Thursday, May 25, 2017

Welcome Back, Copeland.

Hi everyone, Steve Copeland here. Please excuse the inexcusable absence that this blog has taken for the past year and a half.

Even though Ryan and I are not touring full time since we left Circo Hermanos Vazquez at the end of 2015, we are still keeping busy working circus dates in the spring, fall, and winter, and since last year, we spent the summer months in Baraboo, WI at Circus World Museum.

When we were in Chicago with Vazquez, we made a day trip up to Baraboo, where Scott O’Donnell, our long time friend and Executive Director of Circus World Museum, and Dave SaLoutos, ringmaster and performance director extraordinare, proposed that we join the cast of CWM for the 2016 summer season.

Ryan and I were looking to take a break from touring anyway, but what really sold us on Baraboo was the fact that in addition to circus clowning in the big top show, we would get to produce our own half hour comedy show where we could perform as ourselves, and not as clowns.

Ryan and I have dreamed of our own show for years, so we were stoked to finally have the opportunity to create it and perform it in front of audiences every day for over three months.
Thus, Nothing But Nonsense was born, and we are thrilled to be presenting the second incarnation of the show this summer.

A lot of things have happened since my last post about Vazquez, and I will cover them all in due time. Right now I just wanted to give everyone a quick update to bring everyone up to speed.

Ryan, his wife, Tatiana, and his children, Nico and Abrianna are all doing great. The kids are growing like weeds; Nico is six and Abrianna is two, and they have both been bitten by the show biz bug. Nico performs in the Circus World Museum big top show regularly with us, and Abrianna also loves to make an occasional appearance in the odd opening or finale number, decked out in her own custom wardrobe of course!

On my end of things, I couldn’t be happier. In March I married the love of my life, Pamela, who I have been fortunate to spend the past two years with. She works so hard to make everything in my life perfect, from making our trailer beautiful both inside and out, cooking delicious meals for me all the time, and most importantly, loving me, even when I’m a bone head!

We have been open here at Circus World Museum since Friday, May 19. During the working day from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. we are constantly going. The schedule is jam packed this summer with great shows and amazing talent.
If you’re anywhere near Wisconsin this summer, do yourself a favor and come check us out!

Like I said earlier, I’ll delve into greater detail on everything in a later post. Right now I’d like to touch on a subject that has been on my mind lately (no doubt it has been on a great many of your minds as well).
On Sunday, May 21st, after 146 years, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey gave its final performance.

Ringling has always been a huge part of my life. When I was four years old, I saw a TV special about the Ringling Bros. Clown College, and I decided then and there that I wanted to grow up to be a Ringling Bros. clown.
My parents took me to see the Blue Unit of the Greatest Show on Earth in 1989, and except for 1991, 1992, and this year, I never missed a show. 
All through my formative years I would study the clowns in the programs and learn as much as I could about the circus and clowning.
I owe a lot to the Feld family and Ringling. They gave me a dream when I was a child, they gave me my big break and the start of my career when I was right out of high school, and they introduced me to my partner, who I have been working with for nine years. Ryan and I have had a lot of accomplishments so far, and we have some huge, exciting ones on the horizon as well.
I owe that all to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, and the Feld family. Thank you, from one of your biggest fans.

Ryan and I, with our families, were able to watch the live stream of Ringling's final performance in the house of Greg DeSanto, one of our good friends, and one of our Ringling clown heroes from our childhoods. Aside from being there in person, I can't think of a better way to have said goodbye.

Well everyone, please check in every week around this time for a new update. I promise I won’t leave you all in an eighteen month lurch again.

Here’s to an excellent summer at Circus World Museum! We hope to see you there!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday, November 30-Sunday, December 6: Paterson, NJ

First of all, I'M SORRY!

I should have posted this entry about our final week of the Vazquez tour months ago, but we have been so busy getting everything ready for Nothing But Nonsense that I have had little time in my life for anything else.

I hope you enjoy this entry. It brought back a lot of memories while I was writing it.

Stay tuned for an entry about the Christmas tour, and also more updates on Nothing But Nonsense!

11/30/15- Travel Day to Paterson

I didn't bother setting an alarm this morning because my trailer was parked all the way at the back of the lot, and I basically had to wait for everyone else to leave before Ryan and I could hit the road to Paterson.
So I just fired up my generator for power, and Pamela and I relaxed.

Finally around 4 p.m. we had a path to exit; thank goodness we didn't get stuck on the way out.
Right after we arrived in Passaic two weeks ago, there was a huge downpour that turned the lot into a muddy mess.
We were very lucky that during our engagement in town the lot dried out enough that Vazquez wasn't forced to open a permanent unit in Passaic.

It was only a 7 mile jump to the lot in Paterson, but it was a stressful 7 miles. Rush hour traffic had already begun by the time we were en route, so the increased amount of cars on the small streets we were traveling made for some extremely tight turns, especially for Ryan's rig.

The show was set up inside Hinchliffe Stadium in downtown Paterson. Vincent Von Duke joked that with the stadium walls surrounding us, he felt like we were in the movie, "Escape From New York".

Later in the evening our trailers were parked, and then Pamela and I drove to a gas station downtown to get fuel for my generator.

Of course I picked a service station in one of the scariest parts of town, and I feared for my life for the few minutes I was out of my car filling my little gas can.

12/1/15- Day Off

Besides the usual boring chores of laundry and grocery shopping, Pamela and I did make one interesting stop while we were out today.

We visited a store in Passaic called Necropolis, that I had been wanting to visit since I spotted a mannequin of possessed Linda Blair from "The Exorcist" in the window.
The store was a stone's throw from the lot in Passaic where we were set up for two weeks, but I kept dragging my feet to visit until we had moved to Paterson.

I was a little disappointed in the store. I was expecting another awesome shop like Horrorbles in Berwyn, IL, but there were mostly just models and pieces of horror art, and everything was crazy expensive.

12/2/15- Day Off

This afternoon I met my friend, Greg Michales, for lunch at an Irish Pub. I first met Greg and his family on Kelly Miller a couple of years ago in Mine Hill, NJ.
Greg and I talked about circus for a long time, and I really enjoyed looking at his photo album of his Ringling visits to Madison Square Garden in the late 70s and early 80s.

In the evening Pamela and I had dinner at the house of Joey Klein. Joey showed me all of his clown memorabilia, including some props that Ryan and I had sold him.

Ah, the horrible memories!

Joey's mom made us a delicious dinner, and we had a good time visiting with the Kleins.

12/3/15- Day Off

Today Pamela and I visited the nice park next to the lot which had some picturesque waterfalls. I must confess, I did get a bit woozy walking over the falls on a swaying bridge.

Also, considering the type of area we were in, I was surprised not to see a mountain of bodies washed up at the bottom of the small canyon.

While we were out, Pamela and I also checked out a statue of Lou Costello, half of the famous Abbott and Costello comedy team.
Lou is from Paterson, and so the town made a nice monument to their favorite funny man.

After paying homage to Mr. Costello, Pamela and I visited the Garden State Plaza, Pamela's favorite mall in the area.
We spent the rest of the day there and had a nice dinner together.

12/4/15- 7:30 p.m.

This afternoon Ryan and I loaded our props into the Vazquez tent for the last time.

We had a couple of rehearsals before show time because of the changes to the performance. All of the performers from Europe went home at the conclusion of the Passaic stand.
Their visas were only good until the 30th, so they weren't able to stay for the tour's extended two week stand.

A young man from the East Unit came over to perform a low wire act in the place of Klaudie's foot juggling, Alexa Vazquez debuted a cyr wheel/lyra act in the second half, and the motorcycle act that performed with us in Freehold was back.

Eddie, our performance director, asked us to stretch a little bit after the water gag to give the crew time to set up the low wire.
It felt silly to do extra schtick in the audience after we had finished our act, but the plus was that the low wire act and Jose Alberto's juggling act went before the carpenter gag, which gave us a whole extra act to get ready.
That extra time was well worth having to fill after our act.

We didn't have the biggest crowd for our opening night, but they were responsive.

I was pleased at how polite and complimentary everyone was. After hearing so many horror stories from friends about how dangerous Paterson is, it was nice to have a majority of the audience come into the ring after the show just to thank us and tell us how much fun they had.

12/5/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Ryan and I were up at 6 a.m. to get ready for a nationally televised UNIVISION publicity happening in the Bronx.
When we found out a couple of days ago that we were requested for an early morning appearance in NYC before a three show day, while the other unit was just mere miles away, Ryan and I weren't the happiest campers.
At the same time, we took it as a great compliment from the show and the station that they requested us, even though they had to bring us in from farther away.

We were dismayed when we found out that we had arrived at the event about three hours early; at that point, all we could do was laugh. Or cry!

We tried to stay warm in the circus truck, and we also visited with our friends from the East Unit that did come for the Telethon USA event.

Finally close to air time we were allowed inside the government building where the event was taking place.
Inside we were able to enjoy coffee and donuts, and I chatted with some of the local entertainers who came to perform for the telethon.

Our job for the publicity was so easy. We simply did one live hit for the television cameras, and then we were done!
Luciano Anastacini's dogs from the East Unit performed some tricks, and then Ryan and I jumped in to juggle and mug for the cameras until the hit was done.

The highlight of the PR for me was having a young man know my name and want to get a picture with me.
He had seen us on UNIVISION over the past couple of years and had seen us on Vazquez last season when we played NYC.

There was a very small crowd for the first show, and Ryan and I were really dragging after getting up so early for the publicity.
Luckily the attendance got better for the other two shows in the evening.

After work Pamela, Ryan and his family, and I all joined the Espana family for dinner at Visan's house.
The food was so good, and it was great to spend one more fun evening with our friends.

12/6/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning I went to buy some Velcro, and Ryan and I put the final touches on the dog props for the Pompeyos.
They were so happy with how the props came out; it was gratifying to see Jorge and Natalia's satisfaction after spending so much time working on them.

Today I gave my final motivational speech. I was touched that some folks that didn't normally attend my little pep rallies came by for the final one.

We did good business for the first two shows, but unfortunately we had a smaller crowd for our final show, and they weren't that into the performance.
It was a shame to end our run on Vazquez like that, but we were happy (and surprised) when we got a big cheer from the crowd in finale.

Nico performed in finale for the third show. Julius Espana is Nico's hero, and Julius was always so good to Nico during the tour.
Zheni made Nico his own Russian Swing costume like Julius, and the Espanas were nice enough to let Nico go out with them in finale so he could be just like his hero.

Jose Alberto made a little speech before saying goodbye to the audience to let them know that it was our final performance with the show. It really meant a lot to us that he did that.


I expected that I would cry during the speech, but I was able to hold it together. What did get me choked up was saying goodbye to people while we were taking pictures with the audience.

After the show Ryan and I got all of our props out of the tent and got them loaded into our houses.
Nestor came by to move some equipment out of the way, and then he helped me and Ryan get our trailers out of the back yard so we could leave.

Once our houses were in front of the tent we went to say goodbye to all of our friends. We kept it brief so we wouldn't get too emotional.
We will miss our Vazquez family. The cast and crew we worked with was definitely one of the highlights of our time with the show.

Postscript: Even though we finished on the 6th, our unit continued for one more week in Paterson.
We would have liked to have finished the tour with everyone else, but we had already signed a contract to perform in the Christmas tour that we do every year, and the dates conflicted.
"Pancho the Martian", one of the clowns from the East Unit, was brought in to fill our spots since the East Unit finished on the same date that Ryan and I did.

Thank you to the Hermanos Vazquez, from Los Payasos Gringos. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Campaign Success!

A big thank you to everyone who helped fund our new show, Nothing But Nonsense. 
We came very close to reaching our goal; between Indiegogo and offsite contributions, we raised $9,423!
It means so much to us that our friends and fans believed in us and our dream enough to contribute monetarily, share the link with others, and offer words of support and encouragement to us.
I will be posting updates until we debut the first incarnation of Nothing But Nonsense at Circus World Museum on May 20th.
Once again, thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Nothing But Nonsense Funding Update

Hi everybody,
In less than a week our fundraising campaign will end. I guess I should give an update!
We are hard at work building the set for Nothing But Nonsense at the Kelly Miller Circus Winter Quarters in Hugo, OK. Many thanks to the KMC for always treating us like family!
We've been cutting hundreds of feet of steel, and our good friend, Ryan Easley, has been welding the pieces together for us.
Ryan (Combs, not Easley!) has been hard at work on a sign to get people's attention outside of the Hippodrome Building, which is where we will be working our show this summer at Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI.
We've still got a long way to go. Foam props have to be carved, more pieces of original music have to be written, and many things have to be ordered. 
Expenses are piling up daily, and we haven't begun to buy the high price items yet like sound equipment and foam coating.
Your contributions will help offset these mounting costs, and will keep us going as we build the show that we've always dreamed of.
Thank you!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Nothing But Nonsense 8x10s Are Coming!

This beautiful 8x10 photograph is just one of the many exciting perks we are offering to folks who donate to our brand new show, Nothing But Nonsense!
To learn more about the perks, and to donate today, please follow this link:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Nothing But Nonsense

Hello everybody! We are building the show we've dreamed about for years!
Click this link to read more about the project and all of the exciting perks we are offering to our funders!
Even if you can't donate monetarily, please share this link on social media and help spread the word. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Wednesday, November 18-Sunday, November 29: Passaic, NJ

11/18/15- Day Off!

We left the lot in Newburgh this morning, and then it was a 60 mile jump to Passaic, NJ, the next town.
The jump wasn't bad at all, and I was actually glad that we made it in the morning, because some of the directions would have been tricky to figure out in the dark.

The show is playing on a nasty, dirt covered lot right next to a river. According to Vincent Von Duke, the lot was completely covered in trees until recently, which explained all of the logs and stumps lining the border of the lot.
There was an abandoned little shelter built into the brush between my trailer and the river, so apparently our arrival made a homeless person even more homeless.

Pamela and I got away from the nasty lot as fast as we could. Luckily we were parked shortly after our arrival in Passaic, so that gave us almost the whole day to enjoy elsewhere.

We went to the Westfield Garden Plaza, which was a beautiful mall we passed on the jump. Pamela was in heaven with all of the fancy clothing shops.
I was just happy that there was a Max Brenner, a gourmet chocolate shop that I know from New York City.
Pamela and I got some of their super rich hot chocolate before we left the mall.

It was a pain in the butt connecting my trailer to power tonight. I didn't have enough cable to reach the power box since my house was parked all the way at the back of the long, skinny lot, but luckily Ryan had an extra cable I could borrow.
The next problem was that all of the outlets that are the right size for my plug were already taken, so I had to borrow an adaptor from the show electricians.

11/19/15- Day Off!

Pamela and I left the lot at 9 a.m. to head into New York City. We drove to Weehawken, NJ to catch a ferry into Manhattan.
Unfortunately we hit especially awful traffic close to the Lincoln Tunnel due to an accident, so we got to the dock just as the 10 a.m. ferry, the one we were planning to take, was leaving.

We waited for the next boat, which was scheduled for 10:20 a.m. We were able to board that one with no problem, but that put us in Manhattan with exactly thirty minutes to spare before the start of the Big Apple Circus.

Pamela and I planned to take the subway to Lincoln Center, but the closest station that we needed was shut down due to construction.
We flagged down a taxi, but due to more horrible traffic, we got to Lincoln Center at 11:00 a.m., exactly the time that the Big Apple show was scheduled to start.

Luckily the start of the show was held five minutes to accommodate the school groups still arriving, so Pamela and I sat down just as the show was beginning.

I really enjoyed this year's production of Big Apple, titled "The Grand Tour". I only wish we could have seen the full show; we saw the 75 minute performance with no Intermission, so we missed Jenny Vidbel's horse act and one of the clown acts.
After the performance Pamela and I went backstage to chat with ringmaster, John Kennedy Kane, and clowns, Joel Jeske (who also wrote the wonderful show) and Brent McBeth.

JKK joined us for lunch at the Greek Kitchen, which wasn't too far from Lincoln Center. 

Afterwards I took Pamela to 5th Avenue so she could visit all of the clothing stores that she wanted.

Unfortunately the weather was mighty dreary, and in the afternoon it began raining lightly but constantly, which didn't exactly encourage us to do much further exploring.

In fact, we tried to stay indoors as much as possible, and we spent a lot of time at a cafe just staying dry and warm.

At 7:00 p.m. we watched the Broadway musical, "Something Rotten", which I loved. I had heard the soundtrack from Ryan while we were in Chicago, and I just knew that I needed to see the show.

After the musical we found a diner so we could have dinner, and then we caught a cab back to the ferry. Hailing a taxi was no easy feat since the rain was coming down heavier by then, and the wind had picked up as well; everyone and their brother was trying to get a cab when we were.

By the end of our day out, both Pamela and I were worn out and soaked to the bone, but I was happy that we got to go see two wonderful shows.

Back in Passaic we were dismayed to find that the lot was a disgusting, muddy mess. Our shoes were destroyed by the time we got all the way back to my trailer; I was kicking myself that I didn't think to bring our boots before we left in the morning.

11/20/15- 7:30 p.m.

Pamela and I had lunch at a delicious Mexican restaurant called La Fortaleza. The food was great, and the interior was colorfully and creatively decorated. 

When we were heading back to the circus we had a heck of a time getting to the lot. There is only one entrance for us employees to use, and Pamela and I just happened to come back as a nearby school was letting out.
Traffic was bumper to bumper, and there was a steady stream of cars exiting from the one narrow entrance we could use.
I made a mental note to either a) never leave the lot again, or b) (more realistically) never return to the lot at that same time again.

I was afraid loading our props into backstage would be terrible because of the nasty mud and the distance from our houses to the tent, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared.

Ryan and I had a television publicity at 6:00 p.m. The weather reporter was distant and seemed to be a real pain, and the cameraman kept telling us how to do our job. One example: When it was time for us to be on camera, he started frantically pointing to us, and then acted like he imagined a clown would act, waving his arms from side to side as he raised his legs in the air one after the other. Except for the expression on his face, he looked like he was joyfully capering.
Ryan and I had to suppress the urge to mimic his actions back to him while flipping him the bird.

Our opening night show started really late, but we had a good audience for our first performance in Passaic.

11/21/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

We had a small crowd for the first performance, but business was good for the last two performances, especially the 8:00 p.m. one.

At the end of the second Russian swing act there was a lull in the action after Martin flipped through the hoop. There was no announcement from the ringmaster, and the music just kept playing long after it should have changed.
Since Ryan and I were waiting to make an entrance, we weren't able to find out what had happened until Intermission.
Martin made it safely through the hoop, but in doing so he pulled a muscle in his back and couldn't move once he landed in the net.

Martin spent all the rest of the second show resting and stretching, and he was back in action for the third performance.
This proved the words that Mecho shared in the dressing room, "In circus, if you can walk, you can work."

The one frustrating thing from our department today was that the audiences had no idea what to do with a beach ball.
It really was quite maddening, and by the third show I was just sitting down and letting the audience figure things out for themselves. 

11/22/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning Pamela and I had brunch at the Maywood Pancake House, which had a long wait to get in, but delicious food. 

Business was great for the shows today. The second performance was sold out, and there was solid business for the first and third shows.

11/23/15- 7:30 p.m.

Luis had a hair appointment with Pamela this afternoon; we enjoyed visiting with him while he got his hair did.

After that Pamela and I ran out to do some shopping for Thanksgiving lunch.

There was a small crowd for the show tonight; I'm betting one big reason for the low turnout was the extremely frigid weather.

11/24/15- 7:30 p.m.

Today Pamela and I had to go to Hobby Lobby to get supplies for the upcoming Christmas tour. Since we had to go far away from Passaic to visit a Hobby Lobby, we decided to have a nice day out as well.

Ryan and I had lots of visitors tonight. The Klein family were in the audience, along with twin photographers, Jason and Justin Senft, and their parents.

We didn't have the biggest crowd for the show, but I had a lot of fun performing for them.

11/25/15- 7:30 p.m.

This morning Pamela and I made what I hoped would be our last grocery run for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast.

Luis came over in the afternoon to show me how to use the microphones and recording equipment that he bought for us. 
It all seemed pretty straightforward once he explained it to me; I'm sure I'll have forgotten it all by the time we actually need to use the equipment!

Besides my technology lesson, Pamela and I spent all afternoon cooking.

There was a big crowd for our show tonight. People just kept on coming in every time the show began, so they kept restarting the intro. The Circo Hermanos Vazquez theme song must have played at least five times; it was ridiculous! 

11/26/15- 7:30 p.m.

After the show last night Pamela and I continued cooking, and we were still cooking this morning before our big Thanksgiving lunch at Ryan's house.
Visan, Laura, the Espana family, and Luis all joined us and enjoyed the bounty of delicious food that we had prepared. 

It was great getting to spend time with our friends on Thanksgiving, and of course I enjoyed eating as much as I possibly could.

I was able to fit in a little nap before our show tonight, but when I woke up to get ready, I was still groggy and in a food coma from lunch.

The people of Passaic were a lot more calm and relaxed than usual tonight, so I guessed that they were all still in food comas as well.

After work we had the company Thanksgiving party. Everyone that attended brought a dish, and we all sat and ate at a long table in the concessions tent.

Photo by Eddie Horwath

I was happy that we had a Vazquez Thanksgiving party, because last year we were all pretty much on our own to celebrate.

11/27/15- 7:30 p.m.

Pamela and Tatiana went out this morning to do some Black Friday shopping. While I babysat Nico and played video games all day, Ryan painted the sign for Pompeyo's dog props.

The show tonight was almost full, and the audience was fantastic.

New York circus fans, Don and Barb Kowell, were at the show, so Ryan and I got to chat with them briefly after the performance. 
I remember Don and Barb from my Kelly Miller days, when they would travel with the show when we played upstate NY.

Unfortunately we couldn't visit for too long because we had to hurry and clean up for the Vazquez End of the Season party, which was being held at the other unit of the circus in Queens.
I wasn't too crazy about having to drive into New York City to celebrate, but the drive was a lot quicker than I thought, and traffic wasn't bad at all.

Pamela, Ryan and I went over in Pamela's car, and we didn't stay for the whole party. We ate, visited with our East Unit friends, and partook in the awards ceremony, where every act and department was called into the ring and presented with a certificate. 

I also got a kiss. Whoo hoo!

We left the party when the dance music came on, and we were back at the lot in Passaic and in bed around 3:00 a.m.

11/28/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

Pamela and I went back to La Fortaleza for lunch today. When I went into the bathroom I found this charming picture of a bunch of manly women mocking me.

It drizzled rain for the greater part of the day. I was worried that the lot would be destroyed again (not a good thing when we all need to get out of here in two days), but the rain never came down enough to make it super muddy again.

Business got better today as the shows progressed, but it was never great. 

11/29/15- 2:00, 5:00, and 8:00 p.m.

This morning Pamela and I walked to a Polish market across the river from the lot. We browsed through all of the Polish products, and we had a big, delicious lunch from their deli.

Greg, Carole, and Cam Michales and their friend, Val, came to watch the first show. They brought a bottle of wine and chocolate covered pretzels for me and Ryan to share. Thanks, Michales family!

The people in the audience that we met after the shows today were very rude and really raised my blood pressure.
There was one redeeming family that was very nice. The father told us that his kids watch us on Youtube all the time, and the children were very excited to meet us.

The 8:00 p.m. performance was the final one for all of the European performers: the dancers, Claudie, Mecho, and Mira.
Their visas were only good until what was supposed to be the end of our tour, so they will not be joining us for the extra two weeks of the tour in Paterson, NJ.

After the last show Ryan and I said goodbye to our friends that were leaving, and then we loaded up our props.

We knew that we wouldn't be able to leave Passaic until tomorrow because we were at the very back of all of the trailers, and none of the trailers could start leaving until the tent was down. Since I knew I was going nowhere fast, when I went to bed I didn't even bother to set an alarm. What a wonderful feeling!