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MattTheKnife
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Actually I asked because believe it or not, I'm a jeweler. Once I went pro as a conjurer I guess I was looking for a new hobby (since my old one had turned in to a career I suppose). I had a friend that was one and I convinced her to begin to train me. That was some time ago and I've been doing it ever since as more or less a past time.

Ironically most of the stuff that I make is for my magic. As a matter of fact I’m currently about to finish a piece that’s actually intended to be demo for an effect that I plan on marketing. So in the end I still couldn't get away from our d***ed tradecraft!

Cheers,
-Matt (TK)

Doug,

The only thing that I found was this: http://www.wfmu.org/MACrec/huberts.html
and that doesn't seem to be right. Do you happen to have a link to some images?
(I'm getting excited at the prospect of designing one... I probably won't use it- haha, but it'd be fun to have I suppose!)
Thanks!

Cheers,
-Matt (TK)
Doug Higley
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Todd may have to correct me but I remember TINY little Gold or Silver Chariots...the wheels turned and had spokes just like real Chariots. There was a wire (copper I believe) that ended in a TINY TEENY collar to which the Flea was attached.
There were also Ball Gowns and Tuxedos that were actually miniscule CONES that had the design painted on them and they were placed over the Flea...they might have been Metal as well. There was the teeny Merry Go-Round with tiny horses that the Flea turned. These were props that were so small, they could only be made by a specialized Jeweler with BIG magnifyers!!! There were many other props but you get the idea.

The Fleas were all kept attached to their copper wire leashes on wads of cotton...then taken and put in place for each performance.

As to Hubert's..there MUST be more on the web about the place. I'll do a thorough search tomorrow.

Doug
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Todd Robbins
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Doug is right about the props used. Gears and pieces from watches were adapted for us as chariots and the merry go round. I'm looking images and not finding much. Bill Ballantine's Wild Tigers and Trained Fleas book is the best source of info. James Taylor reprinted the Heckler article in Shocked and Amazed. I will have to find that phone number for Heckler's son in NJ. More later.
Kondini
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The Testo Show is now scraped but the Flea rigs are still kept by the relatives of Testo (Well they were in their hands up to three years ago).
The original set was performed inside of a Roundun (Same shape as a hoopla booth) Without the solid rounding boards,,these were replaced by a striped canvas so that the whole unit looked like a small Circus tent.
The show was operated on a cloth covered (White) card table,strongly lit so that the Flea rigs could be seen (Just) With the naked eye.
Strong magnifying lenses were available but a large mounted magni glass was fitted to the edge of the table in front of the worker,this enabled him to take the performers off of his arm (As they were feeding)As and when required, the fleas were left on the arm during the short performance.

The usual chariot racing plus bogus bluff stunts were used also the strong man / Flea, was a popular interlude,,,,with the talker explaining that Fred the Magnificant was pulling behind him the equivalent wieght of a human being pulling a double decker bus !!

There was no requirement to harness the fleas at all as to just place a flea within a loop of wire was enough to cause the flea to walk forward,,,this was a natural thing that any flea would do of it`s own accord anyway.It would then continue to keep pushing forward until released by its operator.

The fleas used being human fleas,,soon became defunct,,,so finding your performers during the late 50`s was hard,cultivating your own was not easy,as the life span was short.

There were many Flea shows around just after the last war but natural change (A showman problem) Saw the Flea Circus set up change to The Girl in the Bottle,Giant Rat,Mouse Town,Snake Pit, etc etc, all shows which were easier to work and less problem to maintain.

don't forget the only difference from show type to show type were the boards out the front,,,the sticks and canvas were all the same,,,only the board subject made a show different.

From my own 15ft square joint, within a five year period it was a Snake Pit,Living Head Illusion,Bunco Booth and finaly back to a Girl in a Bottle show.All the same sticks just different flash.

Ken.
drwilson
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Hey Ken,

What's "The Girl in the Bottle?"

Yours,

Paul
Kondini
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The first version that I came across was owned by show woman Betty Allen (Still going strong today).
At great expense she had a lucite bottle made with a door in the rear so that a skantily clad girl could get in, the set up was behind a screen and through the art of projection the whole assembly could be projected onto the rear of a small 2ftx2ft open fronted box,,,ala the mini horse exhibit.
In later years Betty found that to show the bottle at it`s full size with a pretty girl inside in full view with the girl covered in soap bubbles giving the illusion that she was naked under the suds,,,really bought the cash in especially from the young studs on the fairground.

Back in the 60`s the heat from the lighting set caught the contents of the bottle on fire,,the girl nearly lost her life due to the fumes from the melting plastic.
Betty never replaced the bottle.
But she did work the sex angle into her snake show, useing two pretty girls in various forms of undress to sit with her pythons, one of which was 28ft long.
This show traveled up to four years ago when it was sold onto Dr Death (Tony Boswell) Who quickly ended up killing the snakes (Through being drunk one night, but that's another very long story) The show was split with the Show Paintings being sold to a collector for good money (See the paintings in Fair Ground Art book).

My version of the bottle illusion was slightly different and will be described in the book,,,,,if I ever get to write it,,!!!!!

Ken
drwilson
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Wow, scantily-clad women, toxic fumes, giant reptiles, fire, death and drunkenness...I love the sideshow!

Yours,

Paul
MattTheKnife
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Everything seems easy enough for me to make (with the exception of possibly the Merry Go-Round).

Todd- In which volume of Shocked and Amazed can that article be found? I (unfortunately) only own volumes 4-7 and don't recall reading it, was it in a prior issue? (Although I read them some time ago so perhaps I just missed it or have since had it slip my mind.)

Should any of you have or come across some images please e-mail them to me so I can see about making some of the pieces once I have some spare time, thanks!

Cheers,
Matt (TK)

PS- Interestingly enough I have plans to see a Flea Circus this Saturday Evening (fake, not real) as part of Brown University's eleventh annual Performance Studies International Conference.
Doug Higley
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Kondini has a history we will all be amazed at to read about...that book MUST be written!!!!! Hopefully in my lifetime (hey...I might be in it)...

I found a bunch of stuff about Hubert's but sadly not much in the way of photos...

Madame Toussads (or how ever the hell you spell it) is on the spot formerly Hubert's on 42nd street.

Hubert's was famous for the Steckler Flea Circus...run by both father and son...but also for the 10 in One of freaks and performers that changed constantly...(depending on what was open in Coney)...also of course Larry Love The Human Canary (Tiny Tim) and many Magicians...and was a hang out and stopping off point for assorted writers and artists and low end performers of all kinds...toward the end (last year of operation 1965) it was a putrid mess and surrounded by the porno sleaze of the area at the time.
Ripley's has reopened (across the street from where it used to be in the 50's/60's) so the tradition is KIND OF being carried on. Now that Times Square has been Disneyfied it is certainly safer but Hubert's is fondly remembered by many. It WAS my New York.

Doug
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Todd Robbins
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Ripley's is coming back to Times Sq. next year. It will be next to the Virgin record store. That's the only virgin you will find in Times Sq. Oops, I'm going to get in trouble...again.

I don't recall which volume the Ballantine article is in. I'll see what I can come up with. They had a nice flea circus prop display at the Barnum Museum during the sideshow exhibit a few years ago. I'm not sure photos were in the exhibit guide. I'll find photos somewhere.
Doug Higley
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Ripley's next to Virgin is right across the street from where they used to be!
That was one hell of a Museum...these days, each of the Ripley's have one shrunken head on display... back then they had a huge case full of them...it was the real deal 'back then'...now it's a bunch of replica crap and not a hair on it's former behind...but I still love going to them!!

Todd...You and I both know the person who has the Great London Flea Circus (all props and EVERYTHING) run by Bob Mathews at The Pike in Long beach so many years ago...but this person (that we both know well) will not part with the set up for anything. Maybe they would lease it or partner up to get it on the road???

Doug
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Todd Robbins
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People may think less of me, but I will confess a dark thought. When I was doing the Ripley's Live show in Branson, MO a few years back, the Ripley's Museum in Branon loaned a few displays for the lobby of the theater. One of these was a real shrunken head. It sat, unattended, in a nice little plexiglass display case. There were many times when no one was around and it would have been easy to switch it for a goat skin head. I was taught by the Greatest Showman in the World how to doctor one of those heads to look like the real thing. Many times I thought about doing a switch like that. Many times.
Doug Higley
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Naturally, I got ya beat on that! I put on a show in Tahoe with the participation of NASA. Part of the display was a GENUINE Moon Rock displayed in a plexi Pyramid. It had a little light under it. Part of the deal with NASA was, that it had to be guarded 24 hours a day. The JPL Scientist that brought allowed me to be considered a 'guard' and I was able to take it home over night. In my darkened bedroom I was up nearly all night looking at it and fantasising over it...and yes Todd...wondering if there was a way to get in that Pyramid and substitute a garden rock...but alas...it was considered a National treasure and after all I'm a patriot at heart...but if only....

We do have things in common...


Doug
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drwilson
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Doug,

While we are on the subject, did you make all the gaffs for the faked moon missions? What would have been the point of taking one? Didn't you make extra?

Yours,

Paul
Kondini
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I thought the Russians got there first.
Doug Higley
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The Ruskies put up a 'beeping basketball' first...a man in orbit first but the USA trod upon an alien world first...sadness is, so what...what did we do with it but cut budgets and not go back. China will be mining the Lunar surface and the Euro's will be building a Disneyland in a crater before we get back there.

Shame...there was so much promise as well as tech advances and scientific offshoots...but we listened to Politicians and short sighted pin heads. Morons.

"Why spend money on the Moon! We have problems here on Earth!"

Uh...well...not a penny was spent ON the Moon...it was all spent in Florida and Huston and sundry other places where employment and community involvment and investment shot local economies through the roof and yes...to the Moon.

And Doc Wilson...if you were being serious...you know better than that silly stuff, so I'll assume you were not. Smile

Doug
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Harley Newman
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Let's not insult pinheads by comparing them to politicians. Pinheads at least, have a useful function in the world.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

www.bladewalker.com
Doug Higley
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You are absolutely right!!!! Please accept it as a mistake...I forgot the term also related to performers of days past. How about Nitwits? Dingleberrys?

Sorry Shlitzie...RIP
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drwilson
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Doug,

Yes, I was pulling your mermaid's tail. I'm a product of the post-Sputnik science boom and always loved the space program, model kits as a kid, all that stuff. Can't beat those Mars landers either. It's actually a touchy spot we have in common.

Yours,

Paul

Back to the original subject, Dr. Wilson's Flea Circus made its debut last Saturday; there are more pictures here.

Thanks to many friends here at Café for advice and encouragement on this project.

Yours,

Paul

Dear Slim,

It's a much better deal to get the video, book and CD from Walt Noon and build it yourself. It makes for a very long Howie Diddit.

Yours,

Paul
Slim Price
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Were I able, I'd love to build my own. I was not promoting the one on eBay, I just noticed it, and the price.
Slim
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"I will never bitter be, as long as I can laugh at me!"



"The people who were dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music"
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