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October, 1971                 Volume 23 No. 10

Newspaper Article - Houston Chronicle, News-Life, Wednesday, August 25, 1971



BY SHIRLEY S. PFISTER  - Houston Chronicle Reporter


ROBERT BLAU and Cathy Hawkins shouldn't have anything in common: A gray-haired, seasoned showman; a shy, high school girl.  But behind the clubs, hoops and/or swords, their common agility means teamwork.


Blau, 68, and Cathy, 15, form a juggling act. That means standing six or eight or 10 feet apart and being very agile, indeed.


There's a lot of tossing and passing back and forth, up and around; not dropping even one of maybe six flying objects.


"Juggling isn't an easy art," says Blau, an international lecturer and perhaps Houston's only juggling instructor.


"To learn juggIing, you have to be at the age where you take things seriously.

"You start with a single rubber ball, bouncing it in one hand - and not bouncing it very high, at that.   "You bounce with the left hand," says Blau. "Then you learn to handle the ball with the right hand. Juggling is monotonous to learn and it means a lot of work."


Cathy was 13


Cathy tackled the problem at age 13.  She and Blau have kept things in the air together for almost two years.


"I was in a twirling pageant, and it was required to have another talent besides twirling," says Cathy, now a Dobie high school sophomore.


"Well, the photographer who took the twirling pictures also took pictures at one of Mr. Blau's juggling shows.


"He showed me the juggling pictures, telling me what good action shots they were.  So I got interested in juggling and decided to try it."


Was in Movie

She already knew how to handle a baton.  She had won twirling, charm, and modeling honors since she was a small child:  she could count 150 local and state trophies.


And when the Roger Altman movie "Roger McCloud" was filming in Houston, Cathy landed the twirling part.


"Cathy was a very apt juggling pupil," says Blau.  "She had the 'feel' of it, the coordination."


"I have had to gradually drop other students, because I spend so much time with Cathy."   Blau doesn't mind. He has served not only as a teacher, but also as a frequent visitor in the Hawkins home. 


"I think Mr. Blau took an interest in Cathy because she was so determined to learn," says Mrs. Sam Hawkins, Cathy's mother. "I had ordered her a juggling book. Then she began to take lessons from Mr. Blau, and he showed her father how to make juggling equipment."


Dad Helps

Now Hawkins makes 98 percent of his daughter's "act" ­ Indian clubs, hoops, batons. Juggling equipment cannot be purchased locally.


"Cathy is one of the few female jugglers in the state, and one or the youngest," Blau says.  Blau's title runs in the other direction. He has been a practitioner of novelty acts - including the magic escape routine he now does with Cathy ­ for almost 60 years.  "At 12 years of age," says the native Houstonian, "I was lifting Indian clubs that weighed a couple of pounds apiece.


"For 20 years, I was part of a family show of seven people. 'The Seven Blaus' did mind reading, magic, music and juggling, including fire and knives."


The Blau-Hawkins juggling duet incorporates the fire and knives, adding total darkness onstage or big-bladed machetes as audience thrill factors.


Fear of Knives

"At first," Cathy admits, "I had a fear of the knives."


They're the "graduate course" in a jugglers education.


On Labor Day, Sept. 6, teacher and pupil will run through their repertoire at the State Magicians Convention in the Astroworld Hotel. Earlier in the summer, Blau and Cathy were entertainers at a show sponsored by the Pasadena unit of the American Heart Assn.


Their act includes spinning a plastic club on a drinking glass, balancing a silver dollar on a parasol. And, of course, there are "take-a­ways:" Both partners juggling the same clubs or balls without breaking tempo.


"The eye is the most important element in juggling," says Blau, who seldom wears his glasses.


"You can't take your eyes off the objects you're juggling," says Cathy. "Plus, you also have to have coordination, timing and balance. You're using muscles you don't normally use."


Daily Practice

Blau and Cathy, separately or together, practice at least an hour each day. As arms, legs and torso must move rapidly, they also  win exercise points.


Blau, trim and spry, claims he's never met a fat juggler. 

 "When I started juggling, says Cathy, "I really got exercise - chasing balls,.  It's hard to direct objects over you and then catch them."

Cathy, a native of East Texas, says she would like to leave the state when it's time for college, perhaps to attend the University of Florida for twirling or juggling.

Or maybe she'd like to join the circus.

But for now, she and Blau plan to continue performing.

"We'll look at booking offers from any charitable or worthwhile group," says Blau.  

"If we remain a team it will depend on Cathy, on what she wants to do as she gets older."

"At my age," says Blau, "I'm glad to be anywhere.

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