Mel Ody – Comedy Juggler

Mel Ody was born Richard Luby in 1913 in San Francisco, CA. His family moved to Denver, CO when Richard was young. His father often took the young boy to circuses and vaudeville shows and these had a great impact on the lad. They were a highlight of an often difficult childhood. Despite being very well read, Richard never finished high school, instead choosing to begin a life as a professional juggler at age 17.

He took the stage name of Mel Ody (the word “melody” broken up) and began to perform. His first big engagement was at Radio City Music Hall in New York City at the age of 21. He would return there multiple times during his career.

Richard joined the Marines during World War II, but spent most of his time during the war entertaining troops in USO shows under the name of Dick Luby as part of the Marine Follies.

Mel Ody 1945

President Harry Truman was a big fan of Mel’s act. It was during the war that Mel met and married Ruby Wolf, an acrobatic dancer. Together they had three children. At times Ruby worked as his assistant, but usually he worked solo.

Mel Ody and Ruby

After the war, Mel Ody performed all throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia, as well as his native United States. Usually he worked as Mel Ody, but sometimes was billed as Dick Luby, as you can see below.

He juggled clubs and balls, spun a small tire on a parasol, did cigar box-like work with spools, balanced a bugle on his lips and played it, and did hat spinning. Mel performed a non-talking act, but it was filled with many sight gags. A Jugglers’ Bulletin from 1945 reported, “Mel uses a swell assortment of gags to cover misses – in fact we believe the audience looked forward to seeing him miss because it was sure to be good for a laugh.”

Eventually Mel and his family moved to New York City. He appeared on the Captian Kangaroo television show in 1960 and worked on television many times throughout his career. In the 1960s, he was a member of the New York City-based Juggling Jesters along with Dave Madden, Jay Green, Mickey O’Malley, Harry Deido, and Art Bassett. He was one of the first jugglers to use clubs made by Jay Green, the inventor of the modern juggling club.

Mel was a member of the IJA and attended some early conventions.

Mel sometimes performed his act on ice skates like his good friend Bobby May.

Bobby May and Mel Ody

His final performance took place in 1972 at the age of 59. It was an ice skating show for the opening of the Manhattan Savings Bank. He passed away in 1976.

 

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 twenty-four books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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