Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

2009 Was a record years in many ways for the Kent Family Magic Circus.
It had it's ups and downs and it's sideways.
But I will say more on this soon.

For Now have a Happy 2010 and you may you be bless and may you bless others.
Forgive all those who have wronged you.
Love those who love you.
Love those who hate you.
Forget harsh words said against you.
Swallow you pride.
Don't be lazy.
Serve. Help. Aid. Guide. Share.
Be generous.
Endeavor to be the best you can be.
Honor God.
Cheers and may you find true Joy in 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

SF Variety Artists Holiday Get Together 2009

Last year was my first time attending Jay Alexander's holiday party for magicians, variety artists and circus performers. It was held at the Historic Lefty O'Douls Pup on Geary Street right off Union Square in SF. (The bar is nearly 100 years old and was started by Lefty O'Douls a player for the old SF Seals. The walls are covered in SF baseball memories and whether on purpose to make a statement or accident The picture of Barry Bonds' record breaking 73rd home run in the season is hanging in the bathroom. And because Marilyn Monroe was once Norma Gene DiMaggio her image and a statue of her adorn the joint too. The place is SF's baseball shrine. The food,in particular the corned beef and cabbage was spectacular. Drinks in the joint are outrageously priced whether spirited or not, though the food is fairly priced. )

The gathering seemed a bit smaller than last year and a few faces were absent. But in there stead I saw many new faces, for me (since I am a relative new face to this group myself...though being from the Sacramento valley I can't really lay claim to being a Bay Area Performer, though we do several shows in the area each year).

I was accompanied by my good friend Bill Jackson and my son Juggglin' Jim.

The event is a no host event though Jay was defacto the host. We all just had to buy our own food and drink, and I liked that, even though I am of Scottish descent (watered down with English, German, Canadian, Cherokee, Jewish, Irish, Black, and Japanese by marriage. Normally I don't like my Scotch watered down but in this case I suppose it's OK ;-) ) I joke often how Scottish folk are cheapskates...if you can't pick on yourself who can you pick on.

We arrived early in SF knowing that at 6pm parking is free on the streets...the meters turn off. So we pulled in front of Lefty's about fifteen minutes before 6 and waited around Bill's mini-van until the big hand was on the 12 and the small hand was on the 6. Then we locked up and slalomed around the homeless people that seemed to be spaced every eight to ten feet with various means of getting your attention where by getting it they would ask for your money. One gent dressed in rags and dirt used a puppet to garner attention. He didn't even try to be a ventriloquist, he just moved his lips, and so did the puppet, who was dressed just like his human buddy. There wasn't enough spare change in the collective pockets of everyone on the street to provide for the large number of beggars. I was astounded at the larger numbers this year over last. (SF has many programs to provide shelter, medical and even free paychecks for the homeless, and with the economy being what it is I suppose those factors have driven the numbers up. Seemed like there were even more than there were in the '80s when I worked in this town. Heart breaking. Sometimes scary.)

Since I had worked in SF many years ago I wanted to see my old haunts and my old work places so I took Bill and Jim on a quick walking tour. Though the downtown layout hadn't changed much the shops within that layout had. The book store, the Woolworths, the Izokaiya, the soup shop and many other places I loved to patronize back then were all gone. There were newer, sometimes hipper joints occupying there window fronts now. Such is progress?

Back at Lefty's we lined up to get our food; cafeteria style. Then Jay spotted me just as I spotted him and we waved briefly across the room. We joined him and his lovely family in the back. His wife and kids were with him. They also had another guest with them. Their family had recently taken up training dogs for people with special needs; guide dogs. The one they currently had was a beautiful white lab.

Like last year we were one of the firsts to arrive. So by the time the majority of the crowd came in we were rubbing our overstuffed bellies and picking our teeth (metaphorically speaking).

Two by two, one by one, and group by small group, people began to arrive and the small talk, catch-up talk, and introductions began. There were many new faces and a few old, or more correctly familiar...though my face was older. I participated in the small talk and even had a few deeper conversations I find more pleasure in watching people.

I will skip the details of any conversations as they will remain what they were private, even the superficial ones.

I was a little heart broken that I didn't get to chat with SF's most wonderful children's performer, a clown I met many many years ago at a fair. I will omit his name but I seemed to get the brush off from him and when I looked on facebook he was missing among my friends list so I man guessing somewhere along the road I upset him about something. I can't imagine what and since he brushed me off, though politely, I guess I may never know what it was I did and will never be able to make amends for it. Sad! (I do have to admit that I can brush people the wrong way personality has that brashness that come across smug to some or mean to some....unintentially.) But as the saying goes you can't make everybody happy all the time...unless your name is JC! (JC Dunn is the world's nicest man and couldn't make anyone mad with him if he was trying...and he would never try.) Still I will miss my former friend. He is an awesome performer and in my early days he gave me much good advice.

On a happier note I met some fabulous new faces like Jim Farrbinder (SF Ghost Hunt), Allen Gittelson (Mindbender), Sylvia Brallier (Comedian, hypnotherapist), Tobias Beckwith (Manager), Lawrence Lemon (Magician), Patrick Martin (illusionist) and many other's whose names escape at this writing. Plus I meet a number of familiar Faces Frank Olivier (many titles), Glenn (Big Al Capone- magician), Jay Alexander (Magician of the Mind and more), Brain Asman (Balloonist), Karen Quest (Cowgirl Extraordinaire), Mitch (magician), and many many others who escape my cerebellum at this time.

I have always found it strange that when this number of entertainers get together that at this event no one does any entertaining but that is the nature of this event. I hawever did do a trick or two for Bill, Jim balanced a chairor two on his face and Jay's son Max did a clever PTEO mentalism trick with the selected item appearing as a picture on his dad's cell phone. It was neat.
I've always like that trick as it is one of my friend JC's favorite tricks to do.

We had a long drive back to the valley so we snapped a few pictures and left arounf 9 something.

lawrence Lemon and the old guy.....
Karen Quest and the old guy...

Jim a t work....

Jay Alexander, His kids, me and in the back is Patrick Martin.

Tobais Beckwith, Sylivia Brallier, and an old guy....

The old guy and Frank Olivier.....

Friday, December 18, 2009

History can be fun.

I've always liked history though I have a terrible mind for dates. However, I have a theory that memory is directly related to interest. Since I took up the idea to do a kind of tribute to Eddie Foy and his family in our show for the simple reason that he had 7 kids (really 8...11 if you count infantile death...and a soul is a soul) and I have 7. he and his kids toured and performed together. Seeing the Bob Hope movie about them got me interested in a unique angle or hook for next year. So I decided I should learn about the man and his family and so I paid handsome sums to get a hold of a biography and auto-biography of Eddie Foy. That and Internet research were the start. Turns out the movie was nothing like the real Foys. And so I wanted to know more.

I found an old Vitaphone (original talkies) of six of the seven younger Foys performing their vaudeville show "Chips of the old Block" ...that gave us an insite into what the little Foys grew into and I was able to see the kernel of their characters on stage.

I got a hold of 100 year old sheet music performed by the Foys...that gave me an insight into them as well.

In Foy's autobiography I discovered while performing in SF with his first wife (later to die in childbirth with the child) and a partner and his wife they decided to try their first and last try to be producer. Turns out he flopped at it. But that effort brought him to the gold town of Oroville, current home. It was 1882. That got me thinking. The State Theater here in town was built in 1928, I believe. So there had to be a theater preceding it. Turns out there were many. The American (the first theater in town), the Metropolitan, the Atkins, the Orpheum, and of course every honky tonk and dance hall had a kind of theater. So the research has to go deeper.

By process of elimination ((by date)) the Atkins and the theater in the Union Hotel were the only ones that (as of now) that could've been the theater Foy used. Here are photos of them now and then.

the Atkins then

Vacant lot today

Orpheum then

Parking lot today. (Notice the then Exposition Center is now a shadow of what it was retrofitted and mad earthquake safe....the second level was removed, the facade was removed ...the sloping path was cut into two levels)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More on Oroville an Eddie Foy

In an earlier blog I wrote how Eddie Foy before there were seven little Foys to preform with had visited the town I lived in over 100 years ago. In fact, it was 1882 and he mentions how he did a one night stand at the Opera House there. The show he brought in was his first an last attempt to produce a road show. He didn't have the experience to run the business end of it and, though the show was good, it didn't bring in enough crowds to support it so it died.
Well, curious me wanted to know where that Opera House was and did it still exist today. So I went on a search and found the Atkins Theater and stables... remember it was still very much a "western" town then. (There was an Odd Fellows convention and the arc and parade flaot was theirs. )

Now, there were many small honky tonks and show rooms in bars and such but as of my research to date this would've been the only thing that can be called an Opera House back then. Today the building is long gone and there is a parking lot where this joint once stood. I am told by old timers that this place stood until the 50s and served as a movie house and then a plumber supply store and now a place to park your car.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


December has been a slow fact, the slowest moth we've had in years. We've had a record years in a every respect except one....the slowest booking one ever...December. January is always slow for us. We take that time to meet up with old friends make new ones, visit the Magic Castle, catch some basketball games, etc. And Bookings for February onward are looking great. In fact, we are working with a management group that might be able to expand our show all the way to Europe and Australia. But December is slow.
We have been rehearsing our 2010 program. In fact, nearly every day one of us is coming up with something new we want to try. In our Foy number Victor Jr saw the youngest Foy boy (albeit he was 17 in the film of their old show "Chips of the old Block") do a Cossack style dance and so he's been practicing it five times a day...Jim might do it too.. Jim is adding tumbler juggling and balancing even bigger things on his face. Cynthia has been practicing a very authentic melody, "Bye Bye Pretty Baby" for the Foy show I mentioned. The strain of the high 20's era singing voice is taking a lot of voice training for her. Then there is all the new magic. Anyone can go out and buy a trick and call themselves a've more than likely seen hundreds. But to create a moment the audience remembers, be it comical, serious, or touching is of little regard...that they are moved to remember you and the trick. So a lot of work goes into making the magic portions of the show magical, funny, etc but most of all memorable.
Still we have come off of non stop shows from May through November and the slow down is a bit tough. Maybe we should take it as a blessing and relax, but it's really hard to do.
So maybe I should take what time I have before things get busy again to clean my office....

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Circus (1882)

Picture source: Library of Congress

"John Robinson's great show arrived here yesterday morning and performed in the afternoon and last evening to full houses. A slight accident in upsetting the band wagon in disembarking that vehicle from the cars delayed the appearance of the usual street procession. People came into town from long distances, as they always will, to see the circus, and times upon the streets looked lively. John Lowlow, as a clown, has no superior, if any equal in the profession in America, and is not only entertaining to hear him , but instructive. He is one of the few of the higher artists in that difficult role. The circus absorbed many a dollar which had been put aside and long lain hidden for a rainy day and which had been earned by patient toil."
-Oroville Mercury News 8/4/1882
Came across the above article while researching Eddie Foy and Oroville's old Opera House.
Did a bit of research on the John Robinson article mentions an elephant attack in 1841 in Ohio. Apparently there were three genrations of John Robinsons that ran the circus.
Well....back to my Foy studies.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Too Sweet" who ever thought?

Before I get to my main point I just want to say it is cold!

Also thanks to buddy JC for a great lunch today.

Is it possible to be too sweet or too much of a well oiled machine? Well, if it is for TV the answer is yes. The producers at Discovery have decided that our family is "too sweet", "get along too well" and have "too well oiled of a machine" to be of interest to the network at this time. They would like us to be a bit more "New York" but don't want us to become that.
I said we would roll with it and so we roll on.
So that is the update on the TV thing.
I guess I should return the Porsche and the Rolex (Just kidding..I wear a Timex and my car is a 15 passenger van.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 2009

December has been, so far, very busy with the office chores of chasing the bookings for 2010.That includes updating the website (so far it has received over 24000 visits and 74000 page visits...that means those 24000 went on to visit enough pages on the site to drive the number up to 74000). The job is arduous since the kids are constantly adding stuff to their acts no to mention physically changing every day. There has been the whole choreography of the new numbers in the show. The new costumes. The new art. The new photos. The marketing packs design. their mailing. etc etc etc.
Then all the projects and opportunities that are up in the air and we await to see where they fall. The TLC TV show, the Dominican TV Show, the new management company out of FL that is taking over some of our booking work, the whole Foy Tribute, and the list goes on.
So you wonder, "what about the shows for this month?" We are doing our fair share but most of those will deal with the 2009 program and we can do that in our sleep.
I have started taking Prevacid for years of heartburn that I just won't stand for anymore..I suppose it is the price of capitalism (if the government doesn't take it away and give it to others.)
Below are a couple of new pix with the new costume for 2010. Note the custom jacket is based on the 1910's loose fitting vaudeville comedian and the addition of the top hat is all Circus with an Alice in Wonderland flare. It was a task indeed to find a good quality yellow bell "bull" top hat. Especially one that fit's my XL head. The tie is also turn of the century and based on the Foy pictures in his bio.
Jim has been taking music used by the Foys and adjusting them for us. We have found 100 year old (or near 100 year old) music sheets from their shows. Jim will create and arrangement and get a band or mini-orchestra together and recreate the music which we will sing and dance to. "Greatest Father of the All" (written by the eldest Foy boy, Bryan and William Jerome). "Bye Bye Pretty Baby" used by the Foy kids when they were young adults in their show "Chips of the old Block" (not a typo...of not off) and "My Chinatown", which needs a complete rewrite of the lyric in the verses due to what would be considered racist today.
Our seamstress, Jane Miller, is a remarkable lady doing all the costumes this year giving Mami a break. Since Mami has become Homeschool teacher for the kids extra work in the area of costume making would kill her.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Grandma Kent

Here is a photo of Grandma Kent Circa 1895.

If you are surpirsed about her wearing sneakers...well, she was ahead of them all back then, a true visionary. her maiden name was Adidas.

OK I'm Lying. In the 2010 season we are doing a tribute to the Foys. Eddie Foy, the father of the performing group of seven kids known as the Seven Little Foys, performed a clowning drag character in the show. We wanted to keep some of that authenticity so with much ado we have carefully created a look similar to his back in the day. Below is how the look came out untouched. Because "Drag" hold completely different connotations today We decide to go with a more clownish look to reflect the clowning feel that Foy was famous for.

And they aren't Adidas...they're Reebox.