Paul Bachman was a well known juggler, juggling historian, and collector. He passed away on October 11th, 2015 following a long battle with cancer. He was a mentor and friend to numerous jugglers and was the 2010 recipient of the IJA’s Bobby May Award. He produced a well known instructional DVD on ball bounce juggling. Paul was famous for his love of two things: his family and juggling. Shortly before Paul’s passing, David Cain (DC) was able to interview him about his long love affair with juggling.
DC: Please tell us a bit about your background.
PB: I was born on Dec. 24, 1934 in Chicago, IL. My parents, Lovejoy and Marcia were also born in Illinois. They had four sons, Tom, Charlie, Paul and Donald. My father was born in 1891 in Oregon, Illinois on a farm and my mother was born in 1902 in Nauvoo, Illinois. After migrating to the Chicago area they had a small farm. Cows, pigs, chickens and many other animals were the norm when we grew up. We were a close family and my three brothers and I never had an argument or fight in our life. I married young at 22 to a great wife and partner, Madelyn (“Chickie”). We have five children, Mark, Pam, Ron, Don and Rich. All were married and we have seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
DC: How and when did you get interested in juggling?
PB: My juggling career started at 18. I joined Acro-theater at the University of Chicago and met Ronald Graham who rode unicycle, performed on the trampoline and juggled. I mimicked him as a gymnast, started juggling and purchased a unicycle and trampoline. In the mid-1950’s there were tons of variety acts that lived in the Chicago area and they would drive to other cities returning here as it was a “midpoint” in the U.S.A. There were many club dates and theaters that booked juggling acts in Chicago. A downtown park building was a place for many world class jugglers to practice. Howard Nichols, Rudy Cardenas, Francis Brunn, Bill Talent, Freddie Angel, Forest Hobbs and Frank Clark were a few regulars. I first met Rudy Cardenas at the Chicago Theater. Francis Brunn performed downtown. I did not know that those times would end in the mid 1960’s. I was also a partner in a comedy hand balancing act called the Parkers. Harry Parker worked out of an office in the Woods building which housed the Woods Theater. He owned Hollywood Stage and Lighting and sold juggling equipment. A good lifetime friend, Ken Benge, moved to the Chicago area in the 60’s. He was an IJA president and also wrote our old newsletters. He collected everything related to juggling. That is when I started to collect juggling props. Some of the jugglers who gave me props were Sergei Ignatov, Alexander Kiss, Ugo Garrido, Howard Nichols, Gena Shvartsman, Viktor Kee, Gregory Popovich, Evgeni Biljauer, Dieter Tasso, Dick Franco, the Houcs, Leon and Luba, Bobby Hunt, Jeff Taveggia, Bobby May, Gran Picasso, and Ernest Montego. I also received props that belonged to the Juggling Jewels, Kara, Salerno and many more. Ernest Montego entered the U.S. in 1962 and worked here for the first time for nine months in the Folies de Paris. My wife and I met Lew Folds at an Ice show in the Conrad Hilton in 1956 a year before we married.
DC: Although you were never a full-time professional, you did do quite a lot of performing. What were some of your career highlights?
PB: After I married Madelyn “Chickie,” I worked a regular job in the chemical field and worked my way up to the Executive committee of a firm that had offices in over 100 countries which included 40,000 employees. I limited myself to 150 shows a year for over 40 years. My main job was a great one and I was well compensated. My problem was I became a juggle-holic, and continually worked out learning new tricks with many types of equipment. There were many highlights in my juggling career. Performing at a ballet in the Arie Crown Theater, opening for Michael Jackson in Montreal, performing with Leonard Barr, Ray Charles, Conway Twitty, Chubby Checker, Merle Haggard, Farrah Fawcett, and Bob Hope were some of the big names that I worked with. I was not a great juggler but received several standing ovations due to my showmanship.
DC: You are or were good friends with many very famous jugglers. Can you share a bit about who some of those were and how you got to know them?
PB: Whenever I knew a juggler was performing I always make it a point to watch him perform and then meet him. I remember hearing Ignatov was going to be in New York about 1970 and was not coming to Chicago. I flew to N.Y. and the first two days I took movies of him even before they had a camcorder. The second day I took it in slow motion and that film was distributed throughout the juggling world. On one visit to Bobby May at his home he showed me his 16 mm film taken in the Scala Theater in Germany in 1933. His act was about 14 minutes long and the film was old and kept burning when he showed it so in time it was down to 7 minutes. He allowed me to take the film and I had it duplicated and that film was an instant “must-have” film for all the jugglers. It was not hard to make friends of jugglers. I made it a point to visit them whenever I was in other countries. While in Europe, Asia, South and North America, Africa we visited so many countries and visited tons of jugglers who were always ready to talk. After I retired I became a great friend with Bobby Jule and we have traded videos of jugglers. His wife Maria is one sweet lady. I had many jugglers visit my home: Fudi, Dick Franco, Tuan Le, Steve Mills, Viktor Kee, Gena Shvartsman, Jon Held, Kit Summers, Michael Moschen, Gus & Ursula, Lottie Brunn, Don Lauppe, Andy Head, Vanessa Alvarez, The Raspyni Bros., Elliot Cutler, Marco, Mark Nizer, Leo Bassi, Ken Benge, Alan Howard and Karl Hienz Zeithen just to name a few. I met Dick Franco 40+ years ago when he and Joe Sullivan hosted the Youngstown, Ohio IJA convention. He was 21 years old, married and had a one year old daughter. They moved to Chicago and we became life-time friends. I consider him the most knowledgeable juggler I have met. He has one of the greatest collections of rare juggle memorabilia. Ty Tojo, his stepson, does 7 ball back-throws on stage.
DC: What are some of the areas of juggling that you specialized in?
PB: I tried almost everything; balls, clubs, cigar boxes, hats, ball and mouth-stick, bike rims, beer bottle on a mouth-stick, bowling ball and unicycle. My high was learning new tricks. I specialized in ball bouncing and learned a total of 31 moves with 5 balls. I also bounced 7 in the act. I also loved bike rims and the ball and mouth-stick. Like most jugglers, I did a short act or 40 minutes; whatever the booker requested. I also performed with a unicycle and loved magic. Locally I was booked on occasion as a close-up magician.
DC: You’re known as one of the top collectors of juggling props, pictures, and video in the entire world. Can you tell us how you got started collecting and some about your collection now.
PB: In the 1960’s I started collecting in earnest. One piece led to another. When you look at 50+ years of collecting you find it is overwhelming. I also obtained other jugglers collections. When I brought some of the collection to the IJA history lounge others could not understand how I got it. I have never brought the tons of juggling albums and movies as it would take a large room to show everything. To do a good display you would require a minimum of 2000 feet area with enough wall space to hang pictures. It takes a while to set it up, but I have learned how to show the equipment off for the visitors.
DC: What would you consider to be some of the prized items in your collection?
PB: Some prize possessions are a club from Stan Kavanaugh (1940), A rare club from Alexander Kiss (1965), color changing fire torch from Selma Braatz (1930), Rastelli club (1920), practice drum of Bobby May (1950), Joe Cook clubs (1930), large club of Truzzi (1940), signed spinning ball of Francis Brunn (1960), signed Dieter Tasso cup & saucer (1960), a signed plate from Trixie (1950) and a signed mouth-stick used by Angel Egea that he used to pop two large balls up with (only juggler to do this trick), along with the three balls he used to spin on top of his finger. I also have two different clubs of Evgeni Biljauer and a signed ball of Viktor Kee. I have tons of props and these are but a few of my favorites.
DC: Who are your favorite jugglers, living or dead, and why?
PB: When we discuss great jugglers I found it interesting that people disagree who is the greatest. First off, there are technical jugglers that fill the air with impossible tricks. Next there are jugglers that are showmen and can be termed great using one, two or three objects. Mr. Woo from South Korea uses a soccer ball and he is amazing. Other world class ‘specialty’ acts that use only one or two different types of props are Alan Sulc, Mario Berousek, Bob Bramson, Michael Ferreri, Ugo Garrido, and Alexander Kulakov. I have several jugglers that I loved to watch. Francis Brunn with his speed, grace, showmanship, difficulty, demeanor, and personal giving to all jugglers was fantastic. Anthony Gatto with his ability, is fantastic and possibly the greatest toss juggler ever to live. Alexander Kiss developed more tricks than any other individual. Rudy Horn in his time was “the juggler.” Vova Galchenko, Wes Peden, Pavel Eusukevich, Anatoli Miagkostoupov, and Paul Ponce are great, along with Yuri Borzykine, Sorin Munteanu, Serge Flash and Revor along with Truzzi and Rastelli. We have over 20 world-class jugglers from the United States that are awesome. I met Gran Picaso when he was with Ringling’s. I met Rudy Cardenas in the early 50’s and he performed a 15 minute, non-stop act and was a personal friend. I saw and met Rudy Schweitzer at the Lido in Paris in the mid 1970’s. Jason Garfield started the W.J.F. and has a great following. Many top toss jugglers have entered his annual competition. Thomas Dietz is one of them and his ability is amazing. We also have great hobby jugglers that never perform. Tony Flowers, Bruce Bailey and Chris LaReau are three from Illinois and I am sure there are thousands from around the world. Professionals I enjoyed were Kris Kremo, Dieto, Buba, Rebla, and Trixie. They not only were good at juggling but also possessed showmanship. One topic I am leaving out is teams. We have seen many great teams. The bottom line is each juggler has his/her favorite. The current jugglers are even going further due to Youtube.
DC: Please tell us a bit about your life apart from juggling. (career, family, etc..)
PB: My life away from juggling was also great. As the regional manager I opened 14 offices in the Midwest, all which were successful. The company then placed me on the executive committee. My home life was dedicated to our family. In the younger years I was coach for my kids and went to many sports events when they played. Later, after retirement, my largest enjoyment was our family. We had some ups and downs, but I would not trade any of it. I loved to work in our yard.
DC: You wrote a book, Jugglers Galore, a few years ago. Can you tell us about that and how someone can get a copy of it if they’re interested?
PB: In 2005 I began writing a book on jugglers. It took me three years and I scanned over 1350 pictures and used 515 of them in the book. My reason for writing was I found many others did not know of “old-time” jugglers. As a historian I thought it wrong. After finishing it, I learned I had cancer. The book was placed on hold. In 2012 it was printed so I could introduce it at the IJA festival. I wanted a quality book (which it is) and went all out even if I lost money on the book. Click here to order the book from Amazon.