Archive for May, 2010

Bank Holiday Bonus II – “She Did a Few Tricks Herself and Wanted to Learn More”

Monday, May 31st, 2010

It’s the second May bank holiday in England today, and also the last day of the marvellous Bungay Balls Up juggling festival, so here’s an extra humorous article from the Gateshead Guardian 6 July 1895. Can you work out what the old lady’s accent is supposed to be from?:

The Gateshead Guardian, July 6, 1895

The Gateshead Guardian, July 6, 1895


She Did a Few Tricks Herself and Wanted to Learn More.
As I purchased my ticket to go into the circus which was exhibiting in a town at the foot of Cumberland Range, a little old woman who wore a poke bonnet and was without shoes or stockings, beckoned me aside and said:
“Look yere, stranger, I’ve walked ten miles to see this yere sarcus.”
“I reckoned to git in fur two bits, but I can’t do it. The price is fo’ bits, and they won’t abate. Do yo’ know any of the sarcus folks?”
“No, I don’t.”
“If yo’ did they might abate. I kin do some sarcus tricks myself, and maybe they’d let me in for free. Cum’ out yere and see me flop a summersault, as they calls it.”
“Really ma’am, I haven’t time.”
“Wall then, give me room and see me turn a cart-wheel. I can do it as slick as any man yo’ ever seed.”
“Yes, I presume so, but I can’t spare the time.”
“I walked the top-rail of a fence fur half a mile without fallin’ off,” she continued, “and I believe I could walk a rope. Git outen the way and I’ll show yo’ a hand-spring as good as yo’ ever saw.”
“Please don’t, ma’am. If you want to go into the circus—”
“Yo’ kin hoot that I want to go into the sarcus!” she interrupted. “That’s what I’m here fur. Whenever a sarcus comes along I git thar if I kin and ketch on to all the new flip flops. The ole man is sick and couldn’t come, but I promised him to hev a good look at the hyenas and tell him all about ’em. As fur me, I’m bound and determined to ride that trick mewl twice around the ring or perish in the attempt. What was yo’ goin’ to say?”
“I was going to say that I’d pay the other two bits and take you in with me.”
“Would you do that fur a pore old woman who hadn’t seen sarcus fur two y’are?” she anxiously asked.
“Of course.”
I got her a ticket and we passed in together, and a her request I hunted up the cage of hyenas the first thing. She stood and looked at them for five minutes before saying:
“Wall, I don’t see whar’ the purtiness cums in, but the old man is crazy ’bout hyenas. Now for the sarcus.”
We sat down together, and she took a great interest in and vigorously applauded every feat.
By and bye, when the trick mule was brought in and the usual announcement made, she sprang up and was at the ringside before anyone else could move. Everybody laughed and the ringmaster was confused. He finally had to tell her that all women were barred out, and when she persisted a couple of employees led her back to her seat. She came back flushed and angry, and when I attempted to console her she said:
“That’s the way of it all over – the wimmin folks bain’t got no rights and can’t get em. I could ride that mewl to his grave and not bin throwed off, and that’s what they was afraid of. Are’ thar’ any camp-bells with this show?”
“You mean camels. Yes, there are four or five in the other tent.”
“Then I’ll ride a camp-bell without doin’ sunthin’ to brag of.”
She slipped away, and when we filed out after the performance she was sitting between the two humps of a half-asleep dromedary and saying to the man who wanted her to come off:
“You go to ballyhack! I cum to this sarcus to git a pinter or two, and if you git me off’n this campbell I’ll ride yer ole rhinoceros around ’till he draps dead!”

Le Diabelo at Empress Theatre of Varieties, Hartlepool

Friday, May 28th, 2010

On 15 October 1906 Le Diabelo appeared at the Empress Theatre of Varieties in Hartlepool. The content of his act is a bit of mystery. He’s billed as “Looping the Devil’s Wheel”, but as he is “riding on the outside of the wheel” we have to assume that it’s some kind of acrobatic apparatus, and the similarity of the name to our diabolo is coincidental.

Le Diabelo Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

The extra treat that comes with this performance is the programme as well as the poster:

Empress Theatre of Varieties program, 15 October 1906 (outside) - From the Tyne and Wear Archives

From the Tyne and Wear Archives

While the outside is a strange mixture of adverts the inside gives us a really nice picture of what we could expect to see at the a provincial variety theatre in 1906 – click on the picture to see the detail:

Empress Theatre of Varieties program, 15 October 1906 (inside) - From the Tyne and Wear Archives

From the Tyne and Wear Archives

Salerno at Newcastle Empire

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Salerno was one of the originators of the “gentleman juggler” style where the performer dressed in evening wear and juggled the everyday articles that you might find in a home of the day.

He appeared at the Empire Theatre, Newcastle in the week of 30 September 1895 – as this advertisement from the Gateshead Guardian shows:

Gateshead Guardian, 28 Sept 1895

Gateshead Guardian, 28 Sept 1895

“The great continental juggler and equilibrist” is mentioned briefly a week later in the Gateshead Guardian and Newcastle Suburban Press – but there’s hardly a surfeit of detail about “the clever company”:

Gateshead Guardian and Newcastle Suburban Press, October 5 1895

Gateshead Guardian and Newcastle Suburban Press, October 5 1895

That’s all the local material that I’ve found – but there were two good articles about Salerno in JUGGLE magazine in the Spring and Fall 2009 editions (I’m agnostic about IJA politics, but I like the magazine). The article in the Fall edition concentrates on a prop that’s very rare these days: Alan Howard (in wonderfully florid prose that would fit into most of the publications I normally read for this blog) writes: “The Salerno ring balance involves a pole that is placed on the juggler’s forehead; atop the pole is a ring in which a billiard ball is coaxed to revolve, thanks to the impetus generated by the continuous up-and-down motion from the juggler’s knees”. He juggled four balls with this all in place, including a shower where the balls passed through the ring.

Salerno’s nearest rival in the gentleman juggling style was Kara, a German citizen who was caught in Paris at the outbreak of the first world war. He was interred for the duration and had no access to props or practice space but on his release Salerno offered to share his equipment so Kara could get back on his feet. Kara learnt the Salerno ring, and later mentored Bob Artur, who performed as Caral, and the routine passed to him. Caral in turn handed the routine onto Jeton, who is still performing it today. These four are the only known performers of this intriguing prop. The full article from JUGGLE is on Jeton’s website.

Bank Holiday Bonus – Indian Jugglers

Monday, May 3rd, 2010
It’s a public holiday in England today, so here’s a bonus article from the Northern Echo published on October 10 1890 to celebrate:
The Northern Echo, October 10, 1890

The Northern Echo, October 10, 1890

Indian Jugglers

The most startling feats and tricks in the world are those performed by the numerous professional jugglers of India; and these have been unvaried since the days of Baber, the descendent of Timour, in the sixteenth century. “I was frequently amused at the public wells and halting places,” says Forbes, “by the vanjarrahs and their families, and especially by the jugglers, who generally found out the encampments of these travelling merchants. There they spread their carpets, and performed feats of legerdemain superior to any I have seen in England; the most conspicuous was generally one of the women mentioned by Dr Fryer, who hold nine gilded ball in play with their hands and feet, and the muscles of their arms and legs, for a long time together without letting them fall. The well known sword feat is described at great length by Forbes. Seating himself, the juggler took the sword, which had a straight blade, about twenty inches in length and one in breadth, with edges and point blunted, and after oiling, he it introduced the point into his mouth, and pushed it gently down his throat until the hand of Forbes who held the hilt came into contact with his lips. “He then made a sign to me,” says the narrator, “with one of his hands, to feel the point of the instrument between his breast and navel, which I could plainly do by bending him a little more backwards, and pressing my fingers to his stomach, he being a very thin and lean fellow.” On taking his hand from the hilt, the juggler fixed to it a little machine, from which a firework that emitted blue flames encircled his head, and imparted a diabolical aspect to his brown face; and on withdrawing the blade, blood was seen on some parts of it, showing that its introduction was not effected without violence. To this feat he had been accustomed since his earliest years, having from the first been taught to introduce elastic instruments, till he came at last to swallow the iron sword in question. Forbes considers that “the great flexibility of their joints, the laxness of their fibres, and their temperate mode of life, render them capable of having considerable violence done to the fleshy parts of their bodies without any danger of the inflammation and other bad effects which would be produced in the irritable bodies of Europeans; witness their being whirled around on the point of a pole, suspended by a hook thrust into the fleshy part of their backs, without experiencing any fatal consequences. There is, therefore, no great wonder if, by long habit in stretching up their necks, they are able to bring the windings of the stomach into a straight line, or nearly so, and thereby slide the sword down into the latter organ without so much difficulty. – From Cassell’s Illustrated History of India for October.