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Capturing Clowns – Dance Magazine article April 1983

Not to get reminiscent about the past but here is an article published in Dance Magazine in April 1983.

Titled “Capturing Clowns”.  Featuring my photographs of performing artists.

Dance Magazine April 1983

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Most of my work at the time was done in studios since I was working a ‘night shift’ job at a photo lab and had access to rental studios.

The first picture above is a studio photograph of MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ award winner Michael Moschen. Juggler/Inventor/director.

Second is ventriloquist/actor David Strassman taken with his friend ‘Chuck Wood’. David has created some brilliant videos and inventions in the ventriloquist genre.

The third picture is one of the first photographs taken of Big Apple Circus founders Paul Binder and Michael Christensen upon their return to New York from traveling thru European circus juggling as a duo.

Portrait photographer Gordon Munro took the photograph of me with the flower.

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Aerial Acts American Circus Burlesque Circus Comedy Dixon Place Film Juggling Music NYGoofs Performing Arts Photography Variety Arts Ventriliquist Video Women

Hovey Burgess 75th Birthday Spectacular at Dixon Place – A Celebration!


Hovey Burgess speaks at the Opening of his Birthday Celebration.

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Cover of Souvenir Program

List of Acts performing at Spectacular Birthday Party

Phil Marsh, Jen Slaw, Kristin Olness, Dick Monday, Carla Rhodes, Zero Boy, Valerie Benoit, Trixie Little, Boo Boo Darlin, Michael Davis, Tara Quinn, Pinkie Special, Keith Nelson, Michelle Dortignac, Tanya Gagne, Lil’ Miss Lixx, Logan Kerr.

See Full Program here!

 2015.09.07_HoveyB.196Hovey opened the show with a nice talk. (see  video above)

Stephanie Monseu host the evening’s festivities.

2015.09.07_HoveyB.224Phil Marsh led the show off with a great rendition of Country Joe McDonald’s song. (see video)

2015.09.07_HoveyB.240Jen Slaw performed a beautiful cigar box and ball routine.

2015.09.07_HoveyB.342Kristin Olness performed an exquisite aerial hoop act.

Dick Monday played the saw and touched the audience’s funny bone in his unique way.

Carla Rhones and Cecil Sinclair tore up the house with the ‘Donald Trump’ impersonation.

2015.09.07_HoveyB.447-2Zero Boy performed a hysterical ‘Road Runner’ cartoon with his vocal sound fx and physical comedy.

Valerie Benoit and Tristan Nielsen performed a lyrical acrobatic act that was amazing.

Trixie Little and Boo Boo Darlin were the B’day cake surprises for Hovey.

2015.09.07_HoveyB.519Hovey looks on as Trixie and Boo Boo get ready to ‘bake the cake’ for Hovey.

2015.09.07_HoveyB.532The brilliant comedian Michael Davis was hilarious.

2015.09.07_HoveyB.545He explained to the audience that he wanted to do his ‘pingpongball’ act but Hovey insisted on juggling.

Michael Davis at Dixon PlaceMichael Davis’ finale was  juggling a machete, meat cleaver and hachet.

Tara Quinn at Dixon PlaceTara Quinn performed an amazing physical balance/contortion act.

Pinkie Special performed her hysterically physical ‘twirler’ act.

Keith Nelson at Dixon PlaceKeith Nelson introduces the audience to the sword and how deep it goes.

Keith NelsonKeith Nelson swallows the sword for the audience.

2015.09.07_HoveyB.791An aerial trio was performed by Michelle Dortignac(Left), Kris Olness (Top) and Tanya Gagne. (Left)

Hovey Burgess throws a ‘kiss’ to the audience as Paul Binder (left) and Stephanie Monseu stand nearby.

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Aerial Acts American Circus Big Apple Circus Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret Burlesque Circus Clown Comedy Dixon Place Juggling Music NYGoofs Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater Variety Arts Ventriliquist Women

Hovey Burgess 75th Birthday Spectacular – Official Program – Performer Bios

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This event was produced by Bindlestiff  Family Variety Arts, Inc.

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Circus Comedy Dance Dixon Place Juggling Music Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater Puppetry Story Teller Variety Arts Ventriliquist Video Women

Hovey Burgess Birthday Show presented by Bindlestiff Family Cirkus @ Dixon Place

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 11.19.55 PMCelebrating Hovey Burgess 75th Birthday

Great show and great cause! Proceeds from the evening’s show are being donated to Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.

A Night of Circus, Sideshow and Burlesque

Hovey Burgess (juggling legend, circus historian, NYU professor, chairman of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus board of directors…) is celebrating his 75th Birthday by creating a show that he wants to see. Join him for a night of entertainment.

The evening is hosted by Bindlestiff co-founder Stephanie Monseu. The line-up features an all-star cast including Kristin Olness, Boo Boo Darlin , Trixie Little
Pinkie Special, Jen Slaw, Michael Davis, Phil Marsh, Carla Rhodes, Tara Quinn, Keith Nelson, and many surprises.

Hovey asks that you do not bring him presents, instead, he requests that you contribute to Bindlestiff Family Variety Arts.

The evening is a fundraising event for Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.

In case you aren’t familiar with Hovey Burgess here is an interview I did with him several years ago. 

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 11.30.17 PMClick here to watch Part 1 interview

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 11.32.10 PMClick here for Part 2 of the interview

Hope you can make it! Sure to be a magnificent night of talent!

TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED HERE

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Aerial Acts American Circus Circus Comedy Juggling Magic Performing Arts Photography Puppetry Sideshow Ventriliquist

Excerpt from Tim O’Brien’s book “Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow”

WARD HALL – The Official Biography by Tim O’Brien

I attended the ‘launch party‘ for this book at the ‘Morbid Anatomy Museum‘.

I ask Tim if he would be so kind to share some of the wonderful text with my readers. He agreed!

Ward Hall biography by Tim O'Brien

Ward Hall — King of the Sideshow
“Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow!” is the first-ever biography of the man who has helped shape the American Circus Sideshow into what it has become today.
Ward has worked with monkey girls, half-people, fat men, sword swallowers, fire eaters, giants, colossal snakes, huge rats and diminutive horses. In addition to owning dozens of sideshow and circuses during his long career, Ward has written four books, four musical stage productions, has appeared in seven movies, and more than 100 videos and TV specials, performed at Madison Square Garden and Lincoln Center in New York City and has sung at Carnegie Hall.
Ward has the memory of an elephant, the exagerative dialogue of a Ginsu Knife salesman and a sequined wardrobe that would have made Liberace turn his head.
Ward Hall joined his first circus in 1944 when he was a 14-year-old kid living in Colorado. A year later, as a 15 year old 10th grade dropout, he ran away for good, joining the Dailey Bros. Circus. He never looked back. By 16 he was performing in a sideshow and by age 21, he owned a sideshow!
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It was spring 1946, Ward was 15, and he was prepared, or at least he thought he was, when a Billboard ad caught his attention. Dailey Bros. Circus was looking for a magician and fire eater. He didn’t know how to do either very well. He didn’t tell them he was only 15, and he didn’t have a plan. He just knew he had to join the show at that time. Ward responded to Milt Robbins asking for the job, and soon a telegram arrived that read:
Salary OK.
Show opens April 1. Join anytime.
Winter Quarters, Gonzales, Texas.
– Milt Robbins, Show Manager
Ward daringly told his father that he was going to leave and take the job with the circus. His father didn’t argue, telling Ward that he would get the circus out of his system and be “back in two weeks.” Ward laughs. “They are still waiting for me.”
Using what he had left of his last paycheck from the part-time job he had on the railroad to buy a $51.50 bus ticket, he caught up with Dailey Bros., still at its winter quarters in Central Texas. He borrowed his uncle’s steamer trunk, packed it with his one suit, a few other pieces of clothing and a small collection of homemade magic tricks. The day he climbed off the bus in Gonzales, Ward recalls thinking that at that point, he “was beginning the second part of my life. On that momentous day, my childhood ended.” It was March 27, 1946 – 116 days before his 16th birthday.
Anxious to get on with his life, he arrived in Gonzales more than two weeks early. Instead of the circus bosses sending him home, he was put to task on several small projects. He slept in a small shed along with sideshow equipment that would be traveling with the show that year. Ward’s pay was $30 a week with cookhouse privileges, which meant he could eat at the official circus cookhouse and share a berth on Car 79 of the circus train when the show hit the road.
While new to the circus itself, he had a pretty good idea of what to expect before he stepped off that bus, having been reading news and stories about the big top in Billboard for years.
It didn’t take Ward long to be noticed on the lot, but not necessarily in an endearing way. On his second day, he decided to further educate himself on fire eating, having never truly learned the skill. In his letter to Robbins, Ward claimed he could eat fire, so he thought he had better learn as soon as possible. On his first attempt he badly scorched his lips, turned around in pain, kicked over the fuel can and caught the shed on fire. Needless to say, a good eye was kept on this aggressive but polite newcomer to the business from that point on. Ward moved into the men’s dormitory where he spent only a few nights. “Having been a loner all my life, I was not knowledgeable on how men act after drinking large quantities of alcohol, so I discovered an abandoned circus wagon which became my living quarters until we moved onto the train.”
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In August 1973, while playing in Indianapolis, Ward appeared in a television special called On Location: Alan King at the Indiana State Fair. Alan King kept asking very basic and non- informed questions and it was obvious to Ward that King didn’t quite understand, or like, the sideshow business. “I can’t imagine why anyone would pay 50-cents to see this stuff,” the comedian told Ward, referring to the sideshow acts. Taken aback, Ward retorted, “I can’t imagine someone paying $5 to go to a nightclub to see your act.” King bragged, “They pay $15.” To which Ward responded: “That’s actually worse!” The network edited out that exchange, but the edited segment effectively showed that freak shows “provide honorable livelihoods for handicapped men and women who otherwise might be unemployable.”
***
With the life that Ward Hall has led, it seems impossible that one single event would stand out to him as the best. What’s even more improbable is that event had nothing to do with a sideshow.
On April 22, 1994, Ward was the singing master of ceremonies at Carnegie Hall for Circus Blues, a show that was part of The Carnegie Hall Folk Festival. Stephen Holden, a reviewer with the New York Times, attended the show and wrote of Ward. “Wearing a sequined top hat and tails, Ward Hall, a former lion tamer and pitchman, presided over the program of old-time circus musicians, like Ralph Edwards leading a big top version of This is Your Life. Ward sang three numbers with the orchestra to get the show under way. “Hi, Neighbor!,” “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” and “When You’re Smiling.” Among the musical guests on the same bill were Blind Willy, Guitar Gabriel (Robert Lewis Jones), Diamond Tooth Mary and Willa Mae Buckner.
“I have said it many, many times that singing at Carnegie Hall in New York City was the highlight of my life,” said Ward. “It’s the one singular thing that I have enjoyed most, and being a part of that program is one of my proudest moments.” Surprisingly, not too many people who know of Ward and his sideshow prowess know that the Carnegie Hall event took place, said Ward. “I don’t usually tell people that I sang at Carnegie Hall. It is so unbelievable that this sideshow bum would have been top billed in a program at Carnegie – with great reviews the
following day.”
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Ward celebrates 70 years of working in the weird, wacky and wild world of the sideshow in 2014. Now 84 years old, he doesn’t travel often with his show and he has passed the baton on to a younger generation who are now his partners. But he checks in daily and occasionally surprises them all by showing up in his red, sequined jacket, taking the microphone as he immediately starts attracting the curious to the front of the tent. There is only one person silver throated kind of the carnival talkers who could do that, Ward Hall.
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Tim R. O’Brien is the author of Ward Hall — King of the Sideshow!, available wherever books are sold and online at Amazon.com and Casaflamingo.com.

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Ward Hall 'talking' at Rock ShopA recent photograph of Ward Hall doing his pitch.

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Burlesque Cabaret Comedy Coney Island USA Exhibit Film Magic Music Performing Arts Photography Sideshow Variety Arts Ventriliquist Video

Coney Island USA needs YOUR HELP!

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Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show Cabaret Clown Comedy Dixon Place Juggling Magic Music Performing Arts Photography Physical Theater Variety Arts Ventriliquist

Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Revue @ Galapagos Art Space

With the news that Galapagos Arts Space is moving to Detroit, I wanted to post a series of photographs that I took while I documented the Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Revue there.
Here is a video collage and a few images from that series.
Currently Bindlestiff is presenting it’s monthly series (1st Monday of Every Month) at Dixon Place.

Jen Slaw Juggler
Jen Slaw – Juggler

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Keith Nelson – Host of Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Revue

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Catahoula Cajun Music Band

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Stephanie Monseau on the ‘Rola-Bola’.

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Magician/Ventroliquist Dave Cremmin

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Aerialist Amy Chen

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Clown/Comedian Jeff Seal

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Zero Boy with Tanya Elchuk

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Rob Lok

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Michael Richter

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Jan Damm

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Ekat MissEkaterina

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Magic Brian

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Sincerely Yours

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Le Gateau Chocalat

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Amazing Amy

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Cast of Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Revue at Galapagos Art Space.
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Comedy Coney Island USA LaMaMa etc Music Performing Arts Photography Puppetry Variety Arts Ventriliquist Video

Coney Island USA presents “Dead End Dummy”

Coney Island USA has been defending the honor of American Popular Culture for years. Using innovative exhibitions, and performances. Their ‘Funhouse Philosophers‘ is the resident theater company of Coney Island USA and it is under the direction of Artistic Director Dick Zigun. It is Dick Zigun who has authored this play “Dead End Dummy”. Directed by Trav S.D. with a stellar cast. I got to photograph the OPENING NIGHT performance and also got a few video clips which are presented below. 

GO SEE IT! A ROLLER COASTER OF A SHOW…

Scott Baker in "Dead End Dummy'Scott Baker and his vent dummy Moe in “Dead End Dummy” on Opening Night.

Poor Baby Bree with Poor Baby Bree singing a song with Scott Baker and his dummy Moe close behind.

Becca Bernard performs live music with the show.Becca Bernard performs live music on piano and cello in the show.

2014.10.10_Dummy_216Scott Baker in a tense moment with his dummy Moe.

Douglas Mackrell with Scott Baker threatening him.Douglas Mackrell (playing Thomas Edison) with Scott Baker (Max) threatening him.

Scott Baker with his new companion.Scott Baker with his new companion Plugger McPat.

Trav S.D. performs as the radio DJTrav S.D. (Director of the play) performs as the radio DJ who introduces Max to the radio audience.

2014.10.10_Dummy_167Poor Baby Bree (playing Sara Hartburn) beautifully sings up a storm in the show.

2014.10.10_Dummy_145Curtain Call photo with primaries of the show. (L to R) Bree Benton, Trav S.D.(with Moe), Scott Baker, playwright Dick D. Zigun (with Plugger McPat)

CAST:

Scott Baker (Max), Bree Benton (Sara Hartburn), Douglas Mackrell (Edison), Becca Bernard (Beethoven) Arianna Geneson (Shadow), Rhiannon Schaefer (Shadow) Dick D. Zigun (Playwright), Trav S.D. (Director and DJ), Kate Dale (Scenic Designer), Marie Roberts (Art Designer), Alix Martin (Master Carpenter), Sarah Lahue (Stage Manager).

Video Excerpt with Douglas Mackrell and Scott Baker.

DEAD END DUMMY is coming to La Mama if you can’t make it to Coney Island.

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Cabaret Comedy Magic Performing Arts Photography Puppetry Variety Arts Vaudevisuals Interview Ventriliquist Video

Vaudevisuals Interview with Steve Samuels – “Charles Ludlam & The Ridiculous Theatre Company”

Charles Ludlam portrait

During his visit to NY last year I was fortunate to interview Steve Samuels. I met Steve when he was the General Manager of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company which was created by the brilliant Charles Ludlam. (pictured above)

I was so lucky to have seen many of The Ridiculous Theatrical Companies productions including The Mystery of Irma Vep, The Ventriloquist’s Wife, Corn, Camille, Reverse Psychology, Salammbo, The Artificial Jungle.

Steve Samuels is now producing, directing and acting in productions of his company The Magnetic Theatre Company in Asheville, NC.

In this interview he talks about his time with The Ridiculous Theatrical Company and his ever changing relationship with Charles Ludlam.

“Theater is life itself—you give people two hours of your life, onstage. Time is all we have, and sharing that with people is different from just creating an object.” 

“What I do is not gay theater — it’s something much worse. I don’t ask to be tolerated. I don’t mind being intolerable.”

Charles Ludlam 4/12/43 – 5/28/87

Everett Quinton and Charles LudlamEverett Quinton (left) with Charles Ludlam in “The Mystery of Irma Vep”.

(Photograph Anita & Steve Shevell)

Charles Ludlam by Frank RichPosting in The New York Times by Frank Rich

(Samuel French Page of Charles Ludlam Plays)

Here is a wonderful write up on ‘Dangerous Minds‘ blog about the great and throughly researched book “Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and TImes of Charles Ludlam” by David Kaufman. There is also a video of Charles on the Madeline Kahn show performing in drag. Great piece of TV history.

Steve Samuels worked with David Kaufman on this book as well.

 

Click here!

BONUS: Here is a link to Charles Ludlam’s lost 16mm films. Part 1 or 9 parts on YouTube. Click HERE.

 

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Juggling Performing Arts Photography Sideshow Variety Arts Ventriliquist Video

Gay Life on the Carnival Lot: Jennifer Miller and Sideshow Impresario Ward Hall @ Coney Island USA

For the first time ever Legendary Sideshow Impresario Ward Hall  discusses his 70 years on the carnival lot as a gay man. In a live interview with Circus Amok director Jennifer Miller Ward will shared the stories of his life and the many gender queer performers he’s worked with over the years. Both he and Miller performed excerpts of their sideshow acts.

Jennifer Miller introduces the evening's agendaJennifer Miller introduces the evening’s agenda.

2013.10.18_WardHall.031Coney Island USA’s Dick Zigun presents Ward Hall with a special Award from Coney Island USA.

Ward Hall talks about his time peforming in the sideshow and carnivals.Ward Hall talks about his time performing in the sideshow and carnivals.

2013.10.17_WardHall.029Ward Hall talks about producing and directing sideshow for the past 60 years and his life during that time with partners.

Ward Hall performs his very risque vent act.Ward Hall performs his very risque vent act.

Jennifer Miller sits down with Ward Hall to discuss his personal life on the road.Jennifer Miller sits down with Ward Hall to discuss his personal life on the road.

Ward Hall pitches his novel to the audience.Like any good sideshow talker Ward Hall pitches his novel to the audience.

2013.10.18_WardHall.184Jennifer Miller closes the show with her ‘juggling machete’ sideshow act.

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Jennifer Miller bids the audience ‘Goodbye’ and explains that Ward is selling his books and DVD’s in the bar. “Go have a drink”.

Great evening with the remarkable Showman Ward Hall and hosted by the delightfully charming and talented Jennifer Miller.

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VIDEO EXCERPT FROM THE EVENINGS TALK AND DISCUSSION