Wednesday, November 04, 2009

"The World's Great Magician"

An adieu to Carl Ballantine (1922-2009)

As Orson Welles wisely stated: "every magician is the greatest magician in the world".
The Great Ballantine (born Meyer Kessler) presented himself as such at the beginning at his act. Just to follow seven minutes of the worst possible exits for a magician's act. And in doing that, he consecrated a star on the stages of dying vaudeville and rising television: the rubber chicken.
As a zen priest, he dedicated 60 years of his life doing every day the same act: until his fictionary character sculpted himself on his face, body and voice, becoming more believable than truth. Until every smile and laugh from the audience became a sure-fire turning point of a little piece of art through the minimalist craft of the repetition in front of the most unpredictable audiences. Of his generation, only giants as Mac Ronay and George Carl can be compared to him.

When a magicians passes away, a wand is traditionally broken by colleagues on his grave.
What is broken here is not just the prestige of a glorious magic wand. It is also another link to an era and style of perfection in performing arts that never will be back again.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Battling Magicians

"FISM" in Beijng

The venerable ancient art of magic is still alive: yesterday in Beijing ended the FISM, the world magic championship. Few events in the world are as surreal as witnessing, every three years, hundred of the most unpredictable magic acts from the five continents, for an audience of thousand of other magicians. It is an experience spanning from the most grotesque parochial flavour to few sublime exemple of a great art.

This year's Grand Prix of magic was awarded to magician Soma from Hungary.
Next FISM will be in Blackpool, UK, July 2012.

Here is Soma's winning act:

Friday, July 03, 2009

Torp's Flea Circus

Tivoli park in Copenhagen stands as one of the last paradises of novelties and wonders. One of its main attractions in the 50s was Mrs.Torpe's flea circus. This being probably one of the last genuine shows of this kind as intended in the last two centuries, and today resting in obscure memorabilia.
The show was founded by William Torp in England in the 20s, probably inspired by some companies of the early 1900. After touring Egypt (poster above), Else Torp established a permanent show at Tivoli in 1952, to sadly close it in 1956 "for lack of performers". It was replaced by a mouse show, it seems. Her son later toured with a similar show in a special trailer through the Usa coast to coast.
We are happy to offer you today a magnificent documentary film about Torpe's flea circus in his golden years at Copenhagen' s Tivoli park.

(photo courtesy from Torp's family website)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The obscures origins of "manualism"

With a tribute to the unique art of John Twomey.

It seems that all started in 1933, when a farmer named Cecill Dill traveled from Traverse City, Michigan, to Universal Studios in Hollywood to record his singular skill in a newsreel.

Mr.Dill claimed to play “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in a unheard form: by squeezing air thru his hands. He said to have started mastering his instrument by 1914.

Strangely, no traces seems to survive of this art during the golden age of vaudeville, music-hall and early TV. We have to wait the 70s and the arrival of John Twomey, who in 1974 took as a storm the millions of Americans watching Johnny Carson’s show, with his electryfying rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever”. It is to Mr.Twomey that seems credited the definition of “manualist”, a term that now dignifies and indicates a profession still rare but today relatively practiced in some outskirts of the musical constellation.

Today we offers you the sight of Mr.Dill’s first performance ever of manualism, and an excerpt of the legendary Twomey’s act on Carson’s. But expect more to come in future.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A lesson in showmanship

Eric Brenn, or the mastering of porcelaine for entertainment purpose

Plate spinning is one of the most widely replied standards in showbiz, from small country circuses to far-east night club. But the act itself is an insidious and marvellous machine for thrill, timing, skills, comedy, audience involvement and all that makes great an act.
It is a lesson for the eternal adagio: no matter what you does in front of footlight, yourself is what really matters. Personality will always be the eternal secret.
Now, is difficult to find in the history a man better than Eric Brenn to make of this specialty a masterpiece of pure art.
Here is Eric Brenn in action at Ed Sullivan's in 1969:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Man with X-Ray eyes

Kuda Bux, from India, was an unique act in the last century of inusual performances. He was able to read and write while wrapped as a mummy, or even drive a car. But he needed glasses to read his newspaper in normal conditions.

Half of the fascination of his internationally admired act was the ritual of meticolously obscuring his wiew with gauzes and napkins.
A deliciously mysterious blend of Esp, exotica, bondage, masochism, with a flavour of night-club fashion and a twist of sci-fi atmosphere, Kuda Bux was a sort of horror movie hero. It can be witnessed in the video below: even if not of the best quality, the relic preserves the entirety of his act.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Gifts from the Insects

One of the very first post subjects of our blog was the amazing Insects Circus, that we discovered few years ago on London's south bank (just few steps away from Astley's circus birthplace).

Later, two of the most succesful features of the blog were Koringa the reptiles' queen and Hadji Hali, regurgitator extraordinaire.
Now, Mark Copeland, Insect Circus Impresario, sends us two interesting findings about our two icons. We offer them to you readers, being also an opportunity for stimulating your curiosity to revive those past marvels, searching into our blog for: insect circus, koringa, hadji ali.

Dear Raffaele,

Having discovered your wonderful Novelties pages through an Insect
Circus google alert some time ago, I've been a big fan of your blog.
Thanks for including my museum amongst your wonders!

I thought you might be interested in the two attached pictures from my
collection. The Koringa poster is not in great condition but is quite
rare. Also the photo is not wonderful as it is framed and difficult to
photograph as it's behind glass. It is from the Reco Bros Irish tour
of 1946. The other picture is a flyer for Hadji Ali when he performed
in London in 1936. I believe he died sometime that year...?

Looking forward to more of your Novelties as they appear,

All the best,


Mark Copeland
Creative Director
The Insect Circus
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