Friday, April 22, 2016

CLOWN ALLEY: Barnum & Bailey; Variety (April 20, 1907)


The press department of the Barnum-Bailey show last Saturday "pulled off" a publicity-seeking scheme with its clowns, which brought forth comment in the dailies not relished by the funny men. A large auto carried the entire force of clowns to the Consolidated Stock Exchange on lower Broadway, where they disembarked. All excepting Steve Miaco and Bell, of Bell and Henry, proceeded to the gallery, but these two marched in the pit to be marched out again almost immediately after some rough handling by the brokers who did not consider the intrusion comical.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

AL MIACO Variety (April 1907)

    Al Miaco, one of the principal clowns with the Ringling Brothers' show this season is the oldest engaged actively in the ring. Mr. Miaco is father of Steve, at present a principal funmaker in the Barnum-Bailey aggregation. "Miaco" has been a standard circus name for years. There was a "Tom Miaco" years ago, who was a clown, and lived in Cortland N. Y. The history of the Miacos in the show business if compiled would fill a large volume. Everyone up 'York State believes Tom to have been the original clown of that name.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

SLIVERS OAKLEY: Variety (April 1907)


At the premiere of the Barnum & Bailey show at the Garden last week "Slivers" Oakley, the chief clown, "walked off" in the middle of the performance. Questioned regarding this proceeding Slivers said: "I attempted to do some quiet pantomime work several times, but on each occasion attention was diverted from my efforts by the passing of a number of other clowns with slapstick comedy. This, of course, rendered my efforts void and there was nothing left for me to do but retire. I explained my position to the management and they saw the reasonableness of my attitude. Matter were immediately adjusted and I am now working at every performance in perfect harmony with the others."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

CLOWN BAND: Ringling Bros. Circus (1897)

    A Symphony in Q Flat

    Being an Attempt to Describe a Subject That Baffles Description.

    Josh Billings wrote more wisely than he knew when he paraphrased an old saying thus: “Music hath charms to soothe a savage, to rend a rock, or split a cabbage.” But “Josh” never heard the Ringling Brothers’ Clown Band, consequently must have taken his “cue” from some wandering son of “Sunny Italy,” whose inspired afflations emanated from the bellows of a barrel organ and breathed out upon defenseless Nature the soul-soothing melody of “Silver threads amongst the gold,” while concomitantly “de monk ” danced the variations.

Clown Band
The Clown Band
But the “Real Thing” really never happened until the year of grace, 1897, when Spader Johnson and his musical coadjutors established that now famous musical organization known as the “Clown Band.” When its organization was completed Euterpe smiled, for the sweet-faced muse knew that the divine art of music, over which she had presided so many centuries, was to rise to heights hitherto unattained, and that the soul of Spader and his symphonious swallows — or, in other words, Johnson and his jabbers of wind would scale the very peaks of the mountains of melody, and from the dizzy heights roll down upon a breathless and expectant world an avalanche of melody and engulf all mankind in an ocean of music. Did the glorious muse divine aright? Well, rather, and why not? Was not this collateral company composed of the very crem de la crem of the musical world? and had they not as director and cornet virtuoso that greatest of all living leaders, Spaderowski Johnsonicola, whom the vulgar once called Spader Johnson? Was the baton ever held in a hand that could so direct the impulses of his players and sway the multitude? When he waved his magic wand with the majesty of an emperor, were not the hearts of his musicians touched like when the winds of a tropical evening awaken into life the responsive chords of an aeolian?

But Johnsonicola was not only great as a director. He had but to breathe into the small end of his cornet, and lo, from the large end canaries seemed to flutter, filling the air with melody so sweet the thousands listened in mute wonder, for the sounds were such as had never been heard on this prosaic earth before, and a poet, who one day heard them, with beautiful sentiment, called them “unearthly.” But the great Johnsonicola could not only soothe his hearers with the sweetness of his playing; he could play so as to make their hearts as light and gay as a May morning, and then again he could touch the hidden depths of human passions and parade before the listener the more somber hues of melody. A man of deep feeling, he could display among the lighter tints the shadows of sadness and make the audience melancholy, so that many of them shed tears, and all agreed that it was very painful indeed. Such was Johnsonicola.

Those whose souls breathed through their various instruments at his supreme command were equally eminent in the musical world. Great among these great ones was Signer Spaghetti Natalie. A native of Greece, he learned as a child to worship art. Beneath that soft southern sky he listened to the native musicians, and on many a moonlit night drank in the melody of the boatmen’s songs that floated o’er the waters to his island home.

The musical nature thus fostered in the land of art was intensified by a residence in later years on Halstead street, Chicago. His instrument was the flageolet. Upon it he was never known to play a tune, but someone — I forget who — said he was h— on after-beats. An ardent worshiper of Nature, Signer Spaghetti Natalie found his greatest pleasure, musically, in reproducing her sounds. Patti could sing like a canary, Jenny Lind acquired the title of the Swedish Nightingale, but no one yet had learned to warble like the great American hog. But Natalie did it with the help of his yellow flageolet and thereby won the name of — but why bestow titles which the great musician’s inborn modesty would cause him to disclaim? Besides the memory of that euphonious squeek will always live with those who heard it. How can it be explained? Imagine a grand symphony played at twilight at the entrance of the stock yards and the porcine plaudits of the inmates blending with the music. Such were Natalie’s after-beats as they marched out in solid columns and vanished in the ozone, gone but not forgotten.

Signer Bickeloni was a fiery musician, if the term may be used. In fact, he was regarded as a warm member — of the band. He could make his cornet talk a language all its own. Signer Bickeloni played with that style and grace characteristic of great musicians. He never had to hunt through the whole scale for a tone, but took the most convenient of the register offered and made the most of it. He was always noted for going right after a tone and hitting it hard. If the tone “sassed back,” which was very seldom, he hit it again and sent it “bing-bang” until lost in the bale ring. His methods seemed to differ somewhat from Ole Bull’s. The latter rather coaxed his tones from his instrument. Bickeloni “never coaxed nothin’,” but, with uncompromising majesty and musical pre-eminence, went at a tone in a manner to make it wail. His methods were best adapted to the somewhat vigorous Wagnerian school. The glory of Bickeloni’s playing was in his trill. Who that ever heard that trill can forget it? It was most conspicuous in the andante passage of Watsonalli’s trombone solo, “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep” in Q minor. The following bars exemplify the beautiful effect:

Watsonalli — Da rah de rah r-r-r rah da d’ deep,
Bickeloni — Un-tilly-lilly-lilly-tilly-lilly leap.
Watsonalli — De re ruh r-r-row de de duh week,
Bickeloni — Um-tilly-lilly-tilly-lilly tr-r-r-r-r-reap.

The beautiful blending of these two parts can only be imagined by the “way-up-uns” among musical critics. If you are not one of us don’t try; it’s too deep for you. Signer Watsonalli, the world-famous trombone soloist, to whose soul-stirring, omnium-moving genius Bickeloni’s obligate was played, is as original as he is effective. He could make the painful and tearful effects in music even more painful and more tearful than the author intended. In fact, he could depict misery to such perfection that the audience were always miserable during his “effort.” He had that masterful power of reaching out with his music and getting close to everyone within the big tent and compelling attention. No one could escape his magic power. His breath no sooner passed through his trombone than everyone knew it. It was a kind of knowing, too, that left no doubts. Whether the tones were split out in great sheets, stamped out in big chunks, or rolled out in rafts, there was always that positive quality about his music that removed all doubt as to his being all there and getting there too. He was, compared to all other trombone players, like a ripe pumpkin to “yaller” cucumbers.

Signor Lewis Sunlinasco is the name of the famous bass of all basses. Few are aware of the fact that when the Signor arrayed himself under the baton of Johnsonicola a dispute relative to certain technical points in music arose between the two. Sunlinasco believes in the motto, “ Be sure you’re right then go ahead.” He had struck a note on his tuba which he judged was right and refused to vary it, and “ on this line,” said he, “ I propose to fight it out if it takes all summer.” Johnsonicola was forced at last to acknowledge that Sunlinasco could get as great a variety of effects with that one tone as many another could on the whole register.

Signor Zammerti was another famous musician. His performances were remarkable for the great range of his playing. His range was unparalleled. It extended from pedal C to high E and from the bell of his tenor horn to almost anywhere within the confines of creation. Heiser used to listen for it in the stand ahead to know whether the show had started on time or not. The canvasmen claimed that it tore holes in the side wall of the big top as, like a bird uncaged, it burst from confinement and made its unfettered way over the prairies. So much for Zammerti and his range.

This account would be incomplete without a brief mention of the drummers of this wonderful band. Signor Tenori Drumanzi Jonezie was the great solo tenor drummer of the organization. He had, as few know, a most deliciously delicate touch in handling the ebony sticks. Of course no one would dare to criticise such a great artist, but if a suggestion were in order here, it might perhaps be said that his playing was just a shade too classical for the imperfect musical standard of most audiences. He avoided all pyrotechnical displays, which are the usual stock in trade of snare drummers, and confined himself to the music as it was “wrote.”

Signor Jimminie Westo Hitterhardo needs no mention here. His beating of the big bass drum is without a parallel in the history of this most tuneful instrument. He always struck out from the shoulder, and while he was on the strike all season he never once seemed displeased with his job. His crescendos were beautiful, his andantes perfection, and his diminuendos a revelation to musicians and a source of never-ending delight to all who heard him.

Signor Majorbatoni Turnouri, the marvelous manipulator of the drum major’s baton, added to the musically perfect organization a certain degree of finish and imposing grandeur that could not otherwise have been attained. He dropped his baton during the entire season only 12,047,963 times, a most remarkable record. Such was the Clown Band. Will its like ever be heard in this land again? The chances are it may, but hope whispers maybe “ nit.”

Sunday, April 17, 2016

ICHOF: Foolish Fundraiser

"Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed"- Mark Twain

Six years ago today a great friend of the ICHOF, and Board member, Sandy Weber designed this wonderful logo as we moved forward to re-opening this little place where clowns are celebrated, stories are remembered and lives dedicated to laughter are shared with old and new generations. 
We we opened our doors to the public on May 21, 2010 in our new home of Baraboo, Wisconsin. since that date we have had thousands of guests visit us in person and view the most amazing collection of clown artifacts in the world. We hope they leave with a smile & respect for this art form and share our mission with their family and friends. Our presence on social media has allowed us to bring images and information to potentially millions of people world wide who appreciate clowning as the craft that it is, respect those individuals who's careers have elevated laughter to the most needed medicine for what ails us as a human race, and inspires those who are looking to fufill the calling in their life called clowning.
How perfect the timing that a museum that honors the humor in our lives began on this day known to our society as April Fools Day.
With that, the Board of Directors of the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center is proud to announce a "FOOLISH FUNDRAISER" to begin today April 1, 2016 and conclude on the Anniversary day of our opening in Baraboo, Wi, May 21, 2016.
Our goal is for us to raise $10,000 in the next 51 days.
Our 2016 plans include adding substantially to our artifact collections, digitizing and making avaiable online our vast photo archives, the transfer to digital dvd of thousands of feet of rare movie films, new display fabrications and continuation of our Oral Histories project. These goals can only be met with your help.
We will be including incentives to those who can help us reach this attainable dream. Please visit our website at where a link to PayPal is located. For today, April 1,2016, in honor of this day celebrating fools, anyone donating $100.00 to $200.00 will recieve a limited edition Jim Howle poster honoring the very first 5 Inductees into the International Clown Hall of Fame.

Titled, "The Pit Stop", it features Lou Jacobs, Otto Griebling, Red Skelton, Emmett Kelly, Felix Adler and Mark Anthony. These are limited edition high quality poster prints.
Every day between today and May 21,2016, the ICHOF will offer an incentive and grateful thank you to those who can donate and help preserve our shared clown heritage. Check back here and on our webpage daily for a suprise and a sharing of clowns worldwide!

Please tell your friends, clown fans and people in your life that could use some laughter!