Juggling Biographies

For an art form which is as varied and popular as juggling, we’ve had a surprisingly small number of biographies written about (or by) our practitioners.  Still, I suspect that very few of us are aware of all of the options available to us.  Despite the visual nature of juggling, much can be learned from reading about the jugglers covered by these books.  I thought I would give an overview of the biographies that have been written.

In researching for this article, I found that the books primarily fall into one of five categories:

Individual Biography

Multiple Biographies

Autobiography – For Commercial Sale

Private Autobiography – For Family Primarily

Autobiography – Motivational

Let’s take a brief look at the known titles under each category.

INDIVIDUAL BIOGRAPHY

Enrico Rastelli – In the book Enrico Rastelli il signore dell’equilibrio (Enrico Rastelli Lord of the Balance), author Pietro Barechetti provides a very detailed account of the life and career of this giant in the world of juggling.  The 1996 book is only available in Italian, and contains numerous photos.

Kara – Hermann Sagemüeller’s Michael Kara: König der Jongleure – Jongleur der Könige (King of Jugglers – Juggler of Kings) was published in 1973.  It is a well-researched biography of gentleman juggler Kara, and was written in German, but also has an English translation.  There are many great photos in the book.

Trixie – I am the author of this biography officially titled Trixie: Child Prodigy, Skating Star, and Juggling Icon, which was just published this year (2017).  In it, I provide over 120 photos, most of which are new to the juggling community.  It also has many new stories and insights on one of the greatest jugglers on the 20th century.

Kris Kremo – Karl-Heinz Ziethen’s 1998 book Kris KremoStarjongleur / Star juggler  chronicles the career and history of one of today’s top professional jugglers.  The text is in both German and English and includes a well-documented history of Kremo’s circus family heritage.

Dieter Tasso – You Like It?  I Do It Again – The Dieter Tasso Story is partially a biography, partially an autobiography. Officially, it is Deiter’s life story as told to and recorded by Ron Dentinger.  Published in 2013, this is a light, fun account of a juggler with one of the longest careers on record.

W.C. Fields – It isn’t surprising that W.C. Fields has multiple biographies written about him.  Though he is most famous for his comedic films, Fields started out as a juggler.  Among the many biographies on him are W.C. Fields, His Follies and Fortunes (1949 – by Robert Lewis Taylor) and W.C. Fields by Himself (1973 – by his grandson Ronald Fields).

AUTOBIOGRAPHY

William Everhart – Facts, Fame, and Fortune, was published in 1904. As can be seen by the online version of the book found here, there is much boasting and it begins with William Everhart describing himself as “The most expert exponent of Ambedexterity this age has ever seen.” It is quite humorous and contains many great photos from over 100 years ago.

Bob Bramson – An Artist’s Luggage and Other Baggage was released in 2011, and is an autobiography of one of history’s greatest jugglers and hoop rollers. The book is written in both English and German, and contains many wonderful stories and insights to his long career.

Edith Sandor – Though not as well-known as some of the other jugglers in this article, Edith Sandor (real name Edit Sandor Kleinbarth) was a circus performer and juggler in the 1940s and 1950s in Finland. Balleriina hevosen selässä (Ballerina on Horseback) is written in her native Finnish.

Jimmy Savo – The 1963 posthumously published autobiography entitled I Bow to the Stones details the life of American Vaudeville, Broadway, nightclub, film and television performer, comedian, juggler, and mime Jimmy Savo.

Ruth Carlsson – Ruth Carlsson and her husband Carl were active members of the entertainment world for six decades as jugglers (among other skills), and she shares various tales of their friendships and performances in Lady Ruth: Still Kicking, published in 2010.

Fred Allen – Throughout much of the 1940s and 1950s, Fred Allen was a big star on radio.  With Much Ado About Me, published in 1956, he chronicles his early career in showbiz beginning with his days as a juggler.

Hillary Carlip – A successful juggler and grand prize winner on the original Gong Show, Hillary Carlip has written an award winning, offbeat memoir about her various escapades entitled Queen of the Oddballs: And Other True Stories from a Life Unaccording to Plan.

MULTIPLE BIOGRAPHIES

Juggling Legends – In Enrico Rastelli und die besten Jongleure der Welt (Enrico Rastelli and the World’s Greatest Jugglers) by Karl-Heinz Ziethen, four giants of the juggling world – Enrico Rastelli, Frances Brunn, Anthony Gatto, and Sergei Ignatov, are chronicled in great detail in this 1996 release.

Mostly Unknown Jugglers – In Rediscovering History’s Great Jugglers (Volume 1), David Cain provides very detailed information on The Breens, Richard Eckert, Bert Holt, Bobby Jule, Frank Le Dent, Ferry Mader, The Mowatts, Joseph Rosani, Stetson, John P. Thomas, Woodrow, Youna, Ollie Young, and Zarmo.

Well-Known Jugglers – With Rediscovering History’s Great Jugglers (Volume 2), the second installment of this series (both were published in 2016)), David Cain covers famous jugglers or juggling acts that haven’t been written about in great detail before. These jugglers are Felix Adanos, Rudy Cardenas, Gil Dova, William Everhart, Alexander Kiss, Italo Medini, Ernest Montego, Edoardo Raspini, The Reverhos Trio, The Rudenko Brothers, Salerno, and Massimiliano Truzzi.

Women Jugglers – Also released in 2016 and written by David Cain, Great Female Jugglers of the Past introduces readers to 27 significant female jugglers from our past, many of which had never been covered in significant detailed anywhere previously.

PRIVATE AUTOBIOGRAPHY – FOR FAMILY PRIMARILY

Bobby Jule – Joe Pegnato, who performed under the stage name Bobby Jule, published a very detailed book describing his long and varied performing career as a juggler under the title My Life As A Juggler.  The book was never made commercially available, but was instead written for family members and a few select others in order to preserve his personal history.

Gil Dova – In a similar fashion, Gilbert Spah, who grew to fame as Gil Dova, published a “for family only” autobiography capturing his career and life.  To The Heights of Juggledom was created in 2008 and is 194 pages in length.


AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL – MOTIVATIONAL

Scott Burton – Juggler Scott Burton was a fixture at IJA conventions in the 1980s.  He chronicles how he used humor and hope to help him fight cancer in My Life In the Balance.  This much heralded book is an inspiration to many fighting the disease.

Kit Summers – The author of several juggling and self-help books, Kit Summers talks about recovery and using one’s experiences to better your life in Beyond Your Potential, covering the aftermath of suffering through multiple serious accidents, imprisonment on a false charge and a heartbreaking divorce.

Niels Duinker – One of today’s brightest young jugglers, Niels Duinker published Catching Greatness – A Guide to Thriving In A World Plagued by Gravity in 2014.  The book focuses on overcoming obstacles and leveraging resources to become successful, and Niels uses his own story (so far) to demonstrate these themes.

Scott Cain is an IJA Life Member, IJA Numbers Championships Co-Director, a former Numbers gold-medalist, Teams medalist as a member of Raising Cain, Musical Theater Critic for Talkin’ Broadway (Cincinnati/Dayton), and assistant curator/researcher for the Historical Juggling Props Museum (www.historicaljugglingprops.com). He and his family live in Cincinnati, Ohio (USA).

Leave a Reply