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Book Shelf History Recommended Reading List Variety Arts Vaudeville

Abide by the Little People ~ A Book Review by Frank Jogler Jr.

 

 Nowadays it is with frequency that we encounter much in the way about “multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion.” Yet, paradoxically perhaps, it is in the realm of the theatrical firmament that what is offered for exhibition before our collective eyes is circumscribed, in scope delimited. 

In yesteryear – but, in fact, actually not too long ago – theatergoers avid for both excellence and novelty had an array of choices for their entertainment pleasure that we today, simply do not have, alas. 

For those studying the actual timeline of vaudeville, variety, and ancillary cultural attractions presented in various public venues, we may comprehend, from our distance, the nostalgic, pining away for now once regnant theatrical forms once upon a time loved by the masses, fairground exhibitions of ‘human oddities’, and other novelty acts and performers, all of which audiences and spectators valued immeasurably and with enduring sincere thankfulness: this period in our cultural life was a beholder’s paradise, and now superannuated by sensibilities our forebears might not find to be, in fact, of  a truly progressive arc.

 Comes now, a further, evocative and contextual addition to our imaginative resources by which to re- examine this cultural time of the past, and theatrical glory, of a unique sub-set of talented people: the new book, Roses Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville, published by Vaudevisuals Press with essays by Trav S.D.

 In the books’, well-written pages, we encounter theatrical heroes and heroines, small in stature by the measuring-stick of biological normies yet obvious cultural giants, whose very existence and talents were recognized as true testament of the transcendency of our in-common human condition.

If P.T. Barnum’s featured attraction, the diminutive General Tom Thumb ever needed similar dimensioned phalanxes to lead, then these small Vaudevillian troops of midgets might well have become his troops and legatees.

The new book allows readers to luxuriate in fascinating mini-histories and profiles of the little people and of producers who showcased their marvelous ways and artistry of all sorts. For the pages are replete with extracts from published souvenir programs, lavish poster lithographic studies, photo ethnographic documentation of this Lilliputian subculture; Bravo to all: Trav S.D. essays, Jim Moore, publisher, and James Taylor Foreword author and freak-lorist. 

On stage in their specialty-numbers, and their dancing, song, skits, comedy routines, instrumental playing and acrobatics, etc., they regaled spectators with phenomental virtuosity, similar to that in normal Vaudeville time in variety circuits across the land.

It’s illumitive to behold this unique slice of humanity and, as well, since these people are, in photos adorable, one wishes one could pluck them from out of the pages, and cradle them in the crook of one’s elbows!

As the French author La Fountain, compiler of fables, wrote, centuries past, when you throw the goose out the front door of the house, it waddles back in from the back of your house; so filmmaker Spike Lee in ‘Bamboozle’ felt that Minstreals had come back this time repurposed as gangsta-rap. 

Apropos of this, perhaps other past theatrical forms – including those we are reminded of in this book under review here – may. too, be resurrected, but, unlike Mr. Lee’s example, with more salubrious, and of transcendent purpose.

Just as a character on TV, Archie Bunker, said “Those were the days,” and, most probably, those were quite better days culturally, and the currently vogueish shibeleths of the “cultural studies” mavens cannot gainsay the actual cultural excellence displayed by our brassy show-biz inheritance including midgets and all; minstrels and all; freaks and all…

Available here in both softcover and Limited Edition Hardcover/Color

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American Circus Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show Book Shelf Cinema Circus History Performing Arts Sideshow Variety Arts Vaudeville Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Vaudevisuals Press Video Women

“Ask Hovey” ~ A talk about midgets featuring Rose’s Royal Midgets book.

On Monday night I watched the wonderful Bindlestiff Open Stage Quarantine edition and was pleased to see the “Ask Hovey” segment (featuring circus historian/teacher/performer Hovey Burgess) where he talked about ‘Midgets’ and mentioned the Vaudevisuals Press book “Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People of Vaudeville“. Here is the video excerpt from the show.

And if you want to read more about the book visit the great review from Circopedia‘s founder/director Dominique Jando here.

You can get Rose’s Royal book here!

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Book Shelf Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Writer

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf ~ Giants of the Monsoon Forest: Living and Working with Elephants

A journey through the hidden world of elephants and their riders.

High in the mountainous rainforests of Burma and India grow some of the world’s last stands of mature, wild teak. For more than a thousand years, people here have worked with elephants to log these otherwise impassable forests and move people and goods (often illicitly) under cover of the forest canopy. In Giants of the Monsoon Forest, geographer Jacob Shell takes us deep into this strange elephant country to explore the lives of these extraordinarily intelligent creatures.

The relationship between elephant and rider is an intimate one that lasts for many decades. When an elephant is young, he or she is paired with a rider, who is called a mahout. The two might work together their entire lives. Though not bred to work with humans, these elephants can lift and carry logs, save people from mudslides, break logjams in raging rivers, and navigate dense mountain forests with passengers on their backs.

Visiting tiny logging villages and forest camps, Shell describes fascinating characters, both elephant and human―like a heroic elephant named Maggie who saves dozens of British and Burmese refugees during World War II, and an elephant named Pak Chan who sneaks away from the Ho Chi Minh Trail to mate with a partner in a passing herd. We encounter an eloquent colonel in a rebel army in Burma’s Kachin State, whose expertise is smuggling arms and valuable jade via elephant convoy, and several particularly smart elephants, including one who discovers, all on his own, how to use a wood branch as a kind of safety lock when lifting heavy teak logs.

Giants of the Monsoon Forest offers a new perspective on animal intelligence and reveals an unexpected relationship between evolution in the natural world and political struggles in the human one. Shell examines why the complex tradition of working with elephants has endured with Asian elephants, but not with their counterparts in Africa. And he shows us how Asia’s secret forest culture might offer a way to save the elephants. By performing rescues after major floods―as they did in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami―and helping sustainably log Asian forests, humans, and elephants working together can help protect the fragile spaces they both need to survive.32 pages of photographs; 4 maps

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American Circus Book Shelf History Interview Performing Arts Photography Rose's Royal Midget Troupe Variety Arts Vaudeville Vaudevisuals Interview Video Women

Vaudevisuals interview with Karen McCarty – “Gladys Farkas”

Karen McCarty and I have known each other for quite sometime. When I heard that her grandmother was a ‘midget’ performer with Rose’s Royal Midgets I couldn’t believe my ears. I am publishing a book on this unique performing company and with this interview I had first hand information about a company that has been gone for years. A company of 25 midgets that performed World-wide for many years.

Trained as a young girl in dance and singing she was quite an asset to the company once she was employed by Ike Rose.

Healthy Humor is a Not for Profit Performing Arts Organization whose performers create joy, wonder, and laughter for hospitalized children nationwide.”


For more information on Rose’s Royal Midgets!

Coming in November – Check out this site to preorder the book!


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Book Shelf Comedy History Juggling Performing Arts Variety Arts Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Video Writer

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – ‘Juggling – What It Is and How To Do It’

Confused about what to do today?

Try Juggling –

Wondering what you will do tomorrow?

Try Juggling –

Thom Wall is here to tell you what it is and HOW to do it!

JUGGLING – WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO DO IT! by Thom Wall

“I realized that there was no resource that taught contemporary juggling techniques,” Wall says.

“The books that were already available focused on “this old style of juggling performance or juggling training, where you just throw the throw, it does this and then it just works,” he says. “Whereas juggling pedagogy in the past 30 years has completely changed.”

http://jugglingbook.com

~Have a go at it. You might just find that you enjoy juggling~

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Book Shelf Sideshow Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Women

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Weird & Wonderful – The Dime Museum in America”

By Andrea Stulman Dennett

Dioramas and panoramas, freaks and magicians, waxworks and menageries, obscure relics, and stuffed animals–a dazzling assortment of curiosities attracted the gaze of the nineteenth-century spectator at the dime museum. This distinctly American phenomenon was unprecedented in both the diversity of its amusements and in its democratic appeal, with audiences traversing the boundaries of ethnicity, gender, and class. Andrea Stulman Dennett’s ‘Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America’ recaptures this ephemeral and scarcely documented institution of American culture from the margins of history.

Weird and Wonderful chronicles the evolution of the dime museum from its eighteenth-century inception as a “cabinet of curiosities” to its death at the hands of new amusement technologies in the early twentieth century. From big theaters that accommodated audiences of three thousand to meager converted storefronts exhibiting petrified wood and living anomalies, this study vividly reanimates the array of museums, exhibits, and performances that make up this entertainment institution. Tracing the scattered legacy of the dime museum from vaudeville theater to Ripley’s museum to the talk show spectacles of today, Dennett makes a significant contribution to the history of American popular entertainment.


REVIEWS

“The book should prove interesting to readers of American social history, and particularly enjoyable for museum and entertainment professionals.”

“This book was a great read and provided the information I was hoping to learn about nineteenth-century dime museums. All the information on the subject seems to be scattered about and often lacking. This book ties it together in a succinct yet informative text.”

“Weird and Wonderful is a well researched and very readable account of the (mostly) 19th-century phenomenon commonly known as dime museums. While they were themselves short-lived, the influence of dime museums extends far and wide throughout our culture – from Discovery Channel programming and blockbuster museum exhibits to freak show revivals and viral videos.”

To purchase this book go here!

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Book Shelf Circus Comedy History Performing Arts Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Grand Gypsy” A Memoir by Ottavio Canestrelli

 ~ The Grand Gypsy ~

A Memoir by Ottavio Canestrelli with Ottavio Gesmundo

The Grand Gypsy is a memoir of life in the circus, filled with daring feats and tragic mishaps. It is the true story of a man who experienced historical events as he toured with his family through five continents and countless nations. Among these events are his harrowing experience fighting in World War I against the German Army in Italy, and the excavation of the Sphinx in Egypt.

Replete with over 150 rare, historic photographs, The Grand Gypsy is a chronicle of a circus dynasty from the late nineteenth century in Europe to the new millennium in the United States of America. Included are significant images that document an extensive tour through such exotic locations as Burma, Sumatra, New Guinea, Syria, and Mesopotamia during the early twentieth century, and numerous portraits and captured performances in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Sarasota, Florida.



“The Grand Gypsy is indeed fascinating and highly enjoyable reading, not only for anyone interested in circus history but also for any curious or adventurous mind.”

Dominique Jando – Editor, Circopedia.org

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“The story of Ottavio Canestrelli is unique and this book, rich with history and filled with humor, is fresh and memorable.” – “readers will definitely be interested in his remarkable story.” 

The Booklife Prize by Publisher’s Weekly

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“The story of his travels, his acts and those of his talented family will enthrall any reader, and this is a most well-written and structured book”  

Circus Report

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“The roster of names dropped along the way, along with an expansive collection of photographs from every period covered in the book, should provide a good deal of pleasure”.

Spectacle Magazine

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“​The pictures in the book are astonishing. With its pictures and rich anecdotes, this is a treasure of a book.”

Judge, 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards


BUY IT HERE!


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Book Shelf Magic Performing Arts Photography Recommended Reading List

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini”.

Award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Joe Posnanski enters the world of Harry Houdini and his legions of devoted fans in an immersive, entertaining, and magical work on the illusionist’s impact on American culture—and why his legacy endures to this day.

Harry Houdini. Say his name and a number of things come to mind. Escapes. Illusions. Magic. Chains. Safes. Live burials. Close to a century after his death, nearly every person in America knows his name from a young age, capturing their imaginations with his death-defying stunts and daring acts. He inspired countless people, from all walks of life, to find something magical within themselves.

This is a book about a man and his extraordinary life, but it is also about the people who he has inspired in death. As Joe Posnanski delves into the deepest corners of Houdini-land, visiting museums (one owned by David Copperfield), attractions, and private archives, he encounters a cast of unforgettable and fascinating characters: a woman who runs away from home to chase her dream of becoming a magician; an Italian who revives Houdini’s most famous illusion every night; a performer at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles who calls himself Houdini’s Ghost; a young boy in Australia who, one day, sees an old poster and feels his life change; and a man in Los Angeles whose sole mission in life has been to keep the legend’s name alive.

Both a personal obsession and an odyssey of discovery, Posnanski draws inspiration from his lifelong passion for and obsession with magic, blending biography, memoir, and first-person reporting to examine Harry Houdini’s life and legacy. This is the ultimate journey to uncover why this magic man endures, and what he still has to teach the world about wonder.

“Enthralling . . . This is a first-class book, a subtle stretching of the biographical form that is also superbly readable.”

—The Times (London)

“Whatever mystical inspiration drew Joe Posnanski to the story of Harry Houdini, readers will be forever grateful. Joe’s writing about the mysterious and mythical magician is touched by its own stunning magic.”

—David Maraniss, author of A Good American Family

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Book Shelf Writer

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan

Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan

Acclaimed media critic J. Hoberman’s masterful and majestic exploration of the Reagan years as seen through the unforgettable movies of the era.

The third book in a brilliant and ambitious trilogy, celebrated cultural and film critic J. Hoberman’s Make My Day is a major new work of film and pop culture history. In it he chronicles the Reagan years, from the waning days of the Watergate scandal when disaster films like Earthquake ruled the box office to the nostalgia of feel-good movies like Rocky and Star Wars, and the delirium of the 1984 presidential campaign and beyond.

Bookended by the Bicentennial celebrations and the Iran-Contra affair, the period of Reagan’s ascendance brought such movie events as JawsApocalypse NowBlade RunnerGhostbustersBlue Velvet, and Back to the Future, as well as the birth of MTV, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and the Second Cold War.

An exploration of the synergy between American politics and popular culture, Make My Day is the concluding volume of Hoberman’s Found Illusions trilogy; the first volume, The Dream Life, was described by Slate’s David Edelstein as “one of the most vital cultural histories I’ve ever read”; Film Comment called the second, An Army of Phantoms, “utterly compulsive reading.” Reagan, a supporting player in Hoberman’s previous volumes, here takes center stage as the peer of Indiana Jones and John Rambo, the embodiment of a Hollywood that, even then, no longer existed.

“Singular, stylish and slightly intoxicating in its scope.”
—David Fear, Rolling Stone

“Rigorous, scholarly . . . for readers seeking an insightful, academic meditation on the relationship between media and sociopolitical issues.”
Library Journal

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Categories
Book Shelf Comedy Mime

Richmond Shepard, the worldest oldest mime! R.I.P.

I met Richmond a few times during mime performances he did that I photographed. I always wanted to do an interview with him but we never met up. I knew many students of his that became members of his company. I had bought his book when I was studying mime in the late 1970’s. I think he deserves some serious attention by academics regarding his historical place in the time line of mime history in America. Below is a brief history of his achievements.

Richmond Shepard (born 24 April 1929 in New York City Died July 2, 2019) was an American writer, director, producer and mime with a 50-year history in entertainment. He was one of the oldest living working mimes in show business. He built, owned and operated his own theaters in Los Angeles on Theatre Row where he produced over 30 shows. He moved to New York and worked as a theatre and film critic for WNEW, conceived and directed the off-Broadway show Noo Yawk Tawk [1] at The Village Gate for three years. He has traveled across the world performing with mime troupes and performs improvisational comedy in various clubs around NYC as of March 2011. Richmond Shepard’s most recent role was when he played the “Sandman” in Fuzz on the Lens Productions fantasy comedy “Abnormal Attraction” starring Malcolm McDowell, Bruce Davison, Leslie Easterbrook, and Gilbert Gottfried which was released on February 26th 2019

Shepard previously owned The Writer Act Repertoire, an Off-Broadway theatre located at the original venue of The Vineyard Theater,[2] 309 East 26th Street, New York City, in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan. Notable performances include the world premiere of Last Chance Romance by American playwright Sam Bobrick (June 2011) and a developmental staging of the comedy, Shalom Dammit! An Evening with Rabbi Sol Solomon (March 2012). The theater has been renamed the Write Act Repertory Theatre, owned by Write Act Repertory.

Mime: The Technique of Silence by Richmond Shepard

FORTISSIMO – A Short Film from Noah Wagner on Vimeo.

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