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Archive for the ‘circus’ Category

French Spidora

La Femme Araignee. Cirque Daniellis. Paris: Aussel, ca. 1937. One-sheet. Potter and Potter Auctions

This rare and delightful 1937 French circus poster is on the auction block today at Potter and Potter’s sale. “La Femme Araignee” is an advertisement for Cirque Daniellis’ spider woman. Known as the Spidora sideshow illusion on American carnival midways, it features a young lady with the head of a beautiful girl and the body of a giant spider.

Missed it? Check out the video below of Walt Hudson’s Spidora pitch and see her for yourself. “She’s strange, she’s unusual, she’s a lovely little girl. I’m going to let you look at her. Shortly afterwards we’re going to take her off the web and feed her, and you’ll have an opportunity perhaps to see that…” Little Spidora was an attraction at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, Hudson says. And why by the way do we not currently have a Spidora single-o in Coney Island?

Potter and Potter’s live auction is on February 6 in Chicago but the catalogue is online and you can bid on the poster now or in real time during the auction.

Update: The poster sold for $1,200 plus a 22% buyer’s premium.

Related posts on ATZ…

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

May 22, 2013: Art of the Day: Girl to Gorilla Showfront by Lew Stamm

September 2, 2012: Art of the Day: World’s Smallest Woman Arrives in Coney Island

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

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Clown Shoes

Collection of Clown Shoes at Darrell Dean
Antiques & Decorative Arts, 1stdibs Gallery

You may have heard that laughter is therapeutic but did you know that trying on clown shoes is too? “I can’t tell you how much trying on a pair relieves stress and blood pressure. People really love it,” says Darrell Dean, a dealer of antiques and decorative arts in Kensington, Maryland, who collects clown shoes. “I have had probably 50 to 60 pair, but have regrettably had to sell some as this is my business. But there are always more to come,” he adds. A selection is on display online and at 1stdibs Gallery at the New York Design Center (200 Lexington Avenue, 10th floor), where you can try them on.

Dean says the most common question he gets is “Where did you get all these clown shoes?” His answer: “A clown goes out of business everyday and I get their shoes.” He started about six years ago and generally collects one pair at a time but has occasionally gotten three to four pair from the same retiring clown. There is a wonderful diversity to the shoes, from colorfully decorated ones with bulbous toe caps to long, narrow flap shoes that comically slap the floor to a jester’s curly toed pair bedizened with bells.

“I was never really interested in the remaining clown outfit or even the history of the clown or previous owner,” Dean tells ATZ. “To me the worn and weathered clown shoes speak for themselves and tell an interesting story and as a large group or collection are impressive. Most people are very happy to see and touch clown shoes, and trying on a pair will change your life for sure.”

Collection of Clown Shoes

Collection of Clown Shoes at Darrell Dean
Antiques & Decorative Arts

Related posts on ATZ…

January 11, 2016: NYU Heralds Circus Now 2016 with Window Exhibit of Ringling Costumes

October 25, 2015: Autumn Reading: Novels Starring Circus Mermaids, Coney Island Sideshows, Traveling Shows

January 28, 2013: Rare & Vintage: 1906 “La Boule Mysterieuse” Circus Toy

December 19, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike

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Ringling Circus Costumes

Window Exhibit Featuring Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Costumes at NYU Skirball. January 9, 2016. Photo © Tricia Vita

Thirteen windows at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts are resplendent with costumes designed for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. The work of three acclaimed costume designers and NYU graduates is featured: Gregg Barnes (Tony Award, Follies, The Drowsy Chaperone), Susan Hilferty (Tony Award, Wicked), and Eduardo Sicangco (Broadway Bares, The Harlem Nutcracker). The displays also feature circus memorabilia, photographs, and historical info. Located at 566 LaGuardia Place and around the corner on West 3rd Street, the window exhibit debuted during the holidays and is on view through January 18.

The costume exhibit heralds this week’s performances at NYU Skirball by six international circus companies. Circus Now 2016 will feature Acrobatic Conundrum (Seattle), Oktobre (France), Barely Methodical Troupe (U.K), Andréane Leclerc (Canada), Water on Mars (Sweden), and Aloft Circus Arts (Chicago). Performances are January 14, 15 and 16 at 8 pm. Tickets range from $39 – $50. Visit www.nyuskirball.org for additional info.

circus costumes

Window Exhibit Featuring Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Costumes at NYU Skirball. January 9, 2016. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

October 25, 2015: Autumn Reading: Novels Starring Circus Mermaids, Coney Island Sideshows, Traveling Shows

May 25, 2013: Saturday Matinee: The Wheel House by Acrojou Circus

January 28, 2013: Rare & Vintage: 1906 “La Boule Mysterieuse” Circus Toy

July 13, 2011: Circus Portraits: Photography by Kevin C Downs

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Circus mermaids and freaks, Coney Island sideshows, and a traveling circus and carnival take center stage in this trio of literary novels that we read over the summer. Wondrous and horrific by turn, these stories will have you turning their pages well past the witching hour.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. St. Martin’s Press, 2015. Hardcover, $26.99.

The Book of SpeculationErika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation is a suspenseful novel that combines some of our favorite things — traveling shows, sideshow performers, mermaids, family secrets and rare books. The rare book is the 17th century log of a traveling circus which the narrator receives in the mail from a stranger along with a mysterious message: “A name inside it–Verona Bonn–led me to believe it might be of interest to your family.” The women in Simon Watson’s family, including his mother and grandmother, were circus mermaids who drowned, always on July 24. The novel alternates between the magical tale of Simon’s ancestors documented in the logbook and his present life on Long Island, where he is in danger of losing both his job as a librarian and his family’s historic home. As the date of his mother’s death approaches, Simon becomes convinced that his sister, who ran off with a carnival, is doomed to drown as well. Can the revelation of a family secret save them both?

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. Scribner, 2014. Hardcover, $27.99; Paperback $16.00.

Museum of Extraordinary ThingsCoralie, the enchanting heroine of Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things, was born with webs between her fingers. Pressed to perform as a “human mermaid” in her father’s museum of freaks and curiosities in early 20th century Coney Island, she escapes after hours by swimming the Hudson River. Sightings of “a sea monster” become a tabloid mystery. Coralie’s story unfolds parallel with that of Eddie Cohen, a Jewish immigrant living on the Lower East Side who works as a newspaper photographer and fishes the river for his supper. It’s clear that their worlds are going to intersect and they are destined to fall in love, but that doesn’t lessen the allure. First published in 2014, Hoffman’s novel was on the New York Times bestseller list and was the Long Island Reads selection for 2015. Set in 1911, the year of both Manhattan’s Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and Coney Island’s Dreamland Fire, the story has an authentic ring to it. Coney Island History Project director Charles Denson was among the early readers of the manuscript.

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry. Ecco/HarperCollins, 2015. Hardcover, $26.99.

Church of MarvelsThe Church of Marvels of the novel’s title is an 1890’s Coney Island sideshow, but the sideshow has burned to the ground and its proprietor Friendship Willingbird Church is dead before the book begins. Her twin daughters Belle, a beautiful contortionist and sword swallower, has fled to Manhattan, while Odile, who was born with a curvature of the spine, struggles to make a living as the Target Girl on Coney’s Wheel of Death. Initially, we were disappointed the novel did not have more scenes set in Coney Island or the sideshow, as we had anticipated. Leslie Parry’s exquisite prose and the surprising twists and turns of the narrative won us over. Odile’s quest to find her missing sister takes us inside the lunatic asylum on Blackwell’s Island and the tenements and opium dens of the Lower East Side before circling back home to Coney Island.

Related posts on ATZ…

May 17, 2015: Summer Reading: Undertow by Michael Buckley

December 1, 2014: Autumn Reading: Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow!

November 22, 2014: Autumn Reading: The Brooklyn Theatre Index of Coney Island, Brighton Beach & Manhattan Beach

November 10, 2014: Autumn Reading: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island

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Jim Hand Show Painter

Signs by Show Painter Jim Hand via Facebook.com/Circuspainter

Florida-based show painter Jim Hand is (forgive the pun) an old hand at painting signs and banners for circuses and sideshows including Hall & Christ’s World of Wonders. Over the weekend he posted these photos on his Facebook page with the following pitch that quickly gathered a tip of interested customers.

I been ‘thinking” of doing this for along time….TODAY was THE DAY……I started cleaning out my storage sheds and the old truck in my yard…..Man -o-man some of this stuff hasn’t seen the light of day for YEARS……

I have been saving (hoarding ?) this stuff thinking I might need that piece ‘some day’….

EBAY HERE I COME !!! It’s time to let all my treasures go….But FIRST I will post a picture here on my page to see if any of you has space in your shed for something you “Might need someday”

PM me if you have any interest….

Jim Hand Show Painter

Sideshow Signage by Show Painter Jim Hand via Facebook.com/Circuspainter

Related posts on ATZ…

December 1, 2014: Autumn Reading: Ward Hall – King of the Sideshow!

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

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Bindlestiff Family Cirkus

Ringmistress Philomena and Kinko the Clown of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus via Facebook

Bindlestiff (BIN-dl-stif) noun. A hobo who carries a bundle of bedding and other possessions. From English bindle (bundle) + stiff (tramp).

Tonight through Sunday, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus is bringing their cabaret show – a mix of vaudeville, circus, Wild West, burlesque, and sideshow – to the Brooklyn Lyceum. The variety arts troupe founded by Stephanie Monseu (Ringmistress Philomena) and Keith Nelson (Kinko the Clown) is celebrating their 20th anniversary season.

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, 1996. Photo via Facebook

Over the past few weeks, they’ve been posting photos from the family album on their Facebook timeline, beginning with this old-timey snapshot from 1996 with some of the many performers who’ve been with the Cirkus. It’s also a reminder of the many venues where we’ve seen the troupe perform, from Coney Island to Rhode Island, from the Bindlestiff’s Palace of Variety on 42nd Street to a Spiegeltent. For a calendar of upcoming events through the spring and summer, visit http://www.bindlestiff.org.

20th Annual Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret, March 13-16, 8pm shows are 18+. $20 advance / $25 door / $10 discount for anyone in circus makeup. Family matinees for all ages on March 15 and 16 at 3pm. $12 / 4 for $40. Info: 1-877-BINDLES. Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11215.

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Related posts on ATZ…

May 25, 2013: Saturday Matinee: The Wheel House by Acrojou Circus

February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

March 3, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Bluto & Popeye, Kings of Coney’s Mardi Gras

February 25, 2012: Video: Happy International Sword Swallowers Day!

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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown/

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown. Photo © Feld Entertainment

Last week’s headlines were about a national clown shortage. This week brings news of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus holding auditions for their Clown Alley on March 12th at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Auditionees must be 18 or older and come prepared to show a 3-5 minute routine. This routine should display exaggerated facial expressions and body language, showcase any unique physical skills (juggling, unicycle riding, gymnastics, etc.) and demonstrate an understanding of their comedy, a sense of personality and a true desire to become a member of the world famous, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Clown Alley.

IMPORTANT: Auditionees should not wear any clown makeup and should not wear any costumes. Loose, comfortable clothing should be worn. It is preferred, but not required, that you bring a headshot and a resume to your audition.

Register for the New Jersey audition here. If you can’t make it, here’s where to send your DVD.

Competition for these jobs is always keen. According to Feld Entertainment, approximately 14 people are selected from the more than 4000 per year who apply for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. Would Judy Garland and Gene Kelly have made the grade?

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Related posts on ATZ…

January 10, 2014: A Head Start on Summer Jobs in Coney Island

December 4, 2013: Curator of the Unusual Seeks Sideshow Freaks & Working Acts for 2014

August 31, 2010: Snapshots of the Coney Island Illuscination

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