Mark Smith

Posted By on July 8, 2012

Share

Mark Smith

Posted By on July 8, 2012

Thanks Wade for your comment.

Share

Mrs. Smith

Posted By on July 8, 2012

No better words could a son say.

Share

Michael Boyer

Posted By on July 8, 2012

I met Michael in 1963 at a Del Graham party at his home in Tarzana, Cal.  Del was always throwing parties for his show biz friends although this party may have been his birthday. There  were many of his television and movie celebrity friends invited. Michael along with his bodyguard, several others from the Nelson television show, along with many circus performers comprised about the hundred or so people attending.

Del had quite a large home and in the back yard he set up his flying rigging along with many other types of circus rigging, such as a trampoline, trapeze and cradle rigging etc. This is where the movie stars played. I am not being cheeky– many were serious about leaning aerial. As you may know, Del taught the Nelson brothers, Dave and Ricky the flying act. Ricky a leaper and Dave a catcher and I might add, a power house catcher. (In 1961 Dad and I worked with them in Hawaii. If I may say so…….it was a pretty fair flying act.)

In the late 1960’s Del also had his all-girl flying act. During the 1960’s there was a lot of interest in the circus business by the motion picture actors. I will never know what started it but it was a good thing for all concerned. It could have been the reason why Michael was at the party. He was very much aware of the circus and spoke and asked questions about it in a very inquisitive manner. He picked me out to do so, hence our friendship began.

Michael had some issues with his father, Charles Boyer. Before Michael could have any acquaintances with people, they must be approved by Mr. Boyer. Michael’s bodyguard was also a stool pigeon and would relay the activities of Michael. This was told to me by him after I invited Michael for dinner at our home in El Monte. I first had to go through Mr. Boyer’s interrogation–and believe me that’s what it was–before I was allowed to be Michael’s friend. No matter where Michael went or who he met, all had to be approved by his father. Michael was a great kid and to be honest with you, I felt sorry for him and I reluctantly accepted to visit with his father.

A meeting was set up one afternoon, a luncheon at the Nickodell Restaurant in Hollywood. I wanted to be on my best behavior but the more I thought about it and the purpose of this meeting it #*ty854)*g2b#@*% me off. As I walked through the doors of the restaurant I settled down when I saw Mr. Boyer at a back both seated with Michael. OK, I said to myself, treat this as if you’re in the center ring at one of the biggest shows you have ever done. Within a half hour I made a circus fan out of Mr. Charles Boyer.

Michael’s friendship with me and with my family grew to the point where he was always over for dinner. He sure liked circus chow. He said, ” Gourmet isn’t bad but this is food is wonderful.”

Michael had a beautiful little actress girlfriend that he was seeing without his father’s permission. On many occasions I covered for him when I was asked if he was seeing this girl. Mr Boyer did not approve of her. I think Mr. Boyer was worried more about his own image rather than Michael’s well being. Michael said this himself more than one time. In the spring of 1965 Dad booked several fairs and had told Michael that I would be on the road. I could tell he was upset by the news. His father was becoming more demanding and dictating his activities. He said, ” Sometimes I think live is not worth living.” His only source of freedom was to hang out with circus people.

One evening before leaving for the road I went over to his home in Brentwood to let him know I would be back in town in about  ten or so weeks but I would stay in touch, and told him he could even join us for a week or more if he wished. I knew something was dreadfully wrong when I saw a 38 revolver setting on the coffee table in front of him. I knew that he had an argument with his father over his girl friend. These spats were quite frequent. I asked him what’s up with the gun, he looked up and said “there had been prowlers near here,  just a little protection if needed.” I changed the subject.

“Hey Mike, lets take off and pick up your girlfriend then we will go have a bite to eat at Barneys Beanery,” one of our favorite places. It didn’t take long and off we went. That night was the last night I saw my friend. I learned of his death six weeks later while playing a fair in Utah. I never read the newspaper except to cut out show ads for their comments and photos. It was near the end of August when I happened to notice the small story concerning the death of my friend. He had committed suiside.  He spoke too many times of how easy it is to pull a trigger. After all these years I write this true story about my friend. I do this in his memory.          


Share

Gypsy Rose Lee

Posted By on July 8, 2012

These photos of Gypsy Rose Lee was taken in 1949 at the Cotton Festival. The carnival in the back ground is the Royal American. Gypsy struts her stuff on the show bally platform at the far end of the midway along with the other burlesque performers. Gypsy received a salary of five thousand a week. The only other burlesque dancer that was paid this amount was Sally Rand. Among Gypsy’s personal friends were Sonny Nite, Casino Vickie and Ward Hall,  just to name a few. Gypsy Rose Lee got her start on a carnival bally platform along with many other famous burlesque dances. There were other venues where one could be entertained by these seductive damsels like the Frisco Follies in New Orleans and the Lido Tampa Florida. A little known fact is that Ward Hall performed at the Frisco Follies in 1950. There were burlesque clubs in just about every major city during  the 20’s, 30’s,  40’s and even up to the 1950’s.   The midway girl shows and Burlesque night clubs are all but gone…..however these shows can still be seen on any Sea shore beach…… and they are free.

A little stroll down the midway between shows. Some ice cream and a cigarette. In those days cigarettes were quite fashionable. Sorry to say she did die of lung cancer.

Share

Arthur “Bum” Henry

Posted By on July 5, 2012

It wasn’t until around the age of 16 that I first met my uncle Bum, though I certainly knew of him through conversations with my Dad and all my other uncles. Bum was the oldest of all the Henry boys and had settled himself into the mid southwest, Texas after my grandfather took Henry Bros Circus off the road in 1942 and retired in El Monte where he had his winter quarters.

That did not hold back the other Henry boys. They would take the show out for a few weeks and play towns in southern Calif. The war now was in full swing and all of the Henry’s were making more money on their own than with the circus. Work was plentiful thanks to USO shows, variety theater, military shows and so on.

But my grandfather’s death in late 1945 shook the family up. The brothers scattered with the exception of my family, we stayed in El Monte. And Robert “Hap” Henry lived with his family in San Fernando,Calif. From that time on, the only time we saw the rest of the family was when they were passing through.

In the mid 1950’s Todd Henry was living in Phoenix, AZ. He called my Dad at our home in El Monte and said lets take out a show. It seemed like a good time for it. The next thing I know Todd and Dad were sitting in the livingroom of our home making plans. No canvas, no midway, no menagerie and only indoor spots… maybe a ball park or two and we might make it. Todd said he spoke with Jack Poster and all he had to do was give him the word and he would start booking the show. Dad looked over, nodding his head saying, “If we keep it tight and hire good acts to go with ours, I see no problems.”  He thought it would be a good idea to call Bum. Dad already spoke with his other brothers Glen, Hap, and Max who was like a brother. They all had their seasons confirmed.

Two weeks later we were on our way. The first spot was St. Louis, Mo. The plan was to open the show back east and work our way west. Jack Poster had no trouble finding sponsors for the show and those he had booked were solid. On our trip back east we stopped off in Gainesville, Texas, where Bum lived.There were other members of the Henry clan that lived there too. So for me, I was pretty excited about a family get together.

After a few days traveling we arrived in Gainesville at Bum’s place. The first thing on the agenda was to take care of all the animals. Unloading , staking out, then a picket line, then watering. When the work was done I walked toward Bum’s front porch. My Dad was standing looking my way. While walking toward him I yelled, “Hey Pop why did you change your clothes?” The answer back was, “I am not your Pop and I didn’t change my clothes.”

It was Bum. I could not believe my eyes, he looked just like my Dad! The resemblance was amazing. They might have been twins if there was not such an age difference. Bum was the oldest of the Henry brothers, my father the youngest. Bum look at me and smiled, “Well I hear you’re an animal man and doing a good job at it too.”

I was impressed with his old school circus knowledge and stories, When our conversation started there on the porch I wanted to hear more of the old days of Henry Bros Circus. My uncle Bum sat down and I listened to litany about J.E. Henry circus and their friendly competition, which no longer exists these days. There were even a few stories about my father when he was a youngster.

In the short time that we were together I grew to care for and respect him for his honesty and kind demeanor. I learned so much about the Henry family and their wisdom. One important nugget being that there is an eleventh commandment  that is, “Thou shalt not disgrace the arena or stage.”

Arthur”Bum”Henry was one of the greats in our business, not because he was a Henry but because he was a showman.

We stayed in Gainesville for a few more days visiting. Bum told Dad and Todd that he would love to join the show, but that he didn’t want hit the road hard anymore. He said he wanted to take things easy and just work here and there. “I’ve become a 40-miler.” Besides that, he had a part time job in town that paid good money. “All in all boys I am doing pretty good.”

With that, we were off to Missouri. We opened the show, things went OK but we made little money. Luckily we were heading west. The crowds dwindled for one reason or another and after 8 weeks, Dad and Todd said lets get out with money in our jeans while we can. I never got a chance to see Bum again the opportunity was not there. Years later Bum’s death was disheartening to me… now I write this little story.

A foot note: Dad and Todd did not name the circus after themselves, Henry Bros. Instead they called it “The Big Donaker Bros Show.

Thank you for your kind comment Randy.

Todd Walters has made a comment. Thank you.

Leave it up to John Herriott to make a interesting comment,of which I always learn something new.

Pete thank you for your kind comment.

Share

Jack Joyce Performing Camels

Posted By on July 5, 2012

All of my uncles on the Henry side had nothing but great things to say about Jack Joyce. They use to say if it had four legs he could train it.

Please read John Herriott comment.

Share

Jack Joyce

Posted By on July 5, 2012

Jack Joyce with his performing camels. This photo may have been taken on the Clyde Bros Circus in the early 1950’s.

Share

Benny & Betty Fox

Posted By on July 5, 2012

Benny had an attitude of a lion. I never knew anyone like him, never negative and always on the go. In the center is Betty, the wife of Benny glad handing one of the Shriner’s. The other ladies performers names are unknown to me.

Thank you for your comment Randy. Benny Fox never worked at Jungleland ever. I can see a resemblance to Ben Ben the person you and I know.

Great comment John, My family worked many of the military shows that Benny produced.

Share

Amy LaVan

Posted By on July 5, 2012

Amy had this photo made into a post card. I have the actual post card, as seen here.

Share