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Vol 96 • No 2 • Spring 20<strong>23</strong><br />


Señor Jahir Aguiar

2 White Tops

The official publication of the<br />

Circus Fans Association of America<br />


Jack Dean, President<br />

jack7880dean@gmail.com 941-270-0640<br />

Timothy Noel Tegge, President Elect<br />

timothytegge@yahoo.com 608-356-<strong>23</strong>75<br />

Patricia Stevenson, Vice President<br />

pat_stevenson@verizon.net 443-388-1822<br />

Daniel J. Kleintop, Immediate Past President<br />

djkleintop@gmail.com 757-647-2179<br />


Beverly Abderrahman To 4/30/25<br />

bwazzan@yahoo.com 702-262-6090<br />

Niles “Buddy” Calhoun To 4/30/27<br />

nilescal@aol.com 601-366-4378<br />

Bruce Hawley To 4/30/25<br />

bhawley@optonline.net 203-375-9711<br />

Priscilla Johnson To 4/30/25<br />

circuswert@yahoo.com 845-454-1860<br />

John Peters To 4/30/25<br />

jmpeters@bellsouth.net 561-758-8586<br />

Fred Pfening III To 4/30/25<br />

fpfening@pfening.com 614-3<strong>23</strong>-5361<br />

Jackie Kannegieter To 4/30/27<br />

jackgator@hotmail.com 712-461-1919<br />

Mike Melssen To 4/30/27<br />

mmdedbq@aol.com 702-416-1289<br />

Christine Schreiber To 4/30/27<br />

circusfarms@yahoo.com 352-222-0214<br />

April R. Zink To 4/30/27<br />

aprilzink@aol.com 352-262-3455<br />


Maxine House, Secretary/Treasurer<br />

mahouse@verizon.net 201-7<strong>23</strong>-6384<br />

Samuel Patrick Smith, White Tops Editor<br />

editor.<strong>white</strong><strong>tops</strong>@gmail.com<br />

Larry Sayler, Finance Committee Chair<br />

larry.sayler@greenville.edu 618-699-8382<br />

Fr. Richard Notter, Chaplain<br />

ren132@aol.com 419-351-9035<br />

Fred D. Pfening III, Historian<br />

fpfening@pfening.com 614-3<strong>23</strong>-5361<br />

White Tops Submission Deadlines<br />

Magazine Production<br />

SPS Publications, Inc.<br />

Editor<br />

Samuel Patrick Smith<br />

editor.<strong>white</strong><strong>tops</strong>@gmail.com<br />

Post Office Box 787<br />

Eustis, Florida 32727<br />

Graphic Design<br />

Jessica Friend<br />

Creative Consultant<br />

Tim Tegge<br />

Editorial Advisors<br />

Jan Biggerstaff<br />

Maxine House<br />

Tim Tegge<br />

Copy Editors<br />

Rose Cardenas<br />

Lauren Jurgensen<br />

Advertising<br />

editor.<strong>white</strong><strong>tops</strong>@gmail.com<br />

Back Issues<br />

Pete Adams • 941-378-9596<br />

circusp@comcast.net<br />

News, articles, and photographs<br />

To send stories and photos for use<br />

in The White Tops magazine, please<br />

email to editor.<strong>white</strong><strong>tops</strong>@gmail.<br />

com If photos are too large to email,<br />

send the files to editor.<strong>white</strong><strong>tops</strong>@<br />

gmail.com through WeTransfer.com.<br />

You may submit as many stories and<br />

photographs as you wish.<br />

Publisher<br />

Circus Fans Association of America<br />

©20<strong>23</strong> Circus Fans<br />

Association of America<br />

The White Tops (USPS 683000)<br />

(ISSN 0043-499X) is published<br />

quarterly for CFA members: $50 per<br />

year (U.S.) and $75 (foreign): and<br />

youth members $30 (U.S.) by Circus<br />

Fans Association of America, Inc.<br />

Known office of publication: 450<br />

Secluded Oaks Trail, DeLand, FL<br />

32724-3417 with additional entry<br />

at Jefferson City, MO. Periodicals<br />

postage paid at Jefferson City, MO<br />

and additional entry offices.<br />

Summer – July 15, 20<strong>23</strong> • Fall– October 15, 20<strong>23</strong><br />

Winter – January 15, 2024 • Spring – April 15, 2024<br />

Submit articles and artwork to editor.<strong>white</strong><strong>tops</strong>@gmail.com. Articles should be<br />

submitted as Microsoft Word documents. Photos ( JPEG, TIFF, or PNG formats)<br />

may be emailed or, if too large, sent through wetransfer.com.<br />


2 CFA’S Star Performers, 2022–20<strong>23</strong><br />

4 President’s Corner Jack Dean<br />

4 Sammy Smith—New Editor, Old Friend<br />

Dan Stapleton<br />

5 Secretary/Treasurer’s Message Maxine House<br />

6 Zerbini Family Circus Maxine House<br />

10 Lewis & Clark Circus Maxine House<br />

12 Tent #122 Banquet Pete Adams • Mary Fritsch<br />

14 Tanbark Topics William B. (Bill) Hall III<br />

17 Follow the Arrows Timothy Noel Tegge<br />

18 Dailey/Tegge Tent #180 Attends Carden International<br />

20 Circus Ring of Fame Induction<br />

22 Circus Hollywood: Florida State FairMaxine House<br />

27 Tent #137 Picnic Dan Stapleton<br />

30 Showfolks Tent #122 March Meeting<br />

32 Williams Earns Guinness World Record<br />

33 Richard Snowberg: A Tribute<br />

Bruce “Charlie” Johnson<br />

36 Caballeros Score Golden Elephant in Spain<br />

Alex Smith<br />

38 Leigh Ketchum: Showfolks Tent #122 Speaker<br />

39 Big Cat Habitat Pete Adams<br />

40 Mileposts<br />

42 Dusty’s All Star Circus Maxine House<br />

44 It’s Time to Register! Pete Adams<br />

45 Convention Schedule of Activities<br />

46 Membership<br />

47 We Had an OLLI Good Time! Jan Biggerstaff<br />

48 Edith Johnston Memorial Fund Report James Fry<br />

49 Convention Corner<br />

50 Remembering Buckles • In Memoriam<br />

Kent Kawata • Jan Biggerstaff<br />

51 Book Review Bruce “Charlie” Johnson<br />

53 CFA Board of Trustees Minutes Maxine House<br />

54 Wedding Bells in Las Vegas Maxine House<br />

56 Good Day, Bad Day John Moss<br />

57 Checkerboard Laughter (poem) Danise Payne<br />

58 Remembering Ringling’s Clown College<br />

Ron Severini<br />

62 Pictures from the Past Samuel Patrick Smith<br />


Front cover: From out of the Wild, Wild West rides Mexico’s<br />

“King of the Cowboys,” Señor Jahir Aguiar. In the time-honored<br />

tradition of Mexico’s legendary charros, Jahir (pronounced Yah-eer)<br />

enchants audiences daily with his rope-spinning expertise in the<br />

ring of the Royal Hanneford Circus. His routine generates tremendous<br />

applause wherever he appears. PHOTO BY TIMOTHY NOEL<br />

TEGGE<br />

Back cover: Nothing beats a cool dip on a hot and humid Florida<br />

afternoon. Here, two-year-old Carlene Poema Rios bathes in bigtop<br />

style while the circus sets up around her. PHOTO BY CATHEY<br />


Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 3

President's Corner<br />

By Jack Dean<br />

Greetings from Sarasota, Florida!<br />

On May 1, I took over as President of CFA with a<br />

lot to learn and accomplish over the next two years. On July<br />

10, we start our 20<strong>23</strong> convention in Sarasota, Florida. Pete<br />

Adams and I have been working hard to give Circus Fans a<br />

wonderful convention with lots of exciting events and speakers. The convention runs<br />

from July 10 through July 13. I hope to see all of you there.<br />

I feel that an important part of my presidency is CFA membership—retaining<br />

our current members and attracting new members. During the pandemic everything<br />

came to a stop, but now is the time to rebuild. My job as president is to listen to our<br />

members’ needs and ideas. We are working<br />

on taking credit cards to make it easier<br />

to join CFA and renew memberships.<br />

We have a great new team and White<br />

Tops editor and publisher, and I think it<br />

will become a much better magazine.<br />

Please feel free to contact me at any<br />

time by email at jack7880dean@gmail.com<br />

or call my cell phone at (941) 270-0640.<br />

May all your days be circus days.<br />

Sammy Smith—New Editor,<br />

Old Friend<br />

By Dan Stapleton<br />

President of Hoxie-Couls Tent #137, Orlando, Florida<br />

I<br />

’ve known Sammy nearly half a century, ever since I moved to Florida in the 1970s.<br />

He was a young whippersnapper back then, sure, but he was beyond his age as a<br />

writer and editor. For example, at fifteen he published his first book. Since then he has<br />

edited twenty books by other authors and written eight himself. He has also overseen<br />

the publication of more<br />

than 30,000 pages for<br />

magazines.<br />

Over the years, we have<br />

had many mutual friends<br />

in the world of magic, including<br />

a few who became<br />

legendary, and we have<br />

worked together on several<br />

biographical projects. In<br />

addition to his experience<br />

as an editor and publisher,<br />

Sammy is also a performer<br />

who brings class and sophistication<br />

to the magical<br />

arts. He’s a wonderful family and children’s<br />

entertainer.<br />

He is presently the editor of the<br />

world’s largest monthly magicians’ magazine<br />

in circulation, The Linking Ring,<br />

which cuts the poor fellow’s life short<br />

each and every month as he rushes to get<br />

the 160-page publication into the hands<br />

of nine thousand magicians worldwide.<br />

Such is the life of an editor. So, natch,<br />

I thought he needed more on his plate,<br />

to help stunt his growth even further,<br />

when I suggested him as the new editor<br />

of White Tops. Oddly, the masochist<br />

accepted the task. So, let’s all help the<br />

new guy out and give him strength. If<br />

he succeeds, we will all benefit from the<br />

colorful growth of the CFA—something<br />

that every one of us wants.<br />

4 White Tops

Secretary/Treasurer Notes<br />

By Maxine House<br />

April, May, and June are crucial months on the CFA calendar.<br />

April marks the end of our strange but symbolic fiscal<br />

year; the “First of May” marks the beginning of the new year with a new slate of<br />

officers biennially.<br />

The last issue of White Tops presented the list of six candidates and their resumes for<br />

the six open trustee seats, as well as the candidates for the offices of president-elect<br />

and vice president—a full slate. One hundred and six members mailed their votes out<br />

of the approximate six hundred possible voters. Naturally, all of the listed candidates<br />

were winners! The new listing for the Board of Trustees 20<strong>23</strong>–2025 is printed on<br />

page 3.<br />

The rest of the CFA members probably thought there was no real need to vote. But<br />

there was: it was a chance for them to voice their opinion on changing the name of our<br />

magazine from White Tops to CFA Big Top.<br />

Of all the voters, six chose not to give an opinion, but merely voted for the officers.<br />

Of the remaining one hundred and two voters, forty-three said yes to the change,<br />

while the other forty-nine said no. Most of the former made no comments. But I<br />

read a few such thoughts as, “Sound idea for good reasons!” and “Change is good.”<br />

The nays were more adamant: “There are many big <strong>tops</strong>, but only one White Tops!” or<br />

”I’m a traditionalist,” or “It’s an insult to the Founding Fathers of<br />

CFA!” It would seem to me that more fans are inclined to keep<br />

the name White Tops.<br />

But one thing might not have been clear to members—this<br />

was merely a poll! Only the Board of Directors can decide on a<br />

name change. Any change of name probably would involve a bit<br />

of legal work, including a revision to our periodical permit for the<br />

magazine. You may be sure that that Board will be addressing this<br />

question this year—probably at the convention in Sarasota.<br />

A positive result of the election and poll is that more fans have<br />

already paid their 20<strong>23</strong>–2024 dues than in other years! I have recorded<br />

many Ringmasters, Equestrians, and Producers who gave<br />

extra dues money to CFA. A special thank you to each of them. Those<br />

who gave extra dues during the last fiscal year are listed on page<br />

2. Also published in each White Tops are the names of members<br />

who have given donations beyond their dues to CFA (see page<br />

46). Another thank you!<br />

Feel free to contact me by phone or email if you have any questions<br />

about your dues.<br />

In April, the financial committee, led by Larry Sayler, spotted<br />

a shortfall between CFA’s income and its expenditures. The bulk<br />

of CFA money is spent on the publication of White Tops, but<br />

in no way did the committee want to cut back on that! After<br />

many phone calls and much emailing, board member and finance<br />

committee member Buddy Calhoun moved that, “the NCPS give<br />

$4,000 annually to CFA, earmarked for use of the educational<br />

aspects of White Tops, or whatever name it has.” This motion is<br />

strictly in keeping with the mission of<br />

NCPS: “To develop, promote, and advance<br />

information and knowledge for a<br />

better understanding of the American<br />

circuses.” This is exactly what many articles<br />

in White Tops do. The motion was<br />

seconded by Jan Biggerstaff, and the<br />

Trustees passed it on April 25. I immediately<br />

implemented it.<br />

The finance committee will be working<br />

on the 20<strong>23</strong>–2024 budgets for CFA<br />

and NCPS. By the time you read this,<br />

the new budget will have been formulated<br />

and approved by the Board. Larry<br />

will report on it in the summer issue of<br />

White Tops.<br />

I hope you are having a great circus<br />

season—we’ve enjoyed many here in<br />

Florida. I also hope that I see many of<br />

you at the Sarasota convention.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 5

Zerbini Family<br />

Circus<br />

Eustis, Florida • February 21, 20<strong>23</strong><br />

By Maxine House<br />


We arrived at the Zerbini lot, located on the Lake County<br />

Fairgrounds in Eustis, Florida, well in advance of the evening<br />

performance. With us was the new editor of White Tops, Sammy<br />

Smith, and his wife Laurel. They enjoyed the evening and both have<br />

subsequently joined CFA!<br />

The Zerbini family was highly visible on the lot, but they had time<br />

to greet us warmly. Alain, the founder and owner of the show, had<br />

recently undergone knee surgery. In great spirits, he was sitting in a<br />

wheelchair on the midway. He had big news for us: his son Julian will<br />

be taking over the management of the show! In fact, Alain and his wife<br />

Letty would be leaving that very evening for their home in Myakka<br />

City, Florida. Proud and happy, Alain was ready for retirement.<br />

The lot was set up as usual with a ticket wagon, concession stand,<br />

pony ride, and a bounce house. Letty was at the front door of the tent,<br />

taking tickets and selling tickets for the midway attractions. Julian was<br />

all over, preparing for the evening performance. His wife Darinka has<br />

taken the year off from performing to help her husband with the concessions.<br />

Alain’s daughter Melody and her husband Gustavo Ramirez<br />

still work in advance of the show.<br />

As usual, there was only one performance for the day, at 7:00 p.m.<br />

The tent only had plank bleacher seating along the two long sides of<br />

the tent. However, Alain graciously provided us with folding chairs.<br />

Bardo Garcia, the new ringmaster from Texas, replaced Julian.<br />

Looking the part, Bardo deftly announced and guided the performance.<br />

Top: Jennifer Luna presents her Spanish<br />

web routine. Middle: Ringmaster Bardo<br />

Garcia visits with Maxine House at<br />

intermission. Bottom: Fernanda Maya<br />

presents her quick-change act.<br />

6 White Tops

Top: A giant polar bear and comical clown antics delight the crowd. Bottom left: Julian Zerbini. Bottom right: Audience reaction was strong throughout the<br />

show.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 7


The show opened with Ronorica Christian’s slack wire<br />

act. He nicely incorporated both unicycle riding and juggling<br />

into his routine.<br />

Alex Bender from Venezuela followed with hand balancing.<br />

Then he ended his act with a chair-stacking routine,<br />

putting six chairs into a unique configuration.<br />

Daniel Luna presented six dogs in the show’s Canine<br />

Review. This was his first year with the act that Darinka<br />

Zerbini once managed.<br />

Andrew Obadilla used an interesting variety of items in<br />

his foot juggling display.<br />

Miss Fernanda Maya followed with the quick-change<br />

act—always a crowd pleaser.<br />

The coloring book pitch broke up the action.<br />

Julian put four miniature donkeys through their paces.<br />

Then entered the young clowns, brothers Andy and<br />

Randy, who spoofed a boxing match.<br />

Julian was then back with four liberty horses, which was<br />

a nice contrast to the donkeys.<br />

Light-up souvenir swords were offered for sale before<br />

Miss Maya’s trapeze act.<br />

The clowns returned “wanting to dance.” They get volunteers<br />

from the audience. Of course, one of them became<br />

the stooge.<br />


The show reopens with Spider Man. The masked performer<br />

climbed the rigging and dived into an airbag. The<br />

kids loved it.<br />

Miss Jennifer Luna presented her Spanish web routine.<br />

As a cleanup crew, the clowns swept the ring as a huge<br />

spider descended from a box suspended above the ring.<br />

The audience saw it, but not the clowns. Mayhem ensued.<br />

However, this allowed Andy and Randy to then sell red<br />

clown noses for one dollar each.<br />

As the final act of the show, Pedro Luna performed<br />

his rolla bolla act. He was followed immediately by a<br />

yellow Chevrolet entering the tent—no, it was actually a<br />

Transformer Robot. The kids loved it! Truly a great ending<br />

for this circus.<br />

All the staff immediately began teardown. The next day<br />

they would be playing in another town. I hope fans in the<br />

east can catch this traditional one-ring family circus!<br />

Top: Bottom: Alex Bender, six stacks high.<br />

8 White Tops

Top left: JP and Maxine after a fun evening at the Zerbini Family Circus. Top right: Andy and Randy with Ringmaster Bardo Garcia entertain with their<br />

comedy boxing routine. Bottom: A rousing ending to the show.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 9

Lewis & Clark<br />

Circus<br />

Lake Helen, Florida – March 12, 20<strong>23</strong><br />

By Maxine House<br />


We hadn’t seen or reviewed the Lewis and Clark Circus for White Tops since March<br />

of 2017, but we had two chances this season. We took them.<br />

Allowing two years off for the pandemic, this small, tented show has remained under<br />

the ownership and management of Vandier dos Reis. It opens in Florida and tours<br />

Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and as far north as New York. Its Facebook page is<br />

quite informative about its activities and route.<br />

However, there are changes. The performance is now presented on a stage with a<br />

grey curtain serving as its performers’ entrance. No longer bleachers, but folding chairs<br />

provide seating in a semicircle in front of the stage. It’s the same tent, but now it’s<br />

riddled with small holes. What must it be like inside on a rainy day?<br />

When we visited the show, the work and performance were completely done by<br />

eight people, all but one of whom were Brazilians! Several young women, waiting for<br />

their government approval to perform, helped to sell tickets and run the concessions.<br />

Vandier is still waiting for several more performers to arrive from Brazil.<br />

The performance begins with the First<br />

of May American Ringmaster, Maks<br />

Turner, welcoming the audience with<br />

the typical “Are you ready…?” The clown<br />

(Vandier) interrupts him, hauls in a colorful<br />

“blob,” and dumps it on the stage.<br />

When the Maks and the clown leave, the<br />

blob (Welington Silva Romeiro) expands<br />

and comes to life as two figures who perform<br />

a delightfully imaginative series of<br />

dances based on the music being played.<br />

The audience, especially the children,<br />

love it and giggle their approval.<br />

What follows is a series of traditional<br />

circus acts: hula hoops, aerial hoop (both<br />

by Gabriela Medeiro Frasao), rola bola<br />

(Andre Vinicius Machado Saleti), acrobatics<br />

Maks Turner), chair stacking<br />

(Guilherme Medeiro Frasao), and juggling<br />

(Wil Romanto). Guilherme also<br />

struggles to put a “zebra” through its<br />

paces, but no cooperation there.<br />

What really holds the show together<br />

is the crazy clowning of Vandier. Using<br />

a lot of audience volunteers, he gets the<br />

audience—especially the kids—completely<br />

into the gags. He has no problem<br />

getting these volunteers to come<br />

on stage. They love it, and their parents<br />

are ready with their cell phones to take<br />

pictures. Because Vandier uses a mic, his<br />

Left: A child from the audience is trying to get the zebra to behave. Right: After Ringmaster Maks Turner announces that one of the scheduled acts can’t<br />

appear, he takes off his Ringmaster coat and performs a pleasing acrobatic act.<br />

10 White Tops

Top, left to right: Vandier at the sound board.<br />

Before the show, four of the performers greet<br />

us. Left to right: Andre Machado Saleti, Vandier<br />

dos Reis, Guilher Frasao, and Gabriela Frasao.<br />

Middle, left to right: Gabriella on the lyre.<br />

Guilherme Medeiro Frasao’s chair act.<br />

Right: The main entrance of the tent. The van to<br />

the left is a combination ticket wagon and concession<br />

stand.<br />

accent adds to the comedy. The audience<br />

leaves the tent after an hour-and-a-half<br />

show, which includes an intermission,<br />

well satisfied with their circus.<br />

The tickets cost twenty-five dollars for<br />

adults. Children can enter for free with a<br />

coupon. Some concessions are available,<br />

run mostly by the performers, of course!<br />

After four days in Lake Helen, the<br />

troupe headed north. We wish for them<br />

a successful season.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 11

Seventh-Generation Circus Performers<br />

Speak at Tent #122 Banquet<br />


Tina Winn “Galaxy Girl”<br />

By Pete Adams<br />

Tina Winn, Galaxy Girl, is a seventh-generation circus performer. Her family<br />

comes from England and her circus heritage dates back centuries. Her grandfather<br />

performed his circus before Queen Victoria at Balmoral Castle in 1895. Her<br />

father came to United States in 1955 with his bareback riding troupe, the Dorchesters,<br />

after completing a seven-year contract at Blackpool Tower Circus in England where<br />

he won three gold medals for his bareback riding skills. He was contracted by the King<br />

Brothers Circus. Since his dream was to move to America, he brought his family and<br />

all the horses by ship to the United States.<br />

Joining the troupe was her father’s sister, Auntie Lilly, as well as her uncle, Billy<br />

Stebbings, with their children John, Anita, and Carol. They later opened Stebbings<br />

Royal European Circus and purchased the Polack Brothers Circus in the 1970s. Also<br />

in the troupe was her sister Pom-Pom, who took over the Polack Brothers Circus<br />

elephants for over a decade. She later also handled the Gatti-Charles elephants and<br />

presented the Toby Tyler African elephants, where she met Vincent Van Duke. For<br />

thirty years they’ve had Vincent Van Duke’s lions and tigers, and they still live here<br />

in Sarasota. Her sister Vivian was into bareback riding and later went on to perform<br />

the Boxer dog act. She performed on every major variety television stage show in the<br />

country and even performed on Broadway in Broadway Follies. Last but not least,<br />

her sister Stevie Coronas with Circus Hollywood—along with her children and her<br />

husband, Serge—have a large traveling circus and petting zoo working fairs and shrine<br />

circus all over the United States.<br />

After her father retired the bareback riding act, he went on to do Scott’s unrideable<br />

mule, a one-of-a-kind comedy act that has never been duplicated. He is a Sarasota<br />

Ring of Fame inductee.<br />

Tina was born in 1964 on the Polack Brothers Circus and started performing at the<br />

age of four. She spent the next twenty years performing with her sisters in a unicycle<br />

Left to right: Tent #122 President Jeanette Williams presents a certificate of appreciation to Johnny<br />

Rockett and Tina Winn. Johnny Rockett and Tina Winn, speakers for the Tent #122 banquet, have<br />

been creating circus acts since 2009.<br />

act. Tina performed in many family acts,<br />

but her dream was always to be a trapeze<br />

artist in the 1980s. She married into the<br />

Winn family and started doing daredevil<br />

acts such as the motorcycle on the wire<br />

and the side for life. They went on to<br />

create the sky master sway pole act with<br />

towering eighty-foot poles which they<br />

performed in venues all over the world,<br />

including Germany, France, Mexico<br />

City, Disneyland, Disney World Epcot<br />

Center, and Canada’s Wonderland. The<br />

act also went to Japan with the gold unit<br />

and performed here in the United States<br />

with the Ringling Blue unit. They even<br />

opened for the rock group Kiss, and they<br />

were always reaching for new and better<br />

acts. In 1991 while performing for<br />

Ringling Brothers, they decided to purchase<br />

the Centron Motorcycle Platform<br />

Act, a state-of-the-art rigging from her<br />

cousin Christine Fossett and her husband,<br />

David Chabira. David went on to<br />

be rigging coordinator for all Cirque du<br />

Soleil shows.<br />

Tina, of course, always liked to reach<br />

for bigger and better heights. In 2000, a<br />

gentlemen named Bruce Anderson contacted<br />

them to purchase his aerial high<br />

act which was something over a hundred<br />

feet at the time. She was not sure this<br />

was something she wanted to do, and<br />

stated that it’s not the performing part—<br />

but it’s a major set up. This aerial apparatus<br />

had over thirty-four guy wires, was a<br />

hundred and twenty-seven feet tall, and<br />

is fifty-five steps to the top. It takes six<br />

hours to set up and four hours to disassemble.<br />

Tina was proud to say that it’s<br />

the world’s highest traveling aerial stunt<br />

show and that it was performed at every<br />

major state and county fair. It included a<br />

seven-year engagement at the Big E.<br />

12 White Tops

Since 2009, Johnny and Tina have been creating and working<br />

on new shows and circus acts. Along with his Johnny Rockett<br />

character, they produce Cycle Circus Live, one of the largest action<br />

Sports FMX and BMX shows on tour. They perform with a<br />

great team. One of her very favorite performers is her daughter,<br />

Ashley, who is an eighth-generation circus performer. Ashley is<br />

performing the aerial platform act and her hula hoops act at the<br />

Florida State Fair.<br />

Tina then introduced Johnny, who builds and fabricates all of<br />

their equipment and who she believes is an amazing entertainer,<br />

as well as one of the most talented people in the industry. They<br />

have just returned from New York where Johnny has been the<br />

headliner at the Big Apple Circus for the past two seasons.<br />

Johnny Rockett<br />

By Mary Fritsch<br />

Johnny Rockett was born John Daly. His great-grandfather<br />

came to the United States from Ireland, performing in vaudeville<br />

and then moving to the circus. Johnny is a seventh-generation<br />

Memorabilia was on display for Johnny Rockett’s presentation.<br />

The cake of<br />

appreciation!<br />

circus performer whose father and grandfather were both<br />

clowns—they all had the same path, born into the circus.<br />

Johnny had no choice as a child. He started as a two-year-old<br />

when he was pulled out of a suitcase in a comedy act. His<br />

childhood was the circus and he was in every show.<br />

Johnny did comedy trampoline, break-away bikes, and<br />

learned how to build apparatus from his father and another<br />

great comedian, Smiley Bailey, who could build things<br />

from nothing. Johnny was homeschooled and did not have<br />

much formal education. All his education was in the field of<br />

entertainment.<br />

Johnny worked on Garden Brothers for twenty-one years<br />

and said that he learned a lot from them. He described them<br />

as a classy circus who had only the best of the best performing<br />

with perfect costumes and apparatus.<br />

When Johnny met Tina Winn, he said that he was the luckiest<br />

man. “Johnny Rockett” was a joint effort between Tina and<br />

himself. They brought FMX to the American circus—with the<br />

best FMX riders in the world—at his Florida State Show.<br />

Then the pandemic struck. Entertainment was the first hit.<br />

Johnny said it was a weird time for him, and a scary time for<br />

circus folk in general. He didn’t know what to do with himself.<br />

Johnny found hope when Nick Wallenda had a daredevil rally<br />

in Sarasota, where he and Tina both performed.<br />

Johnny next performed with Big Apple, but was devastated<br />

when it closed. Luckily, Nick Wallenda bought it and<br />

Johnny was once again a headliner for the Big Apple Circus.<br />

Unfortunately, the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant hit during<br />

rehearsals. This meant that the performers had to be tested<br />

twice a day—and that Tina and Ashley couldn’t be with him.<br />

But this year, the Big Apple Circus was sold out. Johnny and<br />

Tina were in the Macy’s Day Parade and everything is great.<br />

The only problem is that Johnny gets his audience so excited<br />

and loud that people from the nearby office buildings have<br />

filed noise complaints!<br />

Daredevil Johnny admits that he finds it scary and unnerving<br />

to set up Tina’s one-hundred-and-twenty-foot sway pole,<br />

especially in windy weather. In Johnny’s opinion, Tina is the<br />

greatest female daredevil in the circus. We in CFA Tent 122<br />

think that Johnny Rockett is one of the greatest daredevils<br />

himself, and we enjoyed having him and Tina as our speakers<br />

at our 20<strong>23</strong> banquet. Thank you, Tina and Johnny.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 13

Tanbark<br />

By William B. (Bill) Hall III<br />

Topics<br />

60th<br />

Tanbark: shredded bark from<br />

which the tannin has been<br />

extracted, used to cover circus<br />

arenas. Tanbark Topics: starts<br />

year next issue!<br />


Worth watching—more than once! Widely acclaimed for acrobatic flips and feats<br />

with his family’s performing elephants and bareback riding horses, as well as for<br />

competitive dance triumphs, Rene Casselly, Jr. and his Pax de Trois riding act won the<br />

top gold clown award at January’s 45th Monte Carlo International Circus Festival.<br />

We have seen two videos of the prize-winning creation: one for 12:03 minutes and<br />

the other for 13:09—time well spent if you want to see a different best in circusdom.<br />

A video of Casselly’s Monte Carlo exploits appears under his name in the acts/<br />

artists category of www.circopedia.com.<br />

The award-winning format began with the twenty-six-year-old Casselly initially<br />

spotlighted within a darkened circus ring. Subsequent spots showed him flanked by<br />

two women artists: his blonde sister Merrylu and brunette acrobat Quincy Azzario.<br />

The trio then engaged in what appeared to be the start of an adagio acrobatic routine.<br />

But then the proscenium curtain parted, revealing two large, handsome, side-by-side<br />

Percheron (<strong>white</strong>/black spotted) draft horses that circled the ring in<br />

a slow, measured gait.<br />

Casselly, who balanced with one leg on each of the back-padded,<br />

constantly moving horse tandem, was the understander for a series of<br />

lifts and carries with his female partners. Stunts included a two-high<br />

feet-to-head (Azzario on top), then Merrylu in a head-to-head with<br />

her brother, finalized by a three-high with safety-harnessed Merrylu<br />

as top mounter.<br />

For the act’s finish, Casselly, standing on one horse’s cushioned<br />

rump, used the bucking rear movements of the horse as his takeoff<br />

impetus into a double back feet-to-feet somersault on the rump of<br />

the same moving animal. For their prolonged bows, the performers<br />

offered a brief, novel, and well-choreographed adagio routine, adding<br />

an effective and novel close to their first-class attainments.<br />

In the aforementioned acts, Casselly displayed a nimble, free-wheeling<br />

flair not usually seen in circus rings. That may occur because he<br />

incorporates dance steps into his moves, perhaps the result of being<br />

a winning contestant on Let’s Dance, a dance competition television<br />

series produced live in Cologne, Germany, Casselly’s native country.<br />

Partnered with Kathrin Menziger, they were first place winners in<br />

2022 for the fifteenth season of Let’s Dance.<br />

Casselly Riding Act at Monte Carlo, 20<strong>23</strong>. CHRIS<br />


In his historical review of the Monte<br />

Carlo festival published last March,<br />

Raffaele De Ritis wrote of the Casselly<br />

feats, “At least two tricks never witnessed<br />

in circus history: a three-high balance on<br />

two horses and a double (back) somersault<br />

on horseback.” From Italy, De Ritis<br />

Wesley Williams and Kenneth Feld, April 20<strong>23</strong>. CHRIS BERRY PHOTO<br />

14 White Tops

is an author, circus historian and stage/<br />

entertainment director.<br />

Casselly’s bareback act was added as a<br />

special attraction for Germany’s Circus<br />

Krone from March 22 through April 16.<br />

Quincy Azzario and her sister, Katy,<br />

previously performed together as the<br />

Azzario Sisters in a stellar acrobatic balancing<br />

act. Katy is married to British big<br />

cat trainer Alexander Lacey, a Ringling-<br />

Barnum Circus headliner for eight years<br />

with his big cage mix of African lions<br />

and tigers. Reports had Quincy leaving<br />

the Casselly act after Monte Carlo.<br />


Monte Carlo’s event will next occur<br />

in 2024 from January 19 - 29, and will<br />

include the festival’s New Generation<br />

youthful performer competition within<br />

that time span. The winner of this year’s<br />

young artists’ vying was Russian slack<br />

wire whiz Ameli Bilyk.<br />


With family ties to the ownership<br />

and management of Circus Vargas, the<br />

Flying Tabares trapeze troupe is working<br />

abroad this summer after having<br />

been a featured performing staple for<br />

several seasons with the aforementioned<br />

California-based big top show. Tabares<br />

flyers are currently in the “Stars in the<br />

Manege” themed program of Germany’s<br />

Circus Krone, which launched its 20<strong>23</strong><br />

tent tour on April 8. (Vargas’s new production<br />

is billed as “Bonjour Paris, The<br />

City of Lights,” and hosted by former<br />

Ringling-Barnumite Jonathan Iverson,”<br />

who bills himself as “the last circus<br />

ringmaster.”)<br />

Also in the Krone lineup is the<br />

Danguir Troupe, offering a multi-person<br />

high wire cadre (including a presentation<br />

of a seven-member pyramid aloft),<br />

as seen with Ringling-Barnum into<br />

2017, and a double space wheel thriller.<br />

The Danguirs won a silver clown (second<br />

place award) at this year’s Monte Carlo<br />

festival.<br />


A 2022 gold clown winner at Monte<br />

Carlo, the Tunzianis of double-wide<br />

trapeze flying fame, and spotlighting<br />

quadruple mid-air somersaulting<br />

Ammed Garcia, are with Cirque du<br />

Soleil’s Alegria production, now playing<br />

Japanese dates. Alegra will be in Osaka<br />

from July 14 through October 10, within<br />

a Morinomiya big top, and will use an<br />

Odaiba tent in Tokyo from February 8<br />

through June <strong>23</strong>. Tunziani performing<br />

credits include Ringling-Barnum and<br />

the Big Apple Circus.<br />


Heralding a “reimagined” return of<br />

The Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling-<br />

Barnum—after a six-year, ownership-imposed<br />

hiatus—is showing something<br />

drastically different for the resurrected<br />

animal-free, no-clowns circus<br />

well before the initial musical drumbeat<br />

at Bossier City, Louisiana on September<br />

29.<br />

That applies to the fifty-city show<br />

route, which debuts with four performances<br />

on a three-day weekend: a 7 p.m.<br />

curtain-raiser on Friday; stagings at 2<br />

and 6 p.m. on Saturday, September 30,<br />

and a 2 p.m. wrap on Sunday, October<br />

1, all at the Brookshire Grocery Arena.<br />

After that stand, Ringling heads to<br />

Cleveland, Ohio and the Rocket<br />

Mortgage Fieldhouse for seven shows<br />

from October 6 - 8 (one Friday evening;<br />

three Saturday formats at 11 a.m., 3 p.m.,<br />

and 7 p.m.; and 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday.<br />

The remainder of Ringling’s early route<br />

consists of Friday-through-Sunday runs,<br />

offering seven performances within that<br />

time frame. Unlike prior years, there are<br />

no stands beyond a three-day weekend.<br />

Also ahead are the Fiserv Forum<br />

at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October<br />

13 - 15; PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh,<br />

Pennsylvania, October 20 - 22; Heritage<br />

Bank Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, October<br />

27 - 29; and the Allstate Arena, Rosemont,<br />

Illinois, November 3 - 5.<br />


Kenneth J. Feld, president and chief<br />

executive officer of Feld Entertainment,<br />

Inc., parent company of the Ringling-<br />

Barnum Circus and other live shows,<br />

was listed among American billionaires<br />

by Forbes business magazine in April.<br />

Ranked at number 1,072 in Forbes’ annual<br />

listing, Feld, seventy-four, had a net<br />

worth of $2.9 billion, higher by $600<br />

million from 2022.<br />

Florida press accounts reported that<br />

Feld’s listing was higher than former<br />

US President Donald J. Trump, hip-hop<br />

mogul Jay-Z, TV personality Oprah<br />

Winfrey, and famed investor Warren<br />

Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire<br />

Hathaway, Charlie Munger.<br />

Headquartered at Ellenton, Florida,<br />

Feld Entertainment’s live show roster<br />

(besides the circus) includes Disney on<br />

Ice, Monster Jam, and others.<br />


Having used Italy’s David (“Clown<br />

of Clowns”) Larible as its prime funster<br />

for the past three years, Vazquez Bros.<br />

Circus again looked abroad for comedy<br />

with this season’s touring big top edition.<br />

That choice was Housch Ma Housch, a<br />

Ukrainian-born comic but a resident of<br />

Germany since 2020. At birth in 1972,<br />

his name was Semen Shuster.<br />

Housch’s current castmates are the<br />

Ukraine’s versatile, high-energy Bingo<br />

Troupe of dancers, aerialists, and acrobats,<br />

and a returnee from recent Vazquez<br />

programs; India’s Hasan Ansari and<br />

his Mallakhamb pole gyrations; a teeterboard<br />

group from Mongolia; Pavel<br />

Valla Bertini, a unicycling act of Czech-<br />

British origin; and a pair of turns from<br />

Chile, single trapezist Camila Palma and<br />

the Reyes Brothers, high pole jugglers.<br />

Back in his native Europe, Larible premiered<br />

his own show, Laribling (Larible<br />

Eando) with a three-week run starting<br />

February 10 at Teatro Circo Price in<br />

Madrid, Spain.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 15


Vazquez’s smaller unit (an eighthundred-seat<br />

big top) has returned<br />

for a second successive season with a<br />

slightly altered title. Flip Circus is now<br />

Fl!p… (an exclamation mark replacing<br />

the “i”) and began its 20<strong>23</strong> tour with<br />

a March 3 through March 20 visit to<br />

Yonkers, New York. Following were<br />

additional stands in the New York<br />

metro area—Staten Island and Lake<br />

Grove, Long Island.<br />

Ringmaster Arthur Figuerosa’s introductions<br />

are directed to another<br />

Bingo Troupe: Italians Stiv and Roni<br />

Bello, billed as “Siblings of Silliness”;<br />

Mexico’s solo trapezist Carolina<br />

Vazquez; Colombia’s Duo Vanegas,<br />

aboard the rotating Wheel of Steel;<br />

Super Tumblers from the USA; the<br />

three Bello Sisters, Italian acrobats;<br />

and a live band.<br />

unicycling “One Wheel Wonder,” but<br />

Wesley Williams—this summer at the<br />

Circus World Museum in Baraboo,<br />

Wisconsin (Tanbark Topics, Winter,<br />

20<strong>23</strong>)—is making a remarkable recovery<br />

from his serious performing accident<br />

that occurred in October 2021.<br />

His comeback from a fall off a towering<br />

unicycle while performing in Madrid for<br />

the Spain’s Got Talent telecast resulted<br />

in five operations, eighty-three stitches,<br />

body insertion of two metal plates and<br />

thirty-five screws, and being sidelined<br />

for more than seven months.<br />

Williams will be in the cast of the new<br />

Ringling-Barnum edition, whose July<br />

1 rehearsals at the Feld Entertainment<br />

complex in Ellenton, Florida, required<br />

the youthful artist to win a release from<br />

a contracted summer big top season at<br />

the Circus World Museum (CWM) in<br />

Baraboo, Wisconsin (Tanbark Topics,<br />

Winter, 20<strong>23</strong>). Two young artists in his<br />

place, said CWM Executive Director<br />

Scott O’Donnell, are hand-balancer<br />

Ian Laidlaw, a graduate of the Sarasota<br />

(Florida) Sailor Circus, and juggler-unicyclist<br />

Christian Videla.<br />

Williams won his Ringling pact after<br />

being seen by circus producer Kenneth<br />

J. Feld in performances last January at<br />

the Monte Carlo International Circus<br />

Festival.<br />


Unlike some circus producers who<br />

have crafted animal-free formats<br />

(the PETA—People for the Ethical<br />

Treatment of Animals—animal activists’<br />

effect), Hamid Circus didn’t cave,<br />

based on four-footed attractions when<br />

the show began its 20<strong>23</strong> season in<br />

February for a Midian Shrine presentation<br />

at Salinas, Kansas. The lineup<br />

included three Asian elephants from<br />

the Carson & Barnes Circus herd,<br />

handled by Tim Frisco; the dogs/<br />

pigs act of Hans Klose; Colleen Pages’<br />

six dromedaries (four performing,<br />

and two used for ride concessions);<br />

and the Cowboy Ponies of the Alex<br />

Petrov clan. Producer/President James<br />

M. Hamid, Jr. proudly noted that<br />

subsequent dates included the Arab<br />

Shrine Circus at Topeka, Kansas, “Our<br />

eighty-third consecutive year there!”<br />


You would probably not know it<br />

as you see him whirling around as a<br />

16 White Tops


A unit of Carson & Barnes<br />

Circus Asian elephants was cancelled<br />

from an expected appearance<br />

with the Irem Shrine Circus at the<br />

Kingston (Pennsylvania) Armory in<br />

mid-April due to pressing health issues<br />

facing Terry Frisco, the pachyderms’<br />

presenter, according to show<br />

and sponsor sources. Frisco was<br />

undergoing medical care that required<br />

him to remain at his and the<br />

Carson & Barnes quarters in Hugo,<br />

Oklahoma. Producer of the Irem<br />

staging was Billy Martin, of Billy<br />

Martin Presents (Tanbark Topics,<br />

Winter, 20<strong>23</strong>).<br />


Now in our sixtieth consecutive<br />

year of authoring this column, we<br />

found that John and Mardi Wells<br />

and their team were the best and<br />

most professional editors experienced<br />

over those six decades. Thus,<br />

we were truly sorry to learn of the<br />

contretemps that abruptly ended<br />

their White Tops affiliation and dedicated<br />

service (for details, see CFA<br />

Secretary Maxine House’s minutes<br />

of a special January 7, 20<strong>23</strong> Zoom<br />

meeting by CFA board members<br />

and other interested parties).<br />

As your columnist, we have the<br />

privilege of offering personal views<br />

that should not be in accounts by<br />

those of an objective news reporter.<br />

So—we feel the Wells’ dismissal<br />

was overblown, and could have been<br />

settled in a less contentious manner.<br />

We could offer more, but let’s keep<br />

it there for now.<br />

Best wishes for editorial success<br />

and CFA support to our new editor,<br />

Samuel Patrick Smith, and his SPS<br />

Publications staff. For us, initial<br />

contacts have been reassuring and<br />

productive!<br />

You may contact Bill Hall by email<br />

at billhallevents@verizon.net.<br />

Anything but invisible<br />

in a bright red tailcoat,<br />

audience members often approach<br />

me—usually during<br />

intermission—with any number<br />

of questions about circus<br />

life. A rather common query<br />

is. “How long does it take to<br />

get all of this stuff [referring<br />

to the entire layout of riggings,<br />

props, and physical equipment] set up?” With a<br />

slight chuckle, the answer I usually quip to ‘towners’<br />

is “as long as it takes.” I will then elaborate that if we<br />

have three days to make the jump and set up, it takes three days. If we have only twelve hours<br />

to tear down, load out, travel to the next lot or building, set up and be ready for a morning<br />

show, then that is how long it takes.<br />

As recently as only last week and as frequently as, well, just about always, it seems everyone—crew,<br />

lighting and sound techs, concessionaires, and performers alike—are often racing<br />

to the finish line to get ready for the first show in each new town. Life gets in the way:<br />

everything from grocery shopping or doing laundry to repairing something power-driven.<br />

Miraculously, it always seems to come together in whatever amount of time allocated, and<br />

when that next whistle blows—ready or not—we are unquestionably “ready.” What then follows<br />

is a spectacle that we call a circus. The public never once contemplates that something<br />

today may be slightly off or completely missing from yesterday’s ritual.<br />

The circus is a well-oiled machine … and flippantly, that machine is often about two quarts<br />

low. As scrupulous as they need to be, its cast of characters—from the most daring of young<br />

men and women, to those who follow the animals with a shovel—are immersed in organized<br />

chaos on a daily basis, often skating through life in sequins and feathers at breakneck speed<br />

by the skin of their teeth. Not without exception, for example, I am frantically writing this<br />

column less than forty-eight hours before its editorial deadline, while waiting to board a plane<br />

and then while flying through the air from last evening’s closing performance in Dickinson,<br />

North Dakota, to Wilmington, Massachusetts, where I open tomorrow at noon. It is business<br />

as usual, and all part of the mayhem—and the romance—of being “with it.”<br />

We are forever at the mercy of the not-always simple logistics of “making the jump.”<br />

We trust in God, mechanics, tire manufacturers, weather forecasters, and twenty-four-hour<br />

hash slingers stationed at fuel s<strong>tops</strong> wedged between points A and B. We set out each day of<br />

each season gambling on everything falling into place whenever the time comes and wherever<br />

the road leads us next. Only occasionally are we slightly amazed that we have again “pulled<br />

it off.” And we always do. Showpeople—REAL showpeople—certifiably live by the clichéd<br />

sentiment that “the show must go on.” All true professional artists—be they circus performers,<br />

night club entertainers, or rock stars—pretty much vow to live by this code. This is what we<br />

do, and this is how we do it: THAT is what keeps it fresh and exciting.<br />

We do our designated jobs to the best of our abilities, taking for granted just how competent<br />

our abilities actually are. We camouflage any absent components and thereby allow us the<br />

opportunity to achieve our goal, which is to entertain the public and to send everyone home<br />

with a smile on their faces at the end of the day. Everybody wins.<br />

I would imagine that many members of our beloved CFA get tangled in similar disarray<br />

recurrently, trying to balance their personal schedules to accommodate professions, families,<br />

and hobbies, all of which include goals that need to be set and achieved.<br />

Since we’re all meeting ourselves coming and going anyway, why not add a few hours a<br />

week to help our organization grow? We can recruit new members or reconnect with those<br />

who may have let their membership lapse. We can become more active in CFA leadership by<br />

running for offices, assembling committees, assisting with the editing of our magazine, and<br />

helping with annual convention preparations. Any and all of these can better prepare us for<br />

action when that whistle blows.<br />

The time is now to set and focus on agendas and meet our goals. Whether circus professionals<br />

or fans/enthusiasts, our mission is essentially the same. A happy ending amongst the chaos.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 17

Dailey/Tegge Tent #180 Attends Carden International<br />

By Timothy Tegge<br />


Members of the Dailey Bros./Timothy Noel Tegge Tent #180 attend<br />

the Garden International Circus. From left to right: Vicki Bell, Nicole<br />

Zimmerman, Ted Friend, and Bob Harmel.<br />

Four CFA members from the Dailey/Tegge tent attended<br />

the March 7 evening performance of the Carden International<br />

Circus, located at the Brazos County Expo Center in Bryan,<br />

Texas. Although Carden had been booked for two days of<br />

double performances, the March 6 shows were cancelled a few<br />

weeks earlier due to a scheduling miscommunication with the<br />

expo center. Attending from the tent were Bob Harmel, Ted<br />

Friend, Nicole Zimmerman, and Vicki Bell. The members report<br />

that it was a very entertaining show in spite of the venue’s<br />

limitations (especially lighting), and that the good crowd was<br />

enthusiastic throughout.<br />

Human acts included hair-hang, hand and foot juggling,<br />

aerial ballet, a human cannon ball, incline motorcycle on the<br />

wire, a double wheel of death, a very entertaining team of six<br />

female contortionists from Mongolia, rope jumping, a display<br />

of entertaining dance moves, and some amusing clown<br />

acts. Animal acts included a pair of elephants, eight camels,<br />

a number of domestic cats, and—for the first time—a pair<br />

of performing buffalo. Pre-show and intermission rides were<br />

provided on elephants, camels, and ponies.<br />

The conclusion consisted of a parade of national flags, featuring<br />

all human performers and one of the elephants, with a<br />

theme of “in spite of differences, we are all one in the circus.”<br />

Carden International has performed in Bryan for many<br />

years, under the rubric “Ben Hur Shrine Circus.”<br />

18 White Tops<br />

Yosa Garner’s performing buffalo appears<br />

in the United States for the first time.

Top: Carden Circus elephants Betty and Janice perform under the direction of Florin Moreau. Bottom: All cast members enter the ring for a final bow at the<br />

finale of the Garden International Circus.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 19

Induction 20<strong>23</strong><br />

From the Awards Program<br />

Photos courtesy of the Ring of Fame Foundation<br />

The Thirty-fifth Annual Circus Ring of Fame was held under the Circus Sarasota<br />

Big Top on February 4, 20<strong>23</strong>, under the direction of William W. Powell, Chair<br />

of the Board of Trustees for the Circus Ring of Fame Foundation, Inc. This year the<br />

honor was proclaimed for the Alexis Brothers, Reverend Father Jerry Hogan, Peggy<br />

Williams, and Jeanette Williams with a full house attending the show. In addition,<br />

Daniella Arata and Annaliese Nock were honored with the Generation NeXt Award.<br />

Joseph Dominick Bauer was the Ceremony emcee with special comedy guest Chris<br />

Allison.<br />

The first inductees were the Alexis Brothers, Marco and Paolo Lorador, who are<br />

amazing hand-to-hand balancers and part of a multi-generational circus family from<br />

Portugal. As teenagers in 1979, they appeared in the Cirque de Demain Festival in<br />

Paris winning the Gold Medal, and in 1990 won the Silver Clown Award at the Monte<br />

Carlo Circus Festival. They made their United States debut in 1984 with Ringling<br />

Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. The Alexis Brothers were featured with numerous<br />

shows here and abroad, thrilling millions of fans—including Queen Elizabeth II and<br />

the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. They have performed for nearly thirty<br />

years at Cirque du Soleil, where their unique style makes them one of a kind.<br />

Father Jerry.<br />

Reverend Father George G. Hogan<br />

was the next inductee. Affectionately<br />

known as “Father Jerry,” he was ordained<br />

in 1974 and served in the Archdiocese<br />

of Boston. He was assigned to the<br />

Circus Ministry by the US Conference<br />

of Catholic Bishops in 1990. For nearly<br />

thirty years, he served as National Circus<br />

Priest, celebrating life’s most cherished<br />

moments—births, baptisms, first communions,<br />

confirmations, weddings, and<br />

memorial services—with the greater circus<br />

community, being a friend to all and<br />

stranger to none, regardless of religious<br />

affiliations. His favorite project and<br />

lasting legacy is the Showfolk’s Winter<br />

Quarters in Seffner, Florida, a site he<br />

Alexis Bros.<br />

20 White Tops<br />

Peggy Williams.

Annaliese Nock Slide.<br />

Danielle Arata.<br />

founded that offers affordable housing to<br />

retired show people. Father Jerry is the<br />

first Minister of Faith inducted into the<br />

Circus Ring of Fame.<br />

Peggy Williams was the next inductee<br />

who was a performer, director,<br />

manager, and educator with RBBB for<br />

over forty-eight years, and became the<br />

role model for all women in the circus<br />

industry. She was the first female<br />

clown college graduate, class of 1970,<br />

to appear with the Greatest Show on<br />

Earth, apprenticing with the legendary<br />

Lou Jacobs. In 1982 she became the<br />

Assistant Performance Director of the<br />

Blue Unit and in 1988 the Performance<br />

Director of the Gold Unit tour in Japan.<br />

An educator at heart and a University of<br />

Wisconsin graduate with a speech pathology<br />

degree, she became Ringling’s<br />

first Manager of Education Outreach,<br />

creating circusworks.com, a virtual teaching<br />

tool incorporating circus themes into<br />

many subjects. Teachers across America<br />

use it to develop their own curricula.<br />

Peggy was inducted into the Clown Hall<br />

of Fame in 1998.<br />

Jeanette Williams was the next inductee<br />

and represents the eighth generation<br />

of Germany’s Circus Williams<br />

Family. She came to America when her<br />

mother Carola brought all of their animals<br />

to RBBB to open their second unit<br />

in 1969. She worked an eighteen-horse<br />

liberty act, and still favors performing<br />

and presenting horses. Jeanette had<br />

her own circus from 1990 to 1993 and<br />

created an ongoing international talent<br />

agency for circus artists in 1991, which<br />

garnered her world-wide recognition<br />

and respect. She was a judge at numerous<br />

circus festivals and a recipient of the<br />

Ringling Museum Celebrity Award.<br />

Jeanette is instrumental in preserving<br />

endangered species, including cheetahs<br />

at the Columbus Zoo and the first <strong>white</strong><br />

tigers at a safari park in Germany. Her<br />

daughter Caroline Williams and grandson<br />

Dominick Williams Bauer represent<br />

the ninth and tenth generation of her<br />

performing circus family.<br />

As part of the celebration’s<br />

performance segment, the<br />

two NeXt Generation designees<br />

each presented an act of<br />

their own. Daniella Arata performed<br />

a hand-balancing and<br />

contortion act culminating in<br />

a remarkable bow and arrow<br />

shot using her feet alone.<br />

Annaliese Nock—who is the<br />

“dare daughter of thrill acts”—<br />

presented her sway pole act<br />

high in the tent with a finale<br />

of a remarkable slide for life<br />

headfirst from the top of the<br />

pole to the arena floor.<br />

William Powell.<br />

Jeanette Williams.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 21

Circus Hollywood<br />

Florida State Fair Tampa, Florida • February 16, 20<strong>23</strong><br />

By Maxine House<br />

One day isn’t enough to visit all the<br />

circus attractions on the 20<strong>23</strong><br />

Florida State Fair, but we tried! Arriving<br />

when the gates opened at 11:00 a.m., we<br />

quickly got a Visitor’s Guide which listed<br />

the events and the times of performances.<br />

Unhappily there was much overlapping<br />

of show times; happily, we could see<br />

our first show in fifteen minutes!<br />


11:15 a.m.<br />

Crystal Coronas Welde has been presenting<br />

this act at the fair many times a<br />

day for many years—same format, but always<br />

different. Her sister-in-law Lletsira<br />

Coronas, as well as her niece Arriana,<br />

assisted her. Each pig always has a joke<br />

name like Bruce Springswein. Crystal<br />

confessed that she’s had to change some<br />


names because the kids didn’t catch the<br />

joke! With a bleacher right in front of<br />

the racetrack, it’s a great place to sit for a<br />

while, cheer on the pigs, and maybe win<br />

a prize!<br />

THE FLYING ROYALS, 12:00 p.m.<br />

Not far away, we spotted the one-ofa-kind<br />

towering rigging of The Flying<br />

Royals with the American flags on top<br />

of the four supports. Each column was<br />

guyed out to several huge, black concrete<br />

blocks.<br />

The show began with ringmistress<br />

April Brown Chodkowski welcoming<br />

the audience. She and her husband<br />

Justin are the founders of The Flying<br />

Royals. She introduced the first act, Paul<br />

Schimmel, with his juggling and Diablo<br />

act in the arena in front of the bleachers.<br />

When April kept urging him to “go<br />

higher,” he climbed a ladder to a platform<br />

fifty-five feet up and dove onto a<br />

large, inflated bag.<br />

April then performed a pleasing cloud<br />

swing, followed by Bendy Kate with her<br />

acrobatic act. Lianna Ashton did two<br />

acts, foot juggling and hula hoops. All<br />

the acts were high quality.<br />

But the crisscrossing trapeze act is The<br />

Flying Royals signature act. Although<br />

such a trapeze act had originally innovated<br />

in the 1950s and tried again in the<br />

1990s, it has not been performed in the<br />

last twenty years. With one main catcher<br />

( Justin Chodkowski) there were three<br />

other catchers (Paul Schimmel, Daniel<br />

Ponce, and Lukas Weinbach) and three<br />

fliers (April, Rachel Ransom, and Maile<br />

Hove). Using three platforms, the fliers<br />

turned ninety degrees to return to another<br />

catcher. One move has the flier<br />

going over a catcher who is holding two<br />

bars!<br />

Originally from Santa Barbara,<br />

California where they had a trapeze<br />

school, Justin and April’s group have<br />

toured all over the world and have also<br />

performed on America’s Got Talent. This<br />

was their first visit to the Florida State<br />

Fair. I hope they return next year!<br />

Arriana, Crystal, and Lletsira Coronas between performances of the Racing Pigs. PHOTO BY MAXINE<br />

HOUSE<br />

22 White Tops<br />

CYCLE CIRCUS LIVE, 1:00 p.m.<br />

Right across the road from the Flying<br />

Royals, Johnny Rockett along with eight<br />

other performers presented his freestyle<br />

motocross production (FMX). First a<br />

loud opening with six cyclists racing<br />

around the front area on bicycles and<br />

motorbikes. Then Tina Winn, a 2022

The setup for Cycle Circus Live. PHOTO BY MAXINE HOUSE<br />

inductee to Sarasota’s Ring of Fame,<br />

welcomed the audience and introduced<br />

the circus acts: a lyre act and the<br />

“Monster Motor Ball,” more often called<br />

the “Globe of Death.”<br />

This was followed by Johnny’s signature<br />

act: the Cyclotron. Johnny rode<br />

a motorcycle around a large, elevated,<br />

round platform, propelling a long beam<br />

ending in a bar holding Tina! She executed<br />

several acrobatic maneuvers. The<br />

highpoint was when Johnny’s cycle levitated<br />

off the stage along with Tina!<br />

Then came the bikes. First, three bikers<br />

performed many amazing jumps off the<br />

front ramp. This was followed by three<br />

motorcyclists flying off the bigger back<br />

ramp. The audience responded loudly to<br />

the jumps, including several falls.<br />

The performance moved quickly,<br />

and it was soon time to go to the next<br />

production.<br />

Cristian Bilea takes his bows.<br />

The Coronas sisters: Arriana (top) holds Fabianna.<br />

CIRCUS HOLLYWOOD, 2:30 p.m.<br />

Circus Hollywood is the show that<br />

we come yearly to see, owned and run<br />

by the Coronas family from Bradenton,<br />

Florida. Serge and Stevie Coronas, along<br />

with their three children and spouses,<br />

produce a first-rate circus every year. It<br />

travels from Florida all the way north to<br />

New England. They usually play at fairs,<br />

but often enough at Shrine dates. The<br />

Florida State Fair was the second date of<br />

their 20<strong>23</strong> season and the first one with<br />

their new production, “Rock Stars.”<br />

Performed in their yellow and blue circular<br />

tent, the show provided bleachers<br />

on three sides and ringside chair seating.<br />

Two large television screens flanked the<br />

performers’ entrance to give information<br />

about the show, such as the names of<br />

each act. Best of all, Circus Hollywood<br />

provides air-conditioning! Concessions<br />

are also available.<br />

The show opened with the clown<br />

Rulito (Cristhian Videla) trying to sing<br />

a rock song, but having trouble with<br />

the wire to his microphone. A clever<br />

gag, executed well to the delight of the<br />

audience.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> <strong>23</strong>

Lletsira (Siri) Coronas and her beautiful camels.<br />

Ringmaster Devin Chandler opens the show.<br />

The Ringmaster, Devin Chandler, took<br />

over singing “Are you ready to party?”<br />

and the audience on cue loudly responded,<br />

“Oh, yeah!” We were off to a rousing<br />

start as the performers poured into the<br />

ring for a lively charivari.<br />

Junior Neves, who was already in the<br />

ring, continued with his fast-moving<br />

juggling act. He was followed by Rulito<br />

who chose three people from the audience<br />

to play in a “band.” One volunteer<br />

always became the stooge—much to the<br />

audience’s delight.<br />

After the magic wand pitch, Christian<br />

Bilea presented his chair-balancing<br />

act. A member of the Coronas family,<br />

Christian has been on the show for many<br />

years and his various acrobatic skills add<br />

much to the show.<br />

The Coronas Sisters, Arriana (age<br />

sixteen) and Fabianna (age fourteen),<br />

have now been performing on the show<br />

for about four years. “My, how they<br />

have grown!” From a basic acrobatic<br />

act, they have developed into spectacular<br />

performers. Trained by their mother<br />

Lletsira, they performed on a double trapeze<br />

with some amazing catches!<br />

While the ring was being prepared for<br />

the camel act, the two Jumbi Stilt dancers<br />

pranced around the walkway. Their<br />

music adds much to the act and the audience<br />

appreciated them.<br />

The final act of the show was Princess<br />

Lletsira and her four beautifully groomed<br />

<strong>white</strong> camels. She led them through a<br />

pleasing set of maneuvers. The curried<br />

hair from these camels spins into cashmere<br />

soft yarn!<br />

As they left the ring, the whole cast<br />

returned for a final bow. The happy audience<br />

left slowly to enjoy more of the fair.<br />

ADRENALINE, 3:30 p.m.<br />

The thrill show Adrenaline was also<br />

easy to spot with its two sway poles,<br />

its “Wheel of Wonder,” and its high<br />

wire rigging. Annaliese Nock, dubbed<br />

“Daredaughter” by her father Bello,<br />

Drummer Rulito (Christian Videla). The drums are part of the “rock” opening.<br />

24 White Tops

The Circus Hollywood tent.<br />

performed on all three apparatuses for<br />

a true shot of adrenaline for the audience!<br />

Assisted by Channing Gross and<br />

Raymond Silos, she began with the traditional<br />

crossing poles on the sway poles,<br />

and then on to the wheel, and finally<br />

up on the wire. Interestingly enough,<br />

Bello—whose act was set up nearby—<br />

was there to check the guying on the<br />

wires and to take movies! Annaliese is<br />

truly following in the family tradition!<br />

WET AND WILD, 5:00 p.m.<br />

In a peaceful lake-like setting with<br />

many food stands nearby, we could catch<br />

a bite to eat and watch from a picnic<br />

table Bello Nock’s imaginative Wet and<br />

Junior Neves with his fast-moving juggling act.<br />

Annaliese Nock on the Wheel.<br />

Cristhian Videla as “Rulito” captivates the audience<br />

from the beginning.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 25

The Flying Royals.<br />

Paul Schimmel dives from fifty-five feet into a large air cushion.<br />

Wild show. Bello had bought a Corvette and<br />

converted it to a powerboat! He used it at the<br />

opening of Wet and Wild to drive to the raft<br />

from which he emceed his water show. What<br />

followed was a series of unusual water vehicles—one<br />

of which shot the performer into<br />

the air on a column of water. Bello’s patter<br />

added much to the production.<br />

6:30 p.m.<br />

After catching Circus Hollywood’s last<br />

performance of the day at 5:30 p.m., we<br />

called it a day. We still hadn’t seen the One<br />

Man Band, the Fireguy, Otter Adventure,<br />

Extreme Dogs, Farmyard Follies, or the<br />

Giraffe Menagerie! But we ate some great<br />

food and left satiated. With free parking and<br />

lots of bargains on ticket prices, the Florida<br />

State Fair is a true bargain for a circus fan!<br />

Maybe we should spend two days at the fair<br />

next year.<br />

Only paid members of CFA will receive their summer issue!<br />

Contact Maxine House at mahouse@verizon.net with any questions. Thank you!<br />

26 White Tops

Circus Fans Flood Zimmerman and Blackwelder<br />

‘Circus Compound’ for Tent #137 Picnic<br />

By Dan Stapleton<br />


Just two weeks before our picnic—scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, April<br />

<strong>23</strong>—we were a little worried that only ten attendees from Central Florida’s Tent<br />

137 had signed up. Should we cancel?<br />

Then again, we also know that people often procrastinate—maybe they would show<br />

up after all.<br />

Members and organizers John Zimmerman and Paula Blackwelder rented the big<br />

tent and chairs and had to figure how much food (and drinks) to order. Now, this<br />

was more than just a CFA event. We invited all circus enthusiasts with the hope that<br />

some attendees would join the CFA. Two weeks later, one hundred and twenty people<br />

joined in on the fun, sun, food, and circus entertainment located at the home and<br />

“circus compound” of Zimmerman and Blackwelder. That’s twice as many attendees<br />

as we had hoped for!<br />

The full trapeze set-up was amazing, and there was no shortage of flyers for our<br />

attendees to “ooh” and “aah” over. Even Julianna Richards, one of the stars of the new<br />

Ringling show, was there to demonstrate her skills while high in the air.<br />

Many more wonderful entertainers dazzled the crowd on that perfect sunny afternoon.<br />

Former Cole Bros. Ringmaster, Chris Connors, stepped in to announce the<br />

acts. As usual, he did a great job announcing not only the acts, but also the raffle<br />

numbers for the many winners of circus-related prizes donated by various attendees.<br />

Funny-man Chris Allison was next followed by Miss Juliette on silks. John and<br />

Paula presented a tight and funny low-bar trapeze act. Then there was Skylar Williams<br />

(contortionist), Dan Stapleton (magician), Zoe Bovio (aerial hammock artist), Brian<br />

David and Jamie Ryan (comic flyers with a touch of trapeze hilarity) and a few others<br />

high on the platform bar.<br />

Left: Magician Dan Stapleton escapes from solid steel chains. Right: Amber and Faryln Stapleton welcome<br />

guests.<br />

Top: John Zimmerman and Paula Blackwelder<br />

opened their home and circus compound<br />

to attendees of Tent #137’s picnic. Bottom:<br />

Ringmaster Chris Connors keeps the show<br />

moving.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 27

Enjoying the big hammer strike.<br />

Ellie Zimmerman provided the music. There were two<br />

huge funny mirrors inside the tent, as well as the big High<br />

Strike (Big Hammer) game donated by CFA club member<br />

Bill Hall. Author and circus painter Dave Letterfly was on<br />

hand to autograph and sell copies of his new book Speedy-<br />

Hurled Through Havoc. Even incoming CFA President Jack<br />

Dean and Secretary-Treasurer Maxine House were there.<br />

Dan and Faryln Stapleton held court at the picnic entrance<br />

strong-arming attendees to “donate” what they could to<br />

help offset the picnic expenses, while Marcus Makar wrote<br />

the name tags.<br />

When none other than the entire Flying Robins trapeze<br />

troupe showed up, we were graced by circus royalty. Wow!<br />

There’s not enough space to list all the names of those<br />

who helped make this event a huge success, but Grelle<br />

Perez spent most of the day preparing the food. Special<br />

mention to Debbie and Steve Beasley (and others) for assisting<br />

the many hours of set-up and break down.<br />

We are planning our next circus picnic for 2025. (We<br />

need a full year off to catch our breath!) Hopefully, this will<br />

take place at the Zimmerman circus compound again. Did<br />

I mention that one hundred and twenty people showed up?<br />

Yikes!<br />

28 White Tops<br />

Top: Julianna Richards, star of the new Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey<br />

Circus. Bottom: Contortionist Skylar Williams.

Top, left to right: One hundred<br />

twenty people attended the<br />

picnic—twice as many as we<br />

hoped for! Attendees at the<br />

Tent #137 picnic had plenty<br />

of good food to enjoy.<br />

Middle, left to right: Paula<br />

Blackwelder and Zoe Bovio.<br />

Miss Juliette.<br />

Bottom, left to right: The<br />

Flying Robins trapeze troupe.<br />

A perfect day for a picnic.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 29

Jeanette Williams Speaks on Cheetahs<br />

at Showfolks Tent #122 March Meeting<br />

By Mary Fritsch<br />

President Jeanette Williams called the meeting to order at 6:45 p.m. Evi Kelly-<br />

Lentz led the Pledge of Allegiance. Since every member had been sent a copy of<br />

the February Treasurer’s Report, Debbie Gallegoes made a motion to accept it, which<br />

Wayne Scheiner then seconded. The motion passed.<br />

President Williams said our February banquet was very successful. It was held at<br />

the Shriners Club in Sarasota. The people were great to work with, the food was good,<br />

and the lovely flower arrangements provided by Jerry Stanley and Lynn Schinkel<br />

looked beautiful on the tables. Our speakers were Tina Winn and Johnny Rockett,<br />

who were very informative and fun. Forty-four people attended the banquet and everyone<br />

seemed pleased with how it went.<br />

Jeanette then introduced some guests: Roganna, Chuck Sidlow, Tina Winn, and<br />

Becky and Kirk Kilpatrick from Nebraska. Also, Allen Rebbernick—the son of Willy<br />

Rebbernick—who was known for chimpanzee acts. They came<br />

from Austria and are one of the oldest circus families.<br />

Donna Scheiner then showed us an article about the new<br />

Circus Train Car Museum that just opened in Venice. Their<br />

hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 10:00 a.m.<br />

to 1:00 p.m.<br />

We ended our formal meeting to next enjoy a delicious potluck<br />

dinner, with Shirly Adams giving the blessing. We thank<br />

Jerry Stanley and Lynn Schinkel for the meat and a sweet<br />

potato casserole as well as all of the decorations. The floral<br />

plates, napkins, and flowers in vases made every table colorful.<br />

Other members brought side dishes and desserts. The food<br />

was very tasty, so the thirty-eight people who attended this<br />

meeting ate well.<br />

We were supposed to have an auction that night, but it was<br />

postponed since several people involved in the auction were ill.<br />

In its place, we hosted a regular raffle instead. Debbie Gallegos<br />

sold tickets and Jeanette called the numbers. We made $130.<br />

Thanks to everyone who helped with the dinner and the raffle.<br />

Since we had originally planned to hold an auction, we did<br />

not have a speaker planned. However, since we had time, we<br />

called upon our gracious President, Jeanette Williams, to be<br />

our speaker.<br />

Jeannette Williams and Her Cheetahs<br />

Jeanette said cheetahs are not like other animals. They have<br />

no claws and chirp like birds. They are easily distracted, so it<br />

can be difficult to keep them focused when they are in the ring.<br />

The children’s spinning and light-up toys fascinated them so<br />

much that they would just stare at the toys.<br />

The first time Jeanette saw a cheetah,<br />

she was younger and attending a<br />

Siegfried & Roy show. That’s when she<br />

knew she had to have cheetahs. She did<br />

get two very small cheetahs that were six<br />

months old and not related to each other,<br />

which she named Kissi and Kamaty.<br />

They came from Africa and Jeanette<br />

trained them, on a leash, to sit and jump.<br />

At the time, there were no cheetah acts<br />

at any circus. Often, other cats would be<br />

performing, with a cheetah or two just<br />

sitting.<br />

Jeanette Williams and her Cheetahs. PHOTO FROM HER PERSONAL COLLECTION.<br />

30 White Tops

Because cheetahs are endangered animals,<br />

it took Jeanette two and a half years<br />

to get a one-of-a-kind license from the<br />

USDA. She had them ride with her on<br />

liberty horses for her act. The cheetahs,<br />

which could jump on and off horses,<br />

rode on a chariot seat while horses pulled<br />

the chariot around the ring. However,<br />

Jeanette never felt that the cheetahs were<br />

correctly displayed—it was hard to show<br />

them off when there were elephants in<br />

the next ring, for example. She wanted<br />

to demonstrate the cheetahs’ speed, but<br />

couldn’t do it inside one ring. Jeanette<br />

asked to use all three rings so she could<br />

show how fast they could run to catch<br />

a frisbee, but was turned down. No one<br />

understood how different cheetahs were<br />

from other animals in the circus. Jeanette<br />

decided she’d had enough when one of<br />

the cheetahs was poisoned.<br />

Jeanette sent them to Jack Hanna in<br />

Columbus, Ohio. Female cheetahs do<br />

not go into heat. Evidently, after a kill,<br />

the female cheetah gives off a highpitched<br />

sound which attracts the male<br />

cheetahs. If you have several male cheetahs<br />

and several female cheetahs that<br />

don’t like each other, nothing happens.<br />

Jeanette’s cheetahs, Kissi and Kamaty,<br />

had always liked each other but never<br />

had babies. Jack gave Kissi and Kamaty a<br />

great, open place to live.<br />

Jack called Jeanette one day to tell her<br />

she was a grandmother—Kissi had just<br />

given birth to six babies! Jeanette flew<br />

to see them but was warned not to go<br />

inside the enclosure with a new mother<br />

cheetah present. She went inside anyway<br />

and Kissi greeted her with kisses. This<br />

story had a happy ending. The next one,<br />

not so much.<br />

It seems someone wanted to breed<br />

<strong>white</strong> tigers. The only male he could find<br />

was a three-legged one, so he bought it.<br />

He also had a female and had Jeanette<br />

go on a plane to Germany with these<br />

two tigers, which were worth fifty thousand<br />

dollars. It was journey with a long<br />

layover. They did get to Germany, but<br />

unfortunately during mating the threelegged<br />

tiger gave too big a love bite on<br />

the female’s neck and killed her. So ends<br />

the story. That’s circus for you!<br />

Attention, Tents and Tops!<br />

Send reports of your meetings and special events for publication in White Tops to<br />

editor.<strong>white</strong><strong>tops</strong>@gmail.com. Keep the excitement going by sharing your good times with other CFA members in these pages!<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 31

Williams Earns Guinness World Record<br />

for ‘Tallest Rideable Unicycle’<br />

You may have seen Wesley Williams riding one wheel high above the crowd on<br />

a number of talent shows, from America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent to<br />

The Gong Show. The Weston, Florida native known as “The One Wheel Wonder”<br />

has made a name for himself around the world as one of the kings of unicycle performance.<br />

And who else on earth can say that they ride the Guinness World Recordscertified<br />

“World’s Tallest Rideable Unicycle”?<br />

Since February 2020, Wesley Williams has held the world record for the “Tallest<br />

Rideable Unicycle” at twenty-nine feet and one inch. On December 29, 2022 in<br />

Stuttgart, Germany at the Weltweihnachts Circus in Stuttgart, Germany, Wesley<br />

broke his own world record with a new “Tallest Rideable Unicycle” that measured a<br />

whopping 31.9 feet! Truly a breathtaking stunt—and not for the faint of heart.<br />

Although no one else had attempted to challenge his original 2020 world record,<br />

Wesley said, “I am always striving to do more and take things to the next level. If<br />

that means breaking my own records, so be it.” Wesley says he wants to use this record<br />

to prove to others that nothing is impossible. Last October, Wesley suffered a<br />

performance accident where he fell more than twenty-seven feet to the floor while<br />

performing on Got Talent España in Madrid, Spain. This unfortunate event sidelined<br />

Wesley for over seven months and required five operations, two metal plates, thirty-five<br />

screws, and eighty-three stitches.<br />

Following a lengthy recovery, Wesley Williams made a grand return by performing<br />

at the largest Christmas circus in the world: the Weltweihnachts Circus in Stuttgart,<br />

Germany. The program’s organizers,<br />

Henk and Elisa van der Meijden of<br />

Stardust International and the World<br />

Christmas Circus, welcomed Wesley to<br />

their event by calling him “an act you<br />

will never forget! Everybody falls in love<br />

with his unique skills, charismatic personality,<br />

and thrilling act!”<br />

Directly after this engagement Wesley<br />

Williams will head to the academy<br />

awards of the circus industry, Festival<br />

International Du Cirque De Monte<br />

Carlo in Monaco. Wesley Williams -<br />

The One Wheel Wonder is not only<br />

appearing at the 45th Edition of the<br />

world famous Festival International Du<br />

Cirque De Monte Carlo but is a featured<br />

attraction along side multiple time previous<br />

Main Prize Clown Award winners,<br />

Rene Casselly, Kris Kremo, Alex Giona,<br />

and others in the talented line up of the<br />

world’s best! Williams<br />

says, “It is one of those<br />

things that seem unreal.<br />

It is every circus<br />

performer’s dream. I<br />

used to tell my mom<br />

growing up “Mom, do<br />

you think I can perform<br />

in Monte Carlo,<br />

one day?” Now my<br />

time has come and I<br />

am ready to give my<br />

absolute all. I have<br />

waited all my life for<br />

this moment!” Wesley<br />

continues to “Ride<br />

Above All Odds”<br />

around the world and<br />

most will agree he is<br />

“The Wheel Deal.”<br />

32 White Tops

Richard Snowberg<br />

December <strong>23</strong>, 1941–March 19, 20<strong>23</strong><br />

A Tribute<br />

By Bruce “Charlie” Johnson<br />

Even though he never performed in a circus himself, Richard Snowberg (December<br />

<strong>23</strong>, 1941–March 19, 20<strong>23</strong>) had a profound influence upon the art of clowning, including<br />

circus performances. He was the founder and director of Clown Camp where<br />

over five thousand people from around the world have studied the art of clowning.<br />

Clown Camp began in 1981. It took a hiatus following its program in 2010. During<br />

those thirty years, more than two hundred and ten people served on the Clown Camp<br />

staff. That includes an impressive group of clowns with circus experience who taught<br />

there at least once. They are Brenda Ahern, Kenny Ahern, Mark Anthony, Deon<br />

Aumier, Don Burcell, Earl Chaney, Ruth Chattock, Terry Davolt, Barry DeChant,<br />

Karen DeChant, Greg Desanto, Karen Desanto, David Heim, Jim Howle, Lou<br />

Jacobs, Bruce Johnson, Jackie LeClaire, Gene Lee, Frosty Little, Tricia Manuel, Leon<br />

McBryde, Jeff McMullen, Vince Pagliano, Tammy Parish, Arthur Pedlar, Michael<br />

Polokov, Steve Rancatore, Mark Renfro, Wayne Scott, Chuck Sidlow, Steve Smith,<br />

Huel Speight, Jimmy Williams, and Peggy Williams. Since Clown Camp resumed<br />

operations in 2016, Joe Dieffenbacher, Gregory Parks, and Sean Emery have also been<br />

on staff. (My apologies to anyone who I left off this list.)<br />

For many clowns, Clown Camp provided the first opportunity to attend classes<br />

taught by circus clowns.<br />

In 1986, Dean “Bo Dino” Weiss was scheduled to be on the Clown Camp staff.<br />

He died that winter. His family donated some of his props to Clown Camp. They<br />

were auctioned off. Richard was the World Clown Association President Elect. He<br />

donated the money raised to the WCA to begin the Bo Dino Scholarship Fund, the<br />

first scholarship for the study of clowning.<br />

Brenda Johnson had been a Clown Camp participant and a Blue Vest Volunteer<br />

assisting the program’s instructional staff. She was in the first group of six Bo Dino<br />

Scholarship recipients. She used that to help pay her expenses attending the Ringling<br />

Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. After she graduated, she toured with the<br />

RBB&B Circus Blue Unit from 1988 to 1989. She married Kenny Ahern after they<br />

finished their circus tour.<br />

For other participants, Clown Camp was a stepping stone to circus appearances.<br />

Some of them eventually joined the RBB&B Circus clown alley. Jennifer Edgerton<br />

was a Clown Camp participant before she became the Carson & Barnes Circus boss<br />

clown in the 1990s. Some Clown Camp participants have appeared as guests in the<br />

Milwaukee Shrine Circus and other circus productions.<br />

In 1986, Clown Camp co-hosted a weekend training program for members of the<br />

International Shrine Clown Association.<br />

Richard had not planned on becoming a clown. He received his undergraduate<br />

degree in physical education from Illinois State University in 1964. He completed his<br />

doctoral degree in educational media at Indiana University in 1971.<br />

Richard was hired by the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse in 1975. He taught<br />

media classes in the education department. Roger Grant, another professor at UW-L,<br />

invited Richard to an adult Halloween party. He decided to go disguised as a clown.<br />

Richard Snowberg, Mark Anthony, Leon<br />


His sister sewed him a costume. He<br />

stuffed a few magic tricks into his pocket<br />

so he would have something to do. He<br />

intended it to be his only performance.<br />

However, by the end of the evening he<br />

had been booked to entertain at three<br />

birthday parties.<br />

He created a Whiteface clown character<br />

named Snowflake. He joined Clowns<br />

of America and the Midwest Clown<br />

Association to try to get as much training<br />

as possible. Since there were no other<br />

clowns in La Crosse, Richard had all the<br />

work that he could handle. His wife,<br />

Jan, and his sons, Eric and David, also<br />

became clowns. Performances became a<br />

family event.<br />

Richard also did not intend to create<br />

the world’s largest training program for<br />

clowns. In 1980, he taught a one-nighta-week<br />

clown course through the university’s<br />

continuing education program.<br />

The students of that course were the<br />

founding members of the Coulee Clown<br />

Club.<br />

A newspaper wrote an article about<br />

the course. The article was reprinted in<br />

the Three Ring News, published by the<br />

Midwest Clown Association. Soon the<br />

university began receiving letters from<br />

people throughout the Midwest asking<br />

if a condensed course could be offered.<br />

They explained that it was too far to<br />

travel to the University once a week.<br />

The university asked Richard if he<br />

could create a one-week course that<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 33

Richard Snowberg and Lou Jacobs. PHOTO BY<br />


would be called Clown Camp. It was<br />

held during the summer of 1981. The<br />

participants stayed in one of the campus<br />

dorms and the classes were held in<br />

the same building. Richard invited five<br />

clowns that he had met at conventions to<br />

join him in teaching the classes. Richard<br />

intended for that to be the only time that<br />

Clown Camp would be offered. However,<br />

the participants had other plans. He said<br />

that he should have gotten suspicious<br />

when they presented him with a plaque<br />

thanking him for organizing the first<br />

Clown Camp. When he concluded the<br />

final session, nobody left the room. He<br />

told them that he did not have anything<br />

else to say. They told him that they were<br />

not going to leave until he promised<br />

Bruce Johnson, Maureen Brunsdale, Richard<br />

Snowberg, and Arthur Pedlar (seated) at the ISU<br />

Milner Library. PHOTO BY MARK SCHMIDT<br />

34 White Tops<br />

that he would organize another Clown<br />

Camp session for the following summer.<br />

Richard directed Clown Camp programs<br />

in La Crosse for thirty years.<br />

Clown Camp was not limited to that<br />

location. Realizing that not everyone<br />

could travel to Wisconsin to spend a<br />

week taking classes, weekend Clown<br />

Camp on the Road programs were offered<br />

in many locations in the United<br />

States. In 1995, Clown Camp expanded<br />

with a second weeklong program in<br />

Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. That<br />

program continued for six years. Clown<br />

Camp sponsored two clown summits in<br />

Scotland, and held an at sea program on<br />

a cruise ship. Weeklong programs were<br />

also conducted in Japan in 2005 and<br />

Singapore in 2010. Although not officially<br />

Clown Camp programs, Richard<br />

organized a group of Clown Camp staff<br />

members to teach and perform at the<br />

2004 Clown Around the World Festival<br />

in Singapore. A smaller group of instructors<br />

then went to Malaysia to teach<br />

classes there.<br />

Wherever Clown Camp was held,<br />

Richard would frequently schedule a<br />

panel discussion by staff members with<br />

circus experience. I joined Kenny Ahern<br />

and Jim Howle on those panels many<br />

times. Richard liked having me participate<br />

because I could provide the point of<br />

view of someone who had toured under<br />

canvass. Jackie LeClaire, a second-generation<br />

circus clown was part of the<br />

panel a few times. He would tell the participants,<br />

“Don’t worry too much about<br />

your makeup. My father taught me if you<br />

make a mistake just smile a little broader<br />

and dance a little faster.”<br />

Richard scheduled a special event several<br />

times at Clown Camp. While “Cecil<br />

B. DeMille’s Greatest Show on Earth”<br />

was projected, Jackie LeClaire would<br />

provide a narration. Jackie had appeared<br />

in the film and was a friend of many others<br />

in the film. It was fascinating hearing<br />

his experiences during the films production<br />

and his stories about his friends.<br />

Many of the Clown Camp classes were<br />

directly circus related. A very popular<br />

class that was offered more than once<br />

was Jim Howle teaching participants<br />

how to perform the boxing act. There<br />

was always at least one juggling class.<br />

Richard established a relationship<br />

with the Circus World Museum. Often<br />

a trip to Baraboo was included in the<br />

week of instruction. Clowns had the<br />

opportunity to perform on the museum<br />

grounds. I appeared there in 1986 doing<br />

atmosphere shows. I returned several<br />

other times doing strolling entertainment.<br />

One year Piet Nortje, from South<br />

Africa, and Tokyo Mad, from Japan, put<br />

together an excellent act while at Clown<br />

Camp. Richard arranged for them to<br />

perform the act as guest stars in the<br />

Circus World Museum Big Top show. In<br />

2016, Maggy (Saeko Ushiyama), a clown<br />

from Japan, appeared as a guest star in<br />

the Big Top show. She had auditioned<br />

while at Clown Camp and Kenny Ahern<br />

coached her in making her act appropriate<br />

for the circus ring. The following<br />

year I was selected to represent Clown<br />

Camp as a guest star in the Big Top. I<br />

recreated a routine that I had performed<br />

while touring with the Carson & Barnes<br />

Circus and the Funs-A-Poppin’ Circus<br />

in the early 1980s. As soon as I entered<br />

the Circus World Big Top and smelled<br />

that elephants had been there, I immediately<br />

felt at home.<br />

Although the opportunity to perform<br />

was exciting, the main purpose for the<br />

Baraboo trips was that Richard wanted<br />

the Clown Camp participants to learn<br />

about circus history.<br />

When a trip to Baraboo was not part<br />

of the official schedule, it was sometimes<br />

offered as an extra fee alternative the day<br />

after Clown Camp. When a trip was<br />

not offered, Richard would sometimes<br />

organize carpools. One year he knew<br />

that Carole and I had rented a car to go<br />

to Baraboo. He asked if we would take<br />

a clown from Japan with us. In 2019, I<br />

took Edmund Khong from Singapore<br />

to Baraboo. He got his start as a clown<br />

attending classes during a Clown Camp<br />

program in his country. He has become<br />

an outstanding entertainer. When we<br />

visited the Circus World Museum

Jackie LeClaire and Richard Snowberg. PHOTO BY ROGER<br />

GRANT<br />

Library, we saw a copy of Clowning<br />

Around magazine with his photo on<br />

the cover announcing that he had been<br />

named the World Clown Association<br />

Clown of the Year.<br />

There is a memorial bench on the<br />

Circus World Museum grounds in recognition<br />

of his contributions to the art<br />

of clowning.<br />

Richard’s contributions extended beyond<br />

Clown Camp. When he began<br />

clowning there was very little literature<br />

available on the art. He wrote six books<br />

to fill that gap. He was a leader in the<br />

Caring Clown movement, and his book<br />

on that subject gave increased credibility<br />

to that specialty.<br />

Richard believed in the importance of<br />

clown history. He also believed in recognizing<br />

the efforts of others. The day before<br />

the 2014 World Clown Association<br />

Convention in Chicago, Richard invited<br />

me to be part of a carpool to visit the<br />

circus collection at the Milner Library<br />

on the Illinois State University campus.<br />

We were accompanied by Arthur Pedlar,<br />

a clown from England who, like Richard,<br />

was an International Clown Hall of<br />

Fame inductee.<br />

After Maureen Brunsdale gave us a<br />

tour of the circus collection, we sat down<br />

to talk. I said, “My wife, Carole,<br />

has told me, ‘When, not if, you<br />

die, my children won’t know what<br />

to do with your treasures. So, you<br />

had better find a place to send<br />

them.”<br />

Richard started laughing. He<br />

said that his wife, Jan, had been<br />

telling him the same thing. Arthur<br />

was also laughing. He said that his<br />

wife, Val, had said the same thing.<br />

Each of us had brought a potential<br />

donation to see how Maureen<br />

would respond to them. We were<br />

encouraged by Maureen’s enthusiastic<br />

response to each item.<br />

While we were talking, Mark<br />

Schmidt was spreading circus<br />

posters out on the tables in the<br />

reading room. Maureen explained<br />

that a graphics class was coming<br />

in that afternoon to study them. She<br />

said that they try to integrate the circus<br />

collection into the school curriculum as<br />

much as possible. During the tour, she<br />

had pointed out their set of circus ledgers<br />

that the accounting classes study.<br />

She said they always get excited when<br />

they realize that one was cooked to hide<br />

the profits.<br />

On the way back to the hotel we talked<br />

about our visit. We were impressed that<br />

the items in the collection were not just<br />

shelved and forgotten. We also liked the<br />

way that the items were organized and<br />

protected. For example, there was a complete<br />

set of Clowning Around magazines<br />

bound in hard cover. All three of us had<br />

written columns for that publication. We<br />

all agreed that was an excellent place to<br />

donate items.<br />

Arthur donated his collection of<br />

European circus posters to the Milner<br />

Library.<br />

I have donated some items from my<br />

own archives. (I have also donated<br />

some items to the International Clown<br />

Hall of Fame and to the Circus World<br />

Museum.)<br />

Richard had donated some items to<br />

the International Clown Hall of Fame.<br />

He decided to donate his Clown Camp<br />

archives to the Milner Library. Richard<br />

also donated his personal director notebook<br />

with additional information on<br />

each program, and an extensive collection<br />

of photographs. Richard’s correspondence<br />

with significant staff members<br />

is included. There are letters from<br />

Lou Jacobs and Mark Anthony. There is<br />

a copy of the resume that Jackie LeClaire<br />

submitted when he was on staff for the<br />

first time.<br />

Richard and Jan, his wife, met while<br />

they were students at ISU. They attended<br />

the 2018 Circus Fans Association<br />

Convention which was held in Normal/<br />

Bloomington. They joined the CFA at<br />

that time. Richard was tickled that his<br />

name tag identified him as a First of<br />

May. He said that it had been a long<br />

time since anyone had referred to him in<br />

that manner.<br />

Richard battled a variety of medical<br />

conditions for decades. When a medical<br />

condition meant that he could not<br />

wear makeup near his eyes, he retired<br />

his <strong>white</strong>face character. Jim Howle<br />

helped him with a makeup design for an<br />

Auguste character called Junior. It was<br />

not obvious that there was no makeup<br />

near his eyes.<br />

When it was announced that Richard<br />

had entered hospice care, over one hundred<br />

people left tributes on the Clown<br />

Camp Facebook page. The overwhelming<br />

consensus was that what people<br />

remembered the most about Richard<br />

was his kindness and his gentle soul. He<br />

had quietly worked behind the scenes to<br />

encourage and support many people in<br />

making their own contributions to the<br />

art of clowning. He often referred to<br />

the Clown Camp programs as a family<br />

reunion. He created that feeling of acceptance<br />

and inclusiveness. Many of us<br />

feel fortunate to be part of that family<br />

of friends.<br />

The Snowberg family has asked that<br />

memorial donations be made to the<br />

Milner Library Circus and Allied Arts<br />

Collection.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 35

Caballeros Score Golden Elephant<br />

at Spain Circus Festival<br />

By Alex Smith<br />

The Flying Caballeros recently made circus world history at the Eleventh<br />

International Festival of the Golden Elephant Circus of Girona, Spain. The fifth<br />

generation of this talented family etched their names in the record books on March<br />

4, 20<strong>23</strong>. Most would agree that the circus community as a whole should take pride in<br />

their accomplishments, but especially after the tumultuous times felt by artists around<br />

the world.<br />

Circus fans on the West Coast, especially in California, should be quite familiar<br />

with the Caballeros. For over twenty years, they have toured the state (now in two<br />

units) continuing not only the trapeze, but also the circus tradition. They set the performance<br />

standards high in the competitive Southern California market, with excellent<br />

production values and two brand-new, lavish big <strong>tops</strong>. They rise to the Herculean<br />

challenge of show management in addition to the flying trapeze discipline. This is<br />

of no surprise to those who have been fortunate enough to know them since their<br />

pre-Ringling and Circus days in the eighties on shows like Bentley Bros. and Carson<br />

and Barnes. It was while touring with these circuses that word of Rueben Jr.’s successful<br />

Quadruple Somersault to father Rueben Sr. caught the attention of Kenneth Feld.<br />

The Greatest Show on Earth producer wanted to bill another flying act capable of the<br />

quadruple somersault alongside their own headline flying act, the Flying Vazquez,<br />

who were consistently performing the same feat. In 1988, they achieved greatness<br />

when they succeeded at simultaneously catching the quadruple somersault alongside<br />

the Flying Vazquez. These were the first two quadruple somersaults, caught simultaneously,<br />

in history.<br />

While the flying trapeze has faded in prominence with mainstream audiences, the<br />

difficulty, agility, and years of training (along with the intangibles of performing and<br />

the genetics needed to perform at such a level) have not. Fortunately, the Caballeros<br />

have segued into show ownership and have not swayed from their signature act, as<br />

many others have. On this evening in Spain, the off<strong>spring</strong> of Rueben Jr.—Marco<br />

Antonio (Catcher), Rueben the III, Gunther, and Anru (Luis Caballero’s son)—<br />

stepped into the ring with their usual goal of executing a superb performance.<br />

Luis Caballero admits they went in with the goal of achieving a single quadruple.<br />

“We always want to perform well of course … but we said, hey, if we catch one, great!”<br />

Luis is not being modest. In addition to<br />

success, their family has endured failure.<br />

They’ve mentored the next generation in<br />

pre-performance situations to “not dwell<br />

on the task at hand.” They’ve designed a<br />

strategy so that nothing interferes with<br />

their sons’ performances. To keep their<br />

minds from obsessing, the family accompanies<br />

them and talks, laughs, and plays<br />

games while at the hotel awaiting their<br />

time above the ring. They don’t expose<br />

them to comparisons or to competition,<br />

or set expectations.<br />

On performance night, the brothers<br />

and cousins of the fifth-generation<br />

Caballeros climbed in the air as they<br />

have done so many times before. As their<br />

family, including patriarch Don Rueben,<br />

The Caballeros. Left<br />

to right, standing:<br />

Judith, Marco Antonio,<br />

Maximiliano Sbalttero,<br />

Luis, Rueben Jr.,<br />

Rueben Jr. III, Gunther,<br />

and Anru. Kneeling:<br />

Luis Alberto, Nikita.<br />

36 White Tops<br />

Top, left to right: Gunther Caballero, Rueben Caballero III, and<br />

Judy Caballero. Bottom: Catcher Marco Antonio Caballero,<br />

Rueben Caballero Jr. III, Gunther Caballero.

The Flying Caballeros make history in Girona, Spain.<br />

watched from the stands, they delivered a stellar routine to the crowd<br />

of roughly twenty-three-hundred people with Marco “Hands of Steel”<br />

Antonio catching members Judy and eleven-year old Nikita.<br />

The first to attempt the quad was Rueben Caballero III, who connected<br />

and brought down the house. This was only the beginning. Next up<br />

was fifteen-year-old Anru Caballero, who first achieved the quad at age<br />

twelve (always thought to be too young an age to realistically achieve such<br />

a feat), succeeded at the second quadruple. The electricity in the crowd<br />

was palpable at this point, and only elevated when it was announced that<br />

Gunther Caballero would attempt a third quadruple. Gunther boldly<br />

swung into the record books as his brother Marco Antonio caught him<br />

upon completion of his quadruple. Noted circus critic Gaspar Altamar<br />

described the magic moment: “The ovation of enthusiasm, joy, expressed<br />

in the hands and faces of the audience was endless.”<br />

The Flying Caballeros achieved three quadruple somersaults, performed<br />

back-to-back by their bloodline of brothers and cousins. One<br />

can only imagine what the post-performance adrenaline rush was like<br />

on this special evening. At the conclusion of the event, the Caballeros<br />

would be awarded the Golden<br />

Elephant. CFA members can<br />

take pride that the Flying<br />

Caballeros achieved the impossible.<br />

Hopefully this momentum,<br />

along with the return<br />

of Ringling and the many<br />

smaller family shows beginning<br />

to sprout, infuse some<br />

voracity and propel the circus<br />

community in a positive direction.<br />

To say this younger circus<br />

generation has experienced<br />

adversity is an understatement,<br />

yet they continue and excel.<br />

Thank you, Caballeros—and<br />

congratulations.<br />

Middle photo. Front: Rueben Caballero Jr. III. Back: Marc. Above:<br />

Don Renato Fernandes, Rueben Caballero Sr., Luis Caballero.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 37

Leigh Ketchum<br />

Guest Speaker for Showfolks Tent #122<br />

April 20<strong>23</strong><br />

By Mary Fritsch<br />


Tent President Jeanette Williams introduced our guest speaker for April, Leigh<br />

Ketchum, whom Jeanette has known for forty years. Leigh is a talented musician<br />

and the owner of Sarasota Box Office.<br />

Leigh began his speech by looking around before saying, “I think I know most of<br />

the people here tonight.” He first joined the circus in 1976 while he was in college in<br />

Illinois. Later, Leigh went with Carson and Barnes.<br />

Someone once told Leigh’s partner, Dusty, that he had been mean to a performer in<br />

his circus—but Dusty is probably one of the calmest, nicest guys around. Back in the<br />

day, D.R. Miller would have put someone down on the ground if they dared ask for a<br />

raise, said Leigh. No gentle handling of performers back then.<br />

Leigh was last on the road with the Clyde Beatty Circus. (He also worked as a night<br />

clerk at the Red Roof Inn, a job he hated.) The Clyde Beatty musicians were fired<br />

because they wouldn’t drive trucks, wanted more money, and were rowdy party guys.<br />

In 1997, Johnny Pugh asked Leigh if he could use a 386 Windows PC to make digital<br />

music. Leigh thought synthesized music sounded awful. However, when Johnny<br />

offered him a high price he agreed to do it, even though he didn’t own a computer.<br />

There were only Leigh, a trumpet player, and a drummer. Leigh wrote a lot of music<br />

between January and March to meet his target of sixty new musical compositions.<br />

They made it two hours long and added the sound of an audience to the background.<br />

Tent #122 President Jeanette Williams presents Leigh<br />

Ketchum with a certificate of appreciation<br />

Shows wanted royalty-free music<br />

because they otherwise had to pay<br />

licensing fees to the American<br />

Society of Composers, Authors,<br />

and Publishers (ASCAP). So,<br />

Leigh wrote original music for<br />

shows. People would come with<br />

their songs and play them, but<br />

Leigh was able to use the Shazam<br />

mobile app to detect if the music<br />

was original or not.<br />

When he first met John Ringling<br />

North, Leigh found him to be a<br />

short little cowboy with stubble.<br />

He told John, “You are a sorry disappointment,”<br />

but they ended up<br />

becoming very good friends.<br />

Leigh started the Strawhouse<br />

Ticketing website, where he sold<br />

tickets online. His first clients were<br />

the Walker Brothers. More clients<br />

Leigh Ketchum speaks to members of Tent 122<br />

at the April meeting.<br />

were soon to follow—and it wasn’t long<br />

before he was selling from home. Leigh<br />

decided that customer service was of<br />

the utmost importance because there is<br />

always a phone number to call, not to<br />

mention emails and online chats. Today,<br />

their customer service department employs<br />

four people and the company has<br />

since changed their name to Sarasota<br />

Box Office.<br />

During his speech, Leigh also showed<br />

us posters from some of their clients’<br />

shows: Royal Hanneford Circus, Cirque<br />

Luc Dalia, and Dusty’s Circus.<br />

Leigh is the co-owner of Dusty’s<br />

Circus with his partner, Dusty Sadler,<br />

and told us some fun stories about him.<br />

When Dusty was on Jeanette Williams’<br />

Circus, for example, Dusty would be in<br />

the audience making himself up as a<br />

<strong>white</strong>-faced clown as the audience trickled<br />

in. He still does this today at his own<br />

show, Dusty’s Circus.<br />

Dusty’s Circus is a success and now<br />

has six dancers from England, who perform<br />

with alligators and snakes. Their<br />

mixed animal act includes a blue fox<br />

that pushes a baby carriage around with<br />

a polish chicken. If you want to know<br />

more, you’ll have to attend one of their<br />

shows!<br />

Leigh’s best quotation from the<br />

speech? “You can’t swing a dead cat in<br />

this town without hitting a Wallenda.”<br />

Thanks, Leigh, for a fun night.<br />

38 White Tops

Registration for the CFA Convention includes a Visit to<br />

the<br />

Big Cat Habitat<br />

By Pete Adams<br />


visit to the Rosaire Big Cat Habitat is scheduled for Thursday,<br />

A July 13, the last day of the 20<strong>23</strong> CFA Convention. You will have<br />

loads of fun spending an afternoon with the big cats and a variety of<br />

other animals. Lunch will be available for purchase on site. The Big<br />

Cat Habitat is an ever-growing large animal rescue in Sarasota. The<br />

non-profit attraction was founded by Kay Rosaire in 1987 and is the<br />

permanent home of dozens of exotic animals. Arriving at noon will<br />

allow you time to buy lunch and be ready for the first show, the bird<br />

show, in the air-conditioned performance building at 1:00 p.m. This<br />

will be followed by the main performance of handling large exotics at<br />

2:00 p.m. during which Kay or her son Clayton will present several<br />

of their exotic animals in the big cage.<br />

Before the visit ends at 4:00 p.m., you will have ample time to see<br />

the bears and three large indoor/outdoor housing complexes for the<br />

tigers and many smaller animals. There is even a petting zoo and the<br />

opportunity to feed the bears and tigers from a distance.<br />

The Rosaire Big Cat Habitat includes an ever-growing<br />

animal rescue with dozens of exotic<br />

animals.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 39

Mileposts<br />

40 White Tops<br />



Deborah Chapman<br />

of Sarasota,<br />

Florida passed away<br />

on March 29, 20<strong>23</strong>.<br />

Born in Blackpool,<br />

England, she enjoyed<br />

an amazing<br />

career as an aerialist<br />

and excelled in other<br />

circus arts as well. Deborah performed<br />

at numerous circuses, nightclubs, and<br />

cruise ships in both the United States<br />

and abroad. Most will remember her<br />

jungle-themed single trapeze and<br />

loop-walking act for which she won the<br />

prestigious Trophee Louis Merlin at the<br />

Monte Carlo Circus Festival.<br />

After retiring from show business, she<br />

led a quiet life with her beloved border<br />

collies, Willow and Oreo, and five<br />

equally beloved parrots. Preceding her in<br />

death was her father, Danny Chapman,<br />

her mother, Joan B. Rickey, her former<br />

husband and best friend, Tom Green,<br />

and her sister, Michele Chapman. She<br />

leaves behind her sister, Stephanie<br />

Dubsky, her half sister and brother, and<br />

several nieces and nephews. She wished<br />

not to have a service. May she rest in<br />

peace. Submitted by Stephanie Dubsky<br />


Dagmar Beavers, 74,<br />

of Myakka City, Florida,<br />

passed away peacefully at<br />

her home on Center Ring<br />

Ranch on Easter Sunday,<br />

April 9, 20<strong>23</strong>. The circus<br />

community and the Sarasota-Myakka<br />

music world<br />

lost one of their most colorful<br />

and generous spirits.<br />

Dagmar Mootz Beavers<br />

was born in Munich, Germany, on October<br />

1, 1948. She made her debut on stage<br />

in a comedic wire act at age six. In 1958,<br />

her family immigrated to the U.S. The<br />

trio toured with numerous circuses in<br />

the U.S. and then with Circo Atayde in<br />

Mexico. This started a lifelong love affair<br />

with Mexico. Rudolf gave himself the<br />

nickname “Pedro” and the trio became<br />

known as The Pedrolas, touring Mexico<br />

with a complete show. Dagmar was so<br />

enchanted that she returned to Mexico<br />

for four more years, after her parents retired.<br />

In 1962 The Pedrolas were booked<br />

to perform their aerial cradle act in the<br />

MGM movie Jumbo starring Doris Day<br />

and Jimmy Durante. Dagmar was featured<br />

in a speaking part with Doris Day.<br />

In 2017, The Pedrolas were inducted into<br />

the prestigious Circus Ring of Fame.<br />

Dagmar grew up harmonizing with<br />

her musical parents, and at sixteen, began<br />

playing the guitar, a second passion that<br />

would last a lifetime. She performed locally<br />

with “Hot Sauce” and “The Instigators”<br />

and later with her husband, Bill<br />

Beavers. Dagmar also worked solo at<br />

private events and at O’Learys.<br />

In the early 1960s, Dagmar’s parents<br />

purchased land in Myakka. With the<br />

help of friends, they built a traditional,<br />

all-wood home on the property entirely<br />

with their own hands and ingenuity.<br />

Dagmar’s design, material sensibility,<br />

and decorative touches made it uniquely<br />

beautiful and welcoming. She lived there<br />

for the next sixty years.<br />

In addition to Dagmar’s career as<br />

a circus performer and musician, she<br />

achieved Second Degree Black Belt in<br />

karate, became a U.S. citizen in 1994,<br />

and returned to school to earn<br />

her high school diploma in 2013,<br />

at age sixty-four. She faithfully<br />

served Showfolks of Sarasota and<br />

the Big Cat Habitat for decades,<br />

setting up events and documenting<br />

them extensively in photographs,<br />

thus creating a valuable<br />

cultural record.<br />

Dagmar leaves behind a multitude<br />

of loyal, loving friends everywhere—in<br />

Myakka, throughout<br />

her circus family and all around the<br />

music world. A memorial service for<br />

Dagmar was held at the Big Cat Habitat<br />

on May 7, 20<strong>23</strong>.<br />



CARDEN<br />

Catherine Carden,<br />

57, of Springfield,<br />

Missouri, passed away<br />

peacefully at home,<br />

surrounded by family,<br />

on Tuesday, May<br />

9, 20<strong>23</strong>, following a<br />

courageous three-year<br />

battle with pancreatic cancer. A beloved<br />

circus performer, she was the first of two<br />

children born to George Jr. and Victoria<br />

Hanneford. Catherine leaves behind<br />

her husband of twenty-one years, Brett<br />

Carden; sons George and Cash; brother<br />

George Hanneford III, and a cousin,<br />

Nellie Hanneford-Poema. Cards can be<br />

addressed to the family at 3901 West<br />

State Highway 0, Springfield, Missouri<br />

65803. In lieu of flowers, donations<br />

may be sent to www.pancan.org. A celebration<br />

of life will be held in the fall,<br />

in Springfield, Missouri. PHOTO BY<br />



Richard Czina, 88, of Sarasota,<br />

Florida, died Sunday, March 26, 20<strong>23</strong>.<br />

Richard Czina (pronounced zeena) grew<br />

up in Floral Park, Long Island, where<br />

he obtained a diploma in technical electricity<br />

from Sewanhaka High School.<br />

In 1955, he earned a bachelor’s degree

in electrical engineering from the Pratt<br />

Institute in Brooklyn.<br />

Although Richard had<br />

a stellar career as an<br />

electrical engineer with<br />

IBM, he was anxious to<br />

pursue his various interests.<br />

He built a forty-foot<br />

sailboat on his farm and,<br />

on the day after his retirement in 1987,<br />

he sailed from Vermont to Ft. Lauderdale,<br />

Florida. He lived on the boat for<br />

eight years while teaching electronics at<br />

Broward Community College and ITT<br />

Technical Institute. Then, while building<br />

a log cabin in Boone, North Carolina, he<br />

had an opportunity to train at a number<br />

of wildlife sanctuaries across the country.<br />

His other interests revolved around<br />

animals and photography. In 2000, he<br />

worked at Disney’s Magic Kingdom as<br />

a street photographer. After moving to<br />

Sarasota in 2004, he volunteered at Pelican<br />

Man, Mote Marine, The Big Cat<br />

Habitat, Sailor Circus, and Circus Sarasota.<br />

He was a dedicated digital photographer<br />

and freely shared his skill with all<br />

his volunteer organizations. His circus<br />

and wildlife photos have been published<br />

in a number of magazines, including<br />

some front covers. His videos of Sailor<br />

Circus shows have earned thousands of<br />

dollars for their program. Richard Czina<br />

was a member of CFA as well as the<br />

digital photo club, DIAMAGE, and was<br />

renowned for his animal preservation efforts<br />

and circus photography.<br />


Vern Mendonca, 88, of Redding, California,<br />

passed away<br />

on April 19, 20<strong>23</strong>,<br />

following a long illness.<br />

A CFA member<br />

for over forty years and<br />

a circus fan for more<br />

than eighty, Vern became<br />

CFA president<br />

in 2008. Vern led a<br />

varied and colorful life. He was a postman,<br />

orchard farmer, and even a parttime<br />

teacher on the Carson & Barnes<br />

Circus. Vern and his wife Conni were<br />

frequently seen at CFA conventions. For<br />

many years, he emailed his circus chats<br />

(“Circus Vern”) to fans. Vern is survived<br />

by his wife Conni, daughter Julie, sons<br />

Shawn and Anthony, and several grandchildren.<br />

Cards may be sent to Conni<br />

Mendonca at 1000 Greenbriar Court,<br />

Redding, California 96003.<br />



Richard Lee Snowberg,<br />

81, of Denver,<br />

Colorado, died March<br />

19, 20<strong>23</strong>. He held<br />

I.B.M. number 26402<br />

and had been a member<br />

from 1974 to 1994.<br />

He grew up in West Bend, Wisconsin,<br />

as well as the towns of Valparaiso, Indiana<br />

and Elwood, Indiana. In 1960, Rich<br />

graduated from Sterling High School<br />

in Sterling, Illinois before receiving his<br />

undergraduate degree in physical education<br />

from Illinois State University<br />

in 1964. He was the top-ranked player<br />

on the Illinois State University tennis<br />

team. Rich taught physical education in<br />

Illinois for three years before pursuing<br />

a doctoral degree in educational media<br />

at Indiana University. He completed his<br />

doctoral degree in 1971 and was hired<br />

as an assistant professor at the University<br />

of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Later,<br />

the University of Arkansas hired him to<br />

launch their educational media program.<br />

In 1975, he returned to Wisconsin as<br />

an associate professor at University of<br />

Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L), where<br />

he taught media courses and supervised<br />

their campus media center until his retirement<br />

in 2000. Rich liked to incorporate<br />

magic into his university lectures<br />

and developed a clown character named<br />

“Snowflake,” which he performed as for<br />

years at parties, celebrations, and hospitals.<br />

He also wrote six books on the<br />

subject of clowning and later founded<br />

the “Clown Camp” adult clown training<br />

program. Rich spent thirty years as the<br />

Clown Camp’s director. He was elected<br />

three times as the President of the World<br />

Clown Association, where he organized<br />

international clown training programs<br />

in Scotland, Singapore, and Borneo.<br />

In 1999, he was inducted into the International<br />

Clown Hall of Fame. He is<br />

survived by his wife of fifty-seven years,<br />

Janice (Tobler); sons Eric ( Jennifer) and<br />

David (Michelle); grandchildren Blaise<br />

and Lena; sisters Karen (Ron) and Jean<br />

(Rick); and brothers-in-law Jack (Beth)<br />

Tobler and Jerry (Barb) Tobler.<br />


Edward L. “Ed” Wesemann, 97, of<br />

Hampshire, Illinois,<br />

passed away<br />

May 2, 20<strong>23</strong>. He<br />

was born May 1,<br />

1926, in Burlington,<br />

Illinois, the<br />

son of Edward G.<br />

and Ida (Plote)<br />

Wesemann. He<br />

was a 1944 graduate<br />

of Plato High School and then drafted<br />

into the U.S. Army during World<br />

War II. On October 24, 1953, he married<br />

Marnie H. Daly at St. Peter’s Evangelical<br />

Lutheran Church in North Plato.<br />

They lived in the home they built since<br />

1955. Ed was a active, lifelong member<br />

of the St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran<br />

Church. He served as secretary on<br />

the local school board for sixteen years<br />

and volunteered at the Elgin St. Joseph<br />

Hospital for thirty years. He was a life<br />

member of the Hampshire VFW Post<br />

8043, serving as Commander, Trustee,<br />

Chaplain, and Service Officer. His hobbies<br />

included playing the piano accordion,<br />

collecting, and restoring vintage<br />

John Deere Two- Cylinder tractors that<br />

he took to parades and shows. He was<br />

a dedicated circus fan, belonging to the<br />

Circus Fans Association of America for<br />

over fifty years. Survivors include daughter<br />

Carolyn (Dale) Hartmann of West<br />

Bend, Wisconsin; son Philip (Dana)<br />

Wesemann; grandchildren Mark (Carol)<br />

Hartmann, Josh (Cat) Hartmann, and<br />

Lance Hartmann; and great-grandchildren,<br />

Montgomery, Sabrina, and Carter<br />

Hartmann. He was preceded in death by<br />

his parents, brother Alvin, and his wife,<br />

Marnie.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 41

Dusty’s All Star Circus<br />

Civic Center, Sanford, Florida<br />

February 1, 20<strong>23</strong><br />

By Maxine House<br />


Dusty Sadler’s All Star Circus, now in its second season, is a delightful show. It travels around the southeastern United States for<br />

a rather abbreviated <strong>spring</strong> season.<br />

The show plays at indoor venues like the Civic Center in Sanford, Florida, where we caught it. It was not an ideal location, providing<br />

a stage and an area in front of the stage for a ring. The lighting was quite poor in this setting. But the laughter and responses<br />

of the children at the performance we saw showed that it didn’t matter! With six performers plus a ringmaster, the show lasts an<br />

hour and a half with a twenty-minute intermission.<br />

Dusty himself opens the performance with a brief history of his show and an explanation of his name. It seems that as a young<br />

performer in Fort Stockton, Texas, he was hot and thirsty. When a concessioner gave him a drink, she dubbed him “Dusty.” The<br />

name stuck.<br />

The show’s clown, Mr. Robb (Zaiser), interrupts Dusty and immediately captivates the audience with his antics. The ringmaster,<br />

Renaldo Calienes, quickly takes over and the performance begins.<br />

On the stage, Sebastian Videla presents his fast-moving juggling act. Sebastian, now in his late teens, has been performing in<br />

circuses since he was a child. He and his older brother Cristhian stooged in their father’s clown act for many years before creating<br />

acts of their own.<br />

Left to right: Ian Ladlow, Sebastian Videla, Dusty Sadler, Alec Bryant, and Mike Duff. Right:Alec<br />

and Daniela Bryant in classic costumes for the chair act.<br />

42 White Tops

Sebastian Videla.<br />

Ian Faranel follows with his pleasing<br />

hand-balancing act. Ian started his circus<br />

career on Sailor Circus and has performed<br />

all over the world.<br />

Then, moving to the ring area below,<br />

Mr. Robb entertains with his “Guess<br />

where the ball is?” under the cups routine,<br />

juggles the cups, and climaxes by kicking<br />

each cup into the air and catching them<br />

with a cup. Most impressive.<br />

Ian Faranel’s hand balancing.<br />

Daniela Bryant performs a pleasing<br />

Spanish web act before the twenty-minute<br />

intermission.<br />

Interestingly enough, during the intermission<br />

most of the performers are<br />

working concessions. Daniela is doing<br />

face painting, Sebastian is selling popcorn,<br />

and Robin Best is working the souvenir<br />

stand. The other men work props.<br />

Renaldo and Mr. Robb.<br />

Mr. Robb opens the second half of<br />

the show with his trained dog. This is<br />

followed by Robin Best’s single trap act.<br />

Although the trapeze hangs very low, the<br />

moves Robin makes are pleasing.<br />

A typical chair act is presented by<br />

Alec Bryant, assisted by Daniela. Their<br />

matching costumes should be noted.<br />

Mr. Robb returns for a final appearance,<br />

this time juggling books. The kids<br />

love him!<br />

Sebastian ends the show with his spirited<br />

unicycle act. His tall L-shaped bike<br />

makes for a good ending. Dusty joins<br />

the cast on the stage for the finale.<br />

After some more dates in Florida,<br />

Dusty’s All Star Circus will head north.<br />

Dusty currently has his 20<strong>23</strong> route<br />

booked through early April in Alabama,<br />

Georgia, South Carolina, North<br />

Carolina, and Virginia. Check his website<br />

dustyscircus.com for specifics. Visit it<br />

if you can.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 43

It’s Time to Register!<br />

By Pete Adams<br />

Convention Co-chair<br />

For those of you who have already registered for the CFA Convention taking place<br />

from July 10 to July 13, 20<strong>23</strong>, thanks for doing so.<br />

But for those who have not yet registered, it is TIME because we need to know<br />

how many are attending. Open registration is available until June 10, 20<strong>23</strong>, at the rate<br />

of $175 per person. Late registration is $200 and walk-in is $210.<br />

The only change we have made from our original schedule is that the seminars and<br />

meetings, as well as the banquet, will be held at the Showfolks Club on Lockwood<br />

Ridge Road. This will actually be a better fit and experience for all of us.<br />

As our plans indicate, we have a complete day at the Ringling Museums including<br />

a reserved seat for the 2:00 p.m. performance of the Summer Circus Spectacular<br />

sponsored by Ringling and the Circus Arts Conservatory. We will also spend an<br />

afternoon at Kay Rosaire’s Big Cat Habitat and an evening at Sailor Circus Academy<br />

for a show. There will be seven seminars led by Dan Stapleton who will host us<br />

through all of our events. The guest speakers include Heidi Herriott, Barry DeChant,<br />

Jennifer Lemmer-Posey, Monica Welde, Peggy Williams, Karleen Griggs and<br />

Jeanette Williams. Our banquet speaker is Dolly Jacobs, the co-founder of the Circus<br />

Arts Conservatory. In addition, we will have our opportunities for socialization and<br />

our famous circus auction, as well as sales<br />

and vendor tables.<br />

Please plan to join Jack Dean, our<br />

President, and all of us as we celebrate<br />

the heritage of circus in Sarasota and<br />

welcome visitors from around the nation.<br />

With this issue of White Tops, you<br />

will find the Registration Form, the<br />

Full Schedule of Activities, and information<br />

about the host hotel, Sarasota<br />

Waterfront Ramada. Please share this<br />

data with your circus friends. You do not<br />

have to be a member of CFA to attend<br />

our convention, although we do hope<br />

you will join once you have been to one<br />

of our exciting get-togethers.<br />

Thanks in advance!<br />

Notes for Coming to the<br />

20<strong>23</strong> CFA Convention<br />

Due to non-functioning air-handling units in<br />

the ballroom, which is separate from the hotel,<br />

and their inability to repair it before our CFA<br />

Convention, we have moved all seminars and<br />

social activities, including the banquet, to the<br />

Showfolks Club of Sarasota located nearby. The<br />

Ramada Hotel is a separate operation from the<br />

ballroom, and their air conditioning is fine.<br />

Also, remember that if you are limited in steps,<br />

you may request a first-floor room at the hotel.<br />

There is no elevator to the second floor. Please<br />

contact the hotel directly with this need.<br />

If you have any questions, please call Pete Adams<br />

at 443-745-4980, or email circusp@comcast.net.<br />

44 White Tops

Schedule of Activities<br />

Circus Fans of America Convention 20<strong>23</strong><br />

Sarasota, Florida • July 10–13, 20<strong>23</strong><br />

All activities are at the Showfolks Club Unless Stated.<br />

Transportation between events is on your own. Schedule Subject to Change<br />

Mon 7-10-<strong>23</strong> 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Board of Trustees Meeting/NCPS Meeting<br />

Following<br />

10:00 a.m. Sales and Display Room Set Up Time<br />

12:00 p.m. Board of Trustees Luncheon<br />

12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Registration, Sales & Displays Open<br />

3:00 to 3:45 p.m. Seminar #1 – Heidi Herriott<br />

3:45 to 4:00 p.m. Break<br />

4:00 to 4:45 p.m. Seminar #2 – Barry DeChant<br />

7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Welcome at Showfolks Club – Dessert Party<br />

Cash Bar Available<br />

Tue 7-11-<strong>23</strong> 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Membership General Meeting<br />

12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Past President’s Circle Luncheon and Meeting<br />

(Pay on Own) Outback<br />

2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Seminar #3 – Jennifer Lemmer-Posey<br />

2:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Seminar #4 – Monica Welde<br />

3:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Break<br />

3:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Seminar #5 – Peggy Williams<br />

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sailor Circus Show at Sailor Circus Arena<br />

Wed 7-12-<strong>23</strong> 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Day at Ringling includes:<br />

Original Circus Museum<br />

Tibbals Learning Center<br />

Bayfront Gardens and Grounds<br />

Original Art Museum<br />

Searing Wing for Special Art Exhibits<br />

Asian and Modern Art Wing<br />

Glass exhibits in Visitor’s Center<br />

Ca’ d’Zan Admission Optional Fee $10<br />

2:00 p.m. Summer Circus Spectacular 20<strong>23</strong><br />

Historic Asolo Theatre<br />

3:15 p.m. Group Photo w/ Summer Circus Artists<br />

Visitor’s Center of Ringling<br />

5:00 p.m. Legacy Members Foundation Dinner<br />

Anna Maria Oyster Bar<br />

7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Annual Circus Auction<br />

Thu 7-13-<strong>23</strong> 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Seminar #6 – Karleen Griggs<br />

9:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. Break<br />

10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Seminar #7 – Jeanette Williams<br />

12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Kay Rosaire’s Big Cat Habitat Admission Included<br />

Food available on site for purchase.<br />

6:30 p.m. Happy Hour Cash Bar Available<br />

7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Banquet – Dolly Jacobs Reis – Guest Speaker<br />

9:30 p.m. All Over and Out<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 45

Membership<br />

New Members<br />

Samuel Patrick Smith, #11852<br />

800 South Ave.<br />

Eustis, FL 32726<br />

Laurel Smith, #11852 F<br />

800 South Ave.<br />

Eustis, FL 32726<br />

David Merrick, #11853<br />

69 Williams Street<br />

North Adams, MA 01247<br />

Joe Simmons, #11855<br />

454 High Tide Lane<br />

Daytona Beach, FL 32124<br />

Theresa Simmons, #11855 F<br />

454 High Tide Lane<br />

Daytona Beach, FL 32124<br />

Reinstated<br />

Alex Acero, #11033<br />

2713 8th Ave W.<br />

Bradenton, FL 34205<br />

Michael McGuckin, #7993<br />

96 Merino Drive<br />

Huntsville, TX 77340<br />

Richard Flint, #4653<br />

1 Middleton Court<br />

Baltimore, MD 21212<br />

Randy V. Jackson, #11621<br />

2707 Sandarac Lane<br />

Fort Wayne, IN 46815<br />

Kelly Leeth, #11721<br />

8054 Linda Lane<br />

Guthrie, OK 73044<br />

Noell Everhart, #11403<br />

9914 Ridge Hill Ave<br />

Las Vegas, NV 89147-8411<br />

Hans Klos, #11038<br />

4811 Bee Ridge Rd. #129<br />

Sarasota, FL 34<strong>23</strong>3<br />

Hugh McGaughty, #5656<br />

10080 Evade Drive<br />

St. Louis, MO 63126-1107<br />

Address Changes<br />

Louis E. Sather Jr., #11771<br />

821 Oak Street<br />

Baraboo, WI 53913<br />

Janeen Wilds, #9613<br />

10415 S 10th St. Apt B5<br />

Cottage Grove, OR 97424<br />

William R. McCullough, #6159<br />

96 Lost Creek Cove Rd.<br />

Lineville, AL 36266<br />

Sarah Chapman, #10390<br />

401 River Road. Apt. 103<br />

Grand Rapids, MN 55744<br />

Robert Reed, #10525<br />

7367 McSmith Lane<br />

Dayton, OH 45414<br />

Robert A. Martin Sr.<br />

5000 Queen Philomena Blvd.<br />

Apt.127<br />

Schenectady, NY 1<strong>23</strong>04<br />

Allan Kirk, #9567<br />

6631 Greer Rd.<br />

Knoxville, TN 37981<br />

Donations<br />

From Helen Nelson #11275<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Max K. Goodall II, #6620<br />

To NCPS Legacy Fund<br />

in memory of Barbara A. Goodall,<br />

#6620 F<br />

From Bob Kitchen, #4863 L<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Vanessa Gagne, #11656<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Andrew Swan, #6919<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Janeen Wilds, #9613<br />

To General Fund & NCPS<br />

From Mary Fritsch, #11001<br />

To General Fund<br />

From John Kalisz, #10968<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Herbert B. Ueckert, #5194 L<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Clifford Adair Crawford,<br />

#4410<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Roberta Davis-Sporrer, #8041<br />

To General Fund<br />

in memory of Mason “Buzz” Robson<br />

From Robert E. Handley, #11669<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Hector Rivera, #10048<br />

To Legacy Fund<br />

From Susie O’Brien, #10210<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Michael Melssen, #11706<br />

To NCPS<br />

From David and Priscilla Johnson, #5259 & 5259 F<br />

To General Fund & NCPS<br />

Frances Ann Cummings, #10865<br />

To General Fund<br />

Kelly Porter, #10571<br />

To General Fund<br />

Joyce and Joanne Rucci, #7333 & 7333 F<br />

To Legacy Fund<br />

Niles “Buddy” Calhoun, #6566<br />

To Legacy Fund<br />

From Larry G. McKee, #10537<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Pamela Hamilton, #11427<br />

To White Tops<br />

From Max K. Goodall II, #6620<br />

To Legacy Fund<br />

in memory of Barbara A. Goodall #6620 F<br />

From Kenneth and Jan Sopelak, #10713<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Larry Sayler, #11366<br />

To Legacy Fund<br />

From Hans Klos, #11038<br />

To White Tops<br />

From John J. Wohlwend, #11271<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Anne Harmon, #5532<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Paul Gutheil, #7662<br />

To White Tops<br />

From Phillip L. Krahn, #8480<br />

To General Fund<br />

From Jack Belles, #3879 L<br />

To Legacy Fund<br />

46 White Tops

We Had an OLLI Good Time!<br />

By Jan Biggerstaff<br />

What do retired circus performers do to stay out of trouble?<br />

With Bill Biggerstaff not able to travel and the days<br />

seemingly going on forever, I needed something to jazz up my life.<br />

Something to get the blood moving again—like hearing the start<br />

of my music for the act. Like noticing the jump tonight was through downtown San<br />

Francisco. Something exciting, but doable.<br />

Something stirred inside my head when I saw a notice online to register again for<br />

OLLI. OLLI (short for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) is an event for senior citizens<br />

that is held here in Las Vegas and sponsored by the University of Nevada. In the<br />

past, OLLI has offered classes from Globalization and the New World Order, to the<br />

Life and Works of Mark Twain, to a Ukulele Workshop, to What Makes China Tick?<br />

There are usually a hundred different classes offered five days a week. I had sporadically<br />

participated in some of the classes in the past, where I enjoyed the camaraderie and<br />

information in an informal setting. Today, there are over a hundred and twenty-five<br />

OLLIs across the country. Their classes are often taught by retired professionals in<br />

their field, with no tests, no grades, and no prerequisites.<br />

There it was—an opportunity to “jazz” up my days. Teaching a class about the<br />

History of the Circus would be just the ticket. As a performer, the history of the circus<br />

has never held a real interest. So, I would be “teaching” a subject that I would first need<br />

to research. Then I would need to find a way to get that information to the class that<br />

shows the joy, excitement, and history that has enthralled lovers of the circus over the<br />

years.<br />

I was an acrobat. I could do a wonderful cartwheel and a better bow, but public<br />

speaking was not at the top of my list of accomplishments. Actually, I was terrified to<br />

stand in front of a microphone and speak.<br />

After finding historical information on the computer, I was told to go to PowerPoint<br />

(whatever that is) and compile the lesson, then transfer the file to a flash drive (a<br />

what?) to bring to the class. So, this was already looking like a challenge—but a<br />

doable challenge. If other people could do it, then so could I.<br />

Checking in with another CFA Board member about my tentative plans, Bruce<br />

Hawley put me in touch with Lynn Duncan in South Carolina. He was teaching a<br />

class at his local OLLI. With his good ideas, a wonderful cartoon, and support, I filled<br />

out the application to teach the class in the fall and got started.<br />

Beverly Abderraham, a co-conspirator and CFA Board member who has always<br />

been eager to join me on an adventure, signed up to be a co-teacher. Then one of our<br />

circus performer cohorts, Barbara Warkmeister, joined us as well. With nine ninety-minute<br />

classes to fill, I began with a John Polacsek’s PowerPoint about the History<br />

of the Circus in Nevada, which he had used at our 2016 convention. From there, we<br />

added Women in the Circus and continued down the syllabus, making many changes<br />

as the weeks came and went. We had the most fun during the class discussions, when<br />

we answered questions about our lives in the circus. It was so interesting to learn about<br />

our circus history. As we watched that history unfold, we felt just as amazed as our<br />

classmates.<br />

Luckily, I had loads of handouts (clearing out some of Bill’s collection) including<br />

posters, tickets, and even boxes of Cracker Jacks for the class about Circus Concessions.<br />

Several circus movie clips and circus music tapes rounded out our class. The last class<br />

brought in Bev’s kids to talk about what it was like being a kid on the circus. Also<br />

featured that day was Mark Smith, a past<br />

Ringling Clown and now a wardrobe<br />

master on the strip, who was a big hit.<br />

We made sure that brochures for CFA<br />

and CHS were available at each class,<br />

along with benefits and information<br />

about both organizations. Explaining<br />

the animal situation to them with, “I<br />

didn’t know that,” or, “That’s where the<br />

money goes,” was fully discussed.<br />

OLLI was a great opportunity to bring<br />

the positives of the circus to our friends<br />

and neighbors. You, too, can do this.<br />

Look into your local OLLI and share<br />

the love of the circus with the over-fifty<br />

crowd. They have the time and interest to<br />

learn, and are most often the age group<br />

that really appreciates the circus. And be<br />

certain to hand out those brochures!<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 47



In 1994 the late Edith Shrimplin Johnston directed in her<br />

will that a percentage of her remaining Teacher’s Retirement<br />

Pension funds be donated to CFA. She enjoyed life as an avid<br />

fan of the circus and named a few other circus-related organizations<br />

and charities to receive donations. The CFA Trustees<br />

at that time elected to establish a fund in her name and incorporated<br />

it as a non-profit Trust organization, within the CFA<br />

structure. The purpose of the Edith Johnston Memorial Trust<br />

Fund (EJMTF) was to provide grants to circus youth and<br />

educational-related organizations, from the profits generated<br />

from the invested principal.<br />

Two years ago the fund was successfully moved to an independent<br />

corporate status, as the Edith Johnston Memorial<br />

Fund (EJMF), thus establishing it as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit<br />

corporation with the Internal Revenue Service. That has allowed<br />

for all donations to the fund to be deductible contributions<br />

on the donor’s annual income tax report. More importantly<br />

for the fund, it is not being taxed on the capital gains<br />

of the principal, so it provides more available funds for the<br />

grants.<br />

With the above change in our tax status, very little change<br />

was made in the day-to day maintenance of the Fund. Morgan<br />

Stanley will continue to guide our account. They have done<br />

an exceptional job of advising over the years. However, the<br />

financial health of our holdings reflects the losses seen in the<br />

stock market this past year.<br />

This wrapper of this issue of White Tops carries the application<br />

for requesting grants. Those requests will be due by August<br />

31, 20<strong>23</strong>. As in the past, requests will be reviewed individually,<br />

qualified, and evaluated for purpose and need. Under the new<br />

Bylaws evaluations will be made by members of the EJMF<br />

Board of Directors. That Board will consist of Tim Bessignano,<br />

Jan Biggerstaff, Jim Fry, Diane Jones, Pat Stevenson, and John<br />

Wiler. Additionally, Dan Kleintop, Immediate Past President,<br />

and the new CFA President Jack Dean, will also participate in<br />

those evaluations. Secretary/Treasurer Jan Fry will collect the<br />

responses from the individual Directors, including Dan and<br />

Jack, and return the collective results to the Directors for final<br />

approval. Awarded grant payments will be sent out before the<br />

end of the year.<br />

Last year we drew from our principal holding and awarded<br />

the largest total grant payments ever. Based on lower earnings<br />

during the past year, grant funding will be more moderate for<br />

20<strong>23</strong>.<br />

James Fry<br />

EJMF Chair<br />

April 16, 20<strong>23</strong><br />



CALENDAR YEAR 2022<br />

January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022<br />

ASSETS<br />

Investments $ 215,844.94<br />

Money Market Fund 40,111.01<br />

TOTAL ASSETS $255,955.95<br />


Liabilities 0.00<br />


EQUITY<br />

Unrestricted Equity $255,955.95<br />

TOTAL EQUITY $255,955.95<br />



Grants: EJMF $8,000<br />

Pretzel Man 1,050<br />

Morgan Stanley Serv. Chg. Expenses –<br />

2021 Taxes 20<br />

CPA 1,500<br />

Legal Fees –<br />



TOTAL End CY2021 $ 296.557.52<br />

End CY2022 $255,955.95<br />

Supporting the circus and performers for over 22 years<br />

with Immigration Services - Green Cards and Visas<br />

1277 N. Semoran Blvd, Suite 106<br />

Orlando FL 32807<br />

407-206-1973<br />

To arrange your room<br />

for the CFA convention<br />

at the Ramada Inn<br />

Sarasota<br />

7150 N. Tamiami Tr<br />

Sarasota FL 34243<br />

The link at the Ramada Inn in Sarasota for the<br />

CFA Convention from 7-9 to 7-14, 20<strong>23</strong> should<br />

now work by simply calling their reservation number,<br />

941-203-6439. It was tested today and worked<br />

fine.<br />

The group rate is $85 per night plus 12% tax. If<br />

you cannot climb stairs, please ask for the first floor.<br />

The two story building does not have elevators.<br />

Pete Adams, Past President<br />

Circus Fans Association of America<br />

Convention<br />

Corner<br />


July 10–13 • Sarasota, Florida<br />

Ramada Inn – 941-203-6439<br />


July 11–16 Baraboo, Wisconsin<br />

Ho Chunk Casino – 800-746-2486<br />


August 18-20 • Baraboo, Wisconsin<br />

Clarion Hotel – 833-456-0746<br />


August 24–27 Normal, Illinois<br />

Hyatt Place 309-454-9288<br />


March 18–22 • Orlando, Florida<br />

Avanti Palms Resort – 877-821-3010<br />


May 13–17, 2024 • Niagara Falls, New York<br />

Sheraton Niagara Falls<br />

www.mycoai.com<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 49

Remembering<br />

Buckles<br />

By Ken Kawata<br />

Exactly when I first met William<br />

“Buckles” Woodcock I do not recall.<br />

It must have been in a behindthe-scenes<br />

area in a circus. We would<br />

chitchat as he swept around elephants<br />

with a push broom. Back in Baraboo,<br />

Wisconsin, on one summer day, I took<br />

Joan Embery, a colleague from San<br />

Diego, to see Buckles’ act. Immediately<br />

she noticed that he never hooked elephants<br />

with his ankus. Voice command<br />

and body language would do the job.<br />

At Lincoln Center in New York, my<br />

wife Jean and I went to see Buckles<br />

during his Big Apple days. “He is out<br />

buying groceries—just wait,” we were<br />

told. He soon returned and to our surprise<br />

and pleasure he sat down at a table<br />

with us for roughly two hours of shoptalk.<br />

That was the moment I wished I’d<br />

had a tape recorder. Ouch!<br />

When I met him again in Baraboo, his<br />

health was already deteriorating. Then I<br />

saw Barbara. “You and I go back a long<br />

way,” she said and kissed me. I did not<br />

even realize that Barbara knew my name,<br />

and as a wave of emotions unexpectedly<br />

struck me, I had difficulties holding back<br />

tears.<br />

In Memoriam:<br />

William “Buckles” Woodcock, Jr.<br />

William “Buckles” Woodcock, Jr.,<br />

born February 26, 1935, died March<br />

2, 20<strong>23</strong> leaving a void in our circus industry.<br />

A son to elephant man William<br />

Woodcock, Sr. and animal trainer Sarah<br />

Orton, Buckles was working his father’s<br />

elephant, Anna May, by age eighteen.<br />

Buckles married Barbara Ray Williams,<br />

and with their children Shannon and<br />

Dalilah, and Barbara’s son Ben, all performed<br />

at one time with Anna May.<br />

Over the many years, Buckles was renowned<br />

for his patience and undying<br />

love for his animals. A true legendary<br />

performer, he worked in practically all<br />

major American circuses. His lasting<br />

legacy included his popular Buckles<br />

Blog which was the go-to blog for circus<br />

and especially elephant news, history,<br />

and photos. His passing—along with<br />

that of his close friend, the legendary<br />

John Herriott—highlights the changing<br />

of our industry. It will never be the same<br />

without them. —Jan Biggerstaff<br />

Editor’s Note: An in-depth article<br />

on Buckles, Barbara, and Anna May is<br />

scheduled for our summer issue.<br />

50 White Tops

Book Reviews<br />

Want to review a new book or even an old classic you have recently discovered? Submit<br />

reviews to editor.<strong>white</strong><strong>tops</strong>@gmail.com. All White Tops submissions are subject to editing<br />

for clarity and length.<br />

Clown: The Physical Comedian<br />

By Joe Dieffenbacher<br />

Available on Amazon<br />

Review by Bruce “Charlie” Johnson<br />

There was a panel discussion by representatives of youth circuses and circus schools<br />

during the 2015 Worldwide Circus Summit. During the question-and-answer<br />

session, they were asked if they taught clowning. Their response was, “We would like<br />

to, but we don’t know how.”<br />

Joe Dieffenbacher’s Clown: The Physical Comedian is the solution. It is a complete<br />

curriculum for teaching the art of clowning to a group of students.<br />

Joe uses an experience he had while acting at a Renaissance fair with his troupe,<br />

the Abbots of Unreason, to explain his approach. As he tells it, Joe began sweeping<br />

the stage to remove any debris that could be hazardous during their performance. As<br />

people gathered to see the show, he began to improvise his interactions with them. He<br />

realized that this preshow, “was played by me with the same back-and-forth, collaborative/competitive<br />

aspects of a game. And treating it as a game allowed me and the audience<br />

to open up to one another and create a flow that my partners and I enjoyed for<br />

the next forty-five minutes. It was one of the best shows we had that year and opened<br />

my mind up to an understanding of clowning that went beyond jokes, gags, comic<br />

bits, or funny business. The clown’s objective was not simply to satisfy his ego or seek<br />

approval by making the audience laugh, but to find ways of uniting them through play.”<br />

His approach reminded me of something Randy Pryor, my juggling coach, once<br />

taught me. Randy said, “Our job is to create an atmosphere of play and invite the<br />

audience along.”<br />

Joe teaches this same concept. Using theater games and other exercises, he leads his<br />

students to discover playful interactions with their environment, props, other entertainers,<br />

and the audience. The ultimate goal is to form a connection with the audience.<br />

He uses games at the start of each class. This is meant to help students get acquainted<br />

with one another, as well as to introduce them to a series of games that serve as<br />

physical, mental, and emotional warmups. While most of the games require a group<br />

of participants, he recommends that his students frequently repeat a series of solo<br />

exercises to help them develop their technique.<br />

The next several sections cover quite a bit: learning how to identify and use the possibilities<br />

one’s environment offers during a performance, learning how to handle props<br />

and use them as inspiration, applying the performer’s curiosity and inspiring that same<br />

curiosity in the audience, and how to perform as a solo clown, a clown duo, a clown<br />

trio, and as a participant in a clown ensemble. Whenever a smaller group of students<br />

is performing, the other students act<br />

as an audience for their peers. In some<br />

cases, they provide feedback after a presentation.<br />

Sometimes the students will<br />

build upon what they have seen others<br />

perform. At other times, the students<br />

behave as an active audience so that the<br />

other students have an opportunity to<br />

experience using their new techniques<br />

while interacting with their audience.<br />

Joe recommends that every student,<br />

even those who think they will always<br />

perform with partners, learn to perform<br />

solo bits. These solo skills create better<br />

group performances. Joe uses his experiences<br />

with clown trios as examples. After<br />

he left the Ringling Bros. and Barnum &<br />

Bailey Circus, he joined Mark Renfrow<br />

and Bob Schiele to form the Abbots of<br />

Unreason and begin touring Renaissance<br />

Fairs. Their strong solo juggling skills<br />

helped them to develop ball and club<br />

passing routines. Working on those<br />

routines revealed how they could work<br />

together in other types of routines.<br />

Joe says he also recommends solo<br />

skill development because there will be<br />

moments when a single person needs to<br />

take the lead. He encourages solo clowns<br />

to learn to perform with others, because<br />

solo clowns never actually perform<br />

alone: they interact with their audience.<br />

In essence, the audience is their partner<br />

in every performance. Some of his games<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 51

are designed to develop skills that are<br />

transferrable to audience interactions,<br />

while others specifically involve interacting<br />

with an audience. That playful approach<br />

to audience interaction has been<br />

the key to my own success as a clown.<br />

Joe is very thorough and suggests variations<br />

and different approaches for each<br />

game. He also provides hints for how<br />

the class director can make the experience<br />

more effective. Likewise, members<br />

of the AYCO will appreciate that Joe<br />

consistently explains safety concerns in<br />

his directions for setting up the games.<br />

For example, when a chair is used, he<br />

suggests checking to verify that it is sturdy.<br />

He also suggests checking to make<br />

sure a wooden chair does not have any<br />

splinters.<br />

At the conclusion of each section, Joe<br />

describes the lessons behind each game<br />

in order to help both the director and the<br />

students understand and appreciate their<br />

relevance. He also explains the inspiration<br />

behind the games. Some are his own<br />

variations on known theatrical games.<br />

Some are based on games and exercises<br />

he learned in classes that he has taken,<br />

or that friends who teach clowning has<br />

shared with him. Others are his own<br />

original developments.<br />

I graduated from California State<br />

University-Long Beach with a bachelor’s<br />

degree in Technical Theater, so I had<br />

played some of the theater games before.<br />

Joe Dieffenbacher and Dan Griffith<br />

spent some time working together as<br />

co-directors of the Clown Conservatory<br />

in San Francisco. I have participated in<br />

some of these games during one of Dan’s<br />

intensive classes. I have also taken classes<br />

from Kenny Ahern, a good friend of Joe’s,<br />

who used similar games. While I have<br />

not played the majority of the games in<br />

Joe’s book, I know from personal experience<br />

that the ones I have played are an<br />

effective method for learning.<br />

I’ll use something from my own career<br />

as an example. Many of the games<br />

fit into a category that I will call “follow<br />

the leader.” In 2017, a busload of<br />

Clown Camp staffers and participants<br />

were visiting Baraboo. In celebration<br />

of the decades-old link between Clown<br />

Camp and the Circus World Museum,<br />

I was invited to be a guest star in one<br />

performance of the CWM Big Top<br />

show. I did a solo routine based on an<br />

act that I had performed when I toured<br />

with the Reynolds Family Showcase<br />

Theater in 1987. I greatly enjoyed returning<br />

to being under a Big Top with<br />

a circus routine that I had performed<br />

thirty years earlier. As the show was<br />

ending, I was standing out of the way<br />

near the performers’ entrance. Just as the<br />

cast was entering for the finale, Steven<br />

Daniel Copeland grabbed me and said,<br />

“Join us. Just follow along.” I ran into the<br />

ring with the others. The theme that year<br />

was the 1960s and the finale was a dance<br />

number. I didn’t know the choreography.<br />

However, because I had done the “follow<br />

the leader” theater games so many<br />

times, I was able to watch the others<br />

using my peripheral vision and join in on<br />

the dance. Joe advocates not just doing<br />

something, but playing with the associated<br />

emotions. Joe also says to keep it<br />

real. Another concept in Joe’s book is the<br />

level of emotional display. I knew that I<br />

wasn’t supposed to upstage the permanent<br />

cast, so I kept my reactions subtle.<br />

However, I started out by playing with<br />

the frustration of not knowing what to<br />

do. Then I transitioned to the feeling of<br />

pride that I had been accepted by this<br />

talented cast as a temporary member of<br />

the group. I wouldn’t say that the finale<br />

was my best performance ever, but I truly<br />

enjoyed having the opportunity. It would<br />

not have been possible if I hadn’t taken<br />

classes that used the types of games Joe<br />

describes.<br />

As an individual reading the book, I<br />

benefited from Joe’s introductions and<br />

explanations. He crystalized some concepts<br />

for me by describing some things<br />

that I had observed from my own experience<br />

but never tried putting into words.<br />

Something that I found particularly<br />

useful was Joe’s description of the<br />

five elements of a performance. It was<br />

something that I have used, but hadn’t<br />

formally identified. Joe’s explanation will<br />

allow me to more consciously utilize<br />

the opportunities they present. I won’t<br />

reveal the five elements here because<br />

I think it is an important part of Joe’s<br />

book. However, I think that any circus<br />

act can benefit from considering them.<br />

After the game section, Joe explains<br />

how to take what you’ve learned and turn<br />

it into something that can be performed.<br />

He recommends that students take notes<br />

about what they see and experience because<br />

they can review those notes later<br />

to discover a spark for a routine. Joe’s<br />

solid advice for devising new material<br />

includes tips for turning that material<br />

into an actual performance. There are<br />

consistent reminders and ideas for how<br />

to better connect with your audience.<br />

I think that a flaw of many clown curriculum<br />

courses and books is that they<br />

mainly focus on teaching makeup design,<br />

makeup application, and costuming.<br />

Clowns look good when they graduate,<br />

but they don’t know how to entertain an<br />

audience. Joe devotes just six of 262 pages<br />

to the subject of clown appearance because<br />

he wants students to avoid focusing<br />

on that before they develop and understand<br />

how they naturally play. This allows<br />

them to evolve their appearance around<br />

their character rather than the other way<br />

around. Otherwise, they might lock into<br />

a specific style of performance based on<br />

how their clown character looks.<br />

Although Joe directs his book at<br />

clowns, other performers can use many<br />

of the lessons to help them connect with<br />

their audiences. Anyone who performs<br />

as a group can apply his curriculum on<br />

working together and supporting each<br />

other as an act.<br />

Joe has an impressive background. He<br />

is a graduate of the Ringling Bros. and<br />

Barnum & Bailey Clown College. He<br />

has performed in the circus, and with<br />

trios in the United States. He currently<br />

lives in Europe where he performs solo<br />

in festivals. I have seen some videos of<br />

52 White Tops

his amazing performances in those settings.<br />

In addition to his work with the<br />

Clown Conservatory, Joe spent eight<br />

years as a resident faculty member of<br />

the Dell’Arte School. He has worked as<br />

the physical theater director for many<br />

stage productions, including productions<br />

at Shakespeare’s Globe. In that role he<br />

taught actors how to add physical comedy<br />

to existing scripts.<br />

I met Joe when we were both working<br />

as staff at Clown Camp, a program that<br />

Dr. Richard Snowberg founded in 1981,<br />

located in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Over<br />

five thousand students have enrolled<br />

in the Clown Camp program to study<br />

clowning through that program, and I<br />

have enjoyed Joe’s Staff on Stage shows<br />

whenever he has participated in one.<br />

During the last three years of his life,<br />

my father Bruce L. Johnson participated<br />

in Clown Camp. My father was not a<br />

clown, but he was a great supporter of<br />

clowns. He loved the art and learned<br />

a lot about it. He was one of my most<br />

important sources for feedback. The second<br />

year that Dad was at Clown Camp<br />

was the first time that Joe was on staff.<br />

It seemed like Joe and I were usually<br />

teaching at the same time, so I didn’t<br />

have the opportunity to attend many of<br />

his classes. However, Dad went to some<br />

of Joe’s classes and had several conversations<br />

with him.<br />

The following year, when Dad was<br />

considering returning to Clown Camp,<br />

the first question he asked me was, “Will<br />

Joe be there again?” When I told him<br />

that Joe was listed as a staff member, he<br />

immediately decided to return in order<br />

to spend more time with Joe. I can’t<br />

think of a better endorsement.<br />

I wish that everyone had the opportunity<br />

to spend time with Joe and to see<br />

him in performance. Reading this book<br />

is the next best thing.<br />

For anyone involved in teaching<br />

clowning or other circus arts, this book<br />

is an invaluable resource.<br />


Board of Trustees Meeting on Zoom<br />

Minutes of the Meeting • January 7, 20<strong>23</strong><br />

President Dan Kleintop called the CFA Board of Trustees meeting to order on Zoom<br />

at 8:05 p.m. EST. A quorum was reached with two members absent. The board was<br />

joined by two past presidents and the chairman of the finance committee.<br />

In attendance were board members Dan Kleintop, Jack Dean, Jan Biggerstaff, Buddy<br />

Calhoun, Bruce Hawley, Priscilla Johnson, Fred Pfening, Chris Schreiber, Pat Stevenson,<br />

Tim Tegge, and April Zink, and appointed member secretary/treasurer Maxine House.<br />

Guests included past presidents Pete Adams and Peter Wagner and the chairman of the<br />

finance committee, Larry Sayler. Board members Bev Abderrahman and John Peters<br />

were unable to attend. Vanessa Gagne had recently resigned as vice president.<br />

Having greeted those assembled and given an invocation, Dan got to the first item of<br />

business, a request for interview by the Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a video about<br />

the recent signing of the Big Cat Public Safety Act into law. After a brief discussion, it<br />

was decided to pass this along to Heidi Herriott who has an animal blog, and to some<br />

of the animal trainers still in the business. Dan will draft a letter and send Maxine a<br />

copy for the records<br />

We then moved to the main reason for this meeting—the caption on the cover of the<br />

October–December issue of White Tops. Dan said that he got feedback ranging from<br />

“No big deal” to sheer anger. A long discussion followed with everyone expressing their<br />

opinions and suggestions. Multiple solutions were offered.<br />

Finally Jan Biggerstaff moved that “CFA terminate John and Mardi Wells’ agreement<br />

of publishing the White Tops effective immediately and that a $2,000 stipend be paid<br />

to the Wells upon release of all materials, including electronic, that are owned by the<br />

Circus Fans Association and upon signing a provided release.” This was seconded by<br />

Tim Tegge and passed with one abstention.<br />

The discussion continued as to how to implement this. Dan volunteered to contact the<br />

Wells the following morning. Dan will also write the apology to the Hanneford family<br />

and the announcements for CFA members and for the CFA website and FaceBook. The<br />

board will preview it. Fred Pfening, who lives near the Wells, volunteered to pick up the<br />

materials from them.<br />

In the meantime Jan and Tim will “cobble together” a supplemental issue of White<br />

Tops. The suggestion to change the name was dismissed because it is of historic importance<br />

to CFA as it reaches 100 years. Jan noted that there is plenty to put in that issue,<br />

what with the change in editorship and the impending CFA elections.<br />

Tim, Jan, and Maxine will print labels to cover the caption on remaining copies and<br />

to send labels to the libraries who subscribe and already have their copies.<br />

The impending elections was the last item on the agenda. We are behind schedule on<br />

this. Five directors are up for reelection. All of them agreed to rerun. On May 1 Jack<br />

Dean will move up to president. However, despite ads in White Tops, we lack candidates<br />

for the offices of vice president and president elect. No one on the board wanted the job.<br />

The search will go on.<br />

Jan reminded the board about the new CFA brochure that she has designed and<br />

recently sent to them. She asked for and got the board’s approval to print it.<br />

At 10:04 p.m. EST the meeting adjourned.<br />

Respectfully submitted,<br />

Maxine House<br />

Executive Secretary/Treasurer<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 53

Wedding<br />

Bells<br />

By Maxine House<br />

In Las Vegas<br />


Christian Stoinev married Sonia Perez in Las Vegas, NV, on<br />

March 17, 20<strong>23</strong>, at a service attended by about seventy-five<br />

of their families and friends. But the special guests were Percy and<br />

Milo, the two chihuahuas who currently perform in Christian’s<br />

hand-balancing act. In fact, they and their predecessors have performed<br />

all over the world. Their most common venue recently has<br />

been halftimes at NBA games!<br />

Christian is the oldest son of Ivan Stoinev, an acrobat from<br />

Bulgaria who joined the Blue Unit of Ringling in 1978 with the<br />

Kehaiovi troupe teeterboard act renowned for the seven man high.<br />

In 1987, he met Mariza Atayde—an aerialist on Circo Atayde<br />

Hermanos—in Mexico. They married in 1988 and Ivan rejoined<br />

Ringling for the Japan Farewell Trip of Gunther Gebel Williams.<br />

Maritza was a show girl aerialist and worked with the elephants.<br />

Christian was born in 1991 and his brother Christopher was<br />

born in 1999. The boys grew up on circus lots—Ringling and later<br />

the Big Apple Circus—learning gymnastic skills from their parents<br />

from babyhood onward.<br />

I met Christian in 2006 when he was a freshman in the One<br />

Ring School House on the Big Apple Circus. At that time,<br />

Christian was already performing a solo hand-balancing act with<br />

Scooby, a Russian toy terrier, that Ivan had trained.<br />

When Christian graduated, he went to Illinois State University.<br />

His parents also left the Big Apple and took the job with the<br />

Gamma Phi Circus at ISU. Thus, Christian could continue his<br />

circus activities as he attended college. In the summers, he worked<br />

such places as Circus Sarasota and the Tommy Bartlett Show in<br />

Baraboo. He and Scooby even appeared on America’s Got Talent<br />

twice and made it to the finals! By then, a chihuahua named<br />

Prince had joined Christian’s act as an understudy.<br />

As Scooby neared retirement and Prince took over the role,<br />

Christian trained another chihuahua replacement, Percy. He has<br />

since added Milo. One of the latter two dogs is always a part of<br />

Christian’s act.<br />

Sonia with Percy and Milo.<br />

After graduating from college with a degree in communications,<br />

Christian has pursued a career in performing.<br />

Besides halftime performances at NBA games and other<br />

sporting events, he performs at Spiegelworld’s Atomic<br />

Saloon Show in Las Vegas, his new home. In fact, that’s<br />

where he met Sonia four years ago. Their relationship continued<br />

to grow and he proposed in Paris with the Eiffel<br />

Tower in the background.<br />

The rest is history, as they say. We wish him and his bride<br />

a wonderful life together. In the meantime, you can follow<br />

Christian, Percy, and Milo on Facebook!<br />

54 White Tops

WANTED!<br />

Circus Memorabilia of all types!<br />

Posters – Paper – Photos<br />

Wild West – Sideshow – Wardrobe<br />


941.725.2166<br />


Top: The bride and groom with Percy and Milo. Bottom: Christian with<br />

his parents.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 55

Good Day, Bad Day<br />

Good Day<br />

“Call,” your wake-up time, is later than usual, at 6:30 a.m. The morning is cool and<br />

dry. After some conversation and coffee at the cookhouse window, you go to your vehicle<br />

and prepare for the rather short twenty-five-mile trip to the next town. A nearby<br />

city provides a variety of radio stations to accompany you on the drive. The morning<br />

is clear and bright. The arrows that guide the circus convoy are intact and easy to see.<br />

You arrive in the new town before 8:00 a.m.<br />

Word spreads across the lot where local circus fans are providing coffee, orange<br />

juice, and doughnuts for the arriving circus employees. This event is not to be missed!<br />

More conversation and coffee are enjoyed as you notice the mechanics arriving on the<br />

lot. There were no breakdowns this morning, and necessities such as power and water<br />

will all be on time.<br />

After straightening your room the circus has provided, you make a few phone calls<br />

and discover that you have a strong cell phone signal. You hear the generator start in<br />

the distance, and show-provided electricity is turned on promptly at 9:00 a.m.<br />

You decide to walk downtown and are pleased to see large crowds gathering for this<br />

morning’s tent raising. The day promises to be financially good for the circus. After<br />

some necessary shopping, you return to the lot at 11:00 a.m., just in time for lunch in<br />

the cookhouse. The workers have just finished erecting the tent and seats. All props<br />

are in place, and the performers’ entrance stands proudly behind the forty-foot ring.<br />

The combination of freshly cut grass and big top vinyl are becoming a familiar smell.<br />

After lunch, you practice a new act in the big top. One hour a day, five days a week,<br />

you practice and hope to have a new act ready before the year is over. A nap follows<br />

practice and then a shower in preparation for the day’s two performances at 4:30 and<br />

7:30. You are pleased to discover that today’s water pressure is unusually strong.<br />

The shows are well attended, and the audiences are not afraid to show their appreciation<br />

for the performers. Tonight’s dinner in the cookhouse is one of your favorite<br />

meals. A warm, dry day gives way to a cool, dry night. The generators are silenced<br />

after the show, and all you can hear are the horses grazing nearby. A favorite book<br />

is enjoyed by battery-powered light, and you are soon fast asleep before 11:00 p.m.<br />

Bad Day<br />

By John Moss<br />

Today’s call is early. An eighty-mile trip means it comes at 5:30 a.m. Heavy rains<br />

the previous day created a sea of mud, and last night, following the 7:30 performance,<br />

large farm tractors pulled the show vehicles to a nearby paved parking lot. This bizarre<br />

ritual of chains connecting John Deere green to circus red and yellow continued into<br />

the early morning hours. You patiently waited in the cab of a circus pickup truck,<br />

unsure if you should be inside your room while it is being towed. At 2:00 a.m., your<br />

“sleeper” arrived in the parking lot with its exterior covered in mud.<br />

After just three hours of sleep, you hear the diesel truck engines outside coming to<br />

life one by one. As you are falling out the door of your compartment, you realize you<br />

did not put your steps down when the sleeper arrived a few hours ago. “I will remember,”<br />

you said to yourself just hours ago. Limping away, you go in search of coffee. A<br />

myriad of mud-covered circus trucks are scattered across a large wet parking lot. This<br />

is not the orderly layout that you are accustomed<br />

to on dry mornings. You have<br />

difficulty finding the cookhouse, and<br />

when you do, you see steam rising from a<br />

large dark puddle outside the door. That<br />

would have been your coffee had you<br />

arrived just one minute sooner. “You’re<br />

too late!” yells the cook as he secures the<br />

steps and door for the morning’s journey.<br />

You set out to find the vehicle you ride<br />

in each morning. It is not in its usual<br />

place, either. The rain begins falling<br />

again, and before you can find your vehicle,<br />

you are thoroughly soaked. Eighty<br />

miles in the rain is two hours of wet<br />

clothes, windshield wipers waving, and<br />

the defroster on high. During the drive,<br />

you pass a disabled circus vehicle on<br />

the side of the road. A raised hood and<br />

smoke coming from the engine tell you<br />

that the breakdown is serious. Twenty<br />

miles further, you pass your sleeper. It too<br />

is on the side of the road with a blowout.<br />

It’s nothing major, but show mechanics<br />

will be late getting to it because of the<br />

previous, more serious breakdown.<br />

After a few wrong turns due to missing<br />

arrows that were blown down in<br />

the wind and rain, you arrive in that<br />

day’s town and join the entire fleet of<br />

mud-covered trucks in a Walmart parking<br />

lot. You learn from others that today’s<br />

lot is under water. Circus officials and the<br />

local sponsor are desperately looking for<br />

another location. Of course, the sponsor<br />

has failed to arrange for the required secondary<br />

lot because the weather had been<br />

perfect until yesterday.<br />

A nearby McDonald’s cannot understand<br />

the sudden line that forms and<br />

the many languages being spoken within<br />

that line. Circus employees wander<br />

into the Walmart and return with bags<br />

of food, clothing, and housewares. The<br />

cookhouse manager, realizing that the<br />

56 White Tops

day’s schedule will be hectic, fills four<br />

shopping carts full of provisions and pays<br />

a four-figure bill in cash. As cashiers are<br />

kept busy, a fuming Walmart manager<br />

roams the parking lot in search of the<br />

one in charge. It’s futile. He walks away<br />

defeated, threatening to call the police<br />

if the caravan of trucks is not moved<br />

immediately.<br />

Rumors spread that the shows may be<br />

canceled, and you begin to envision a day<br />

with no shows, which hasn’t occurred in<br />

nine weeks. Further rumors are that advance<br />

ticket sales are good, and the circus<br />

cannot cancel. An ideal lot has been<br />

found—the paved parking lot behind<br />

the local high school. After another hour<br />

of waiting, you learn that one official<br />

with the school system will not give the<br />

needed approval. It is believed that the<br />

official is an animal activist.<br />

Another hour passes, and you learn<br />

that the trucks will soon be leaving for<br />

an abandoned rock quarry three miles<br />

outside town. You have yet to see the<br />

mechanics or your sleeper arrive. At<br />

11:30 a.m., you arrive at the quarry.<br />

Workers are frantically driving in stakes,<br />

and everyone is in a hurry. Your sleeper<br />

arrives at noon and is last in line behind<br />

a long column of performers’ trailers.<br />

Most of them have no show power because<br />

piles of debris on the new lot have<br />

caused a very unusual layout. When you<br />

try to take a shower, you discover that<br />

the freshwater storage tank is empty, and<br />

like the electric cables, the water hoses<br />

will not reach your sleeper.<br />

This is Saturday, and the first show is<br />

scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m., just forty-five<br />

minutes away. A bucket bath will<br />

have to suffice.<br />

At showtime, you discover that the<br />

running order of the show has changed<br />

due to the large rocks littering the circus<br />

grounds. This makes being on time<br />

difficult, and you cannot hear the show<br />

music from your sleeper at the end of<br />

the long column. Show music is your<br />

measurement of time while the show is<br />

underway.<br />

During the 5:30 performance, word<br />

spreads that the show will move on to<br />

tomorrow’s town immediately after the<br />

show. More rain and difficult traffic were<br />

expected. At 8:30 p.m., you leave the<br />

quarry en route to the next town. After a<br />

few more wrong turns, you arrive in the<br />

new town just behind the mechanics.<br />

Surprisingly, the lot is not too bad. It<br />

has sustained the rains that have been<br />

falling for the last two days. At 11:00<br />

p.m., you crawl into bed and realize that<br />

your day started three towns ago. Three<br />

towns ago? Yes. Although you performed<br />

in only one, the day has encompassed<br />

three towns. You are exhausted.<br />

That is a bad day! You’ve been warned.<br />

In spite of the bad days, most of us cannot<br />

imagine a life lived anywhere else<br />

other than the circus.<br />

John Moss is a former Ringmaster on<br />

the Carson Barnes, L.E. Barnes, and Kelly<br />

Miller circuses, and the Box Office Treasurer<br />

on the Big Apple Circus. This essay was<br />

sent to new performers with no tent show<br />

experience who were considering a year of<br />

working “under the Big Top.”<br />

Checkerboard Laughter<br />

By Danise Payne<br />

I played with zeedonks and danced with pachyderms in a once-upon-a-dream.<br />

There was a man shot from a cannon,<br />

A woman three feet tall,<br />

And those who hid faces in cream.<br />

I walked a wire suspended in air and swung from a bar on a self-imposed dare.<br />

I lived on a train—a beautiful train—and travelled to and fro.<br />

These are the facts as I lived them.<br />

Oh, how I loved it so!<br />

Pack-away thoughts and portable words.<br />

Checkerboard laughter and polka dot birds.<br />

Oh, woebegone me.<br />

Unbind the trapped yearning of a faraway goal.<br />

Loose the freedom buried within my soul.<br />

Denise Payne toured with Ringling's red and blue units, plus five other circuses.<br />

She is the author of the memoir Elbows in My Ears.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 57

Circus clown props shown at the RBBC Clown College.<br />

By Ron Severini<br />

It was said, that when Mr. Irvin Feld and his brother Israel Feld purchased<br />

“The Greatest Show on Earth” in 1967, there were only thirteen circus<br />

clowns remaining in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ clown<br />

alley. It was jokingly quipped that those thirteen clowns could professionally<br />

fall down, but it was questionable if they could get back up again. This<br />

remaining group of clowns averaged sixty-five years of age. The future of<br />

the American circus clown was in jeopardy. With the new Ringling owners<br />

having future plans to quickly grow their circus, including adding a completely<br />

new second touring unit, something had to be done to perpetuate<br />

the art and craft of circus clowning.<br />

A brilliant new idea was created and put into place. As a result of brainstorming<br />

between the Felds and several of the remaining veteran circus<br />

clowns, a training program was crafted and put in place. With the help<br />

and support of master clowns Otto Griebling, Lou Jacobs and Bobby Kay,<br />

as well as another wonderful veteran tramp clown, Danny Chapman, the<br />

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College was established. It<br />

held its first session in the fall of 1968. These veteran master clowns became<br />

Clown Alley: the Blue Unit in 1976.<br />

the first instructors at the college. This world-famous<br />

program was considered by many as the ultimate<br />

clown boot camp.<br />

Clown College was established as a tuition-free<br />

program, so any interested American candidate<br />

could apply without concern of affordability.<br />

Applicants needed to submit an extensive application<br />

form, designed specifically to give the<br />

admissions directors a clear understanding of the<br />

applicant’s psychological well-being, interests,<br />

health, seriousness, and previous experience. Live<br />

open auditions were conducted along the circus’<br />

annual route. These auditions were an efficient<br />

way to generate interest in the Clown College as<br />

well as aid the admissions representatives in meeting<br />

the candidates in person. The public relations<br />

coverage was also fabulous and helped to spread<br />

awareness about this new<br />

clown training program and<br />

the circus in many of the cities<br />

where the circus was appearing.<br />

Now, with this new opportunity,<br />

interest from both male and<br />

females swept across America.<br />

Young adults having a sincere<br />

interest and desire in running<br />

away and joining the circus as<br />

a clown could actually apply.<br />

As many as six thousand applications<br />

were received annually<br />

by the enrollment office. It was<br />

established that there would be<br />

a maximum of sixty students<br />

accepted each year, and one<br />

session per year would be conducted.<br />

The competition was<br />

fierce. An applicant’s chances<br />

58 White Tops

Blast from the past: The RBBB Clown College Class of 1982 poses for their graduation photo.<br />

of acceptance were one in a hundred. The<br />

program started off as an eight-week<br />

program and eventually grew to a full<br />

eleven-week intensive course of study.<br />

Classes were conducted six days a week,<br />

eight to twelve hours per day. The program<br />

included classes in basic clowning,<br />

the teaching of traditional clown routines,<br />

circus skills (acrobatics, juggling,<br />

stilt walking, and unicycle), makeup,<br />

costuming, and all facets of visual comedy<br />

from Chaplin to Keaton and the<br />

Three Stooges to Warner Bros. cartoons.<br />

Most of all, the program was devoted<br />

to the creation of new clowns and new<br />

clown gags that could eventually be incorporated<br />

into the Ringling shows. In<br />

a sense, Clown College acted as a think<br />

tank for clowning at the Greatest Show<br />

on Earth in terms of comic material, as<br />

well as clever new makeup designs, costuming,<br />

and character definition. For the<br />

students, the ultimate goal was to secure<br />

a year-long circus contract upon graduation.<br />

Contracts were only offered to the<br />

funniest and the best of the students.<br />

The Clown College program was in fact<br />

an extended audition for the Greatest<br />

Show on Earth. Audiences of varying<br />

ages were invited in to experience the<br />

final graduation performance, as well as<br />

media photographers, TV cameras, radio<br />

interviewers, and newspaper interviewers.<br />

This was all to prepare each graduate<br />

awarded a season-long contract to be<br />

ready for real life on the circus.<br />

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey<br />

Clown College ran for thirty years<br />

(1968–1997). It produced some of the<br />

greatest circus clowns to ever perform<br />

within the show in the latter part of the<br />

twentieth century. Some graduates stayed<br />

as a clown for many years, while others<br />

were promoted to alternate positions<br />

within the company. Some found that<br />

clowning just wasn’t for them, and they<br />

left after their one-year commitment<br />

was completed. It was a show business<br />

milestone. Some of the more illustrious<br />

alumni include Penn Jillette (from Penn<br />

& Teller); theatrical comedic genius Bill<br />

Irwin; Academy Award nominated actor<br />

David Strathairn; Murray Horwitz, the<br />

creative force behind the hit musical,<br />

Ain’t Misbehavin’; Steven Glover, better<br />

known as Steve-O from MTV’s Jackass<br />

fame; Oscar-winning makeup artist<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 59

Steve LaPorte; and the list could continue<br />

for many pages. The program eventually<br />

catapulted the careers of many other<br />

very prominent artists in show business,<br />

including producers, directors, writers,<br />

set designers, as well as comedy jugglers,<br />

comedy magicians, and stand-up comedians.<br />

It is certainly a highlighted item<br />

on every alumni resume!<br />

In its heyday, there were as many as a<br />

hundred fifty clowns employed annually<br />

by Ringling projects around the world.<br />

This total included thirty clowns on the<br />

Ringling Red Unit; thirty clowns on the<br />

Ringling Blue Unit; twenty clowns on<br />

the Ringling Gold Unit in Japan; twenty<br />

clowns at Ringling Bros. Circus World<br />

in Haines City, Florida; twelve clowns<br />

performing at music and circus festivals<br />

around the country; thirty clowns<br />

appearing in the summer months at<br />

Disneyland’s Circus Fantasy; and twenty<br />

clowns returning to teach at Ringling<br />

Bros. Clown College each fall.<br />

I was lucky enough to be accepted as<br />

a student and a graduate of the 1971<br />

Ringling Bros. Clown College. In 1978, I<br />

became the very first graduate to become<br />

the Clown College’s Dean and Director.<br />

Clown College was originally located in<br />

Venice, Florida, the home of Ringling<br />

Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s winter<br />

quarters. When Ringling Bros. left<br />

Venice in the 1990s, following a dispute<br />

over the local railroad, Clown College<br />

moved to Baraboo, Wisconsin, home<br />

of the Circus World Museum, which is<br />

Top: Clown legend Lou Jacobs teaches “levitation.” Bottom: The inimitable Otto Griebling instructs<br />

students in the art of fancy footwork.<br />

First Clown College diploma, 1958.<br />

Bev “Rebo” Bergeron teaches at Clown College,<br />

November 1982.<br />

60 White Tops

Below: On a break from unicycle<br />

class. Right top: Warming up—<br />

and clowning around—before<br />

class. Right bottom: A full house<br />

awaits their next Clown College<br />

lecture.<br />

Clown College bus.<br />

Above: Detail of artwork from the<br />

1973 Clown College diploma.<br />

Below: Detail of text from the<br />

Clown College diploma.<br />

located on the site of the original Ringling Bros. Circus’<br />

winter quarters. Clown College eventually relocated to<br />

Sarasota until it closed in 1997. Its deans were Mel<br />

Miller (1968), Bill Ballantine (1969–1977), Sandy and<br />

Ron Severini (1978–1983), Ron Severini (1984), Steve<br />

Smith (1985–1995), Rob Mermin and<br />

Dick Monday (1995), and Dick Monday<br />

(1996–1997). In 1988 and 1989, there<br />

was also Ringling Bros. and Barnum &<br />

Bailey Clown College Japan, located in<br />

Tokyo. Clown College was known as the<br />

greatest visual comedic training program<br />

ever developed in the twentieth century<br />

to find and train funny men and women<br />

in the ancient and honorable art form of<br />

clowning and visual comedy.<br />

Irvin Feld died in 1984, and the<br />

College passed into the hands of Irvin’s<br />

son, Kenneth. Kenneth Feld became<br />

the producer of the Greatest Show<br />

on Earth, and ultimately the CEO of<br />

Feld Entertainment. Ringling operated<br />

Clown College through 1997, when it<br />

eventually closed. During those thirty<br />

years of operation, it graduated a very select<br />

group of only 1,400 students. If not<br />

for Mr. Irvin Feld’s original idea, there<br />

would never have been a Ringling Bros.<br />

and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.<br />

As I have always said, Mr. Feld was a<br />

man with limited eyesight but amazing<br />

vision! As far as I am concerned, all the<br />

graduates of Ringling Bros. and Barnum<br />

& Bailey Clown College, as well as<br />

Clowning in America, owe an enormous<br />

debt to this visionary! He absolutely<br />

loved clowns and loved Clown College.<br />

He always worked tirelessly to make the<br />

program the greatest it could be!<br />

Ron Severini is the author of Ringling<br />

Remembered: Through the Eyes of a<br />

Circus Clown, from which this story is<br />

excerpted, with additional photos from Mr.<br />

Severini’s collection. You can find his book on<br />

Amazon. For more stories, visit his blog at<br />

www.theSeveriniCompany.com.<br />

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 61

Pictures<br />

from the<br />

Past<br />

The Mighty Haag Circus is shown here in a circa 1936 photograph with Fetaque Sanders (1915–1992) atop the camel near the center of the scene. Sanders<br />

later became the leading African American Magician in the United States, retiring to his home in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1958. He joined the troupe on the<br />

advice of another Black magician, Leon Long (Leon DeLeon), who told him the circus would round out his show business education. The management of<br />

Mighty Haag Circus put a turban on the light-skinned youth and billed him as Feta Sajii. After one season, he left the circus and began playing segregated<br />

schools and churches in an ever-broadening territory. In summer, he performed tableside magic at the leading “sepia” nightclubs in Washington, D.C.,<br />

Chicago, and New York City, working in clubs with Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, and other famous musicians. For the rest of his life Sanders recalled his<br />

season with the circus—the performances and the parades, riding behind the elephants on a camel—with great fondness. COLLECTION OF SAMUEL PATRICK<br />

SMITH<br />

62 White Tops

Spring 20<strong>23</strong> 63


Spring 20<strong>23</strong>

Edith Johnston Memorial Fund<br />

20<strong>23</strong> Grant Application<br />

A bequest by the late Edith Shrimplin Johnston was used to establish<br />

a trust from which earnings would be used for grants to<br />

circus-oriented organizations engaged in circus activities.<br />

The application form for the 20<strong>23</strong> grants can be found below.<br />

This is the only issue of The White Tops that will contain this grant<br />

application. Be sure to include along with the completed form:<br />

1. The proposed use of the funds<br />

2. The names of two members of your board of directors<br />

3. The mission statement of your organization<br />

4. The name of your member who is an active member of<br />

CFA, and their CFA membership number<br />

5. Eight copies of all materials are required.<br />

Based on the 2022 earnings from the principal holdings,<br />

approximately $10,000 will be the total available for the 20<strong>23</strong><br />

grants. Since 2000 over $58,000 in grant funds have been<br />

awarded.<br />

The voting members of the EJMF Board are:<br />

Jan Biggerstaff<br />

Tim Bessignano<br />

Jim Fry<br />

Diane Jones<br />

Pat Stevenson<br />

John Wiler<br />

and the current CFA President and immediate Past President.<br />

These eight members evaluate the requests. They will make<br />

the final determination as to eligibility and the amount to be<br />

awarded. Approved grants will be awarded before the end of<br />

the year.<br />

If you organization qualifies, send in your grant request now.<br />

Don’t wait. The deadline of August 31, 20<strong>23</strong> will be strictly adhered<br />


2 White Tops

Winter 20<strong>23</strong> 3

Wrapper back<br />

White Tops Magazine<br />

Maxine House, Sect/Tres.<br />

450 Secluded Oaks Trail<br />

Deland, FL 32724-3471<br />

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