Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter Break? I Hardly Even Know Her!

Greetings to everyone from tropical Brownsville, TX!

Ok, it's not really THAT tropical, but it IS in comparison to Hugo...more on that later.

Ryan and I have had a very busy and eventful winter. As soon as we got back to Hugo from the 2010 season, we set to work on finishing our gag props for the next season.

Luckily we had gotten a head start during the year, so we were finished in no time.

Ryan also made some production props for the show that look fantastic!

Not too long after we had arrived in Hugo, there was the 2nd Annual (I believe) Hugo Circus Day Festival.

There were elephant rides, circus treats, face painting, and even three free shows featuring performers from the Hugo circuses.

Ryan and I did our version of the classic washerwoman gag, and we were on the front page of the newspaper for our troubles.


It must have been a slow news day!

Pretty soon after arriving in Hugo, we got a call about an exciting opportunity. We were hired to perform in Guam and Manila with The Great American Circus.

We left for Guam on November 15 and were picked up by producer "Tuffy" Nicholas, son of noted ringmaster "Count" Nicholas, and Mark Hammer.

Mark toured with Ringling in the summer during the 60s. Bobby Kaye took him under his wing and taught him clowning.

Mark went on to become one of the first Ronald McDonalds, and he is now the Director of Human Resources at the resort where we stayed during our time in Guam.

Besides all of that, Mark is probably the nicest guy you will ever meet, and he was always available to help us out if we needed it.

PIC, the resort where we stayed, was beautiful, the staff was as friendly as could be, and there was a water park and a beach with white sand and clear water right outside of the hotel.

The show was playing under a tent next to a shopping center. The weather in Guam was

fantastic; however, during the day time shows, the tent was incredibly hot.

The side walls were put up, and there was A/C, but it didn't help very much. Despite the heat, people loved the show.

Only two of our 16 shows had small attendance, and even then it was around half full. Most of the shows were either packed or completely sold out.

I can easily say that the audiences in Guam are the best I have ever performed for. They went nuts for the show, and they LOVED the gags that Ryan and I did.

We did our water spitting act (which will be in the 2011 KM tour), and a trumpet act.

The trumpet act was a last minute addition when a spot was needed to cover the trapeze net coming down. Despite the fact that we put it together a couple of hours before the first performance, it was a smash hit and quickly became our favorite part of the show (besides getting cooled down in the water act).

Besides us, the show featured Amanda Valencia with hula hoops, Thula Martin on lyra, Ricky Valencia on rola bola, Nathan Valencia on the stacking chairs, web and silks by the showgirls, the Flying Montalbo (sp), the Valencia Gauchos, Jairo Ojeda's fire breathing, and Ricky and Nathan's Wheel of Death.

Even though we kept very busy with shows and PR, we still managed to enjoy some fun in the sun during our free time.

We loved going to the beach, and Tuffy even took the whole cast scuba diving on Thanksgiving Day.

I found a friend and tour guide while on the island, Jennifer McFerran. Ryan and I met Jen on our first day in Guam when we were doing a radio PR.

Jen, who is half of Forsyth PR, was at the station with one of her clients, and we had a great time joking around with her.

A couple of days later we just happened to be eating lunch at the same restaurant as Jen, so I introduced myself, sans make up.

For most of the evenings after our shows, Jen would take me out and show me the night life of Guam.

We had a great time sharing our interests: sushi and zombies!

After wrapping up our run in Guam, most of us flew to the Philippines to start promoting our run in Manila.

After a week of doing mall shows with some of the other performers, Ryan and I flew back to the States to fulfill a contract that we had signed before our Great American deal.

We performed all over the state of Pennsylvania with the Bill Hall Christmas tour. It was my fourth year doing the tour, and the second that Ryan and I performed together on the show.

Doing the Christmas tour is always one of the highlights of my year. Mr. Hall always puts together a fun and talented group of people to work with.

We were performing alongside magicians, Clive and Traci Allen, balloon comedian John Cassidy and his wife, Jen, the Rosales family, who performed juggling, hula hoops, and perch pole, the Olates and their dog act, John Bundy as Santa Claus, and the brilliant keyboardist, Larry Stout.

I must say though, I missed the warm temperatures of Guam and Manila since it was in the teens and 20s every day in Pennsylvania, and we saw our fair share of snow.

Our final performance of the Christmas Tour was on Saturday, December 18th. Our flight to Manila left on Sunday morning, and we arrived in the Philippines around 12:15 a.m. on Tuesday, the 21st.

Later that day we had a rehearsal and our first two performances. The next morning we all had to be at the venue at 5:30 a.m. to do some national television hits.

Needless to say, Ryan and I were tired.

The show in Manila was performing at the SMX Convention Center, right next door to our hotel (and the Mall of Asia, the third largest mall in the world).

The show looked fantastic: there was concert lighting, an LED light up ring curb, a band, and a video crew filming every show for projection on either side of the curtain.

The first few days were slow, audience wise, but on Christmas Day (we had four shows) attendance shot way up and we had packed and sold out shows for the rest of the run.

The show was definitely well promoted. Everywhere you looked there were posters, billboards, ads on the backs of buses, as well as plenty of TV and radio ads.

The performance line up was the same as Guam except that instead of the Flying Montalbo (sp) we had the Olivari (sp) Troupe, who did jump rope and teeterboard.

There was also Joseph Bell, a Michael Jackson tribute artist, Becky Ostroff's single trapeze and the Hartzells with their crossbow act.

The audiences in Manila were more reserved than the audiences in Guam, but they still enjoyed the show, and most importantly, Ryan and I got laughs for our gags!

On New Year's Eve we all appeared in a parade, Ryan and I judged an old woman dance competition on national TV, and then two minutes after midnight we did a short performance for the same television channel as the fireworks went off.

It was quite a surreal experience, and I don't think anyone was actually watching us since we were competing with TONS of fireworks, but I definitely think I can top most people's "where I was on New Year's Eve" stories!

Most of our free time was spent at the Mall of Asia since it was a)the only thing close to us and b) I was too chicken to go too far on my own. Despite all the armed guards walking around, I didn't think I would feel too safe in most of the places in Manila.

I made friends with a group of girls selling concessions at the show, and they took me around and introduced me to new experiences, like riding in a Jeepney (a WWII jeep converted into a stretch taxi) and eating tuknene (deep fried quail eggs).

I drew the line at eating balut, a duck egg with a fetus inside.

Many thanks to Girlie, Khatz, Charm, Joan, and Jane.

Finally, after a very busy 32 show run in Manila, it was time to return back to the states!

Ryan was anxious to get home and see his son, Nicolas, in person for the first time.

After a day in Hugo, I headed home to Walterboro, SC for a few weeks while Ryan stayed in Hugo with his family.

I came back to Hugo about a week before the show's estimated departure date, and I kept busy getting my truck and trailer ready for the road.

Bad weather hit Hugo, and progress on leaving WQ was slowed due to the ice. Just a couple of days later, we got at least 4 inches of snow.

Ryan and I decided to make the best of it and with the help of Delena and the Poema kids, we made an awesome snowman.

We also had an epic snowball battle that was a ton of fun.

There was also this kind of idiocy....

Some sad news from this winter: Norton disappeared. The theory is that an animal tried to get the ducks and either chased Norton away or got him.

Ralph is ok, but she misses Norton a lot. She is even taking heroic steps towards finding him.

I will miss my crazy haired little buddy.

The departure date for Brownsville kept getting pushed back, but we finally left on Saturday the 5th of February.

On the second day of our trip, I got pulled over in Refugio, TX for a DOT violation.

The cop said that I needed a log book, despite the fact that my truck is not a commercial vehicle.

I tried not to push the issue too much, because the cop was being an ass, so I got a ticket.

A few hours down the road I looked back to see smoke billowing out from under my truck.

I pulled over to the side of the road and saw liquid pouring out over my exhaust, which was causing all the smoke.

Danny and a couple of the tent crew pulled over to help me out, and I got a ride to a gas station at the next exit to get oil since mine was all burned up.

I was able to get my rig to that exit, where I called a mechanic. He had just closed up shop (I was lucky to get him at all being it was Sunday....Super Bowl Sunday no less), but he let me park in his parking lot until he could look at the truck the next day.

I was an hour from Brownsville, so Ryan came in the show's flat bed truck and we towed my trailer (sans trailer about nerve wracking) to the lot.

The next day I got a call from the mechanic saying that the trouble was with my transmission; I feared that I would be starting the season deeply in debt, but he called back later and said that he had put a new filter on the transmission (mine had fallen off along the way) and the truck was running fine again.


Now my truck is back at the lot and we have been rehearsing for our first shows tomorrow.

Rehearsals are going very smoothly for me and Ryan, especially since we honed one gag overseas this winter.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Make 'Em Laugh

Hey everyone,

Greetings from Walterboro, SC. I have been home for about a week after traveling like a maniac all winter.
A blog about our travels with the Great American Circus to come soon!

Until then, here's a little "gem" from my Ringling days.
In 2007, my last year on the road, I decided to go out with a bang at the No Talent Talent Show (which took place the last week of the tour).
I did my homage to Donald O'Conner by performing "Make 'Em Laugh". And I won third place!

Sorry for the pauses in the action; I had to do that to get the audio and video to synch up (long story).

Happy 2011!