Showing posts with label Australian Female Juggler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian Female Juggler. Show all posts

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Paula Coutts- Australian Juggler

 The Southern suburbs of Sydney was an unusual place to find a female juggler in 1948, but that was the home of one of Australia’s most successful exports, Pauline Coutts.

Pauline, known professionally as Paula, was born in Sydney in 1930. Her father Arthur (b1904)  was a balancer and had appeared as a minor player on the Australian variety circuits before she was born. He encouraged his daughter in his profession and Paula’s first appearance was at 9 years old, in a picture taken at Bondi Beach. In the picture,  Arthur balances on one hand whilst Paula has her body wrapped around him. Thus began a successful vaudeville partnership- Paul and Pauline.

Before they got their professional start, both Pauline and Arthur worked for some time for the local post office in Kogarah. But fame was too enticing and when Pauline turned 18, father and daughter left Australia for the bright lights of England.

As Paul and Pauline, the pair toured the English provinces , Wales and Scotland for about 3 years.  Sometimes Pauline would perform twice, once with her father and once as Paula Coutts , lady juggler. In 1949 Paul and Pauline were presenting head and other balancing , feats of endurance and dental work. Paula was also juggling on the same bill. Advertisements from the time call her ‘cute and clever.’

In 1951 they returned to Australia. A picture was published in the local newspaper of Paula, doing the splits, balancing her father. It was an odd counterpoint to their original visual debut on Bondi Beach.  

At this time, Arthur seems to have returned to the post office, but Paula, in her unusual occupation as lady juggler, revisited  England. She was described as ‘a dainty Australian juggler’ ‘attractive’, and as presenting some unusual feats in her ball juggling specialty. Paula mainly juggled with balls, and was a skilful snooker player. 

Another performance during this time, was a spot in the Gene Kelly film, Invitation to the Dance. Paula appears in the circus segment, dressed as a clown, juggling balls and clubs. In a later interview Paula said ‘ Gene Kelly’s got what it takes.’

In celebration of her celluloid debut, her dad gave a brief interview to a local Sydney paper. He dismissed her juggling skills saying, ‘she was the worst of the lot’ , but ‘ she has the personality’. According to the proud father, Gene Kelly had wanted a boy juggler for the role, but was so impressed with Pauline that he offered her the part.  Arthur’s attitude towards Paula’s juggling was fairly typical at a time when female jugglers were rare. Unfortunately, her skills were often disregarded in favour of comments on her physique or personality.

In 1952 Paula joined other entertainers on a tour to the Middle East to entertain the troops.

In 1953 she returned home for a brief visit and was greeted by newspaper reports. She was quoted as being a smog refugee travelling home  for her health. The report was accompanied by Paula juggling three balls in a bikini. She was described as ‘small and shapely with a mass of red curls’. Her plan was to reunite with her father as Paul and Pauline. 

In 1954 the pair performed together  for the Hot Ice spectacular as the only non-skating act. Off stage, they gave the skating star, Pat Gregory, juggling lessons between performances. Hot Ice toured Australia for six months visiting Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. 

Paula’s appearances in Australia were sporadic over the next few years, She appeared in RSL clubs and for charity galas in the suburbs. In 1961 she joined a large cast in a show called Yellzapoppin. The show successfully toured New Zealand and Paula was pictured tossing tennis racquets in a photo spread. 

By 1963 she was back in England. She appeared in TV shows such as The Good Ol Days for the BBC and joined and performed for the CAA ( Creative Artists Association.) In 1964 she was described as ‘ that rarity, a girl juggler, not only efficient but dauntingly attractive.’  By 1973 she was back in Australia appearing on the Bert Newton Show.

From this date references to Paula juggling are quite rare. There is some evidence that she may, in later life, have taken to TV acting. It seems she passed away in 2022.