Archive for the ‘Sunderland Empire’ Category

Franco Piper at Sunderland Empire

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Franco Piper, “The Maestre of the spinning, tossing, juggling, and swinging banjos” was on the bill at the Sunderland Empire for the week of 26 September 1910:

Franco Piper at Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

I described the Howard Brothers doing something similar a couple of weeks ago, so it appears there was a fad for this kind of act at the time – but fortunately the Royal Magazine ran a four page article on Franco Piper in 1901 – it’s a really interesting read.

We can see that Franco was performing at Hammerstein’s Roof Garden in New York from this June 1903 article in the New York Times – though he admits to still struggling with the 4-banjo part of his act. The 6 banjos shown in the Royal magazine article in 1901 must have been a little further away then he admitted back then.

There’s also a copy of his promo material from 1925 in both ‘Juggling the Art and its Artists’ and ‘4000 Years of Juggling’ by Karl-Heinz Ziethen:

Franco Piper - Promo from 1925 - Scan from K-H Zeithen's Juggling: The Art and its Artists

Scan from K-H Zeithen's Juggling: The Art and its Artists

Unfortunately his story doesn’t end well – his listing in Michael Kilgarriff ‘Grace Beauty and Banjos’ states rather baldly that in 1933 he, “depressed at wife’s illness and lack of bookings killed himself”.

RIP Franco.

Enzer at the Sunderland Empire

Friday, June 10th, 2011

For the week of 1 August 1910 Enzer “Late Sergt. Major Instructor H.M. Army Gymnastic Staff, the Soldier Juggler, Sword Expert, Etc.” appeared at Sunderland Empire “assisted by Miss Clarice the Lady Ju-Jitsu Expert”:

Enzer at Sunderland Empire Poster - From Tyne & Wear Archives

From Tyne & Wear Archives

There’s no other reference that I can find to Enzer apart from this (unfortunately undated) article from the Scarborough Evening News –  it seems that five boys were accused of breaking into a shop over the weekend and Enzer’s son Leonard was there for at least part of the time, helping himself to some chocolates.

Mr Whitfield for Enzer pointed out that he was a lad of some ability, having passed, although only 13 now, the 7th standard last summer. He was not the originator of the mischief, and that had to be considered. He was not in the shop till the Sunday. He was the son of respectable people, his father having been a sergeant major in the Army on the gymnastic training staff, and he was at present on the music hall stage, a brother of the defendant being with him. The father intended to take the defendant, who had been training as a juggler, with him, and although, unfortunately, the lad had been in some trouble before, he submitted that under his father’s control he would be all right, and that it would be better than sending him to a reformatory.

Unfortunately the magistrates seemed to think that handing a thief (with previous) over to the care of a music hall juggler wasn’t “suitable for the lad”, and sent him to reformatory for 5 years. Who can blame them?

The Great Weiland at Sunderland Empire

Friday, May 20th, 2011

The Great Weiland, “America’s Funniest Juggler” performed at the Sunderland Empire for the week of 15 March 1909:

The Great Weiland at Sunderland Empire Poster - From Tyne & Wear Archives

From Tyne & Wear Archives

My brain is playing tricks on me – I’m sure I’ve seen references to him all over the place, but all I can find is this 6 April 1912 article from the New York Clipper (towards the bottom of the final column) were we see The Great Weiland appearing in Birmingham at the Grand alongside the great magician Chung Ling Soo.

There are poster prints of a cartoon of Weiland available form lots of sources around the internet – you can see an example at Can you help my faulty memory?




Cornalla & Eddie at Sunderland Empire

Friday, May 6th, 2011

For the week of 5 June 1911 Cornalla and Eddie, “Toss ’em and Miss ’em”, perform “their funny and clever juggling and acrobatic act”:

Cornalla & Eddie at Sunderland Empire 5 June 1911 Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

Before they appeared in Sunderland the only online references come from the USA – in 1906 they performed in Newark as described in the Cranford Chronicle of 9 August 1906 (third column, where the description says they are “a pair of comedy acrobats whose feats are unparalleled…and doubtless will be one of the hits of the bill”) and in 1909 in Washington DC as the Washington Times of  16 May 1909 (in the third column) shows.

If they’re American performers then they seem to have settled in Britain. The Bristol Hippodrome’s website shows them appearing there every year from 1912 to 1922 (although in 1921 it’s Knapp and Cornalla) and again in 1924, 1925 and 1928 and 1930, so we can assume that they’re regulars on the variety circuit.

We know from the poster above that they added juggling to their acrobatics by 1911 but unfortunately it’s rare to find a description of a juggling routine, and we’re in that situation again. We know that they were still concentrating on the comedy from the listings in Barcelona’s Mirador from 30 October 1930 (see the advert in column four at the bottom of page 5) La Vangardia for the next day, 31 October (half way down column 5) for their appearance at the Principal Palace Theatre. They’re described as “champions of laughter” in Catalan in the Mirador (“campions de riallo”) and promise “continuous laughter” in Spanish (“risa continua”) in La Vanguardia. Perhaps we can also assume that it was a non-verbal routine as they’d performed in the English speaking world for so long and then went to Spain towards the end of their careers?

The Gascoignes at Sunderland Empire

Friday, April 1st, 2011

I’ve just got a short article for you this week – during the week of 3 November 1913 The Gascoignes were at the Sunderland Empire:

The Gasgoignes at Sunderland Empire 3 November 1913 Poster - From the Tyne and Wear Archives

From the Tyne and Wear Archives

They weren’t very high on the bill and I can’t find many references to them elsewhere – but have a look at the detail of their bill matter:

The Gasgoignes at Sunderland Empire 3 November 1913 Poster (Close Up) - From the Tyne and Wear Archives

From the Tyne and Wear Archives

…they’ve got a dog that does double somersaults! Who could ask for more!

Seven Perezoffs at Sunderland Empire

Friday, March 25th, 2011

The Seven Perezoffs aren’t as renowned as they should be – although there’s a fantastic lithograph that appears in several books, their restaurant themed act isn’t well known these days. The Price Brothers and the Ramblers Troupe also did dining room routines, but they only had four members each.

They appeared at the Sunderland Empire for the week of 29 August 1910:

Seven Perezoffs at Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

This poster from the collection shows the members juggling plates, parasols, lamps and furniture amongst other things. There’s a more stylised poster from the same collection that shows similar feats. Have a Google to see them travelling the world – they were in New York in 1909 and Australia in 1911, and the family is still working in the circus to this day – Youtube has footage of their descendents’ unicycle act.


Morton Jewell Troupe at Sunderland Empire

Friday, November 12th, 2010

The Morton Jewell Troupe “American Novelty Club Jugglers, presenting “An Event in Clubdom”” appeared at Sunderland Empire on 8 December 1913:

Morton Jewell Troupe Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

There are a couple of references on the web that note that the Morton Jewell troupe were the only act who combined singing with juggling. The Just Juggling Jottings article from the Vaudeville Missouri Breeze of 1 October 1915 is a real gem.

Kara at Sunderland Empire

Friday, September 17th, 2010

By 22 March of 1909 Kara was already so known that he could be highly billed without any flourish simply as a “juggler” when he appeared at the Sunderland Empire:

Kara at the Sunderland Empire Poster, March 22 1909

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

 As one of the originators of the Gentleman Juggler style he’s a hero of mine. Check out these links for more information on the great man: the JIS hall of fame entry has some good biography, the IJA newsletter of January 1957 had description of the routine by Horace Lerrette, who saw him live around the time of the poster above. No one who cares about the history of juggling should skip Francisco Alvarez’s book ‘Juggling – its history and greatest performers’ – check out parts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 for Kara.  Finally there’s the article about the Salerno Ring from Juggle magazine that I linked from a previous entry of this blog about Salerno, which has the story of great rivals coperating in the aftermath of the Great War.

Emerson and Baldwin

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Emerson and Baldwin appeared at the Pavilion Theatre in Newcastle in 1909 as this article from the Newcastle Weekly Journal & Courant, 30 January 1909 shows:

Emerson and Baldwin Article for the Newcastle Weekly Journal & Courant, 30 January 1909

From Newcastle City Library

Not only are they considered “clever comedians” but they performed “some wonderfully smart and unique juggling feats”.

There’s some good biography of Eddie Emerson with some description of his act and relationship with Jerry Baldwin in this miracle factory article. It’s not explicit, but it appears that they’re Americans – so their appearances in North East England are obviously part of trips abroad.

It seems that they were no strangers to travel – while there are internet resources that show them in the USA in New York in 1907 (The Evening Telegram article, 16 February 1907), 1912 (New York Times article, 29 December 1912) and 1913 (New York Times, 8 April 1913), they also show up in Perth, Australia in 1912 as this article in The Western Australian from 12 April shows.

After all of that they were back in the UK, at Sunderland Empire on  21 July 1913:

Emerson and Baldwin at Sunderland Empire Poster, 21 July 1913

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

WC Fields at the Sunderland Empire

Friday, July 9th, 2010

This week I’ve got another of the multi-coloured posters from the Sunderland Empire featuring a big star, W.C. Fields who appeared in the week of October 12 1908:

WC Fields at the Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

Of course Fields was a well known star of the Vaudeville stage before he went on to find success in films. A lot of his stage routine can be seen in his film ‘The Old Fashioned Way’.

There were some other treats on the bill that night though – I’d love to see what Conway & Leland “the Cheerful Monopedes” did. I’ve seen them billed elsewhere as “one-legged acrobats” – that’s a fairly specialist gimmick! Also notice that Glee isn’t the new phenomenon that some people might have you believe.

William Claude may have headlined in Sunderland, but  he’s certainly not the big hit at the Newcastle Empire the following year, as this article from the Newcastle Journal and Courant of August 21 1909 shows:

WC Fields at the Newcastle Empire - Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant August 21 1909 Article - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

While the “programme has a bright star in Mr W. C. Fields, a very clever and original eccentric juggler” they’re much more interested in the antics of “Consul, the anthropoid ape”. Fields was well known for his short temper; imagine his reaction to being upstaged by a monkey!