SHOOTING THE BREEZE - Roger
Though these words will not reach you till after the first of the year we feel as if we had a slight jump on things, having wished you all a merry-you-know-what back on page 65, paragraph 1. The New Year, we hope will bring you great juggling skill, bookings galore, health, and lasting friendships.
While peaceful production has not yet caught up with the needs of jugglers, and we doubt if your stocking was filled with bouncing LaCrosse balls, the fact that progress along these lines is being made casts its shadows across our crystal juggling ball. These shadows took on more material form as we completed our annual window shopping spree. The sporting goods stores are selling an inflatable rubber ball called an "Utility Ball" in two sizes - 8 and 10 inch, made by Voit Rubber Co. Black in color (or lack of color) but could easily be dressed up for show use. The 8 inch size suited us just fine for spinning on finger, catching on back of neck and similar gyrations. And then too, we had to buy a couple more of those red cloth hats for stick spinning, having beaten the living daylights out of a previous one while writing the article appearing in Bulletin 23.
That real sharp shadow covering over half the crystal juggling ball indicates the all time high in quantity and quality of juggling literature to be released in 1947. Jumping the gun on the rest is a new English book, "How to do Juggling" by John J. Mills and sold by Hamleys. The ads read, "Deals with every kind of juggling and balancing and has chapters on how to make your own apparatus." Cloth bound and priced at 7 shillings--6 pence plus post. We haven't seen it yet but will five you a more detailed review when they arrive. Then, as previously mentioned, there will be Max Holden's book and Harry Lind's Memory Book. Barring unforeseen events, there'll continue to be a Bulletin to dish up the latest in information, pictures and ideas. That reddish tinge you can see if you spin the crystal ball is probably caused by the red ink we use to balance the Bulletin books, the gray is only the reflection of the gray hairs all editors are supposed to have anyway.
The jolly old man with whiskers figured out a way to improve our "getting out of bed disposition" and dropped off a radio-clock combination that wakes us up to music. By mere chance we were testing the gadget out when John Nesbitt, who is our favorite narrator, was introduced and gave out with his version of "The Juggler of Our Lady". We gathered that this was a recording and if this is correct, 'tis an excellent collectors' item. Barnaby, the principal character of the story, was quite a juggler, tossing 12 knives while standing on his head and then catching them with his feet.
Speaking of stories, we can't help relating the following one we heard since it again involves a juggler- H. V Kaltenborn. It seems that two potatoes, a handsome Idaho Russet and a beautiful full blooded White were married and in the ensuing years were blessed with a lovely little sweet potato. This little sweet potato grew and blossomed into young potatohood and one day her mother said to her, "Daughter, I think its time you thought about marriage; Have you made up your mind who you'd like to marry?". The daughter replied, I'd like to marry H. V. Kaltenborn". Her mother looked at her quite surprised and said, "Daughter, you can't marry H.V. Kaltenborn!" "Why not?, was the daughters quick rejoinder. There was finality in her mother's voice as she said, "Because he's just a COMMON 'TATER".
Most jugglers that handle balls either start out with them in hand or pick them up from a table in the course of the act. The one notable exception that comes to mind is Lew Folds who produces everything he uses from his cape. For some time we mulled over some means of obtaining the balls that would be more novel than just picking them up from a table, particularly when we played to a group of children. We ran onto a device that struck our fancy in an old magic booklet by that wizard of ideas, U. F. Grant. "Gen", as he is known, gave us permission to write-up our version for the Bulletin. The device is a head of a clown made of pIywood or heavy cardboard. Every time the neck tie is pulled by the performer a ball pops out of the wide opened mouth of the clown face. The balls are contained in a tube fastened to back of the face and pulling the tie operates a hinged flap, permitting a ball to roll out of the open mouth. The clown face could be mounted on a pedestal to sit on a table or fastened to a music stand base.
Papers dated December 26th have already brought you the sad news that W. C. Fields passed away on Christmas day. Though we never met the man, we have always had a warm spot in our heart for him and his juggling. It was his act in "The Old Fashioned Way" that fired up our youthful ambitions and we have many times since wished for the chance to see him perform again on the stage. We sat through that film a half a dozen times and in every later film we always watched intently to catch all of the little bits of business with hat and cane which were characteristic of his style. Strangely enough, it was our original intention to have a complete article on cigar box juggling, an art that Fields brought to the height of popularity, in this issue.
Born in Philadelphia, January 29, 1880, Claude Williain Dukinfield, worked his way from poverty, past juggling 20 times a day at Fortescue's Pier in Atlantic City (which included drowning several times daily and being rescued and rolled over a barrel in order to collect crowds) to top billing in vaudeville and motion pictures. His professional juggling career began at the age of 14 after seeing the vaude team of Burns Bros.
In tramp attire (because it made him feel natural and look older than he was) he developed a comedy juggling act that took him around the world. In 1914 he became a star in the Ziegfield Follies where he began developing such gems of comedy as his billiard table sequence and golf scene. In pictures off and on for over 20 years and a few forays into radio - usually to saw Charlie McCarthy down to size complete the varied adventures of a great juggler and comedian.
Charlton Chute has sent us an article by the late Heywood Broun which is a fitting tribute to W. C. Fields, The juggler. The following quotation is taken from a review of the musical comedy "Ballyhoo" and appeared in the "Nation", January 7, 1931.
"I feel that one of the high spots in the present theatrical year has been underlined in red because W. C. Fields is juggling again. I am of the opinion that in this diversion the man falls little short of genius. You may protest that juggling does not belong among the major arts. Such an opinion will be held only by those who have witnessed merely the proficient practitioners. Fields is, as far as I know, the only one who is able to introduce the tragic note in the handling of a dozen cigar boxes. When they are pyramided, only to crash because of a sudden off-stage noise, my heart goes out to the protagonist as it seldom does to Lear of Macbeth."
"If one thinks of art in terms of line and movement, then I suggest that there is present in this juggling act as much to please the eye as when Pavlowa dances. Like the best of modern painters, Fields can afford to depart from the orthodox, because he is heretical from choice and not from incapacity. I mean, it is amusing when he muffs a trick because you know that he could easily complete it if he cared to. Certainly, there is something admirable in the ability to emotionalize the task of tossing spheres into the air and catching them in rythm. Possibly there is even profundity in such a pastime."
"Mr. Fields at play among the planets suggest to me an Einsteinian quality, I do not like to rush into symbolism, but if a mortal can personally see to it that these complicated orbits are preserved, each in its entity, then I go home more sure of the safety and sanctity of the universe than before."
STUFF AND THINGS by Doug Couden
CUllman, Ala,: Hats off to Joe Marsh. Bound Bulletins for 2nd year caine in. Thanks, Rog. We've both been reading books and we are agreed on one which should add to any juggler's knowledge of showmanship. Book selected is "Showmanship for Magicians" by Dariel Fitzkee, 187 pages with nifty cloth binding. Contents is devoted to the various angles of showmanship which can be applied to any type of act. Fitzkee's experience in dramatic work, vaude, Chautauqua, musicals, motion pictures, nightclubs and legit qualifies him to write on the subject. He covers 39 - count 'em - 39 points of showmanship. Timing, pointing, situation, action, precise attack, pacing, punch, routining are fully covered for the first time, I believe, as well as 31 other important showmanship fundamentals. Before finishing book I sent Rog 5 bux for my copy. This book can be used for years as a reference and for study. Rog. has some extra copies on hand, Nuf sed. Sub H.V. Kaltenborn again garners top honors in his commentatoring. Pvt. Hugh Shepley slated for overseas duty. H. S. stude Betty Gorham still keeping Davenport on the juggling map. Jim Conway, L.A. jug writes re comedy, "Most is false, manufactured situations - usually overdone. Good comedy is casual, off hand, unaffected. Spud Roberts adding to his collection of jug photos. Charlton Chute in to Nashville to lecture on Constitutional Amendments. He recently headed the group which rewrote the Missouri state constitution. Charlton jumped on down to Alabam and we had a day together. Altho interested in juggling less than a year, he has already contributed interesting material to this pub. He has had little time for actual juggling but has managed to pick up a f ew tricks. Charlton is an enthusiastic "fan" and I would like to see more professional men of his caliber attracted to the art. That's Charlton standing and controlling the balls.
JUG JUGGLESON' S LETTER
I)ear Roger, The guy from St.Paul turned out to be a big heel. Everything was rosey until that mug gives us 4 bum steers in a row 'which flattens me and puts a big dent in Pugs B.R. Them nags is running yet I guess but I do know none of them showed or placed and to top it off last Sat. was my last night in Kelly's Celar closing a run of 22 weeks and me flatter than a flapjack. Those three would be mixers who I put out came back Sat. night and I noticed several more new guys along with them. About 12 these mugs have a snoot full and it was at this time that a regular masacree started. It was a free for all, even the hillbillies piled in and Plug Kelly was right in there throwing punches. Things was going bad for me so I reaches over and grabs a beer bottle off the bar. I was just drawing it back for a swing onto the konk of a guy who was lifting a chair when out of the corner of my eye I sees a cop rushing down the steps waving his stick. I turned to see who it was and thats the last I remember. Some one must have got me from behind. Anyways when I came to in the city klink a Doc had already taken 7 stitches in my scalp. I had a worse headake than when I tried the cannon ball trick with wood balls. The worst part of it is the Chief of Police who I used to be like that with because he once did a little work in the ring himself was hot under the coller. To make a long story short I got 2 months for disturbing the peace. The Chief said if I was brought in again he'd see they threw the book at me and throw away the key. I was just working on a new trick that would have wowed them, balancing a phonograph wile it was playing on beer bottles on my chin. But here I am and because of that heel from St. Paul I'm busted and in the lockup. Would some kind readers send me some Bull Durham.
BERT HANSEN'S JUGGLING REVIEWS
VALENTINE & EVELYN
Wilshire Ebell Theatre, July 26, 1946, Los Angeles, California Photo of Valentine by Vincent Thomas of L. A.
Opens as team with three hoop juggle and take aways-- into passing with six hoops. ( using both hands in throws ).
Evelyn with rolling plate on parasol including change from top to underside of parasol and back to top.
Valentine takes over with a brilliant series of manipulations, tosses, rolls, spins, catches etc. - first with two sticks and one ball, then with mouthstick and one, two and three balls- including catches from audience, and a three ball shower on mouth-stick.
An outstanding and refreshing young team with beautiful costumes, colorful props, fine showmanship, and exceptional skill.