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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!


Categories
Clown Comedy Photography

“A Clown in Our Town” – A Tribute to Rob Torres

A Clown in Our Town –  A Tribute to Rob Torres

DONATE HERE!


Rob Torres was one of the funniest and most professional clowns in the world. Having performed in over 80 countries throughout his life, he brought laughter to thousands if not millions of people creating a fan base that was truly world-wide.

Tragically in late June, Rob suddenly passed away of a heart attack while flying to his engagement in Boston, Massachusetts.

Rob and I were working on a book project tentatively titled “A Clown in Our Town” which included photographs of Rob in many of the cities where he performed using iconic geographical locations to showcase his clown character in that particular town.  We shot in Paris (Cirque d’Hiver), St. Louis (Circus Flora) and New York (Big Apple Circus)  and had plans to shoot in 6 other cities during his upcoming tours.

While planning this tribute book, I realized that Rob had been captured by many other wonderful photographers.  I reached out to a number of my colleagues who had also had the pleasure and opportunity of capturing Rob performing.  I am fortunate to have Maike Schulz, Michelle Bates and a few others (names will be announced at a later date) share their own vision through photographs of Rob performing in different venues.  Their work will contribute to the second part of the book. I have also contacted his family to contribute photographs of Rob in his early years.

Rob Torres performing at Moisture Fest in Seattle – ©2018 Michelle Bates

To produce this tribute, funds are needed for graphic design work and publishing. I encourage you to share Rob’s vision and help make this book a wonderful TRIBUTE to Rob Torres – anybody who ever met him or saw him perform knows how much he truly deserves it.

Rob Torres rehearsing for the Big Apple Circus in NY – ©2018 Maike Schulz

Hardcover book featuring approx. 30+ pages of Color/B&W photographs.

Unique and unrepeatable first edition.

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~ Pledge $75 – 2 copies of the book and a Special Thank You in the book.

~ Pledge $50 – one copy of the book and a Thank You in the book.

~ Pledge $10 – a postcard featuring one of the photographs from the book and a Thank You.
~ Pledge $5 – a Social Media shout out from the photographers in the book.
~ Make a pledge without a reward. Any amount is appreciated!

Estimated delivery date: March 31, 2019
~ So please, give what you can, tell who you can, and let’s start this journey together. ~

DONATE HERE!

All funds that are donated which exceed the printing/designing costs will be forwarded to the Estudio Búsqueda de Panotmima-Teatro/The Rob Torres Memorial and Scholarship Fund.

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Who is Rob Torres? For those of you that aren’t familiar with this brilliant clown I would like to present a wonderful documentary by Sebastiano Greco and Luigi Marmo. (Thank You Sebastiano and Luigi!)

A Moving Portrait – Rob Torres

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Categories
Book Shelf Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “My Brain on Fire” – Leonard Pitt

While visiting San Francisco I met up with Leonard Pitt. A former student of Etienne Decroux, prolific writer, performer, teacher and collector of all things ‘Paris’. He gave me a copy of one of his books  ‘My Brain on Fire’ and I can’t recommend it enough. Wonderful reading!

This is Leonard Pitt’s story of growing up the misfit in Detroit in the 1940s and 50s. In a later age he would have been put on Ritalin and paraded before psychiatrists because he couldn’t pay attention in school. In 1962, at the end of a misguided foray towards a career in advertising he took the ultimate cure, a trip to Paris. He thought it would only be a visit. He stayed seven years. There in the City of Light, Leonard’s mind exploded. And it hasn’t stopped since.

Studying mime with master Etienne Decroux and living in Paris were the university he never knew. This inspiration unleashed a voracious appetite to understand the “why” of things. He asked a simple question, “Why did the ballet go up?” While building a theatre career performing and teaching, he embarked on a quest to study the origins of the ballet, the history of early American popular music, the pre-Socratic philosophers, early modern science, the European witch hunt, the history of Paris, and more. To his unschooled mind it all fits together. Who would see a historical arc between Louis XIV and Elvis Presley? Leonard does. And he’ll tell you about it.

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“What makes reading Pitt’s book so enjoyable is not only following the intellectual leaps he makes between his many and varied topics of interest. It is also seeing the creative connections among apparently unrelated subjects such as Louis XIV, Elvis Presley, and the Hula Hoop. From start to finish, Pitt’s memoir is a lively autodidactic romp through a life well-lived in both mind and body.”—Kirkus

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Leonard Pitt is an actor and author. He has written two books on Paris, Walks Through Lost Paris and Paris Postcards: The Golden Age, plus A Small Moment of Great Illumination, Searching for Valentine Greatrakes the Master Healer. He currently teaches physical theater in Berkeley. He has performed and taught around the world and lives in Berkeley, California.

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Categories
Book Shelf Performing Arts Photography Sideshow Story Teller Vaudevisuals Bookshelf Women Writer

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Electric Woman” by Tessa Fontaine

“The Electric Woman” by Tessa Fontaine

The Electric Woman

Tessa Fontaine’s astonishing memoir of pushing past fear, The Electric Woman, follows the author on a life-affirming journey of loss and self-discovery―through her time on the road with the last traveling American sideshow and her relationship with an adventurous, spirited mother.

Turns out, one lesson applies to living through illness, keeping the show on the road, letting go of the person you love most, and eating fire:

The trick is there is no trick. 
You eat fire by eating fire.

Two journeys―a daughter’s and a mother’s―bear witness to this lesson in The Electric Woman.

For three years Tessa Fontaine lived in a constant state of emergency as her mother battled stroke after stroke. But hospitals, wheelchairs, and loss of language couldn’t hold back such a woman; she and her husband would see Italy together, come what may. Thus Fontaine became free to follow her own piper, a literal giant inviting her to “come play” in the World of Wonders, America’s last traveling sideshow. How could she resist?

Transformed into an escape artist, a snake charmer, and a high-voltage Electra, Fontaine witnessed the marvels of carnival life: intense camaraderie and heartbreak, the guilty thrill of hard-earned cash exchanged for a peek into the impossible, and, most marvelous of all, the stories carnival folks tell about themselves. Through these, Fontaine trained her body to ignore fear and learned how to keep her heart open in the face of loss.

A story for anyone who has ever imagined running away with the circus, wanted to be someone else, or wanted a loved one to live forever, The Electric Woman is ultimately about death-defying acts of all kinds, especially that ever constant: good old-fashioned unconditional love.

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“An assured debut that doesn’t shy away from the task of holding the ordinary and otherworldly in its hand, at once. It’s herein that the book’s power lies . . . Throughout this narrative is the story of [Fontaine’s] relationship with her mother, a story that is sometimes its own hard-to-watch sideshow act. Fontaine is unafraid to write the ugliness ― the imperfect care and love ― that takes place between people, and the memoir is most ‘electric’ when it doesn’t shy from that imperfection . . . I’m stunned by the beauty of Fontaine’s rhythms and images.” ―Rachel Khong, The New York Times Book Review

“While caring for her mother following a stroke, Tessa Fontaine became enchanted by the world of the carnival sideshow, learning to charm snakes, swallow swords, and escape handcuffs. What Fontaine finds, as she recounts in her fascinating memoir, The Electric Woman (FSG), is that there’s no trick to overcoming one’s deepest fears.” Vogue

In the opening pages of this fascinating memoir, first-time author Fontaine learns how to eat fire. This is just one of several “death-defying” feats she learned during her stint with the World of Wonders, “the very last traveling sideshow of its kind.” Intrigued by illusion and danger, Fontaine—a grad student studying writing—accepted a surprising invitation to join the show. Not only did she yearn for adventure but she also hoped to temporarily escape from assisting her mother after her mother suffered a debilitating stroke. Fontaine segues between hospital visits to her mother in California’s Bay Area and the fantastical world of the carnival, where Fontaine learned to handle snakes, swallow swords, free herself from handcuffs, and eventually master the role of “the electric woman,” lighting light bulbs with her tongue. Traveling state and county fairs, Fontaine shares the unusual stories of her fellow carnival workers, all of whom come across as devoted to the exhausting, grueling, yet inspiring work they do each day. Fontaine explores the history of the carnival (e.g., the first incubators were on display in a carnival sideshow in the early 20th century); its pecking order of performers, carnies, and foodies; its humor and dark underbelly. This remarkable, beautifully written memoir explores the depth of mother-daughter love and the courageous acts of overcoming fear and accepting change.

– Publishers Weekly

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Biography

Tessa Fontaine is the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, an Amazon Editors’ Best of the Month featured debut, iBooks favorite, and more. Tessa spent the 2013 season performing with the last American traveling circus sideshow, the World of Wonders. Essays about the sideshow won the 2016 AWP Intro Award in Nonfiction, and have appeared in The Rumpus and elsewhere. Other work can be found in Glamour, LitHub, Creative Nonfiction, and more.

Raised outside San Francisco in a tangle o’ hippies, Tessa got her MFA from the University of Alabama and is currently a doctoral student in creative writing at the University of Utah. She is the recipient of the University of Alabama’s 2012 graduate departmental awards in fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and the 2013 awards in fiction and nonfiction. She has won the University of Utah’s Academic Fellowship and the University of Alabama’s National Alumni Fellowship, Boone Fellowship, Truman Capote Award and First-Year Teaching Award, and has received awards and fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Taft Nicholson Center, Writing by Writers, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and more. She has taught for the New York Times summer journeys, at the Universities of Alabama and Utah, and in prisons in Alabama and Utah.

Around the country, she has performed her one-woman plays in theatres ranging from New York to San Francisco. The scar on her cheek from a 2 am whip act is slowly fading.

Tessa loves redwood trees, ghost stories, and goats. Every year on her birthday, as a gift to herself, she eats unlimited Doritos.

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To purchase you can go here!

This book and others that have appeared in the Vaudevisuals Bookshelf appear here. By purchasing it here you are helping fund this blog!

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Book Shelf Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf: ‘Dawn of the New Everything’ – Jaron Lanier

Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality

by Jaron Lanier

“Essential reading, not just for VR-watchers but for anyone interested in how society came to be how it is, and what it might yet become.”  ―The Economist

Named one of the best books of 2017 by The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, & Vox

The father of virtual reality explains its dazzling possibilities by reflecting on his own lifelong relationship with technology

Bridging the gap between tech mania and the experience of being inside the human body, Dawn of the New Everything is a look at what it means to be human at a moment of unprecedented technological possibility.

Through a fascinating look back over his life in technology, Jaron Lanier, an interdisciplinary scientist and father of the term “virtual reality,” exposes VR’s ability to illuminate and amplify our understanding of our species, and gives readers a new perspective on how the brain and body connect to the world. An inventive blend of autobiography, science writing, philosophy and advice, this book tells the wild story of his personal and professional life as a scientist, from his childhood in the UFO territory of New Mexico, to the loss of his mother, the founding of the first start-up, and finally becoming a world-renowned technological guru.

Understanding virtual reality as being both a scientific and cultural adventure, Lanier demonstrates it to be a humanistic setting for technology. While his previous books offered a more critical view of social media and other manifestations of technology, in this book he argues that virtual reality can actually make our lives richer and fuller.

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“A highly eccentric memoir that traces the author’s quest for VR back to its roots, not as some sort of geeky engineering challenge but as a feeling he had as a child of being overwhelmed by the magic of the universe.”  ―The Wall Street Journal

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“Intimate and idiosyncratic . . . quirky and fascinating . . . Lanier’s vivid and creative imagination is a distinct character in this book . . . His vision is humanistic, and he insists that the most important goal of developing virtual reality is a human connection.”  ―Cathy O’Neil, The New York Times Book Review

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Categories
Art Book Shelf History Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – ‘Fantasyland’ by Kurt Andersen

“This is an important book—the indispensable book—for understanding America in the age of Trump. It’s an eye-opening history filled with brilliant insights, a saga of how we were always susceptible to fantasy, from the Puritan fanatics to the talk-radio and Internet wackos who mix show business, hucksterism, and conspiracy theories.”

Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER •

“The single most important explanation, and the fullest explanation, of how Donald Trump became president of the United States . . . nothing less than the most important book that I have read this year.”

Lawrence O’Donnell

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In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, Kurt Andersen shows that what’s happening in our country today—this post-factual, “fake news” moment we’re all living through—is not something new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.

Over the course of five centuries—from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P. T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials—our love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we’ve never fully acknowledged. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies—every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.

Fantasyland could not appear at a more perfect moment. If you want to understand Donald Trump and the culture of twenty-first-century America, if you want to know how the lines between reality and illusion have become dangerously blurred, you must read this book.

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Categories
Book Shelf Cinema Magic Magic Recommended Reading List Vaudevisuals Bookshelf

Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “The Magician and the Cinema”

Inside of book jacket flap.

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Erik Barnouw (Tube of Plenty et al.) tells an engaging story to introduce this scholarly lark: in high school, Barnouw catalogued magician John Mulholland‘s books on magic and, meeting him decades later, mentioned “how often, in exploring film history, I had come across names I had first met in his books. Had magicians had a larger role in the evolution of motion pictures than was generally recognized?”.  A rhetorical question, it quickly seems, as Barnouw conjures up–to the accompaniment of eerie posters and other archival troves–an era when “every new scientific invention had magic possibilities”; the magic lantern made apparitions materialize, and one after another future filmmaker experimented with optical trickery. Then came the Cinematographe (1895), and the scramble “for wealth and glory”–led by magician/impresario/master of special effects Georges Melies. Also in the running were Billy Bitzer, D. W. Griffith‘s chief cameraman-to-be; Albert E. Smith and J. Stuart Blackton, founding partners of American Vitagraph; and the great Houdini himself–who turned his celebrated stage feats into film climaxes. . . which, by camera magic, anyone could now perform. The irony, as Barnouw notes, was that the films displaced the magicians. Looking at the films themselves (thanks to another happy accident–the Paper Print collection at the Library of Congress, Barnouw’s present base), he traces the magic/ film intersection through several stages–from the first “”actuality bits”” (which people “readily accepted as magic””), through filmed magic “”beefed up by film trickery,”” to the trick film: ghosts, vanishings, metamorphoses, “”cheerful”” mayhem–the realm of severed heads and severed limbs. Plus: devices special to the film, like reversals, slow motion and accelerated motion. A few concluding words ponder–with reference to the “media”–the acceptance of illusions, now, as “something real.” A spiffy little addition to early film history, with outsize implications.

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Categories
Amercian Vaudeville Theatre Book Shelf Cinema Clown Comedy Film Marx Brothers Performing Arts VAudephone Vaudevisuals Interview Video Writer

The Vaudevisuals Bookshelf – “Gimme a Thrill” by Noah Diamond

I usually post ‘The Vaudevisuals Bookshelf’ once a week but this week is ‘Special’.

The publication of Noah Diamond’s new book “Gimme A Thrill“.

I will let you read the text on Amazon since I am a photographer mostly!

A BROADWAY LEGEND OF 1924 Includes more than eighty rare photographs, some published here for the first time. Before they made the films which are their principal legacy, the Marx Brothers were the stars of three Broadway musicals in the 1920s. Two of these, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, are popular classics, familiar from the Brothers’ immortal film versions, and from numerous stage revivals. But the boys’ 1924 Broadway debut, I’ll Say She Is, was never filmed or revived, and it slipped through history’s fingers. Although it was the most successful thing the Marx Brothers ever did on stage, it was unseen for ninety years after the original production closed, and has been considered a lost work. In 2009, writer, performer, lyricist, and Groucho Marxist Noah Diamond began a seven-year odyssey which led to the restoration, adaptation, and finally the historic first revival of this legendary entry in the Marx and musical theatre canons. Gimme a Thrill tells the whole story for the first time—the complete history of I’ll Say She Is from 1923 to 2014. Noah Diamond adapted the book and lyrics for I’ll Say She Is and has a long history of playing Groucho, on and off the stage. He is among the organizers of Marxfest New York City’s Marx Brother’s festival and has written and lectured widely on the Marxes and their work. With his partner Amanda Sisk, he wrote and produced the Nero Fiddled musicals, a series of political satires. His previous books are 400 Years in Manhattan and Love Marches On.

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I first met this very talented Mr. Diamond while shooting an episode of the wonderful series ‘Vaudephone‘ which I co-produced with Trav SD. Here is Noah performing for us “The United Nations Song” for that series.

So now you can see why you should buy this book! Noah is brilliant in whatever he puts his mind to. And by the way you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t see the show coming this year.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.41.54 PMClick here for more information on this show!

Here is Noah talking about the Marx Brothers and I’ll Say She Is during a Vaudevisuals interview.

OK! Go see the show when it opens and here is the information for you to buy his new book!

Categories
American Circus Circus Photography Sideshow

P. T. Barnum: America’s Greatest Showman

P.T. Barnum and Tom Thumb

“In 1842, [P.T. Barnum had a chance encounter with] that miniature concoction, who was to make him rich beyond belief and famous beyond his wildest dreams. Four-year-old Charles S. Stratton was no bigger than a doll. All at once, at seven months, measuring 25 inches and weighing 15 pounds, the child had simply stopped growing. … Sherwood Stratton, the boy’s carpenter father, was only too happy to rent his little son out for a trial month at $3.00 a week plus room and board. … Barnum whisked the youngster away to New York City,  where speedily printed museum posters testified to the thorough Barnumizing Charles Stratton underwent; the four-year-old carpenter’s kid from Bridgeport had been transformed overnight into General Tom Thumb, an 11-year-old marvel just arrived from Europe and engaged at ‘extraordinary expense.’ … Barnum himself was the schoolteacher, training his small charge, first in manners, then in memorizing little quips and speedy comebacks, finally the words and actions for a number of dress-up roles he would play. … Tom, who was a natural mimic, would strike poses and in other ways imitate well-known individuals, including Cupid, Samson, a Highland chieftain, Hercules, an English fox-hunter, Frederick the Great,  and Napoleon. … From later-published scripts we know [how their routines] started off: ‘You being a general, perhaps you will tell us what army you command?’ ‘Cupid’s artillery,’ the General would reply. . …

“Instead of being bitter over his littleness, Tom seemed to glory in it, almost as if it were his own special blessing. He loved to strut out on the stage and show what he could do to an audience. … Of course, Tom’s childhood suffered from his full-time occupation as an adult. At five he learned to drink wine at meals, at seven to smoke cigars. … He loved money and hoarded it. … At the start of 1845, Barnum allowed the Strattons to become full partners in the Thumb adventure [and they became] ‘absolutely deranged with such golden success.’ …

“By 1862, Barnum was watching his wealthy Bridgeport neighbor Charles Stratton (alias Tom Thumb) sail his yacht and drive his thoroughbreds and smoke his imported cigars. … [Barnum soon added as an act] Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump [who] was a 21-year-old beauty from Middleborough, Massachusetts, [and] only 32 inches tall. … Tom Thumb took one look at the museum’s dainty addition and fell head over heels in love. … [Sixteen years later] in 1878, Lavinia’s sister Minnie died painfully while giving birth to a full-sized baby, not the miniature child she and her husband had expected. … [After this and another friend’s tragic death], Tom Thumb was never the same. … [In 1883] Tom died suddenly of a stroke at the age of 46.”