Page 10                                             Spring 1987

Getting Pickled


by Orrel Lanter


Peter Piper is not the only pickle picker. Legions of variety arts fans on the West Coast have picked the Pickle Family Circus as a habit that no one wants to break. This extraordinary little circus began as one man's dream...


Larry Pisoni was just a 15-year-old kid when he left home. His early exposure to show biz was through his grandfather AI "The Wop" Pisoni, a comedian on the Italian vaudeville circuit in the '30s. Grandma was a hoofer. She got Larry's toes tapping and taught him the joys of tumbling. The world was an exciting place for a kid seeking fame and fortune.


After a plethora of odd jobs, he started running spot lights for acts at the Electrick Circus, a night club in New York. Jugglers Hovey Burgess and Judy Finelli (both past presidents of the IJA) were part of the show. Burgess taught a class in circus skills at NYU and Pisoni signed up for the course.


The essence of any circus is juggling, tumbling, wire-walking, trapeze and clowns. Burgess knew them all and was an exacting teacher. He stressed the technical aspects of juggling, emphasizing numbers. Finelli was his star pupil. Under her tutelage Pisoni was soon passing clubs. He joined Burgess' Circo dell' Arte company and toured the country with them. On one trip to California, Pisoni chanced to see the San Francisco Mime Troupe in action and thought they were terrific.


When the Circo disbanded he headed West and the Mime Troupe took him on as a circus skills instructor. During the two years he worked with the Mime Troupe, Pisoni met his spouse and current co­Pickle, Peggy Snider. She is now the circuses executive director and designs the two-hour show. "I was doing the set designs. He lured me from backstage, taught me to juggle, and made me his partner," she said.


Snider continued telling the Pickle saga, "One day an old friend of Larry's from New York, Cecil Mackinnon, rolled into town. She was an actress and of course knew how to juggle. We put together a juggling act in and started called ourselves The Pickle Family Jugglers in 1973."


Everyone asks the origin of the peculiar name. Snider smiled and replied, "Well, one of our favorite explanations stems from the old vaudeville notion that P and K are two of the funniest sounds in the English language. So we decided the word 'Pickle' would get the fans laughing right away. "

Lots of clubs fly in the Pickle "Big Juggle."

Lots of clubs fly in the Pickle "Big Juggle."

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