Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wednesday, July 23: Chicago, IL- 7:30 p.m.

Ryan's brother, Pete, flew into Chicago this afternoon. For some reason, Ryan was expecting him tonight, and since he had important errands to run, he had me go pick up Pete.

I was going to get Pete at O'Hare Airport, but he had already bought a train ticket. I quickly went on the Chicago Transit Authority website and tried to find a station close to our lot on the Blue Line, which runs from the airport.
The website said that the Belmont stop was the farthest he could go without transferring, so I told him to go there.

After a long drive to the northern part of downtown, and some confused phone calls to Pete to discern his location, I found out that there is more than one Belmont stop, and Pete was at one three miles west of where I was.
I quickly pulled over and reset my GPS, and before too long I was able to find Pete without any further complications.

Both of us were hungry, and Pete saw on his phone that a heavy metal themed burger restaurant called Kuma's Corner was just down the road.
His friend had told him about it last year, and he wanted to revisit so he could pick up a t-shirt.

Our food was very good, but it took quite awhile to receive it. That gave us plenty of time to catch up with each other; I enjoyed hearing about his time as head usher on Big Apple Circus last season.

Back at the lot Ryan, Tatiana, and especially Nico were happy to see Pete once again.

A couple of members of the Rozzi family, who Ryan lived with for a year in California, were on their way to NYC and just happened to be in the area.
They stopped by to see the show tonight, so Ryan was happy to have them and Pete in the crowd.

Also watching the show was Bob Hunt, better known as the comedy juggler, "Circus Boy". He came with his girlfriend, Doreen, and his two sons. Bob and Doreen first met on Ringling back in the 1980s where Bob was working as a clown and Doreen as a showgirl.

After the show I was able to visit with Bob and his family briefly. Doreen was nice enough to bring me a delicious rib dinner since I wasn't able to join them for a meal at their home earlier this afternoon.

In closing, here are some fantastic shots that Rick Purdue took this past Sunday:

Monday, July 21 and Tuesday, July 22: Chicago, IL

7/21- 7:30 p.m.

This morning I met up with circus fans Doug, John, Mardi, and Rick, who took me to breakfast. We were able to find a restaurant not far at all from the lot, and I enjoyed telling them about our experiences on Vazquez and hearing circus news from other shows as well.
Before we left, Mardi, who is co-editor of "White Tops" with her husband, John, was nice enough to give me copies of the most recent issues. I was very grateful since I haven't received any of the magazines I subscribe to in the past couple of months.

Later in the day I went shopping to get a birthday present for tonight's party. While I was out I picked up a new video game for myself as well.

At tonight's show there was a family in the front row that was really enjoying our work. They were way more vocal with their appreciation than the rest of the audience was, so Ryan and I played a lot of our bits towards them to capitalize on their reactions.

After the show the family came into the ring to take a photo with us. They stood next to us and posed, but one of the kids leaned against the photo backdrop behind us and knocked it over!
We all laughed about the situation, but then not two minutes later a different family came over, and one of their kids did the exact same thing!
Luckily no one toppled over with the wall, although I'm sure it would have been hilarious!

After the show there was a birthday party for Anastasiia, one of the members of Trio Bellissimo. Her birthday is actually tomorrow, but since it is a day off, it was decided that tonight would be the prime time to party hearty.

7/22- Day Off!

The plan was to get up early this morning so we could hit the road to Baraboo by 7 a.m.
Unfortunately I woke up around 4:30 a.m., much earlier than I wanted to, thanks to a splitting headache. Note to self: shots containing alcohol and Horchata (, although delicious, have a tendency to sneak up on you, especially when combined with sangria and beer.

I took some ibuprofen, stood under my shower until the hot water ran out, and got some breakfast and coffee down my gullet to ease my queasy stomach.
By the time Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I left the lot, I felt like a million bucks. Now I just need to start marketing my miracle hangover cure, and I'll be on Easy Street!

The last time we were in Baraboo we didn't get to see our friend, Greg, because he was on vacation. I was happy that we got to visit with him today at the International Clown Hall of Fame, of which he is executive director.

Before geeking out at the Hall of Fame, we went to lunch with Greg, and his daughter, Emily. While we dined we were able to see Greg's wife, Karen, who stopped in for a brief visit on her way to a business meeting.

Back at the ICHOF Ryan and I made ourselves useful and helped Greg reorganize some exhibits in preparation for the induction ceremony taking place Wednesday night.
I really wish we could join in the celebration as Chuck Burns, Dougie Ashton, Paul Wenzel, and Swede Johnson are inducted into the Hall of Fame, but we will be performing a show as the ceremony takes place.

During the afternoon we were surprised to get a visit from Sara, who was the schoolteacher on Ringling's Blue Unit when Ryan and I were working there.
She currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany, but she was in the area visiting family and friends.

Our friend, Neal, who is the clown at Circus World Museum, came over to visit and geek out with us once he was done with work.

"Bobo" Barnett display
 Hotorini, baby! Frosty Little display
 Coco mannequin and wardrobe
 Autographed Lou Jacobs shoes

One of Keith Crary's understated outfits

After awhile our hunger for clown knowledge couldn't compete with our hunger for dinner, so all of us piled into our vehicles and drove to the Wisconsin Dells where we had dinner at Famous Dave's BBQ.

We all shared a big platter of ribs, brisket, fries, beans, corn on the cob, and corn bread muffins. In fact, you could say we all made pigs of ourselves.

See what I did there?

Unfortunately after dinner we had to head back to Chicago. The last time we visited Baraboo we didn't get back to Vazquez until the sun was coming up!
Both Ryan and I decided that we are getting too old for those kinds of hijinx, so we made sure to leave at a reasonable time tonight.

We were treated to beautiful lightning displays almost the entire drive back to Chicago, and we pulled into the lot just before 1 a.m.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sunday, July 20: Chicago, IL- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning Alex and I went to Panera Bread to pick up some breakfast, and then we brought it back to the lot to enjoy it with Ryan and his family on their "veranda".

The rest of the morning was spent with Alex helping us design a new logo for our 2014 promotional video. Besides just the general design, we needed help with other details since we plan for the logo to be animated.

Doug, John, and Mardi, circus fans from Columbus, OH, came to see the show today and write a review for the Circus Fans of America magazine, "White Tops", of which John and Mardi are editors. They were planning to watch the final performance, but they came by the lot to say hello earlier in the afternoon, and they ended up watching the second half of the 2:00 p.m. show.

Alex watched the 2:00 p.m. performance as well, and halfway through the second show he headed back home to Iowa.
I'm so glad that we got to see him, and Ryan and I really appreciate all the great work he does for us.

There was a big crowd for the 5:00 p.m. show; the biggest we've had since we opened in Chicago.
During the water gag I spotted Rick and Paula Purdue in the second row. Rick has taken photos for the Kelly Miller programs the last couple of years, and I look forward to seeing what awesome shots he took at our show today.
I spoke with them briefly after the show and told them about my breakfast plans with Doug, John, and Mardi in the morning.

We had a fantastic audience for the third show, which I definitely needed for my lagging energy.
Ryan also helped out by giving the third show motivational speech, which he delivered as a roast entitled, "I Hate You All". Very funny stuff!

After the shows Ryan and I were up until almost 2:00 a.m. working on animating our logo for our new promo video.
All the effort was worth it for the 7 seconds of footage, because it looks pretty darn spiffy!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Saturday, July 19: Chicago, IL- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning I went to do a little grocery shopping, and then once I got back to the lot I went on a walk in the Little Village, which is a few miles of 26th Street full of Mexican shops and restaurants.
Yesterday on the bus ride back from the Salt & Pepper Diner I spotted a piece of graffiti featuring "Brain" from the cartoon series, "Animaniacs" (and later, the spin off series, "Pinky & The Brain"). I wanted to take a photo of the art, and today's weather made it a perfect day to do so.

While I was on my walk I saw one of the Vazquez vans driving around with a sound system playing a  commercial for the show. 
I'm not sure if that's a marketing tactic that's used in every city we play; this was the first time I've seen it done.

Today my younger cousin, Brooks, got married. I wish I could have been there to celebrate with my family, but such is the life of a circus clown.

During the first carpenter gag, Ryan threw the sledgehammer at me, and when I ducked, the hammer hit the little car like usual, but then it bounced off into the first row.
I didn't know what had happened since I was ducked down with my back to the car, but I heard that the bit got a huge laugh. Maybe we should keep that bit of audience participation in!

Our friend, Alex, came to visit tonight. He just moved back to Iowa from NYC, and he was in the area dropping a friend off at O'Hare Airport.

The Rinny Family, who are working at Circus World Museum this summer, also came to visit and watch the show this evening.

When Ryan and I got into the ring for the second water gag, we noticed that both our water bottles were almost empty.
Apparently when Mario was moving the water box onto the mat, the bottles toppled right over.
Luckily we had just enough water left in the bottles to do the act; we just had to be really careful about water conservation.
Backstage we went over a back up plan with Mario in case that happens again.

Ryan, Tatiana, Nico, and I visited with the Rinny Family briefly after the show, but they had to drive back to Baraboo, which is a 3 1/2 hour trip.

Tatiana made dinner, and then we spent the rest of the evening hanging out and catching up with Alex about his time in Israel and NYC.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Friday, July 18: Chicago, IL- 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.

This morning I took a bus to the northern part of downtown Chicago to visit the Salt & Pepper Diner.

I wanted to visit because one of my favorite comedians, John Mulaney, grew up in Chicago and has a hilarious story about the diner.

Language warning, for those of you with sensitive ears.

Of course my main reason for visiting was to play "What's New, Pussycat" on the jukebox, but alas and alack, there was no more jukebox, probably as a result of nerds like me visiting expressly for that reason.
Still, I enjoyed my meal, and my waitress was very friendly. 

Before heading back to the lot I snapped a picture of Wrigley Field, which was right next to the diner. 

Maybe one day I'll be able to catch a game there. I'm not really one for sports, but I don't think you can get more Chicago than a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.
Except for maybe eating a hot dog while dressed up like Harry Caray.

Giovanni Zoppe, better know in the circus world as "Nino", was at the first show tonight with his family.
We were able to chat with them a little bit after the performance; they will soon be embarking on a tour with their show in their beautiful big top.

Giovanni told us that his son loved our work, and sure enough, when Ryan went to talk to him, Julien showed Ryan how he can react to a hit like we do.
After some prompting from Giovanni, Julien did the bit where he played patty cake with Ryan before giving him a clown slap to the face. It was too funny!

Ryan and I took part in a last minute PR during the second performance. At Intermission we went up into the seats where a cameraman and reporter from UNIVISION were doing live broadcasts.
We only filmed two short hits. We simply mugged alongside the reporter while the second half was going on in the background.

I had a great joke when the reporter was explaining to us when to enter the shot and start being funny. He was trying to tell us that the cameraman would give us a hand signal, but he was having a hard time finding the correct words. He finally settled on, "He'll give us a finger."
I blurted out in mock horror, "He's going to give us the finger?!", which made Ryan and the reporter crack up.

Heidi and Cassidy Herriot were at the second performance, so Ryan and I were able to say hello to them afterwards. We worked with them on the Christmas tour in 2011.

After work I got cleaned up and went to a barbecue that was being held in the back yard. Ryan's sangria was back, by popular demand, and this time it was even more potent than it was in Houston.
Luckily, no one went blind from drinking it, so I'd call that a success.

Thursday, July 17: Chicago, IL- 7:30 p.m.

This morning I drove to Berwyn, which is only about three miles from our lot. I'm very familiar with the town because it is one we played on Kelly Miller every year.
Last year we discovered a horror movie memorabilia store called Horrorbles, and since we are in the neighborhood and I had plenty of time at my disposal, I wanted to go back to look through their wares once again.

The man working behind the counter was very nice, and we chatted about horror conventions and our mutual love of the Gremlins films.
I spent a long time looking through boxes of old issues of the magazine, "Fangoria". All the issues were $5 each, so I found every one that I could featuring articles on either "Gremlins" or "Gremlins 2: The New Batch".
On my way up to pay for my magazines, I perused another rack that had a buy 2, get 1 free offer. I picked up 2 issues of "Cinefantastique", and one issue of "Gorezone".

There were so many horror magazines, books, models, figures, posters, and photos in Horrorbles that I could have easily spent all day looking through everything.

Right next door is a general movie memorabilia shop called Reel Art. I stopped in there as well to part with more of my hard earned money.
I found the three parts of the excellent BBC produced Buster Keaton documentary, "A Hard Act To Follow", on VHS, and I also picked up an issue of "Femme Fatales" featuring Carrie Fisher on the cover as Princess Leia in her metal bikini. Va va voom!

My mighty haul

On the way back to the lot I stopped by the Berwyn post office, and as luck would have it, right across the street was Vesecky's Bakery. Vesecky's is a great Czech bakery that Jason and Justin Senft told me about a few years ago.
After I concluded my business at the post office I conducted some more delicious business at the bakery. I picked up an assortment of kolackys to take home.

Once I was back at the circus I borrowed one of the ladders from the tent and got up on my trailer's roof.
Since the weather has finally cleared up for a few days in a row, I wanted to do some patching to fix some newly discovered leaks.

Tonight my magician friends, Paul Lee and Steve, Steve's girlfriend and partner, Carol, and Carol's cousin, Teryn, were in the audience.

 Carol and Steve
Carol and Teryn

Since I had friends in the audience, I naturally had a very off show.

Before Intermission Memo began making a new announcement. I was proud of myself that my understanding of Spanish has gotten good enough that I knew he was talking about someone in the audience who left their car's lights on.
I half heartedly started to walk away from my position while motioning to the audience that it was my car he was talking about, but I wasn't gutsy enough to yell, "Mi auto!" and race up the stairs and out of the tent.
Well, there's always the next time...

After the show I joined my friends for dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings, the same one we went to last year when they visited us on Kelly Miller.
I enjoyed hearing Paul Lee's circus stories from his days as ringmaster on Franzen Bros. Circus, and I was happy to share some of my Ringling and Kelly Miller stories too.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 16: Chicago, IL- 7:30 p.m.

Tatiana made breakfast for all of us again this morning. Before heading over to eat I went by the office because I had received a text message informing me that I had mail waiting there.
I was happy to open a package containing a gift from my friend, Natalie, on Culpepper Merriweather.

When I wrote to thank her for the gift, I joked that I wouldn't let Ryan touch it for fear that he would burst into flames.

Ryan and I visited with Jeff this morning until it was time for him to hit the road. He headed out around noon so he could drive to Nixa, MO to visit his friends and former Ringling clown co-workers, Tom and Tammy Parish.
I'm so happy that we got to spend so much time with Jeff, and I'm hoping that we'll get to see him again before the end of the year.

After Jeff took off I joined Ryan and his family for a trip to the market. There is going to be a big barbecue on Friday, and Mario asked Ryan to make sangria since it was such a hit in Houston.
Ryan and I picked up all of the fruit and alcohol we needed; it's a good thing we are splitting the cost with Mario as sangria is very expensive to make!

Once we got back to the lot I went for a walk. I wanted to get lunch from a highly commended food stand about a mile away from the lot.

I spotted Scatchell's the other day when I was doing laundry, but I didn't think anything about it. Today I read an article about the best places to get a beef sandwich in Chicago, and Scatchell's was high on the list.
I don't have any gold standard (yet) as far as Italian beef goes, but I enjoyed my big, greasy sandwich. 

When I got back to the lot I stopped by Ryan's trailer to see if he and Tatiana needed any help with sangria preparation.
I was relieved to see that all of the fruit was already cut up, because if I had helped with that, I would have helped put the sangre in sangria. 
Instead, I squeezed a couple of lemons into the mixture, and then I helped pour $54 worth of cognac into the tub containing the fruit.
Now it will all soak until the final preparations are made for the party on Friday. I can already feel the earth spinning!

While Ryan and I were taking pictures after tonight's show, a little girl came up with a program for us to sign. She also had a DVD, but I didn't give it a second glance since the show has been selling the 2013 DVDs since the beginning of the season.
Luckily Ryan was paying more attention, because he noticed that it was the DVD for this year's performance!

As soon as the public was gone I ran back to my trailer to grab some money so we could purchase the program and DVD bundle.

Full of Steve & Ryan goodness!

Tuesday, July 15: Chicago, IL- 7:30 p.m.

Tatiana made breakfast for all of us this morning. I needed some nourishment to get me going today after we stayed up so late visiting with Jeff last night.

Ryan and I spent all day hanging out with Jeff. I love hearing Ringling road stories, and Jeff told me some today that I had never heard before.

There was more rain on and off today, but the good news is that the weather is supposed to be beautiful for the rest of the week.
A cold front blew in, so the temperature was nice and mild, a wonderful change from all the humidity in Houston.

We were blessed with another responsive audience for the show tonight. I'm glad the Chicago crowds are starting to wake up a bit.

In closing, here are some photos taken by Jim Koretz from the 2:00 p.m. show this past Sunday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14: Chicago, IL- 7:30 p.m.

We received more rainfall on and off this morning. When it had slowed down I loaded up my truck with all my dirty clothes and went to do laundry.
While I had the washers going I decided to go on a little walk to explore the surrounding area, but once I was a goodly distance from the laundromat it, of course, began to pour rain.
Since I didn't have the good sense to bring an umbrella with me, I got thoroughly drenched.
I contemplated climbing in the dryers with my wet clothes, but luckily my good sense returned before I went with that decision.

Back at the lot I spent the afternoon cleaning my trailer. While I was taking some trash to the dumpster, Ryan saw me and asked if I was in a creative mood, as he wanted to write some gags. I told him to come over so we could talk while I cleaned.
Through our brainstorming we  came up with some very funny material that we can hopefully use in the near future.

Our friend, Jeff Schott, drove up from Louisville, KY to visit with us for a couple of days. Jeff was a clown at my very first Ringling circus, and he and Ryan got to know each other while they were both with Circus Smirkus.
We used to play very close to Jeff on Kelly Miller, and we would see him on our drive to Pennsylvania from Hugo for the Christmas tour, but our run in Chicago is the only time we'll be close to him this year.

We had a responsive audience for the show tonight. Jeff was in the crowd, but for the life of us, we couldn't find him in the seats. We figured he'd stick out like a sore thumb, because you don't see many tall, bearded, white men in the audience at Circo Hermanos Vazquez.
Jeff had told us before the show that he was staying up way past his bed time by watching the show. Usually he is going to sleep when we are starting our performance because he works a very early shift at Whole Foods.
When Ryan and I couldn't find him in the crowd, I joked to Ryan that maybe he was taking a cat nap on the floor.

Tatiana made a delicious dinner for us after work, and we sat around catching up with Jeff until early in the morning.

In closing, here is the segment we filmed with "El Mariachico" last week in Chicago. Enjoy!

I'm bummed they took out the part where I caught him by surprise with my powder sock. That would've been good television!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sunday, July 13: Chicago, IL- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

The canker sore I developed recently was really bothering me this morning. When I went out to have breakfast I picked up some Anbesol, which worked great at numbing the pain.....for about 15 minutes.

I really wasn't looking forward to the three shows today because my ulcer hurt every time I smiled, talked, or made any faces. You know, the stuff I do to make a living!
Worst of all, though, was doing the water gag. Every time I spit water in Ryan's face, it felt like someone was stabbing me in the cheek with a needle. Besides that, the pain made me lax with controlling the size of my spits, so I kept finding myself running out of water before I was done spitting.

I contemplated putting Anbesol on the sore before each water gag, but I didn't want to take the risk of the medicine mixing with the water and numbing Ryan's face!

A local photographer and circus fan, Jim Koretz, came to the first show with one of his friends. Jim always takes fantastic photos, so I'll be sure to post some here when he puts them online.

Jim, a conscientious circus fan, blacked out the Ringling logo on his clown nose for his visit to Vazquez  

Today was the final game of the World Cup. Germany was playing against Argentina, and between the first two shows they emerged from the match victorious.
This was good news for Carlos, our manager, who had drawn Germany in the show's World Cup pool and won a big cash prize.

David, who performs the diabolo act, and Klaus, who trains the horses, were both ecstatic as well since they both hail from Deutschland. 
I told David that hopefully there wouldn't be too many Argentineans in the audience for the final two shows since they might not be that supportive when it was announced where he was from.

Claire gave the third show motivational speech today. She conducted the speech as if she was a teacher and all of us were her students. Extra kudos to her for creative use of the resources around her.

After two rough crowds, we were finally blessed with a responsive audience for our 8:00 p.m. show. 
Afterwards, a little boy asked me and Ryan, "Are you guys real people, or real clowns?" 
Ryan asked him, "Well, did we make you laugh?"
After the boy answered affirmatively, Ryan concluded, "Well then, that means we're real funny."

After we were done with photos, Ryan and I were changing in the men's dressing room. Across the backstage area the dancers were doing the same when one of the prop guys, unaware that they were still changing in there, started to put up the dressing room's curtains for the evening.

There were suddenly five different cries of the same message, "Hey! Stop doing that! We're still naked!"
Once the din had died down, I yelled out, "We're naked too! Does anyone care?"
The tent was rocked with a resounding, "NO!"

Guess I'll just keep on dreamin'.......