Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sunday, September 28 & Monday, September 29: Bronx, NY

9/28/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Victor Ruiz, a Ringling clown from the late 70's/early 80's, came to the first show today with his friend, Don.
Victor brought us both framed photos containing a drawing of Emmett Kelly Sr. and a great quote from him:

"The laughter of children is a sound no circus clown ever can forget. It sticks in his mind, and he can still hear the echo warming his heart when he has put aside the makeup and quit trouping."
Thanks for the visit and gifts, Don and Victor!

There was a woman in the front row at the first performance who really made my day. At the end of the carpenter gag she had her hand to her chest, and as she was catching her breath she wheezed, "Oh my God, that was funny."

Our friend, Andrew Scharff, came to see the second show. We worked with Andrew in Myrtle Beach six years ago, and he was also my excellent roommate. 
He came back to Ryan's trailer during Intermission so we could catch up a bit. We'll be seeing him in Pennsylvania during the Christmas tour, and maybe even again here in NYC before the end of the season.

Since good things come in threes, we also had surprise visitors at the final show: Izzy and Tad, trapeze performers who happened to be in the city.
Ryan performed with Izzy on Smirkus when they were younger, and after we talked for a few minutes I remembered that I had met her at Big Apple Circus when she was performing on the "Dream Big" tour a couple of years ago.

9/29/14- 7:30 p.m.

This morning I walked to the nearest laundromat, which was a little over half a mile away. It wasn't a bad walk, even with a bag full of dirty clothes.
The laundromat's proximity to the lot was about its only convenience, though. There were no proper seats in the small building, and since the radiator, the only viable option, was taken, I propped myself against a washer until my clothes were done.

Today Ryan and I started choreographing a dance to the new act we are going to be doing on this year's Christmas tour.
I was surprised that we were able to cobble together a decent routine even though our tap dance training is limited to a few lessons from Tatiana's father over four years ago.

The Azzario Sisters, Katie and Quincy, who began the season with us, have re-joined our merry band for the remainder of the tour.
At 3:30 p.m. Ryan and I attended their rehearsal so the stage crew could practice getting our water gag props out of the ring and the sisters' props in.
Unfortunately the way we have been ending the gag did not provide the stage crew with enough time, so we added a chunk of time to our ending.
We planned for the band to kick into our theme song after we take our final style, and the spot lights would follow us as we exited through the audience.
We didn't love the idea, but like Eddie, our production manager, said, we had to make it work for the show tonight, and then if we have a great idea in the future, we can change to that.

At 4:30 p.m. we had a rehearsal to reincorporate Katie and Quincy into opening and finale. Luckily that rehearsal was brief. 

Barry Lubin and Mark Gindick came to see the show tonight. Barry, of course, is better known as Grandma, who performed for many years with the Big Apple Circus. Mark has also performed with Big Apple (as Grandma and also as himself), and has a one man show called "Wingman" that I hear is fantastic.
Ryan and I visited with Barry and Mark for a bit in my trailer before the show. In lieu of a free roll, Barry taught us the finer points of flossing before and after every meal.

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up

The new ending to the water gag was a bit of a disaster tonight, and it put me in a pretty foul mood for the rest of the show.
Lucky for me we had so many genuine people come up to us afterwards to tell us how funny we were and how much they enjoyed the show. I really appreciated their kind words after a stressful performance.

After getting cleaned up I went to Midtown to meet my friend, Lisa, for a drink and a bite to eat.
Lisa was on the lighting crew on Ringling my fourth year, and whenever I visit NYC I always stay with her and her boyfriend, Dan, who was one of my friends in Clown Alley.
Dan is a high school teacher now, so he wasn't able to join us tonight, but I had a great time unwinding and catching up with Lisa.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Saturday, September 27: Bronx, NY- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning I went to Manhattan to get a belated birthday gift for Georgie. In that mission I succeeded, but unfortunately I wasn't able to find the clown make up that Ryan and I need.

I felt like having some NYC pizza this afternoon, and Google Maps led me to a Zagat rated pizzeria not far from where I was.
My pizza was very tasty, but it came uncut, and my only utensils were a fork and a butter knife that was not ideal for cutting through crust. To add to that, the pizza came on a slightly warped metal dish,  so as I attempted to cut the pie, the whole dish kept rotating on the table. Did I mention that the table was also off kilter, so with every movement of the knife everything on top of the table started to slide towards the edge.
I'm sure it was very entertaining to see me eat my lunch.

A similar buffoonish thing happened to me the other night while I was enjoying a post musical drink with Claire and Georgie.
I went to wash my hands in the bathroom, and the sinks were the kind where you hold your hands under the faucet to get the water to come out.
I did as I was supposed to, but the water shot out, completely missing my hands and going out of the sink and onto the crotch of my jeans.
I went back to the table with my shirt untucked to hide my accidental wetting and told the dancers, "Just once it would be nice not to be a clown 24/7."

This afternoon Ryan and I were happy to have some of our friends visiting. Seth Bloom, Christina Gelsone, and Jane Lok came by the lot this afternoon to catch up with us.
Seth and Christina were recently the clowns on Big Apple Circus; Ryan and I worked with them in Shanghai back in 2008. We got to see Jane several times in Houston with her husband, Rob; we were happy to see her smiling face again.

Both shows had great audiences, which I'm especially happy about since our friends watched the first performance.
Unfortunately I was off my game in both carpenter gags. In the second gag I could not stand still to save my life! I was constantly off balance and stumbling when I meant to stand still. I guess I need to lay off the hootch before the shows!

A small group was going to a jazz bar to celebrate Georgie's birthday after work. I got all dressed up to go out, but as I was waiting to leave, my eyes started to get very heavy.
Since I saw the bar was open until 4 a.m., and I know how late people on this show like to stay out, I graciously bowed out until the next time.

In closing, here is a link to the photos that Alex Beker took of me and Ryan on the last day in Miami.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Thursday, September 25 & Friday, September 26: Bronx, NY

9/25/14- Day Off!

Today was rainy, but I didn't let that stop me from taking a bite out of the Big Apple!
First I took a bite out of some tasty Hungarian food at Andre's Cafe in Manhattan. I fell in love with Hungarian cooking on Ringling, which is where I worked with many clowns from Hungary.

At Andre's I ordered one of my favorite magyar dishes, rakkot krumpli, which is a casserole with potatoes, eggs, sausage, and sour cream. It was delicious!
I was hoping they'd have dobos torta (drummer cake) for dessert, but they were out that day. Good thing we're in town for 10 weeks!

After lunch I walked up the block to a shoe repair shop. Even though one of my Marty Scott clown shoes had its holes stitched up in Atlanta, the leather is just so dried out that it tore open again.
The cobbler is going to replace the whole piece of leather on the front of the shoe. This time I'll make sure to take better care of my footwear!

Later in the afternoon I met Genevieve and Amanda in Times Square. Genevieve was a clown on Ringling last year, and she is in NYC auditioning for Cirque Du Soliel. Amanda is a photographer in town who took some great shots of me and Ryan on Kelly Miller last season.
We had dinner at a pub a block up from Times Square where it wasn't so crowded and crazy.

I had a good time visiting, but I had to cut out after awhile so I could catch an 8:00 p.m. performance of "Pippin" on Broadway.
The show was amazing! If you get a chance, please check it out. I thought the circus theme was used very well throughout the entire musical; there were so many creative uses of the ensemble's circus skills.

After the show I met up with Georgie and Claire at an upscale bar to have a drink. They had seen "Cinderella", and they were waiting for midnight when Georgie would turn into a pumpkin....I mean, start her birthday.
Emma and Laura arrived just in time to wish her a happy birthday with us. They had just gotten out of Madison Square Garden, where they went to see Pitbull in concert.
The dancers, and everyone else who stays in hotels on this tour, are all living in rented trailers for our New York engagements, so I gave them some lessons in "Trailer Life 101".
(If they had read some of my old Kelly Miller blogs, they would have known better than to ask me for trailer advice!)

When the bar closed down we attempted to catch the subway back to the lot, but the trains were taking forever.
We finally caught a cab, which wasn't bad at all since there were five of us splitting the cost.

9/26/14- 9:00 p.m.

There is a large plaza right across the street from the lot that contains a Target, BJ's, Home Depot, Best Buy, as well as several other shops and restaurants.
I went to Target to pick up some groceries for this weekend. Some friends told me that I should stock up on supplies while we're here in the Bronx, because there isn't the same kind of shopping convenience in Queens.

At 5:00 p.m. Ryan and I were in make up and costume for our television publicity, but once we got to the front of the tent we discovered that we were not needed until 6:00 p.m.
A little before 6:00 we returned to the front to film a couple of teases and a weather segment with a lady from the local UNIVISION station.
A group of people who had come to buy tickets to the show came over and stood behind the three of us while we made television magic.
When the camera wasn't rolling Ryan and I talked to the people and made friends...probably a couple of enemies too.

We only had one show tonight at 9 p.m., which was fantastic. Ryan and I got all of our props unloaded and set up between the end of the publicity and the start of the show.

We had a great audience for our opening night in New York City. The only downside was that we picked a guy in the audience for the start of the vacuum gag that turned out to be a real jerk. His attempts at being funnier than us put a damper on the end of the show for me.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Monday, September 22-Wednesday, September 24: Travel To Bronx, NY

9/22/14- Travel Day

Ryan and I didn't leave as early as we would have liked to this morning because there was a flat bed trailer in front of Ryan's house.
Luckily some of the men on the show were nice enough to help us move it out of the way, and we were able to leave Miami around noon.

We made our first stop at a Flying J truck stop about 120 miles into the 1,300 mile jump. While we were filling our propane tanks, dumping our black water, and fueling up, it began to rain buckets!
I got completely soaked while filling up my truck because the rain was blowing right into my back. I had to change into some dry clothes before we continued our drive.

The heavy rain stayed with us for a long time after leaving Flying J. Even later into the evening it was still drizzling on and off; the precipitation really slowed down our progress.

We stopped for the night around 1:00 a.m. in Walterboro, SC, my home town!

9/23/14- Travel Day

This morning my uncle, Richard, and my Nana came by the Walmart where we had parked for the night.
We went back to Nana's house to visit until Ryan, Tatiana, and Nico had woken up. When they were ready to go we went to pick them up and go to eat.

Nana and Richard treated us to breakfast, and it was nice to spend some time catching up with them. I haven't seen my family since the week surrounding Christmas. My Mom was unfortunately in San Francisco on vacation.

Nana and Richard dropped us back off at Walmart where we did some shopping before hitting the road again.
I purchased a new battery for my trailer since my old one wasn't charging very well.

We left Walterboro around noon. We had 545 miles under our belts, but still a long way to go.
Unfortunately it was still drizzling for most of the day.

We finally stopped at a Flying J in North East, MD at 3:30 a.m.
Tatiana's twin brothers and her younger sister, Delena, arrived around the same time. They were heading down to Georgia from New Hampshire, so we made plans to meet in Maryland.

I said, "Hello, I must be going" before quickly heading into my trailer and collapsing into bed. I have a hard time keeping awake once we start driving after midnight, and it is a miracle that I did as well as I did considering the ungodly hour we stopped.

9/24/14- Travel Day

One of the reasons we picked our stopping point in Maryland was so that we could see some of our friends from the Baltimore area.
First to arrive was Carol Lang, who we first met on Kelly Miller through our mutual friend, Natalie.
Carol brought bags of goodies for all of us to share, which we appreciated greatly.

Also visiting were Pat and Thom Stevenson, our friends from the Freestate Clown Alley and the John Ringling North II/Steve & Ryan Circus Fans of America tent.
Pat and Thom brought us each a snazzy new shirt bearing the tent's logo!

We visited with Carol, Pat, Thom, and Delena all afternoon, and our friends from Maryland also treated us to lunch at the Denny's conveniently located in the Flying J.

Finally in the late afternoon we said our goodbyes, and around 7:00 p.m. we left North East to embark on the final 150 miles of our jump to New York City!
We waited all day before leaving so that we could avoid horrible rush hour traffic.

I've been so worried about the drive into NYC since the beginning of the tour, but in reality I think it was the easiest part of the jump.
It definitely helped that we crossed the George Washington Bridge into the Bronx around 11:00 p.m. Traffic wasn't bad at all.
Once we were across the bridge it was just a few miles to the lot.

Shortly after we arrived at the lot our trailers were parked. It was a bit of a tricky parking job because a lot of trailers were already spotted in the long, narrow area where we needed to go. We had to squeeze by some of the houses and take a sharp turn between a trailer and a concrete wall to get to our spots, but we had Enrique directing us, so it wasn't too bad.

Once we were parked we were able to plug into power, which had just been provided to the trailers.
I got everything hooked up and went to bed, excited to begin our 10 week engagement in the Big Apple!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Saturday, September 20 & Sunday, September 21: Miami, FL

9/20/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning I met Michael Newton-Brown and his husband, Ralph, at the Hilton for breakfast. They were nice enough to treat me to the meal, and I enjoyed hearing Michael's stories from his year on the road with The Greatest Show on Earth.

After we ate, Michael and Ralph dropped me off at my trailer and began their drive back to Sarasota. I picked up Claire at the hotel and took her to a laundromat.
She and Helen had attempted to catch a cab to do laundry yesterday, but no driver was any help in finding a laundromat, and to top it all off they got rained on.
Even though we are mortal enemies, I decided to show a smidgen of pity and helped Claire out....this time.

After dropping Claire off I went to a Jiffy Lube to get my oil changed. The tricky part is always finding a place with garage doors tall enough to allow my truck inside.
It turned out to be an expensive visit since in addition to the oil change I also had my transmission flushed, but I have not had that done since I bought the truck, and I figured better safe than sorry.

On my way over to the tent today I noticed a line of protestors standing across the street from the circus. They were holding their signs, some of which had elephants on them. Our show doesn't have elephants....don't these people do their research?
Speaking of research, I wanted to go up to the dolts and say, "We've been here for over two full weeks, and you're just now showing up?"

Luckily their presence didn't affect business at all; both shows had great audiences, and we even had two celebrities at the first performance.
Gloria Estefan, the well know singer, and Adriana Lima, a Victoria's Secret Angel, were both in the crowd.
Can you guess which celebrity most of the guys were more excited to try and spot?

There was a man texting on his phone the entire time during the second carpenter gag. I called him out on it during the hat kicking part, and afterwards he sat and stared at me with a scowl on his face for the rest of the act.
When I was running around the ring with the out of control circular saw, I ran right up to him and yelled out, "Quick! Text 911!"

Wesley, a Circus Smirkus performer, watched the 9:00 p.m. performance with his family.
I met Wesley seven years ago when Ringling played Miami. Wesley had won a contest to be a guest clown for the Pre Show, and he came with his own costume, and he was prepared to do his own make up as well.
I was cracking up because Wesley knew all of us in Clown Alley by name, and he also knew how long we had been on the show.
It was like seeing myself as a kid!

9/21/14- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning I went to Panera Bread to have breakfast. While I was eating I was texting with Jennifer Fuentes, who was the "Singing Songstress of the Circus" my final three years on Ringling.
We had seen her earlier in the tour in Austin, where she lives, and she just happened to be right next door to the tent today at the Adrienne Arscht Center. She was auditioning for Gloria Estefan to obtain a role in a Broadway show. She saw the tent next to the Arscht Center and texted me to let me know she was in town for the day.
When she said she was standing in line and hadn't eaten yet, I told her that I was conveniently at Panera Bread, so I picked up some food for her and delivered it to Arscht Center.
We visited for a few minutes, but she had an audition to rock, and I had a 1,300 mile jump to prepare for.
I hope to see you on the Great White Way, Jen!

I spent the rest of the morning preparing my trailer for our jump to New York City. While I was putting a little air in my trailer tires I discovered that one of them was completely bald on half of the tire.
Why do I always find this stuff at the last minute!?
Luckily Martin helped me change the tire between shows, and he gave me a tire iron that fit the lug nuts on the wheel. Many thanks, Martin!

Alex Beker, a photographer, was backstage today taking photos of the circus behind the scenes. Alexa introduced him to Ryan, and they discovered they had a mutual interest: Argentina. Alex is from there, and Ryan is married to an Argentinean. Small world!
Alex was very interested in photographing us preparing for the second show, as well as re-setting our props during the performance.
He snapped a lot of great photos that will soon be on his website. I'll be sure to share the link when the content is available!

It was my turn to give the third show motivational speech this week, and I enlisted the help of my good, mentally unstable friend, El Payaso Loco (i.e. me in a clown luchador mask that I picked up in Mexico).
El Payaso Loco struck fear into the hearts of the regular speech attendants, while making vague and threatening statements in Spanglish.
Inspiring? Maybe. Terrifying? Most definitely.

We did great business at all three shows, which was a fantastic way to wrap up our engagement in Miami.
Another plus was that load out was not nearly as bad as I feared it would be. Ryan and I took all of our props to the front of the tent and left them under a tall tree (since it was drizzling rain occasionally).
I then ran to the trailers to get my truck, and we were able to load our props into it and get everything to our homes in two trips.
The second trip was made with Ryan driving my truck and me following behind in the little clown car.
My late night, load out drive to the trailers is always exhilarating, but this one in particular will stand out in my memory.
It's not every night that I get to drive a little clown car on city streets past crackheads and panhandlers. 

In closing, here's a great piece on Circo Hermanos Vazquez that we filmed in Atlanta, GA, that then aired on CNN Mexico.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Friday, September 19: Miami, FL- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning Ryan and I drove to Ft. Lauderdale, FL to teach a physical comedy workshop to the Miami unit of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit.
Ron Hoffman, the unit's supervisor, is a former Ringling clown, and he invited us to come and share our knowledge and experience with his co-workers.

Everyone who took the workshop was so much fun, and they picked up on everything so quickly!
Ryan and I only had the loosest of strategies when we went in to start teaching, but it was all material that we cover in our Circus Clowning Intensive, so we were able to jump right in without even thinking about it.

After the two hour workshop we sat down to eat lunch with the students and answer questions about circus life. I also picked Ron's brain for a few stories from his time on the road.

After lunch Ryan and I headed back down to Miami, running errands along the way. Unfortunately there was heavy rain during that time, so both of us were soaked by the time we got back to our trailers.

Tonight Michael Newton-Brown, a former Ringling clown and current lighting designer, and his husband, Ralph, came to visit and watch the first show.
Michael brought some of his homemade hummus as a free roll, and it was amazing!

At the beginning of the water gag, when I yelled, "Hola!" to my side of the audience, in return, a punk kid with long hair blew a loud fart noise using his mouth and hands.
That gave me an idea of the type of crowd we were up against....

The little car wouldn't shut off in the carpenter gag, and the gas fumes in the ring were ridiculously strong.
I felt so bad for the people sitting in the front row by the car, but every time I checked in with them, they were smiling and laughing (I thought maybe as a result of the fumes).
After the gag Ryan and I realized why the front row was unaffected even though the smell was so strong in the ring: the air conditioning was blowing all of the fumes right to us!

Luckily there was an easy solution to the problem. We simply had to tighten parts of the on/off switch, and the car shut off without a problem for the second show.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wednesday, September 17 & Thursday, September 18: Miami, FL

9/17/14- 7:30 p.m.

Today many of us from the show went to Jungle Island, a wild animal park not far at all from the tent.
Many thanks for our complimentary tickets go to Dwayne Cunningham, a former Ringling clown, who is better known to Jungle Island patrons as Doc Wasabi.

I went to the park with Ryan and his family, and when we arrived Dwayne began giving us a great and informative tour.
One of our first stops was over at the petting zoo, where we saw two HUGE tortoises. Dwayne told us that one of them was in her nineties, and the other was over one hundred years old!

Next Dwayne took us into a pen with baby kangaroos, and he allowed us to feed them grapes. For me, that experience was the highlight of our visit to Jungle Island.

Kangaroo selfie!

There are three shows that you can watch when you visit Jungle Island, and thanks to Dwayne's scheduling, we were able to catch all of them.

The first was a bird show, which I really enjoyed. The best part was seeing the wide variety of birds brought out, some of which I had never even heard of before!

Next we caught the Doc Wasabi show, where Dwayne and his assistant, Becca, brought out a variety of animals, including a kudamundi (which was placed on my head), a monitor lizard (which licked Ryan's face), and a ring tailed lemur (which ate a grape off of Claire's head).
It was fun seeing how Dwayne translated his experience from years as a Ringling clown into his current job as humorous host of a wild animal show.

After the performance Dwayne and Becca gave us a backstage tour of the Doc Wasabi show. We got to meet an umbrella cockatiel, a big porcupine, and we even got to hold an adorable kinkajou.

Awww. He's got my eyes.

After our backstage tour we were just in time to catch the third and final show in the park, which was an educational performance about baby tigers. There was also a baby liger (bred for their skills in magic) and a couple of primates thrown in for good measure!

In the early afternoon we bid Jungle Island adieu to visit the beach. There is one at the park, but currently it is only open on the weekends.
Since Ryan had promised Nico that we would be visiting a beach, we drove a few miles over to South Beach to have some fun in the sand and surf.

We were only able to visit for a couple of hours before we got rained out, but Nico had an absolute blast.
I was happy that we got such a full, fun day in before our show in the evening.

Dwayne and his crew came to the show, and afterwards we gave them a backstage tour as a thank you for the great day we had at Jungle Island.

9/18/14- 7:30 p.m.

This afternoon I started learning a new song on the trumpet for an act we will be performing on the Christmas tour this winter.
It took me a little while to get back in the swing of playing the instrument; I hadn't even picked up my trumpet since the music gag was cut in Brownsville back in March!

Our friend, Kenny Mikey, a Ringling Clown College grad who we worked with in China six years ago, came to visit tonight....with a bag of candy! (Really, isn't that how all friends should visit?)

Kenny watched the show tonight, along with Ron Hoffman, another former Ringling clown, and some of his co-workers from the Miami unit of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit.

When I walked backstage to get into make up for the show, I saw that our two bottles for the water gag were standing alone by our props. Both were almost completely devoid of water (I had filled them both earlier in the afternoon), and one had a big jagged piece of plastic missing from the top.
I quickly called Ryan and asked him to grab our last spare bottle from my trailer.
We used to be able to find the carafes that we use for the act from Walmart, but once we left Texas we were no longer able to find them, hence us being on our last spare.
Thank God for Walmart's website! We should have more in time for opening night in NYC.

We had a fantastic audience for the show tonight. Enrique Santos, a former well known radio personality who now has a television show (similar to Jerry Springer's, so I was told), was our special guest.

When Enrique came out before Intermission to do his guest spot, he started yelling "Hola!" to one side of the audience and then the other, just like we did in the water gag.
As soon as we were offstage, Ryan said, "That guy is stealing our material!"
On our way into the dressing room, Mario came behind us and said, "I can't believe that guy is stealing your material!"
Ryan and I both laughed and told him that Ryan had just said the same thing.
A few minutes later I got a text from Teo saying, "That guy stole your material!"
Great minds think alike.....

Kenny, Bill, Ivan, and Ron

Enrique even stole Kenny's pose! That rascal!

After the show Ryan and I had a great time catching up with Kenny. A lot has happened for all three of us since we worked together at the International Clown Festival in Shanghai, China!