This is the third installment in a series where I try to provide updates on jugglers who were once in spotlight, either via the IJA conventions, performances, or otherwise, but who aren’t so much anymore. As I did in the first two of these articles, which can be found here and here, I hope that reading this either reminds you of this juggler, or introduces you to them and their unique contributions, and gives some insight to what they are up to now.
As always, if you have a juggler that you would like featured, drop me an email at email@example.com. If you know anything about what they’ve been up to, or contact information, feel to share that too if you have it.
If you ask me for my list of top 10 favorite juggling acts of all time, including Gil Dova is a no-brainer for me. His rare mix of hilarious character, refined performance, first-rate comedy, and skillful juggling made him one of the finest acts starting in the 1950s and continuing into the 1990s. Check out the following videos of his act to see what I mean:
Gil Dova was born in 1932, the son of the well-known vaudevillian acrobat and comic daredevil Ben Dova (if you aren’t laughing yet, say it out loud). The elder Dova was a survivor of the Hindenburg disaster, and 5-year old son Gil was a first-hand witness to the event as he waited for his father to arrive.
Gil would eventually make a name for himself with a comedy juggling act which used physical comedy highlighted by his funny looking bulging eyes, contorted face, and dim-witted “fool” character, all while performing superb routines with three balls, three clubs, and three cigar boxes. The cigar box routine was performed while perched above the ground with Gil standing on a fourth cigar box. Watch the above videos closely and remember that he performed that entire box routine while standing on that tiny box – often on one leg.
Gil and his wife Regina
Gil toured the world with the act, appearing in circuses, numerous Las Vegas casinos, prestigious International showrooms, and even in ice shows. Gil was on television many times, including a 1962 performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and a broadcast in December 1966 when The Andy Williams Show aired his “Christmas on Ice” act. Late in his career, he played a juggler in the 1995 film Casino.
So, what is Gil Dova doing now? Well, the 84 year old is living in the western part of the United States with his wife Regina Baranton, a French antipodist (foot juggler). I’ve had the pleasure with corresponding with Gil over the past several months, and he recently donated some props to the Museum of Juggling History. You can see his donations below.
I’ve told him that many of today’s jugglers still consider his act to be one of the finest comedy juggling acts of all time, and that he is a favorite of mine and others.
Back in the early 2000s, Sam Hartford made a name for himself in the area of numbers juggling. He had learned to juggle at age six, and had always been impressed by pushing the boundaries of how many objects could be juggled. Sam won gold medals in three different IJA Numbers Championships events, one each in 2001, 2002, and 2003. He was coached by his juggling idol, Albert Lucas. After much practice and determination, Sam was the first documented person to flash 7 balls in one hand, and also was the first to flash both 12 balls and 12 rings (separately). You can see all of these accomplishments below.
So, where is Sam Hartford now? For the last 15 years, he’s have been living in South Carolina, Colorado and Oregon alternately working in the restaurant industry, as a juggler, and as an Alpine ski instructor. Sam was recently in South Carolina continuously for four years, where he also performed in a production show. He’s currently living in Oregon working as a ski instructor at Mt Bachelor. Sam has been married over 11 years to his wife Kristin, whom he met working in the ski industry in Colorado, and they have three children – ages 4, 6, and 8. When asked about the jugglers and juggling accomplishments of today’s top jugglers, he said that he is consistently blown away by the achievements of younger jugglers today, while humbled by the achievements from the past. In that vein, Sam hopes is that his achievements serve to fuel the ambitions of new jugglers coming up.