Page 5                                                 May 1980

Back In Charlotte, Nino Santos Traces His Roots While Pondering The Pain Of Life On The Bus

By Bill Giduz, Newsletter editor, Davidson. NC


Still sweating profusely from his fast-paced, six minute act during halftime of the Harlem Globetrotters show in Charlotte, NC, Nino Santos nevertheless found reason to smile backstage.


"You know, I'm very happy here today," said the Spanish native turned American I citizen in 1976. "Twenty-two years ago my family and I made our first appearance in this country right here in this arena with the Ringling Brothers Circus. I think of my family here tonight like we were then and it makes me happy."


With that note of nostalgia, Santos went on to explain that he is the only family member of a five-generation line of circus performers still actively juggling. He dances all over the floor during his act while his wife assists him with props. He begins with a five-ball cascade, switches to a shower and catches all five in the pockets of his coat. He spins three soccer balls on a mouthstick, juggling four at the same time. He moves on to ring juggling, throwing three very high and juggling them pancake-style, flipping every one over his head and taking it off again as part of his cascade.


Next, his four blue and white clubs fly from hand to foot and 50 feet overhead. He executes continuous drops to, and sky-high kickups from, his right foot with three clubs, then finishes the act with a flash and somersault into the final catch. Additional performers with this particular Globetrotter show were Jean-Claude, a French anti­podist and Serge Gambi, who climbs a flight of 12 stairs on one hand!


His act is crisp and speedy, but the 35-year old Santos, plagued with back trouble, claims to be nearing the end of his career. "I only do 50 percent of what I used to," he said, explaining that a ruptured vertebrae keeps him in almost constant pain.


"There's nothing the doctors can do," he lamented. "They think maybe I started out training when I was too young, before my bones were ready. I hope I can hold out for another two or three years, but it's getting worse. Show business is very hard."


Especially with the Globetrotters, who travel to a new show site almost every day during their 26-week tours. "I don't like to travel, all my muscles are tired out when we get to the stadium," Santos said. He warms up for 30 minutes to an hour before shows, and may practice for an hour afterward. Aside from the practice and five minutes of performance, his daily routine is eat, sleep and get on the bus. Though it's hard, the Globetrotters pay jugglers well, and almost always have one or more as intermission acts. While Santos and Jean-Claude traveled this past season with one Globetrotter troupe, IJA member Steve Mills was with the other.


The circus, Santos says, is a much more humane environment than the Globe­trotters show. Most of his 26-year performing career has been spent with circuses in Europe. "With the circus you playa town for a week and there's time for every­thing. I love the circus, it's my life. The atmosphere is beautiful. Everyone's together."


Santos recalled fondly his last circus tour, which was with the Paul Kay Shrine Circus in Hawaii. "There was Michael Brunn, Lottie Brunn and myself on the same bill. All three of us came out at the same time and each took a ririg. It was great, like three champion bullfighters in the ring together. All the circus people came out to watch when we went on. We worked very hard, then we'd go out on the beach to relax," he reminisced.


The ride from Greenville, SC, to Charlotte was not too bad, Santos said. Only 100 miles. But he was tired and sore, so excused himself after a short time to go rest in the group's motel across the street. He was looking forward to the end of the tour, just 10 days away, to return to his home in Lisbon, Portugal, and visit his family.



W.C. Fields Juggles Again On Postage Stamp

By Mark Neisser Durham, NH


The U.S. Post Office released a W.C. Fields stamp on January 29, the first stamp ever of an actor.   Though this comedian gained fame through movies he began his career as a highly accomplished juggler.


At age 11, William Claud Duconfield ran away from his father's farm after being beaten with a shovel.  With little education and no skills, he had plenty of time to practice juggling.


He first job was as a paper boy in Pennsylvania.


He was described as "handing out papers as if he was handing out arms." All this time, however, he continued to practice juggling, and was ready to accept when a local amusement park offered him a $3.50 per week job entertaining there.


He did a show where it was hard to tell if his mistakes were real or fake. He began to make a name for himself, and began performing in a vaudeville act at age 19. He once said, "Although I was only a boy I knew I had to use my mind in the act as well as my hands." His show became quite popular, and he began to eat regularly. Though he was billed as a comedy juggler, he did not talk in his act. His fame grew, he began to entertain all over the world, and eventually made movies. His only regret, he stated, was that he couldn't make a living out of misdemeanors and small felonies!

Santos unwinds backstage after his performance.

Santos unwinds backstage after his performance.

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