Monday, September 1, 2014
This morning Jamarr and I went to have breakfast before I dropped him off at his sister's house. I'm so glad that we got to spend some time together, because we really didn't hang out that often when we were on the road with Ringling.
While I was setting the water for the first show I checked the tires on the little car and discovered a flat.
Ryan came over and helped me change the inner tube; strangely enough it was the same tire that popped a couple of weeks ago. I'm just glad I caught it before the show.
Unfortunately the car wasn't done giving us trouble for the first show. When I parked in the ring to start the carpenter gag, the engine wouldn't shut off.
I tried flipping the switch a couple of times, but to no avail. Finally I turned the choke on, which really quieted down the engine's idling rumbles.
The car was still running for the majority of the gag, but funnily enough the engine stalled and died the instant that Ryan hit the car with the sledgehammer.
Luckily the solution to the engine not wanting to shut off was a simple one. One of the cables going to the on/off switch had simply come out.
Jovani, one of the electricians, fixed the connection between shows so that it shouldn't happen again.
We had good attendance for the three shows today (Saturday's business was good too), which surprised me since this whole week was added on at the last minute.
Also, for those of you keeping score, Marcos Espana gave the motivational speech today!
At the end of the third construction gag a guy tried to trip Ryan as he exited through the seats. Ryan was moving at a healthy clip, and the audience member stuck his leg out straight in front of him.
Ryan's foot connected strongly with the man's foot, but while Ryan remained standing, the guy's shoe went flying.
I'd say Ryan emerged victorious from that match. Take note, any other jerk audience members out there.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
8/29/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
This afternoon I got to spend time with Jon Bogle, a 1992 graduate of Ringling's Clown College who spent a year on the road with the Blue Unit.
We went to The Flying Biscuit Cafe to have lunch; while there I looked through his great photo album from his Ringling clown days, and we swapped many road stories.
Back at the lot Nikolai came by my trailer asking for help. He was having an issue with the Internet connection through his phone, and the people he was talking to via the tech support line were speaking too fast for him to understand their English.
I called on his behalf, and without too much trouble we were able to get everything working properly again.
Jon Bogle came to see the first show tonight. Unfortunately he saw us in front of a small, extremely comatose audience.
To make matters worse, every technical thing in our gags that could go wrong, did go wrong.
In the carpenter gag the brakes on the workbench came undone, so the box started to roll forward into the ring while Ryan was inside, which messed up the blow off to the gag a bit.
The most embarrassing mistake was in the the vacuum gag when the stretched out face inside the vacuum's nozzle flew out and landed in the middle of the ring before the gag's blow off.
That kind of stuff only happens when you have friends in the audience!
The second show was better than the first, but considering how bad it had been, that isn't saying too much.
I've learned that in situations like that, all you can do is learn from the failures, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, hold your head high, and try again.
It also helped that I had ice cream waiting in my freezer at the end of the night!
8/30/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
This morning I went to the Center For Puppetry Arts and took a tour of their museum. I spent a good two hours thoroughly looking over all the different exhibits, which covered every type of puppet you could think of from every different country and culture.
Here are some of the highlights:
Madame, perhaps the world's sauciest puppet
The Angel Of Death from Bread & Puppet Theatre
Scar from Broadway's "The Lion King"
A Skeksis from "The Dark Crystal"
One of the goblins from "Labyrinth"
Link Hogthrob and Dr. Strangepork from "Pigs In Space"
Kermit the Frog...
...and Miss Piggy!
By the Kermit and Miss Piggy cases were plans for the museum expansion that was underway outside the center. By next summer the building I was in will be storage, and there will be a brand new, much bigger Center For Puppetry Arts with a huge exhibit on Jim Henson. I can't wait to see it!
While I was admiring some puppets from "Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas", a man walked up to me and asked, "Is your name Steve?"
I answered affirmatively.
Again I said yes.
"Were you a circus clown with Ringling Bros.?"
By now I was wondering if I owed this guy money, but I again answered yes.
He broke out in a big grin and asked, "Can I give you a hug?"
I'm never one to turn down a free hug, so I graciously accepted.
My inquisitive new friend turned out to be Clark Sides, who saw me on Ringling 9 years ago in North Carolina. He and his mother had bought the "Circus Celebrity" seats that let you ride on a tram during the opening part of the show.
Clark and his mother were on the tram I interacted with, and apparently I was Clark's mother's favorite clown.
Clark told me that he recognized me from a Youtube video I put up many years ago:
I'm surprised he recognized me when I wasn't moving so fast.
Being recognized like that really made my day. Thanks for caring, Clark!
After exploring all that the Center For Puppetry Arts had to offer, I had lunch at Mellow Mushroom, which is a great pizzeria found in many college cities around the country.
Jamarr Woodruff, who I spent two years working alongside of on Ringling's Clown Alley, came to see the 9:00 p.m. show.
I was afraid he wasn't going to be able to see us while we were in town, but it all worked out in the end.
Jamarr spent the night, so we stayed up late watching old Ringling videos and reminiscing about our time on the road.
Post Script: On Thursday when Rob Hadaway and I were exploring different places around town, we visited a book store only a block from the lot.
There I found an autographed George Burns book on sale for $50.
Pretty cool, huh? Just wanted to share!
Friday, August 29, 2014
This morning I went to Panera Bread for breakfast. After parking my truck I was walking to the restaurant when I noticed a man who was sitting on a bench ahead of me. The reason I noticed him was that aside from enjoying his morning coffee, he was harassing one of the workers maintaining the grounds in the little shopping plaza.
This particular worker was wearing one of those hats with a white veil that covered his face, and the man on the bench kept yelling at him, "I ain't 'fraid of no ghosts!"
At first I thought the man knew the worker and was joking around with him, but when the worker approached the man, he suddenly became very agitated, screaming, "Get away from me before I call the cops! I ain't 'fraid of no ghosts!"
And that was my morning.
After breakfast and ghostbusting, I went to Barnes & Noble to pick up some new reading material. I got the most recent "Walking Dead" graphic novel, and I also picked up an issue of the UK based "Empire Magazine", which had an interview and photo shoot with folks involved with the movie, "Gremlins", which is celebrating its 30th birthday.
Back at the Plaza Fiesta I took one of my clown shoes to the shoe repair shop. The man working there did such a great job on my shoes the last time that I knew this job wouldn't be a problem for him.
There was a sizable rip in the leather at the base of the area where my shoelaces are. In an hour he had put a leather patch over the offending area, and I was good to go!
Rob Hadaway picked me up this afternoon and took me to Eddie's Trick Shop, a magic and make up store in town.
I was in dire need of some jumbo red makeup pencils, and I was also able to pick up a few other items of which my supply was dwindling.
Next Rob and I went to a mall containing a hat store where he had purchased a pith helmet many years ago for his hospital clowning character.
Rob was delighted that the store was still there, and also that they had another pith helmet in stock.
It was serendipitous that Rob needed to visit a hat store, because I was in need of a new cap for the water gag.
They had cheap ones in stock, but I decided to pay the extra money for a Kangol so it will hopefully last longer.
Back at the Plaza Fiesta Rob and I got some delicious tacos in the food court, and then it was time for me to get ready for our show.
I was heading back to my trailer after the show at exactly 9:30 p.m., so I made spur of the moment plans to catch a 10:00 p.m. movie.
I went to see the new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" film; when I was a kid I was all about the Ninja Turtles, a fact to which all the toys collecting dust in my Nana's attic can attest.
I was really disappointed in the movie (Ryan's reaction, "Really? I'm surprised you didn't expect to be."). The only part that I enjoyed was an exciting car chase down a snowy mountainside.
I'll stick to the cartoon series and the 1990 film, thank you very much!
Today Ryan and I signed and turned in our contracts to the circus office. That's right, it is official now; Ryan and I will be performing with Circo Hermanos Vazquez's West Coast tour next year!
We're looking forward to seeing all our fans and friends out west. I haven't performed in that area since I was there with Ringling eight years ago.
To celebrate I drove to Decatur to explore its cool downtown. I walked around for a bit to acclimate myself to the area. When it came time to choose a place to eat lunch, I disappointed myself with my decision.
With so many trendy, unique restaurants to choose from, I went with a basic sushi place that didn't really have anything extraordinary on the menu.
My food was fine, it was just very plain compared to some of the items on restaurant menus I perused.
I was just in the mood for raw fish....
To jazz up my tastebuds a bit I visited Revolution Doughnuts, which serves coffee and fancy doughnuts. How fancy? $2.50 a doughnut fancy!
I chose one with caramel and bacon on top. Mmmmmmm, caramel pork donut.....
Ryan and I had a last minute (Eddie just told us about it last night) television PR slated for 6:00 p.m. We were both ready to go at 10 minutes 'til 6, but by 6:30 the reporters still hadn't arrived.
At that time Alexa made the call that the PR had been cancelled. To be honest, I was a little disappointed; it was supposed to be an English interview for some kind of pop culture program. They had even requested us. Oh well......
Ryan and I had a lot of friends in the audience for tonight's show: Jim Maltman and his girlfriend, Therese, Rob Hadaway and his parents, and Leland Bridges, with whom I went to high school.
At the end of the water gag Ryan chases me with a bucket that the audience thinks contains water. He stops on the ring curb in front of the center section of audience and releases four spring snakes covered in blue fabric. This usually gets a great reaction from the crowd, but tonight it got a response that will be hard to top.
One guy, who was sitting on the end of the aisle, was so scared of the spring snaked that he jumped up out of his seat and ran down the aisle.
I was crouched down, so all I saw was something go flying past me; I thought Ryan had lost control of the bucket and had thrown it.
When I stood up I saw the man standing a section away, staring at me and Ryan like a little, scared rabbit.
The unexpected audience participation got a big laugh from the audience. We need more demonstrations of the fight or flight reflex in our gags!
The other entertaining part of tonight's show was a man (possibly intoxicated), who was yelling, "WHOOOOOOOOO!" at the top of his voice as often as he could.
It got to the point where we were laughing backstage just listening to his unbridled enthusiasm.
At least he was having a good time!
Jim Maltman. Not the "WHOOOOO!" guy, but still possibly intoxicated.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
8/25/14- 7:30 p.m.
This morning I went to do laundry, and then I went to Little Five Points to visit The Vortex again. I had a delicious burger called the Big Bad Voodoo Patty, which had chipotle cream cheese and spicy, sweet, green pepper jelly on top of the meat. Delicious!
After lunch I went to do some household item shopping at Walmart. By the time I had finished I was feeling rough. My cold had progressed to the second stage, where my head felt incredibly congested.
I took a nap to rest up for the show tonight, but I felt even worse when I woke up.
There used to be a flap at the back of the tent that all of us performers would enter through, but from now on that flap will remain closed except to let the horses in and out.
We performers were told to use two new doors added to either side of the backstage area. When Eddie told us about the change last night, we jokingly asked if one door was for the artists and the other door was for the clowns.
After the show a young man in his twenties got his picture taken with me and Ryan. Noting that he had come to the circus alone and had his picture taken with the clowns, Ryan laughed and said, "It's you!"
8/26/14- 7:30 p.m.
I tried to lay low and rest as much as possible today. Before the show I was feeling terrible; my whole body felt feverish and achey.
Luckily by the time we started working the ibuprofen I had taken kicked in. After our first gag I was feeling fine.
We had a small crowd tonight, which unfortunately I'm expecting for this whole week. Our run in Atlanta was supposed to end on the 24th, but our engagement in Gaithersburg, MD has been cancelled, so an extra week was added here in Atlanta.
Since all the Atlanta posters carry the 24th as our final day, I'm afraid it may be slim pickings for the end of the run.
Hopefully word of mouth will kick in!
Keland Scher, a former Ringling clown who now works as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist in Atlanta, came to see the show tonight with his boss and her two children.
After the show Keland and I went to Pho 24, a twenty-four hour Vietnamese restaurant not far from the lot.
I hadn't been to a noodle house since I was in China, and the soup I ordered did wonders for my cold.
In closing, here's a video of the piece CNN did on me and Ryan:
Monday, August 25, 2014
I had a heck of a time trying to get to sleep last night. I was dozing off around 2 a.m. when a text message made my phone vibrate and I was wide awake again.
After that my power was off, and I didn't feel like reading, so I tossed and turned until I fell asleep close to 4 a.m.
To add to my discomfort I was also dealing with a sore throat that began immediately after the 9:00 p.m. show last night.
Despite my lack of sleep I didn't have too much trouble getting up and out the door this morning. I met a high school acquaintance at The Flying Biscuit Cafe for breakfast. Leland was in the grade under me at Colleton Prep Academy, and she's been living in Atlanta for about seven years.
I haven't seen her since I graduated 12 years ago, so we had plenty to talk about!
Back at the lot I rested up as best I could in preparation for my work day. I really wasn't looking forward to three shows while being sick and under rested.
I tried to not to strain my throat too much during the shows today. I never realized how much I scream like a little girl in our gags until I was making a conscious effort not to!
In our entrance for the first carpenter gag the little car did a Tokyo drift as I began to circle the ring. Right after that I could tell that something was up, and backstage our suspicions were confirmed: we had a flat tire.
After the show we changed the popped inner tube and we were good to go.
Ryan and I both had a rough second show, and during finale, while I was standing at the edge of the ring stewing over everything that had gone wrong, a little kid sitting by me stabbed me in the back with his light up sword.
I quickly looked over to see him and his parents laughing. Something inside me snapped, and before I fully realized what I was doing, I had leapt over the railing that I was leaning on, and I was chasing the kid up the stairs, trying to take his sword away.
The look on the child's face was priceless when I came over the railing! I think he was just as surprised as I was that I made it over so quickly.
Mike, our bass player in the band, gave today's motivational speech, which helped get us all pumped up.
Mike's words of encouragement and the great audience for the final show helped put the frustration of the kid with the sword behind me.
Ryan and I had just finished the carpenter gag. We were front and center on the ring curb taking our final style when all of a sudden an empty popcorn bucket came hurtling out of the seats and hit me in the stomach.
I looked down in disbelief before picking up the bucket and incredulously asking the crowd, "Who threw this?!"
Some adults in the second row ratted out their son, who had launched the projectile. I turned the empty bucket upside down and deftly plunked it over the kid's head.
Why do the children of Atlanta, GA hate me so?!
Starting today we performers have a backstage lounge complete with couches, a carpet, and wifi.
Yes, you read all of that correctly.
I see a lot of much more comfortable multiple show days in our future!
Sunday, August 24, 2014
8/22/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
This morning Rob Hadaway came to pick me up at the circus. We drove downtown to the Georgia Aquarium, but we arrived about thirty minutes before its doors opened.
We went for a little walk in the nearby Centennial Olympic Park until we could enter the aquarium.
Everyone has been recommending the aquarium to me, and after visiting I can see why. It was extremely well done; every different area was well presented, and there were some beautiful fish on display.
My favorite animals to watch were the otters, penguins, and beluga whales.
The two highlights of the aquarium were the cheesy dolphin show done in the style of a Broadway musical, and the giant tank containing several whale sharks.
It was so peaceful and beautiful; I'm glad we saved that exhibit for last, because there was no way to top it.
After leaving downtown Rob took me to Decatur, which has a neat, trendy downtown. We had lunch at Twain's, which was a great brewery and billiards hall.
Today was Nico's first day of preschool! The teacher on tour with the circus got all of the very young children together to start preparing them for kindergarten. Where has the time gone!?
Claire, one of the dancers, and I have an ongoing rivalry, the origin of which neither of us can remember.
Tonight she was upset to discover that I went to the aquarium without her or the other girls.
To show her displeasure, she sprayed me with glass cleaner. I think that was her way of telling me that she thinks I am transparent.
Right before the first water gag Tisok, the prop boss, came and asked us if we knew where the water buckets were.
I told him that I had set them early this morning, and that was the last time I'd seen them.
When Ryan and I went onstage we didn't know if we would have a blow off to our gag, but luckily the buckets were found in time for the stage crew to throw water on us.
Backstage I found out what had happened. The dancers had borrowed the buckets for the ALS challenge, but they didn't return them. They gave them to one of the new prop guys, but he didn't put them back where they were supposed to go either.
The dancers apologized profusely, but I know deep down it was all a cover up for one of Claire's evil schemes to thwart me!
After the shows there was a small barbecue outside the Espanas' trailers for some of their visiting family.
I stopped by for a bit to have some delicious food socialize a bit.
8/23/14- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
I took it easy today to rest up for our weekend of shows. I watched the film, "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", which I haven't seen since I was a teenager.
I didn't appreciate it then, but now I found it absolutely hilarious.
Since it was pretty darn hot today the water in our bottles for the spitting gag was practically boiling. I fill up our water bottles from my trailer's sink, which has running water supplied by a black hose that sits and bakes in the sun all day.
I was cracking up every time I spit on Ryan. His reactions tonight were especially hilarious.
In the vacuum gag there is a part where I am strutting my stuff for the crowd, and I always pick a woman out of the front row and tell her to call me.
Tonight after the second show a little girl came up and said, "One of you told my mom to call you."
I raised my hand and admitted that it was me.
When the little girl gave me an "are you serious?" look, I responded matter of factly with, "Your mom is hot!"
Friday, August 22, 2014
This afternoon I drove up to Lawrenceville, GA to have lunch with Luke and Laura Davis at a Mexican restaurant.
After we were finished dining we drove to a park in Lawrenceville where we set up under the shade of a gazebo and juggled.
Luke brought all of his juggling equipment: balls, rings, clubs, plates, and even a diabolo. I brought some of my cigar boxes to teach him some moves, and I also taught him some stealing routines with his three juggling balls.
Luke picked up all of the new tricks very quickly. I'd like to credit my ability as a teacher, but I know it was mostly due to Luke's talent.
After awhile we just sat down and the three of us talked and shared stories while enjoying the beautiful weather and the scenery of the park.
Luke had requested to watch me put on my make up, so I had him and his mom over to my trailer before they headed into the tent to watch the performance.
Unfortunately I won't get to see Luke and Laura again while we're in town, but I'm so glad we got to spend some quality time together. They were excellent hosts!
In closing, here's a photo from Monday night when a group of us from the show went bowling!