400 Years in Manhattan Brings New York City History to the Stage
The October 4 performance is sold out.
The October 4 performance is sold out.
By Montague Chadbourne
Al Flosso – (Oct. 10, 1895 – May 13, 1976)
AL FLOSSO’S NAME is known to readers of the two-volume graphic novel by Jason Lutes who created a character solely upon the basis of a photograph and this magician’s colorful name. Readers of an earlier era of fiction writing recognized aspects of Al Flosso’s true nature in the character, Professor Flotto in the pages of The Great Balsamo, the novel by show-biz author Maurice Zolotow. The true-life Al Flosso (1895- 1976) was as memorable a character as any created in fiction or prose.
A city native, he later spoke of crossing the Roeblings’ Bridge to get to downtown Manhattan and buy a ten cent pulp-paper booklet of magic to learn at home. Next, he ventured into New York City’s midtown tenderloin district where he purchased a ‘barber-pole’ production effect at Martinka’s Magic Emporium of which he would later – like Carter the Great and Harry Houdini before him become the proprietor.
In his early “kid” days he associated himself with the legendary Max Malini (1873 – 1942) who, like Flosso, was a diminutive man with a striking oversize stage persona and an inspired knack to captivate audiences through the sheer force of his personality.
Next came his yeoman stint at Coney Island where he performed his rendition of ‘The Miser’s Dream’ in an uncanny act of sideshow flare; this performance was an unforgettable admixture of high magic technique and sidesplitting comedic bravado.
Of this work on his part showbiz legend Milton Berle dubbed Flosso, “The Coney Island Fakir,” and this salutation became the sobriquet that stuck.
Professionally he also explored the worlds of traveling sideshow circuses and vaudeville circuits. including split weeks in New England towns. Back home in New York, he purchased and presided over Martinka’s Magic Emporium, welcoming visitors with his warm, self-effacing greeting, “So you’ve come to see the Little Man!”
Later on, he performed on television and Catskill resorts with cyclonic vigor. His friends in the worlds of theater and magic were legend, from Houdini to Dunninger to the youngest aspirants of his beloved art of magic. Like his father-in-law, Professor Louis Krieger, Flosso had busked for the sidewalk gamins of the Bowery and for the members of New York Society’s “Four Hundred”.
He was engaged to improve Ambassador Joseph Kennedy’s manual dexterity as part of physical rehabilitation when Mr. Kennedy was at the Rusk Institute in Manhattan.
Unlike the broken character in Mr. Luter’s fictional ‘Jar of Fools‘, the true Al Flosso was a sober, and ever-alert, participant in the human condition until his last days, captivating all comers with his signature styles of magic, mirth, and mystery. Until his death in 1976, Al Flosso regaled audiences with his antic force, a quality very akin to the ‘Rough Theater,” as described in Peter Brook in his seminal text, The Empty Space. This theatrical genre acts as a cultural antidote to those denatured commercial amusements flooding the mass society which Brook designated “The Deadly Theater.” Flosso, the antic force to behold, was, indeed, the quintessence of that liveliest authentic theater which is always integral to the lively arts.
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Are you ready for some Circus Amok??
For those of you not familiar with this wonderful group here is an excerpt from a book written about Radical Street Performance by Mark Sussman.
(Circus Amok…reinventing the circus form, borrowing drag fabulousness from Charles Ludlam’s Theater of the Ridiculous, large scale transformation using whole-body masks from Bread and Puppet Theater, and the outdoor bally and verbal rhythm and repertoire from the sideshow, as well as movement vocabulary from post-modern dance. The troupe balances danger with laughter, slipping its critique between the pies in the face and the surreal, scary, and sometimes gender-bent characters of the charivari.)
To make a donation to Circus Amok (since these shows are FREE they need some $$$ to produce them)
Circus Amok is a 501(c)3 organization and all of your donations are tax-deductible!!
Go HERE. And Thank You!
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From Feb 1932 Vanity Fair Magazine
Richard Valentine Pitchford – presto change-o! Cardini – who does things to a cigarette that no Indian fakir ever did to a rope – was born in Wales in 1898 and could bewitch a pack of cards before he was old enough to talk. Four years overseas in the War left him shell-shocked, and, after eighteen months in a hospital, he was discharged as disabled. Working his way to Australia on a freighter, he made his debut as a sorcerer in Sydney. Since then, Cardini has prestidigitated in twelve countries and was the first magacian to mystify his King and Queen by Royal Command. His vanishing-cigarette trick involves thirty lighted cigarettes, a cigar and a pipe. One the stage, he remains absolutely mute, shunning the patter of magicians and retaining impressive calm. Of late, he has been gathering laurels in the music halls of Manhattan with his cards, his cigarettes and his billiard balls.
1962 Autographed photograph of Cardini inscribed to Dai Vernon.
Publicity photograph for Cardini
Poster for one of Cardini’s appearances at a Keith theater for the Annual IBM Convention.
Cardini died on Nov 13th. 1973. Here is the NY Times Obit.
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Longtime radio and TV show host Joe Franklin died Saturday at the age of 88.
Franklin died of cancer, according to his former producer, Steve Garrin, the Associated Press reported.
According to Franklin’s website he was, “in many ways, the pioneer of the modern TV talk show format.”
Billy Crystal tweeted about Franklin’s death on Sunday, writing that, “Joe Franklin was a New York original, I grew up watching Memory Lane and loved imitating him on SNL. A sad day for all who knew him.”