Monday, January 28, 2008

Smoke Manipulations

Today we wish to talk about an immense performer.
He was more than a fakir. He was better than a magician. He was somehow a smoke manipulator, if such a category is allowed to exist in the enough extravagant taxonomy of show business. His technique was based on hiding and multiplying of lighted cigarettes: an imm ensely difficult task.
José Frakson, (1891-1981) from Spain, was one of the great last vaudeville headliner, of the golden age of Olympia in Paris or the Palace in Time Square. From the late 10s to the 40s, he witnessed the last era of the greatest hotel ballrooms in the world; when ballroom entertainment was a matter of class, elegance, original talent and real showmanship.

poster copyright N.Nielsen

Today, instead of capturing your gaze with our usual gallery, we invite you to take just three minutes of your time. Please, disconnect your telephones, obscure even the windows, try to do the possible to forget everything surrounding you. Travel through the time, relax yourself. You can choice to be in the Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Plaza; or in a Miami nightclub, at the Pierre hotel, or at the Wintergarten in Berlin. And, when ready, enjoy Frakson.

Video courtesy Marko magic archives

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Suspension in Disbelief

All started with chinese performers, presenting hair suspensions acts in European and American circuses in the early 1900.

Later, flesh replaced hairs and meathook replaced wires.

Look at the end of this week’s gallery to discover the kind of suspension of lovely Lucifire, the ultimate crossroad between burlesque and sphisticated painproof fakirism.

Suspension Gallery 1

Suspension gallery: Sun Tseng Hai's tea on Hairs

Suspension Gallery: Johnson the fakir

Suspension Gallery: Lucifire (with video)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tom Jack, The Ice King

Physical freak, escape artist and mythological persona: the traces of a less known but original Houdini pretender

In year 1900, the new century is opened in Europe by the arrival of two distinguished Americans : Harry Houdini and James Anton Bailey. The first, exposes the theatrical world at the craze of the « escape acts » ; the second, bringing on tour the « Greatest Show on Earth », mondernizes the old-world industry of poster advertising. But is not of them we wish to talk. Today’s gallery shows an inusual exemple among many of those two influences.

Around 1910, Germany saw an invasion of home-made Houdini pretenders. But very few of them was remarked for their originality. One at least was : « Tom Jack – The Ice King ».

In concrete, he presented a most ordinary, almost mediocre act of escape from chains and ropes.

But Tom Jack was an albino.

His physical anomaly helped impresarios ad designers to imagine something that is now lost in the performing arts : the fabrication of a beliavable mithological character.

Trying to put togheter the few visual traces remaining of Tom Jack act, we discovered that putting his advertising reliquia in some arbitrary sequence, we have the illusion of a strange storyboard, almost a series of mysterious events, of we will shall never know enough about.

Tom Jack - Ice King gallery - 1

Tom Jack - Ice King gallery - 2

Ice King gallery 3

Ice King gallery 4

Ice King gallery 5

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Skills of Skin (4/4): a Sunday Gallery and a video

An unexpected contemporary survivor in the estinguished art of “rubber skin man”.

Of all the famous recorded show-business anomalies, one rarely surviving is the rubber skin man or the elastic skin human being.

On the Barnum and Bailey european tour of 1900-1902, the side show tent hosted the legendary James Morris. The 1902 edition of the “Livre des Merveilles” (the freak and menagerie souvenir program) in our collection, describes him as “l’homme cautchouc”.

Morris’ deformity is known as cutaneous asthenia: “instances the skin is affixed so loosely to the underlying tissues and is possessed of so great elasticity that it can be stretched almost to the same extent as India rubber. There have been individuals who could take the skin of the forehead and pull it down over the nose, or raise the skin of the neck over the mouth”, as stated in “Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine" (1896), by George M Gould & Walter L Pyle.
The same authors records a man from Hungary as the first known “rubber man”, and of a certain Felix Wehrle as being famous around 1880s.

After Morris’s world successes, few other of those performers are scarcely recorded.

Today, a contemporary gifted practictioner emerges from Great Britain, responding to the name of Garry Turner.

The other evening Mr.Turner was here in Italy, for a Guinnes Record TV show.

The last post of our Sunday gallery, below, will show the video of his performance.

Skill of Skin Gallery (2/4): James Morris

Skill of Skin Gallery (2/4)

Skill of Skin (1/4): Garry Turner

(don't miss the video below!)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Contortions between man and beast

From the horrific human pythons to the repulsive dislocators

Contortionists or "posturers" have been regularly populating the stage since XV century; in 1733 William Hogarth portrayed in "The Southwark Fair" the fairground booth of prestidigitateur extraordinaire, Isaac Fawkes, who used to share his bill with a young posturer (probably to fulfill an acceptable hour or so of entertainment).
About a century later, the mutation started from the realm of mere body contorsion to the mutation towards the animal kingdom. 1n 1828, contortionist-dancer Mazurier started in Paris the whole thing with the ballet "Jocko, or the Monkey from Brasil", where snakes and monkey skins were inhabited by the most flexible human bodies of their time.
In Germany and France, a long series started of man-monkeys, man-snakes, or man-crocodiles, etc, reaching the top in the British music-hall after 1900.

The star was without doubt Marinelli, the human python, who later turned himself into a music-hall agent (representing, among other, the clairvoyant Hanussen).

We will unveil for you more of those pictures in the future.
Today contorsionism seems a speciality of mongolian or chinese girls: grace and beauty replaced the repulsion and strangeness of the animal evocation.
But some extraordinary performer survive, turning the art of contortionism into the most strange one of dislocation. For exemple, our friend Vadim Pechinski (a Latvian based in Italy) shows you in this video of his act a way to practice this art as you never imagined to witness.

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