the IJA board, Sam Kilbourn, calls a meeting where members can meet the board. I think the board members were fairly shocked by the amount of hostility against them at the business meeting. It is easy to write Andrew Conway off as an isolated crank, but it was clear from that meeting that I am not the only one who feels that way. Sam seems to be trying to rebuild bridges and listen to the membership.

There is discussion of the site selection process. At the moment, the decision of the location of the next festival is done unilaterally by Ginny Rose. After the decision is already made, the board rubber stamps it. This is absurd. I do not know of a single person who thinks it is a good idea to hold a festival at the Primadonna casino in Primm, Nevada, thirty miles south of Vegas. It is clear that Ginny is totally out of touch with the desires of the membership. There are several suggestions for improvements, including running possible locations through the affiliates network for feedback. The board members present seem amenable to this, but I doubt if Ginny will give up any of her power willingly. It will be interesting to see who is really running the IJA.

Martin Frost asks for a show of hands of the people there who have Internet access. About three quarters of the people present do. I think maybe this comes as a shock to the board, too, as they have long been able to ignore bad press on rec.juggling by telling themselves that nobody really reads that stuff.

The word on Juggler's World is that Bill Giduz has been persuaded to put out one more issue. The IJA is in negotiation with the producers of a leading magic magazine. The idea is that they would take over the production and distribution of JW, while the IJA would retain editorial control. There is talk of getting JW, or whatever they change the name to, into newsstands across the USA.

In the games, Bruce Sarafian wins the five ball endurance at around 25 minutes, and John Nations wins the five club endurance at about five minutes. Right after the five endurance competition Barry Bakalor, Boppo and I drag Bruce out to the tent and ask him if he can set an eight ball record for us. The longest authenticated run we currently have is a little over 40 catches, but we know both he and Joey Cousins can go for much longer in practice. We invite Joey, too, but he is too tired. Bruce works for half an hour or so, getting several runs of sixty plus catches before he finally gets one that satisfies him: one hundred and eight catches is the unofficial count, we'll review the video in a few days.

We are bussed downtown for the big toss up and show. The two are about eight blocks apart. However, the plan is to bus everyone from one spot to another. What a great opportunity for a parade missed. Along with the more enterprising souls, I walk from one to another. I recruit some native guides, who describe all the tourist attractions in town I no longer have time to see.

Gary Karp starts the show with a spirited rendition of "This could be the start of something big", then with little warning, the Inflatable Man appears in a huge striped cylinder, which cavorts caterpillar-like across the stage. One of these days I would love to see Fred's whole show. Art Jennings is given an award and makes a brief speech about the early days of the IJA. Now for some juggling.

Greg Kennedy emerges from a cloud of smoke, and bounces two, four and six balls in a V-shaped apparatus. It's very cool. Apparently, he still regards it as a work in progress, something rather two dimensional at the moment. I hope he will be inspired by the European Showcase to put as much effort into stage character as into tricks. Though the tricks are wonderful and original, he comes across almost as an automaton.

Pat Hazel, the MC appears, and with the help of the lighting crew, juggles the circles of light from the spotlights. Pat is a comedian and magician from LA. I really like his work and he does a great job of running the show.

Dr. Stardust bounces a ball on his head and twirls two others on strings while he lectures us on nuclear physics. Arsene and Waldo are as magical as ever, with physical comedy and hat tricks, and playing with the audience members. Surely Arsene can't be going to hit Ernest Montego over the head with that metal pan? Clang!

A new piece from Michael Menez! He lies on his back behind a low screen, feet and hands sticking up, and proceeds to contact juggle several silicon balls with his feet, and toss juggle between his feet and hands. He seems quite comfortable catching a ball on the sole of one foot, and then exchanging it with the ball on his other foot. We are all stunned by his pedal dexterity. Sky is soon off to the Celebration barn to study with him and Peter Davison. Lucky Sky!

Rod Laver is from Bristol, an instructor from the circus school there, I believe. He entered the Seniors competition, but though he qualified for the final, it was agreed by all that he would fit much better in the Public Show. His entire act is based on spitting ping-pong balls, including bounce juggling them off the floor and a target. On one side of the stage is a wonderful apparatus which fires a ball into the air under remote control, and has a hopper shaped like a head into which he spits surplus balls. He bounce juggles five balls off the ground using his hands, and does seven in the air, also with hands.

The Raspyni's do a brief bit where they balance tops all over Pat Hazel, then Andrew Head does a hat, ball and stool routine similar to the one that won him the Seniors competition back in the mid eighties. Another set of champions from the eighties, Air Jazz, do a new club passing routine. They broke up six years ago but still get together sometimes at IJA festivals. This routine is called "Banana." Imagine, if you will, Peter juggling three clubs with a rope attached to his head. The rope goes over a pulley, and from the other end dangles a banana, which Kezia is trying to reach. She climbs on a chair, reaches up, and as does so, Peter drops a club, reaches down to pick it up and pulls the banana out of reach. Finally she climbs on Jon's shoulders to capture the tempting fruit and hands it to Jon while she dismounts. Jon eats the banana and hands her the skin.

Michael Caveney swings a cup of coffee in a hoop, and then does a couple of magic tricks. I could have lived without the magic, but the cup and hoop bit is very slick. He did it in the Vegas public show as well. The first half closer was the Jon Held Dancers, working in the dark with floating luminaria on poles. The luminaria are about a eighteen inches across, made of index cards stapled together in an icosahedral pattern. They can be made to appear and disappear by turning them on and off. It is a very beautiful visual effect; this is my favorite JHD bit so far.

During the intermission, I notice Butterfly Man attaching a butterfly sticker to Karl-Heinz's bald head.

The show restarts with Dave Kaplan playing "Somewhere over the rainbow" by letting air out through the tight stretched neck of a balloon. Now there's somebody who has even more time on his hands than the rest of us. Kosen Kogami and his family perform a Japanese lion dance, as an exorcism and blessing on the IJA. I wonder just which demons are being exercised. thomasl, perhaps? The lion is less acrobatic than it would be in a Chinese lion dance, but shows much greater character. It's mouth and ears move independently, and at one point it lies on its back and proceeds give itself a tongue bath, including licking it's crotch. And I thought that sort of thing only went on at Club Ren. At the end of the dance, the lion takes a scroll in its mouth and unfurls it to reveal the message, "50th Anniversary Congratulations."

Ginny is given a plaque for being Ginny, Bob Whitcomb tosses his lunch, and then Michael Menez does the standard mime bit of going up and down behind a three foot high screen, pretending to walk down stairs, bounce on a trampoline, etc. It's well done, but hardly original. I manage to refrain from shouting, "Kill the mime!" anyhow.

David Vandevere (?Sp) walks on in a flaming top hat and does a unicycling sharpshooter routine with Bob Nickerson as his volunteer. He also demonstrates his jugglematic machine, which fires a stream of ping pong balls into the air, and captures them again in a hand held hopper which feeds them back to the launching mechanism. As soon as he goes into mass production I want one!

The exciting thing about Jay Gilligan is that when he comes on stage, you have no idea what he is going to do, except that it will probably involve lighting fixtures. This piece, called "Impersonate Yourself," uses four desk lamps, each of which has three levels of light intensity, as well as total darkness. This gives a total of 256 different lighting possibilities, and Jay seems determined to work through them all, over and over and over again.

Long time IJA member Tommy Curtin does a classical juggling routine with plates, plate and bottle, balls and ball bouncing, and tennis racket used as a devil stick. He won the Seniors championship back in 1981. Ernest Montego accepts the historical achievement award. He apologizes for not being able to perform as he had not fully recovered from surgery, but says that he has had a great time, and would like to come back and show us his act some time.

Finally, Vladik closes the show with a reprise of his Seniors routine. This time he falls off the ladder, and messes up on seven balls. He shows more humanity this time, and perhaps captures some hearts that were put off by his overly slick stage character. All in all, it was a good show, but it ran rather long, and did not really make it to the highest levels. The European Showcase got more standing ovations in an hour than the Public show did in two and a half.

It's a long show, and the audience for the Renegade show are unforgiving. For the first time this week the Renegade stage feels like a dangerous place rather than a friendly place. The show starts with awards. Jorg Muller gets the People's Choice award for his amazing chime swinging routine in the European Showcase, which I'll describe in a bit. Rumor has it that Vladik had won the Founders' award, but it is too cold out for Art Jennings to make it over to the tent to present it to him. Some sick puppies give out an award for the best vest. I give the Golden Dick award for tastelessness to Cindy Marvell for her interminable poem.

Cindy is not in the tent to receive the award, so later in the gym I have to break it to her that she has been judged to have the most tasteless act on the Renegade stage. "Cindy, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you're now an award-winning poet. The bad news is that it's the Golden Dick award."

Well, back to the Renegade show. John Nations juggled five clubs. Mark Faje kicked a flaming bowling ball up to a head catch. Sean terrified us all with a razor edged diabolo, accidentally slashing his pants and having the people in the front and center seats scrambling out of the way as the diabolo turned to point towards them. Tim Furst did a club swinging routine with yo-yos. Mark's dildo collection played various cameo roles, but by the fourth night it was losing its shock appeal. A couple of bad acts had the good grace to get off fast. All in all, it was a pretty good show, though I didn't like the audience energy.

Back in the gym, Dave Finnegan's daughter is working on five clubs. She is using Renegades. Sacha (?), Vladik and the LaSalle twins are passing clubs in a box formation; what a team act they could put together in a year or two.

Thursday, August 7

I share a taxi to the airport with Todd Strong. Some of the Europeans he helped to bring over had entered the competitions, but had not made it through the preliminaries. They feel the judges were biased against them, and let weaker American acts into the finals. I am sure this is not true, it's just that they are not familiar with the judging rules. Todd points out that two years ago Europeans took first and third places in the Seniors.

At the airport I run into Butterfly and his son Coleman. ("Only Robert would name his kid after torch fuel.") Butterfly tells me about going out to dinner with Coleman and Waldo. He mentioned an attractive woman who had confessed to him that she had had fantasies about Waldo for a long time.

"What sort of fantasies?" asked Waldo.

"Well, I don't feel comfortable talking about it in front of Coleman," replied the Moth Man.

"Dad," said Coleman, "I've just seen you whip a big black dildo out of somebody's mouth with a bullwhip, swing it round your head and fling it into the audience!"

This has been a great convention, one of the best I can remember. The bad things about it (dismal food and a theatre too small to get everyone into it) did not impinge on me personally.

Well, it seems I've saved the best till last. Time for a review of the European Showcase. The show opened with Denis Paumier and Toon, two likable characters in raincoats. One juggles three clubs while the other steal clubs from the pattern and flips, drops or hands them back in a variety of creative ways. Nice characters and pretty good tricks, I think. Boy, am I blown away when they build up to the same steals and returns with a five club pattern. Comedy juggling with five clubs! They have to stop the act in the middle for a standing ovation, and get another one at the end.

That should have been the closing act, I think. Who can top that? The MC, Tim Roberts, informs us that they have just completed their first year of a two year program at the French National Circus School. A little groan goes up from the audience. What will they be like after another year?

Didier Andre is next up. He looks more like a butcher than a juggler, juggling three and four silver clubs with style and grace in dramatic contrast to his blase stage character. His tricks are original, beautiful and difficult, and his character is a masterpiece of studied Frenchness.

The next act, Fabien Bisbol, has performed with Archaos, so I am expecting something special. I am not disappointed. A strange figure in a black cloak hulks onto the stage, arms stretching to the floor. Eventually, he emerges, at least partially, from the cloak, and proceeds to do club swinging and other manipulative moves with four and six clubs. My favorite image is of him holding four Radical Fish, three in his hands and one between his toes, arranged first in a vertical line and then in a rippling sinusoidal curve. When he comes to the part where he is toss juggling four clubs he has a number of drops, but the striking imagery of this act is so outrageous that this does not seem to matter very much.

Denis Paumier returned with a solo club juggling act, a nice jazzy number, but not as memorable as the opening act. At this point I was wondering if the entire show was going to consist of club juggling acts, and was impressed that it was possible to ring so many changes on the same props.

Luca-Luca from Circus Space in London, a man and woman team, have a spirited club passing routine. A wonderful moment was when Ilke picks up a club between her toes and lifts it with her foot to head height.

Finally, Jorg Muller's wind chime act, a miracle of strange device, and one of the most enchanting acts I have ever seen. Five huge tubes ranging from two to five feet in length hang from a single point in the rigging. Jorg pushes them so that they swing in various patterns, avoiding each other as they swoop out over the audience in circles, ellipses and spirals. Several times during the act, when you think he has reached the limits of the prop, he adds a new element to the motion: grabbing the cables and spinning the chimes in a vertical plane, making them rotate in a horizontal plane, and finally tapping them with a thimble on his fingers to turn the whole arrangement into a musical instrument. At the end, he simply lets them collapse together into the center of the stage, clanging and clashing into each other.

This was quite simply one of the best juggling shows I have ever seen. Thanks to Todd and everyone involved.

And that was the IJA's 50th birthday party.