Monday, September 30, 2013

Grumble Grumble

Sunday, September 29: Darien, IL-2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Miles: 25
Lot: Argonne Park

This morning, everyone arrived at the lot in Darien without incident, and we were all parked.
About an hour later, Oscar came around knocking on everyone's door, informing us that the whole show had to move to another part of the lot.
I'm not sure of the exact reason; I heard it was because we were on a gas line, and I also heard it was because we were on private or government property. Whatever the reason, it put a bad taste in our already soured mouths since we knew the town was kicking us off the lot after the shows.

Of course I was frustrated about having to pack up the ducks, ready the house, hook up to my truck, move, unhook again, and get the ducks relocated, but the animal crews and the tent crew suffered the biggest headaches.
All the animals departments were completely set up (we had been at the lot for about an hour, after all), and sections of the tent were already laid out on the ground.

Needless to say, it was not a happy way to start everyone's morning.

Luckily the audiences today were lively, which was a definite improvement over Addison.
With Mr. North's support, Ryan and I decided to make the fake head a regular part of the carpenter gag; it continued to get great reactions today, and we've even made it into a more developed bit.

After the shows we all jumped to Channahon, the next town. We arrived when the evening was still young, so a group of us went out to dinner to get away from our powerless trailers.

In closing, here's a photo from Vernon Hills of us with Gary Podolsky and his nephews, Joey, Will, and Matthew.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"You Guys Are The Only Clowns I'm Not Afraid Of, And You're The Only Clowns Who Are Funny"- Woman At Intermission

Friday, September 27: Island Lake, IL-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Miles: 16
Lot: Water tower park

Ryan lent me a pair of his clown shoes for the shows tonight so the glue holding the heel in place on mine would have plenty of time to dry.

The audience for the second show was a lot of fun in the trombone gag, and Ryan and I were really looking forward to hearing their response to the carpenter gag, in particular for a new bit we just started doing the other night.
What a let down we experienced! The crowds' energy was so unfocused that we got bupkis for the new bit.
Throughout the whole gag you could here a low rumble of white noise in the stands; they just weren't paying enough attention to enjoy all the subtle bits in the gag. What a disappointment after the past few nights.

Friday, September 27, 2013

"He's The Angriest Gamer You've Ever Heard....."

Thursday, September 26: Round Lake Beach, IL-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Miles: 15
Lot: Civic Center

The drive this morning was only 15 miles, but it took well over an hour due to morning traffic, construction, stop lights, and trains.

The lot today was rather uneven. My trailer was leaning at a drastic angle towards the door, so going from one end of the house to the other was quite an adventure.
I have blocks for leveling, but not very good ones. Usually when I try to level my trailer with them, the trailer ends up just falling off the blocks. I usually just put up with unevenness for a day.

One definite plus of the lot was that we could pick up Wifi from the Home Depot next door. I spent all afternoon watching Angry Video Game Nerd and Monster Madness videos from one of my favorite websites- Cinemassacre.

Christina, the sister of my friend, Lisa, came to the first show with her family. In appreciation for the pass I got them, Chris brought me a Starbucks gift card. Sweet!

The audiences tonight were fantastic; a trend that I hope continues for the rest of the season.

While I was getting my trailer ready for travel tonight, the heel came off my right clown shoe. I used some Shoe Goo to glue it back in place, and I put on my old Converse sneakers for finale.
I looked like an early 1980s Ringling Red Show clown!

The show jumped to the next town after the 7:30 performance, but a few of us in the backyard had to wait until the tent was down to leave.
Luckily I was first in line, so as soon as the stakes and canvas were out of the way, I hit the road and safely made it to Island Lake around 11:00 p.m.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Chicago Sucks"- Opinion Of A Man Who Has Lived There His Whole Life

Monday, September 23: Vernon Hills, IL-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

This afternoon I got dressed up and headed to the tent for a Catholic service led by Father Jerry Hogan, who flew in just for the occasion.
First, Dee-Dee, the schoolteacher, and Alexander, one of the circus kids, were baptized. Next, Johnny Moss, Arwen Brown, and Dee-Dee had their confirmation, and finally Dee-Dee and Nathan Moss took communion.
It's neat to be able to attend a church service under the big top; something not many people get to do!

Ryan and I were both feeling pretty burned out for the shows tonight. It's been a long season, and it seems like it has been more difficult as well; however, that may just be because we know we are not returning.
I remember feeling pretty burned out my fifth season on Ringling. We will try and hold our heads up high, though, as there is only a month left in the tour.

Ryan came out of his RV for the second mouth gag with a faux hump under his lab coat. He did it just as a gag to make me and Peter laugh, but after much coaxing, we convinced him to wear it for the show.
Thus, Dr. Quasimodo D.D.S. made his debut in the Kelly Miller ring.
What killed me, despite the obvious fact that Ryan was a hunchbacked clown, was that he played the character as an aristocrat with an air of dignity, despite his handicap.
I guess burnout makes you a little loopy....

In conclusion, here's a trailer for the film, "Greasepaint", which is a documentary about our friends at Nojoe's Clown Circus.
You might notice two intrepid jerks at one point in the clip....

(Forgive me if I already posted this. I can't remember if I have or not)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"I'm Happy To Be Here"- Woman We Were Hugging In The Trombone Gag

Tuesday, September 17: Robbins, IL-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Miles: 18
Lot: 135th & Claire

This morning Ryan got a head start on finishing up work on the new harness for the big mouth. Once I woke up from my nap I helped him get the harness attached to the mouth again; I then tried it on and got everything situated the way I like it.
The mouth gag is back in action!

I went out for a little while this afternoon, but when I came back, I had a hard time getting back to the lot. The city completely blocked off the street that contains the entrance to the lot, because the hose providing water to the show was stretched across the road.

The mouth gag went well after its short hiatus. The new harness is made out of thicker metal, which makes the whole thing heavier. Also, I need to put more gauze on the ends of the shoulder straps, because they are rubbing on my collarbone.

Robbins is not the best area, so there were lots of bullet proof vest clad cops around to maintain order.
One cop told us that the lot we were playing used to be a housing development, and he claimed that the piece of property had the most murders committed on it in the whole state of Illinois.

All things considered, everyone we met tonight was very nice, and the audiences loved us. Maybe Ryan and I need to work Universoul sometime in our future....

There was a little bit of excitement during the second Intermission when a fight broke out between two women, one of whom was holding her child the whole time.
The cops quickly ran in like a S.W.A.T team and broke up the skirmish. It happened right over by us, but we couldn't see because everyone started crowding around to watch and take video on their phones.

As we were leaving the tent we saw Mr. North coming back in. We told him he had missed the excitement, but he assured us that he was there when it started.
Ryan then queried, "Why were you out there starting fights?"

After the shows we had a night jump to Yorkville, which is a town we played a couple of weeks ago. We are playing Lockport on Thursday (in fact, we drove right by the lot on the way to Yorkville), but we're not allowed to stay there for our day off tomorrow.

When I arrived at the lot, I asked Alex, the 24 Hour Man, if he was able to use arrows from a couple of weeks ago to direct us to town, and he agreed that his job getting us to Yorkville was pretty easy.

Wednesday, September 18: Yorkville, IL-Day Off!
Miles: 44
Lot: fairgrounds

Ryan and I hit the road at 6:30 a.m. to begin the three hour drive up to Baraboo, WI.

We spent the day visiting with Greg DeSanto at the International Clown Hall of Fame. Both Ryan and I had a wonderful time talking with Greg and geeking out on all the amazing clown memorabilia and paraphernalia contained in the museum.

In the afternoon we took a break from our clown geek fest to visit our friend, Scott O'Donnell, who is the new executive director of the Circus World Museum.
Scott just began his job two days ago, but he was nice enough to take some time to visit with us and give us a tour of the museum grounds, as well as the amazing research library.

Back at the Clown Hall of Fame, Ryan and I continued poring over clown history until it was time to leave. We were hoping to spend the night in Baraboo, but because of the situation back at the show, we had to get back to make the jump to Lockport in the morning.

I was very tired on the drive back to Yorkville. I was running on only a few hours of sleep, and my brain was on clown overload.
Still we made it back to the lot around 1:30 a.m. and crashed in our beds.

Many thanks to Greg DeSanto, Scott O'Donnell, and everyone at Circus World Museum for a wonderful day off!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mr. Fusco!

Saturday, September 14: Mendota, IL-2:00 p.m and 7:30 p.m.

This morning Fridman did a lot of work on the harness that goes inside the big mouth prop. He bent the metal for us (I should have known we could turn to him for help when we failed in bending it yesterday), he took the old frame out of the mouth (Ryan and I are not looking forward to reattaching it), he cut the weak pieces of metal off the old frame, and then he welded the new metal onto it.
The new and improved harness is beautiful. Ryan and I just need to do a little more work on it before it can be reattached and the mouth gag can go back in the show.

John, our advance clown, came over this morning to run some new gag ideas by us. Ryan worked with John on the gag while I was with Fridman.
John then did a portion of his show for us; we helped him clean up some bits and gave some advice.

We had a very productive morning!

I'd rather not waste any data talking about the first show. The only thing worth mentioning is that when it came time for me and Ryan to pass clubs around somebody in our second half spot, no one in the audience was willing to help.
Ryan finally went over and pulled Mr. North out of the crowd; he was a perfect audience, volunteer!

Since the second show wasn't until 7:30, we had a three and a half hour break. I was in a bad mood from the first show, so for most of the time I was antisocial and sat on my couch watching the TV series, "Oz".
I did go outside to do some work on the skirt attached to the big mouth, though. Some areas at the bottom of the skirt were coming undone, so I sewed them.

Today was Mr. Fusco's 75th birthday (now he's the same age as the Kelly Miller Circus!), so at the conclusion of the gaucho act in the evening show, his grandchildren, Nico and Argio, went into the ring and presented Mr. Fusco with flowers and balloons.

After the shows there was a big party for Mr. Fusco. I went by to wish him a happy birthday, and we also enjoyed some of the delicious Fusco cooking.

Sunday, September 15: Brookfield, IL-Day Off!
Miles: 75
Lot: Ehlert Park

This morning's drive seemed to go on forever, and when we got to the lot it was cold, dreary, and drizzling.
I picked up Peter, as well as John and Clara Sayre for a trip to Panera Bread, which was a much better place to start the morning than in our cold, powerless trailers.

Back at the lot I cleaned up and then drove to Chicago. Our first stop was Hamlin Park north of downtown, which is where the Midnight Circus was performing.
Some of the performers from Midnight came to see us last week, and I was looking forward to catching their show.
Ryan, Tatiana, Peter, and Nico also showed up for the sold out 1:00 p.m. performance under the beautiful, intimate, blue and purple bigtop.
I was blown away by the energy and talent presented by the cast of the Midnight Circus. It definitely recharged my batteries to see such a great show.

After the show we visited with some of our friends in the cast, but then I had to leave abruptly to meet my mom downtown.

My mom and step dad are in Chicago for a few days for a conference, so our day off was a perfect chance to meet up with them.
They are staying at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers right off State Street, and they worked it out with one of the valets for me to leave my car right in front of the hotel for a few hours.
It was literally parked on the curb right outside the doors where all the taxis and limos were picking up and dropping off the hotel's clientele. We couldn't have asked for a better parking space!

I joined Mom and Jeffery in the hotel bar for a drink, and then I dropped some of my stuff off in their room before we headed out.
They were staying on the Club Level, at the very top of the hotel, and the view outside their window was awesome!

We walked around downtown Chicago a bit, but we finally caught a cab since the weather was still yucky.
We caught a ride over to Navy Pier and had dinner at "Bubba Gump Shrimp Co."

I was glad I got a chance to visit with Mom and Jeffery this evening. Hopefully Mom is going to catch our show on Tuesday; she's never seen me perform on Kelly Miller.

The drive out of Chicago was easy (I was surprised how easy the drive in was as well), and I was happy to get home and relax.
I had a long, full, fun day off.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Safety Word Is Banana

Friday, September 13: Mendota, IL-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Miles: 38
Lot: Tri-County Fairgrounds

I spent this morning helping Ryan with some of the new props he is building. Also, we tested out the slapstick that our friend, Don Lansu, lent us last Sunday.
It is a wooden slapstick that holds a .38 blank, so when you hit someone with it, there is an explosion. Lately, when Don and his wife use it in performance, they can't get the explosion to go off, so he hoped we'd be able to diagnose the problem.

Since we were dealing with a potential explosion, we went around the lot and told all the animal trainers beforehand. There's nothing funny about a stampede caused by clown hijinx.
We then went into the tent with the loaded slapstick and gave it a whirl:


The results weren't what we'd hoped for....

Ryan then took the slapstick over to one of the king poles and gave it a hardy smack, which produced an explosion.
Ryan surmised that he hadn't hit me hard enough the first time (I begged to differ), so once again I "assumed the position".


We learned that the slapstick is working great. You have to hit it just right so there is enough surface area making contact, and you really have to clobber the recipient.
I'll stick to foam props, thank you.

Ryan and I then tried bending the metal that we bought for the new mouth harness, but it proved too difficult for us given what we had to work with.

John, our advance clown, and his wife, Clara, came to visit for the weekend once they had finished up in the town they had been promoting.
After the shows they joined a few of us for dinner at a pizza parlor in town.

Friday, September 13, 2013

D**n Skills Clowns!

Thursday, September 12: Hillcrest, IL-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Miles: 30
Lot: Calvary Lighthouse Church

I remembered the Hillcrest lot from last year because I was parked on the midway. Luckily this year I was lucky and ended up backstage.
Raul and Ryan were not so lucky, because several hours after being parked, a lady came around yelling that they were on private property, so they had to pack up their RVs and move (not an easy feat since it was such a tight lot).

Ryan, and I took a road trip to Dekalb in the morning to get supplies and to get away from the circus for awhile.
The harness inside the big mouth broke last night, so Ryan and I needed to buy stronger metal from Lowe's. We also needed a few other supplies for various props we are building.

Back at the lot I picked up Elisa and our dirty clothes for a trip to the laundromat. While we were there I called my Mom, who was celebrating her birthday. I will get to see her on Sunday since she will be in Chicago and we have the day off.

Ryan and I are doing a short club passing routine in the second half until the mouth can be properly fixed. It went well for both shows; no audience members were maimed.

The second crowd was fantastic. They were so much fun to perform for, and the people we met at Intermission were very complimentary of our work.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Are You Going To Keep Doing The Ad Libs For The Rest Of The Season? They're Very Funny!"- John Ringling North II In Regards To The Trombone Act

Wednesday, September 11: Mt. Morris, IL-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Miles: 30
Lot: Moose Lodge grounds

Since our planned route out of town was blocked off by construction, Danny found an alternate path to get us on the right track.

Today's lot set up was a little strange. There was a little road splitting the lot into two parts. The tent and semis were on one side, and most of the trailers were on the other side.
It wasn't too much of an issue though, because I was able to move my truck to the back yard for easier prop loading and unloading.

Danny and Ryan spent some time this morning working on some new wooden props. I kept managing to show up to help just as they were finishing up.
What can I say, it's a gift!

The people we met during the Intermissions tonight were nice, and a couple of them had very funny things to say.
One grizzled gentleman told us that we could make a lot of money at Walmart. I'm not sure what exactly he was referring to, but in a few years I might look into that advice!

One frazzled mother with a small army of children had me, Ryan, and Peter in stitches the whole time we were around her.
She came over initially to ask how much the books were, and then she wrangled her brood to fetch some money.
Upon returning, one of her boys yelled, "We've got the money!", to which his mother replied, "Shut up!"
One little boy kept poking Ryan's face, so the woman admonished him, "Stop touching his face! If he wanted you to touch his face, he'd say, 'Please, touch my face'!"
When we went to take a photo with all the kids, one of the boys started to climb on the seat wagon so he wouldn't be covered up. His mom stormed over, pulled him down, and yelled, "God **** it! Do you want to be put in the circus!?"
It was an exciting meeting, to say the least....

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"Hit Him Harder With The Hammer Next Time"- Man To Ryan At Intermission

Monday, September 9: Warren, IL-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Miles: 100
Lot: fairgrounds

It was so hot and humid today. All this tropical weather missed us in August, but we have been paying for it lately!

Poor Emmie, my black duck, was miserable today, even in the shade I provided with my umbrella. I put him and Polly in the shower and hosed them down with cold water to make them more comfortable.

Greg DeSanto came back to visit again today, which was a definite morale boost for me and Ryan. He brought some goodies for us, including some books containing photos of George Shellenberger built clown props from the late 80s. We were in Clown Geek Heaven!

When Ryan and I went out to perform the trombone gag in the second show, the audience looked absolutely miserable.
I was happy that we were able to get something out of them for the carpenter gag. We had a lot of the adults laughing in the ring side seats. It's always so rewarding to get the grown ups to let loose and have a good time.

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Blow Something Up!"- Words Of Encouragement From A Man In The Audience

Sunday, September 8: Harvard, IL-2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Miles: 20
Lot: Milky Way Park

Sandy Weber, a member of the board of directors for the International Clown Hall of Fame, came to watch the first show.
Sandy brought some donuts for me and Ryan. I was especially intrigued by one donut which had chocolate frosting and was topped with Fruit Loops!

There was a little boy that came up to us at Intermission and gave us a good laugh. He asked, "How many coloring books can I get for five dollars?"
Pete replied, "You can get two."
The boy thought for a second and then said, "But I only want one."
Alrighty then!

Our friend, Don Lansu, came to the second show with his wife and daughter. They brought gifts for Nico, Tatiana, and they gave me and Ryan awesome drinking glasses that Don's wife, Phyllis, decorated.

What an awesome gift! Thank you, Lansu family!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Horrible Shop

Thursday, September 5: Berwyn, IL-4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Miles: 42
Lot: Janura Park

Last year, twin photographers Jason and Justin Senft tipped me off to a Czech bakery, Vesecky's, only about a mile from the lot in Berwyn.
I walked there this morning after breakfast. We were the only two customers in the shop, but the lady behind the counter was being a real pain and rushing us through our order.
I would have liked to have perused their selection a little more, but we picked up some kolackys, which I remembered liking last year.

Later in the day I walked to a vintage shop that Ryan and I visit every year. I picked up a circus books I had never seen before, a novel called "Circus Triumphant" by Reginald Taylor.
Ryan had been in earlier and said the woman who owned the shop lost points in his book this year because she was going on about her stance against animals in the circus.

On the way out of the vintage store, I spotted a business card for a Horror and Sci-Fi movie memorabilia shop called Horrorbles. According to my phone's GPS, the shop was about a two mile hike, so I went back to the lot to pick up Ryan and Pete, and we drove to the address on the card.
After some searching, we discovered that the business card's address was outdated. I called the shop to get the new address, and we were flabbergasted to see that the shop was now only two doors down from the vintage shop we had previously visited!
At least we got to take in the wonderful sights of Berwyn, IL on our incredibly roundabout trip.

In addition to finding Horrorbles, we also found a cool movie memorabilia shop right next door.
Between the two shops, I picked up an issue of Fangoria magazine with a feature article about "Gremlins 2", one of my favorite movies.

We had good audiences tonight, and the people we met at Intermission were very nice.

After the shows we had a night jump to Elmhurst, the next town. It was a short jump, but a frustrating one.
At one point in the drive I had to merge right onto the Interstate, and no one would let me in. I thought maybe my directional blinkers weren't working, but at the lot  told me that they were. The people on the Interstate were just ***holes!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Six-Two And Even, Over And Out!"

Monday, September 2: Posen, IL-2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Miles: 21
Lot: Memorial Park

Our advance clown, John, and his wife, Clara, stopped by to visit today. We had a nice time chatting and catching up; they both kept saying how a visit to Kelly Miller is always such a good way to recharge their batteries.

We had early shows today for Labor Day. The audiences were fantastic for our gags, which was a good way for me and Ryan to recharge our batteries!

Adam Gerstacov, a 1989 graduate of Ringling's Clown College, came to see the second show with his family. It was his son's fifth birthday, so Ryan and I made sure to congratulate him and gently remind him that he should probably start looking for a job.

After the shows everyone drove to the next town, Yorkville. I was a little worried about leaving the lot in Posen since the entrance was a muddy mess, but I made it out without a problem.

The 45 mile jump to Yorkville was a real pain in the keister. There seemed to be a stop light or stop sign every 5 miles, and the roads were atrocious. It's a good thing that now I always double check to make sure my trailer is attached to my truck, because some of the bumps I went over would have ost my rig for sure!

Still, as much of a pain the jump was tonight, it would have been 10 times worse in the morning with commuter traffic.
Plus, we have the 3rd off, so I had a fun day out on the town to look forward to once we arrived in Yorkville.

Tuesday, September 3: Yorkville, IL-Day Off
Miles: 45
Lot: fairgrounds

I had a fantastic time on my day off. I spent most of our time in either Aurora or Naperville, IL.

In Aurora we did some shopping at a mall and Half Price Books; I found all kinds of great literature at the latter. My most exciting finds were an autobiography on Soupy Sales, a book about the studio that created the cartoon, "Rocky and Bullwinkle", and the book "Chuck Amuck" by the famous animator, Chuck Jones.
Ryan and I found "Chuck Amuck" in a Half Price Books awhile back, but I let him have it. The good karma paid off, and I found my own copy today!

After shopping until I dropped (a lot of cash), I headed to downtown Naperville, where we explored the downtown and walked along the scenic River Walk.
The attraction that interested me the most was watching all the ducks swim in the river. There was one little duck in particular that was making me laugh. She had caught a fish much too big for her to swallow, which became more and more obvious as she tried. In addition to her difficulty in eating, she had to stay on the move once all the other ducks discovered that she had food.
It was very fun to watch!

Monday, September 2, 2013

"You Guys Get Better Every Year!"- Boy At Intermission

Saturday, August 31: Schererville, IN-2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Miles: 18
Lot: St. Michael's Church

It was nice to sleep in this morning since we jumped to Schererville last night. It was also nice to have a two day stand; our last one was at the beginning of the month on Kelleys Island.

We had thunderstorms on and off until show time, but then the sun came out and made it incredibly muggy.

Rick Purdue and his wife were at the first performance today. Radar told me that Rick was taking tiger photos for next year's program since Illinois locales are a lot more picturesque than some of the lots Kelly Miller plays in the Rio Grande Valley.

In between shows we had a two hour break because the church next door had an afternoon service. They pushed the performance back so people coming to the circus could use the church parking lot.

After the shows the usual gang of suspects met for a barbecue by Radar's house. Elisa made delicious buffalo chicken dip that I filled up on before our actual meal.

Sunday, September 1: Schererville, IN-2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Ryan and I met a little girl at Intermission that said she wants to be a clown when she grows up. Ryan and I spent some time answering her and her dad's questions.
They remembered the surfing act from last year, which is funny, because someone else brought it up at one of yesterday's shows. We always enjoy hearing when we've made a lasting impression on someone.

Ryan and I also met an 87 year old man during Intermission that said he's seen lots of circuses, but Kelly Miller is his favorite.