Felix Adanos – Gentleman Juggler

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Gentleman juggler Felix Adanos was born Felix Hanus in 1905 in Laibach, Austria.  After traveling for much of his early childhood, his family settled in Berlin, Germany. Enthralled by the circus and variety theater at a very young age, he learned to juggle at the age of 12 but didn’t start seriously practicing until he was 16. His new found desire to achieve greatness came after seeing the famous juggler Sylvester Schaeffer, Jr. perform. He taught himself as best he could and sought out other jugglers whom he could watch or even get some training from. He briefly joined a hoop rolling troupe but left after only two weeks, disappointed by the leader’s lack of teaching ability and addiction to alcohol. He worked various day jobs and trained in the evenings. Finally his skill was recognized by a former performing juggler who encouraged Felix to devote himself full-time to training and performing. Felix immediately quit his work and enrolled in an artistic club, where he honed his act. His first performance was in 1923. In March of 1925 he had his first big engagement, appearing at the Eden Theater in Hamburg. Within a couple of years, he was appearing at all the top German variety theaters and was booked all over Europe. He married a Scandinavian woman and lived there for several years. He also worked in many circuses, which was fairly unique for a gentleman juggler.

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Adanos was drafted into the German army during World War II and was released from an American prisoner of war camp in 1945. He had no props at all, but obtained some wooden balls, a few old billiard cues, and a ratty top hat and restarted his career at the age of 40 with the help of his second wife, Helmi. In 1955 he took up an engagement with the Ringling Circus, becoming the first gentleman juggler in the history of the American circus. Adanos continued to perform all over the world until he retired in the late 1970s. He lived out his final years in Vienna, Austria, where he collected oddities in his private “cabinet of curiosities” museum. He passed away in 1991.

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Early in his career, Adanos had the opportunity to practice with Enrico Rastelli every day for a month in Frankfurt. Their styles were very different. Rastelli was a classical juggler, using props made specifically for juggling. Adanos was a gentleman juggler, using everyday objects that could be found around the house. There was only one real overlapping trick; the candlestick trick. Both men performed this trick, where the performer holds a candlestick with a candle in it. He lights a match and then flips the candle into the air. While the candlestick is flipping, the juggler lights the wick and then catches the now burning candle back in the candlestick. While this trick fits perfectly in the repertoire of a gentleman juggler, it was an odd part of Rastelli’s act. The trick was created by the original gentleman juggler, Kara.

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The accompanying video shows many of Adanos’ most famous tricks.  Here is a description of those tricks, as they can be difficult to make out or understand. At times the beginning or ending of the trick is cut off in the video.

Juggles top hat, cane, and bottle. Catches hat on head. Juggles cane, wine bottle, and ice bucket.

Juggles wine bottle, ice bucket, and stool. Catches bucket on stool and bottle in bucket.

Performs the candlestick trick discussed above.

Flips top hat from cane and catches balanced on nose. Drops the hat back onto cane. Flips the hat half way over and catches balanced on cane. Transfers hat to balance on cigar. Flips hat up to catch on head.

Kicks coin up to catch as monocle. Drops coin from eye into breast pocket.

Places cigar and top hat on cane. Flips up cigar and top hat, catching cigar in mouth and hat on head.

Places hat on cane and balances them on his foot. Kicks up the can (with hat on top) and catches it balanced on the cigar held in his mouth.

Juggles 3 billiard balls, cue chalk, and a billiard cue stick.

Balances billiard cue stick on his chin and flips it to catch on his forehead.

Juggles three cue sticks.

Balances a cue stick and a billiard ball on another cue stick, which is then balanced on the edge of a plate help in his mouth. The cue ball is shaken off and caught, causing the upper cue stick to fall. This falling cue stick is caught balanced on the forehead.

An envelope is tossed into the air and cut open with scissors as is descends. The envelope is caught and the letter is taken out. The letter is read and then folded and thrown behind the back. It is caught back in the envelope.

Balances a glass of lemonade on three straws on his forehead while juggling a tray, coffee set, coffee cup, and sugar bowl.

Spins a plate on his finger and juggles two plates in the other hand while balancing a fourth plate on his head. Goes into a four plate juggle and ends with one balanced on his head again. Catches balanced plate and rolls it down his arm and across his chest to his other hand.

Balances coffee pot on a pole on his forehead. Coffee pot is holding a ball on its spout. Juggles three balls in a shower and then shakes head, dropping the fourth ball into the shower. Catches the balls and then tosses one into the open top of the coffee pot, closing the lid as it’s caught.

Balances a large picture frame and picture on his forehead. Lets the frame slide and catches it balanced on different corner of the frame.

Shoots a billiard ball from on top of a pistol and catches it on top of a cue stick which is balanced on another cue stick which is balanced on his forehead.

Performs a devil stick routine using three cue sticks.

Video changes to a new performance from much later in his career.

Places coin on his cane and flips coin up to catch as monocle. Drops coin into breast pocket.

Juggles three cue sticks and then does devil sticking with them.

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Adanos also performed the Salerno ring (spinning a ball in the ring attached to a pole balanced on the head while juggling balls through the ring) and Kara’s ball rack trick (catching balls in a balanced rack or frame of ramps and catching them at the bottom of the frame). In fact, many of Adanos’ tricks were not original to him. The lemonade balance trick goes back to Cinquevalli, as does the monocle trick. The gun / billiard ball trick and the envelope routine were created by Salerno. Adanos even performed Charles Hera’s seven candle stick flip and catch early in his career. Borrowing from earlier performers is the norm in the gentleman juggler style, as a number of the tricks performed by Adanos are currently being presented by the top gentleman juggler today, Jeton.  The audience of the 2013 IJA Cascade of Stars show saw the picture frame trick, the cue stick balance and catch on the forehead trick, the coin kick up to monocle catch trick, and several other feats done by Jeton that were done by Adanos and the gentlemen jugglers that came before him. Jeton even performs the Salerno ring.

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David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world’s only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of sixteen books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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