Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Good News!

Just received word that my good friend Jerry Klinefelter's health has improved to a point
where he is being allowed to return home from the Tidewell Hospice Center.
I'm sure his many friends will be relieved over this turn of events.


NORMA CRISTIANI (From Jackie LeClaire)

NORMA CRISTIANI0001, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

There were several photos, all the same, of Norma Cristiani, on a table with other photos by the door as I was leaving the Showfolks of Sarasota, Monday Sept. 30th. I was so pleased to be able to take one of them and I am sending it on to you. It seems quite recent, and was taken at a Ring of Fame event on St. Armand's Circle, because of the Walker seat wagon in the backgroun, possibly in January, 2010. Norma was not only on the Board of the Ring of Fame, but was inducted with her Davenport family into the Ring just a few years ago. I just had to send it as it is so really Norma as we all loved her and will always remember her.

From Anand Dhotre #1

screen_shot_1, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

World Famous Circus Artist Late

Damoo Dhotre’s Website

On the 108th Birth Anniversary of World Famous Circus Artist Late Damoo Dhotre is given tribute in a very special way. The Official Web-Site of this Nobel Son of India is launched on the Web : http://www.damoodhotre.com/

The Inauguration was done by Hon. Guest Mrs. Supriya Sule (The Member of Parliament). Late Damoo Dhotre is the first Indian Circus Artist who has an Official Web-Site. This has become possible because of valuable efforts of Mr Sujit Dilip (The Proprietor, Rambo Circus) & Mr. Prathmesh Vyas(Fan Of Circus). We are thankful to all for their constant support and contribution without which this Web-Site was not possible.


Anand Dhotre

Email Id - dhotre.anand@gmail.com

Mobile - +91 9960654054

From Anand Dhotre #2

photo final, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

From Richard Reynolds

682, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Richard Reynolds says - - -

Does anyone know anything about this Lion Farm in Ft. Lauderdale. The trainer is a black man.

From Chic Silber #1

Image00046, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Hi Buckles

In 1976 I was hired to do N Y location special effects

on the (dreadful) remake of the film "King Kong"

When I got the 1st call from the production manager

in California he was laughing on the phone because

he said he realized how silly his explanation of what

was to be done including the assembly of the 40 foot

gorilla that was being trucked across the country in

5 segments must have sounded

This incredible top shelf plush was built of many layers

of different density foam & latex rubber covered in hand

sewn horse hair by an Italian family in L A

What was to be a week's work expanded into more

than a month & included many other projects

This lowland primate was incredibly detailed as the

attached photos will show (only missing his plumbing)

These were at the base of the World Trade Center

I had several fellows that worked in my shop with me

& we had a great time & I could tell about a week's

worth of stories (but I won't)

From Chic Silber #2

Image00047, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

From Chic Silber #3

Image00048, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

From Chic Silber #4

Image00049, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

From Chic Silber #5

Image00050, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.


133561, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

From Dave Orr

SUBJECT: Welde Bears, OABA Members
check out: Welde Bears on TV
TV SCHEDULE Thursday, Sept. 2nd DISCOVERY "PITCHMEN" 9:00 p.m.
In this new episode, Sully finds himself on a closed set with a hungry grizzly bear to test a snack- food.
SIDEBARS: Check out Weldes 2010 Big Bear Indiana State Fair VIDEO.
WELDES BIG BEAR Show closes November 4 - 14, 2010 SEASON at the Deland, FL. Fair.
OABA: Monica Welde has plenty of the NEW OABA LION PINS....

Monday, August 30, 2010


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Joe Rossi


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Sunday, August 29, 2010

From Chic Silber

GORILLA, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Hi Buckles

I was kidding Bill Powell about his gorilla costume yesterday

offering that it might have come from Phillip Morris

Sure enough his costume company in Charlotte still exists

and here is their photo of a synthetic version of the getup

I guess some things don't change much


From Chuck Schlarbaum

Got home Thursday afternoon. Got meds filled at Wallgreens all orginized with that No alchohol or smoking.. Home health care out to visit yesterday. Follow up appointments for the next few weeks.
Thank you all for your cards and calls.
Buckles I saw your stone and date while at the museum in Baraboo. Kilroy was there.
Need the years of existance for the Sarasota Parade and Festival.
Kindest regards,

"Otto" #1 (From Buckles)

Scan13087, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

All these pictures of Mr. Griebling come from my Cole Show files.
He was there for the show's entire history 1935-50.

"Otto" #2

Scan13090, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

"Otto" #3

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"Otto" #4

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"Otto" #5

Scan13093, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

I recently mentioned Ted Myers who was the unfortunate chap that
broke his leg when the elephant car tipped over in Redding, Calif.
This was the publication I was trying to remember that he later
produced while at Kansas State Univ.

"Otto" #6

Scan13094, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Otto appears to be receiving some sort of award from these gentlemen.

"Otto" #7

SAVE0806, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

"Otto" #8

Scan000010367, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

I'm sure Whitey and others remember wrestler Jimmy Ray who later
was a General Agent for several shows.
Otto managed to get out of makeup in time to referee the wrestling
match in the concert every day. He always knew how to pick up a few
extra bucks.

"Otto" #9

Scan11591, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Cole Bros. Clown Band 1947

Scan13089, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

I can remember most of these guys. At left, Eddie Dullem and Horace Laird. At right, Flo, Billie Burke, Billy Griffin, Baghongi and Lee Virtue.
And kneeling in front is the exotic Mlle. Zorima whose dancing skills were such that with one bump she could actually send Maestro Griebling's hat sailing from a distance of twenty paces.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cole Bros. 1946 Program (From Buckles)

Scan13091, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

More on "Congo"

DSC02593, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Since there seems to be some interest in my early attempts at circus fame as Congo the Almost Human Gorilla I wanted provide a fuller account of how this creature evolved thru the ages. Scroll down to: "From Bill Powell # 7" on the blog then click on comments for a brief back story then return to the paragraph below.

So the story of my journey towards fame as a Human Gorilla continues:

The interesting story of how Bill Powell became Congo the Almost Human Gorilla and mystery birthday guest.

The Bill Powell almost Human Gorilla act had several reprieves over the years. Originally, the Gorilla was a second act of Joe Lemke and Marvin Varner. The costume was made of Yak hair and offered quite an aroma from the inside on a hot summer day.......but I digress.
I substituted for Marvin during a summer when he either hurt himself or needed to work concessions. The Hershey candy pitch may have been right after the Gorilla act so Marvin made an economic decision to pay me to do the act so he could make the pitch.

The show was Carden/Johnson in the late sixties and early seventies. I recall switching shows a couple summers. I would stay with my dad on Carden and Johnson and then travel to Gatti Charles circus with my mom and Bucky. Logistics aside, the Gorilla act was one of my "gigs" during this time.

I recall the Gorilla "shtick" was a good pick up line with young ladies at college when they asked what I did: " I train elephants and work in a Gorilla act. " Either this got the conversation started or they would look at me funny and walk away.

A few years later after I joined Allen Bloom's marketing team the Gorilla act was resurrected for a different occasion. In fact, a facsimile of the act was reprieved three times over the years to celebrate his birthday.

Allen was a big old gruff guy with a heart of gold and a wonderful sense of humor. His office was centered around a big kitchen table desk. It was usually piled high with reports. Allen would love to hold court at the end of the day and tell old rock and roll stories of how he stuffed Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Paul Anka and a dozen other acts onto one bus and go on tour in the fifties.

One day it was his 40th birthday and David Rosenwasser coaxed me to do something to surprise him at the office. As we were brainstorming what we might do I said: "Hey what if we strip his desk and cover it with cake icing with a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALLEN.....and I will rent a gorilla suit and be sitting in his chair smoking a cigar when he comes in." David, having a twisted sense of humor readily agreed and the plot was hatched.

So we did exactly this. We hired a cake decorator for the desk and secretly decorated the top with a birthday message. I get in the suit and light up a Cuban stogie and about 10 am he rounds the corner to be greeted by this scene (with everyone hiding out of view laughing their asses off).

Allen was speechless upon surveying the scene and everyone comes out of the woodwork and starts singing happy birthday. I exit, identity unrevealed, thru Irvin's office (which was adjacent to Allen). I cannot remember if Irvin was in that day but do not imagine he would have found the scene amusing.

So I go to a vacant office and change then walk around to join the others wishing Allen a happy birthday never revealing my alter ego.

Fast forward 10 years later and the Gorilla resurfaces. Susan Bloom invites everyone in Allen's inner circle to a swanky restaurant in Georgetown for his 60th surprise birthday. Susan told Allen the evening was just going to be a quiet dinner with the two of them. I decide to reprieve the Gorilla for another cameo appearance. The scene is very uptown and everyone is showing up for the gala affair. Upon arriving guests cannot help but notice a Gorilla at the end of bar quietly sipping a scotch and smoking a Cuban cigar.

Allen and Susan were late arriving and I was in that suit for over an hour having consumed a couple Scotch and cigars not speaking but motioning like any self respectable Gorilla would do on a night out on the town. I recall a perplexed black tie clad piano player gently tickling the ivories as I enjoyed a Cohiba Robusto and Glenlivet single malt.

So Allen and Susan show up and everyone burst into the birthday song and he is overwhelmed with emotion and is making the rounds hugging everyone ......and he comes up the Gorilla at the bar. The gorilla does not speak but motions Allen closer and gives him a hug and takes a puff on the cigar, finishes his drink, shakes Allen's hand and exits leaving Allen wondering why this ape has visited him on two separate occasions 10 years apart.

The story continues. Allen departed Ringling in December of 1995 around the time of his 60th birthday. It was an emotional time for many and Susan decided to skip any celebration.

Ten years later, our group learns that Allen is having a small group of family to his house for his 70th birthday. Since he left the company many of his group departed and were all scattered everywhere.

I decided that Congo the Almost Human Gorilla needed to reprieve the act one more time. This time I rented the costume from a costume house in Tampa and created a video of a Gorilla trying to hitch hike a ride from Tampa, Florida to Potomac, Maryland that ended with a reveal of the mystery person behind the Gorilla and a heartfelt wish for Allen to enjoy his birthday.

Bill Powell

From Kenny Dodd #1

RIORINGS, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Good morning Professor

The word is out

My dear friend Kenny Dodd brought me 2 photos of the

Ringling date in Rio that Jackie wrote about last week

and asked me to scan & send them to you

The 1st one is nearly a duplicate of the entire arena

but the 2nd one shows the unintended aqua spectacular

that Jackie mentioned


"Chic, you must be aware that both Mr. Dodd and Mr. LeClair know where a lot of bodies are buried. This might be a dangerous undertaking!"

From Kenny Dodd #2

RIOFLOOD, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.


NY Model Builders #1 (From Don Kowell)

DSC06421, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.


I noticed that you occasionally feature circus models so I wanted to pass this event along for your blog that we all enjoy every day.
The Hoxie Tucker Ring in Central NY has a large display at this years NY State Fair in Syracuse NY. The fair runs from August 26 thru Labor day. There are 15 exhibits featuring circus and carnival models. This years display also features close to 100 original posters and 90 circus photos hung on the walls around the displays. This makes a big splash.
If any of your readers happen by this part of the country, stop by and say hello.

Don Kowell
Lot 1 Manager
Circus Model Builders

NY Model Builders #2

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NY Model Builders #3

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NY Model Builders #4

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NY Model Builders #5

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NY Model Builders #6

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NY Model Builders #7

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NY Model Builders #8

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Friday, August 27, 2010

From Bill Powell #1

schell bros 1935 books012, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.


I found this interesting note while going thru my mom's archives this past weekend.

It is especially poignant given what our country is experiencing with the current recession and I wanted to share it with the blog.

This letter summarizes the financial state of George Engesser and Schell Bros. Circus in 1935 during the lowest point of the great depression.

To my knowledge George hung on to the show a couple more years but it appears that he was upside down about 4 grand after the 1935 season.

The summation is brief and to the point even listing his dependents and a perceived valuation of the animals that had died during the year.

The picture of Tiger McCue doing the head carry with Ruth the elephant somehow frames up the entire state of affairs.

From Bill Powell #2

gee_gee_atayde_1965014, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

From the archives of the Blond Bombshell.

Gee Gee Powell performed with Circus Atayde in 1965 during the christmas show in December for a month long engagement. She may have also been contracted for a couple other cities during the truncated tour.

She was a center ring attraction with her magnificent Alaskan Husky dog sled act and featured in the center on the program book.

I scanned the cover and her page.

Sadly when she and my father returned from Mexico they divorced in 1966 after a 20 year marriage and she was never to perform as Powell again. After the split she took her maiden name, Engesser, for a couple years before marrying elephant trainer Robert "Bucky" Steele.

From Bill Powell #3

gee_gee_atayde_1965013, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

From Bill Powell #4

Gee_Gee_Sam_Bee_1972002, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.


In the years after Gee Gee and Bucky Steele married they embarked on assembling several animal acts. In the span of 4 years they acquired 6 elephants, 12 ponies, 5 bears, the existing 7 Alaskan Husky dogs, a cougar, a leopard, and a mixed cat act with 8 tigers and lions. There may also have been a goat in the mix.

I guess one could say they were pioneers in "consolidation." During this time of empire building for Gee Gee and Bucky I was in my late teens and worked in the "family" enterprise. Hard work and diligence paid off with my quickly being appointed Sr. Vice President of Animal Stewardship of Steele enterprises. This esteemed position required that I rise from bed at 4 a.m. every day to begin my daily duties of "stewarding" the 40 or so animals entrusted to my care. My department included "moi" and Frenchy, a 75 year old Canadian who was deaf and could barely lift a shovel and had an aversion to soap and water.

There were no other staff for the enterprise other than Red Hartman who was a "trainer" and thus left the feeding and cleaning to my staff.

My pay was room and board and an education in the finer points of all things circus.

During this period we trained the 6 elephants, ponies, a leapord, an elephant cougar routine, and the mixed cat act. The husky's and bears were already trained.

It was an interesting time in my life as the days started well before dawn and usually ended around 10 p.m. after the evening care of 40 animals. During this time I also managed to attend and graduate from college.

Bucky would sell the amalgamation of acts to anyone in need of a complete animal package. We performed with Gatti, George Michaels Great London Circus, Sam Bee, Sid Kellner and did a move for Disney. I eventually worked my way towards the front end of the animals and performed the elephant and cougar act.

Bucky was quite military and had a sort of drill sergeant approach to things like motivation of his staff (me and Frenchy). After each day of working for the "family" enterprise college looked better and better in my young view of the world. In fact going to Vietnam was looking like an attractive alternative after a while.

Here are a few photos from a circus called Sam Bee during this era. I think Jimmy Hall and Roger Zoppe can relate to those wonderful days on Haymarket road in Dallas, Texas.

Bill Powell

From Bill Powell #5

Gee_Gee_Sam_Bee_1972003, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Gee Gee with Sam Bee #2

From Bill Powell #6

Gee_Gee_Sam_Bee_1972004, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Gee Gee with Sam Bee #3

From Bill Powell #7

1973-15-3 circus days, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Another photo from Gee Gee Blond Bombshell Archives.

From Bill Powell #8

Al Conner 1945005, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Where to you get in line to see this ?

A guy doing an act with a wagon wheel.

Show business !