Michael and Tux (real name Victor) were the sons of the German tightrope walker Willko. Their last name was Kopelky. After his sons were born, Willko created a musical clown act with his family in the mid 1930s. The two boys were hailed as musical prodigies, playing accordion, violin, and their specialty, the xylophone. Performing in circuses and variety theaters, they were exposed to many different types of performers and picked up various skills, including acrobatics and juggling. During the 1940s, Willko decided to stop performing and manage his sons’ performing careers.
In the late 1930s or early 1940s, Michael debuted an act of hoop and club juggling. He performed that act in Germany, England, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Russia. At the end of World War II, Michael debuted his juggling act, appearing as “The Head Waiter.” He would go on to perform all over Europe and was a star in South Africa. He married Lora Eston, an animal trainer who became famous for her act with a talking parrot.
Michael juggled plates, did a routine with a tray, bottle, and napkin, performed a balancing trick using a shot glass, and did a wonderful routine with a tray, saucer, and tea cup.
As good as those routines were, it was his finale routine that made Michael a star. Originally he had wanted to perform the cups and saucers routine invented by Ferry Mader, where the juggler kicks up a series of saucers and cups onto his or her head. Willko told his son that too many other jugglers, such as Rudy Horn and Dieter Tasso, were already performing wonderful versions of that routine and that doing something a bit different would be best. The version that they settled on can be seen and understood by viewing the following photos.
Note that Michael sometimes used three rows of dinnerware, sometimes four, and sometimes five. It took Michael a year and a half to learn this skill and stated that he was so confident in his mastery of it that he considered it foolproof. Michael was a successful juggler from the mid 1940s until at least the late 1970s. He passed away in 2000 in Essen, Germany.
If you would like to see a wonderful video of Michael’s act, please attend the Juggling History Show at the 2017 IJA Festival. Not only will there be live demonstrations of rarely seen old school tricks and routines, but never before seen videos of Michael, Bobby May, King Repp, and others will be shown.
Michael’s brother Victor began performing as a juggler in 1952, taking the stage name of Tux. Prior to this, he had been performing as a dancing accordion player. Instead of appearing as a waiter like his brother, Tux was dressed as a cook and had a slightly different act, juggling ladles, whisks, pots, and pans.
Tux also juggled potatoes using a ladle in place of one of his hands.
Like his brother, Tux ended his act with more or less the same routine as Michael.
Tux ‘s juggling career started after Michael’s and ended much earlier, as he stopped performing to become an agent for variety performers in Hamburg, Germany. These two brothers should be remembered as great performers that shared an incredible finale.