Showing posts with label Australian juggling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian juggling. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Herbert (Bert) Beaver - Sydney's Jesting Juggler of the 1920s

 Juggler Bert Beaver began as a vaudeville performer and became one of the most influential radio personalities of the early broadcasting age.

Herbert Edward Beaver was born in Broken Hill in outback New South Wales in 1897 to Ada and Edward. However, his father died when he was young, and his mother remarried when he was 12. Her second husband, Bert’s stepfather, was Gilbert Sinclair, a union man who later became secretary of the State Boilermakers Union. Sinclair, a prominent and vocal member of the labour movement, later became a member of parliament and a founder of a radio station.

How Bert became involved in juggling is a mystery, but his first press notices date to the early 1920s when he was appearing with Dix and Baker in regional Newcastle. He was known as the ‘talking’ or ‘jesting’ juggler who told humorous anecdotes and made smart remarks while juggling sticks, balls, and hats. His act also included balancing two billiard balls on a stick.

Bert- (left) 1926 Wireless Weekly

Bert became quite popular when the Fuller's circuit employed him between 1922-23. In Queensland he caused ‘considerable laughter’ while balancing two balls on a cue and in Adelaide he ‘delighted’ the audience. That year he also toured New Zealand with Fullers.

Meanwhile, he had met juggler George Campbell, an old-time passing juggler who started juggling in Australia in 1906. The pair joined up and formed the Campbell – Beaver - (Fred) White Company and toured regional areas of Australia. This company morphed into the Cockatoo Farm Company which became a legendary touring group in country Australia. One member of the ensemble was singer Vera (Peggy) Cornock.

Cockatoo Farm was an early form of vaudeville revue with a simple humorous story interspersed with specialty turns. The story was stereotypically country Australian with Dad played by George and his son Willie played by Bert. The plot revolved around farm shenanigans and corny Australian jokes- it was tremendously well-received.

The show included a juggling turn from George and Bert which probably involved club passing, and it can probably be assumed that the pair exchanged ideas and juggling techniques with George representing an older generation of jugglers and Bert the new.

In later years Bert claimed that he could juggle three or four lacrosse balls, hats, cigars or clubs and that he invented the trick of passing soap bubbles up and down a stick or string. He was also a keen magician and member of the Australian Society of Magicians and sometimes performed at their annual soirees in Sydney.

After almost two years with George Campbell and the Cockatoo Farm Company, Bert left and formed his own touring group. They were well-regarded but relegated to smaller regional towns. In 1923 he married Vera Cornock , and in 1924 they had their first child, Shirley.

Bert was increasingly interested in management, and fortunately in 1925, just as radio and the movies were beginning to encroach on vaudeville he was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The chance to be on the ground floor with a radio station.

His stepfather Gilbert Sinclair was one of the founders of the new station 2KY, which was owned by the labour movement. Gilbert persuaded the other directors to employ his stepson as the manager, and by 1925, as 2Ky hit the airwaves, Bert was one of the few permanent staff members.

Bert in 1935 Wireless Weekly

He became well known in Sydney as Uncle Bert and had a versatile career that mingled calling boxing matches with children’s stories. Through the depression years, he maintained his role and mentored young talent through community concerts and talent quests. It was through one of these that he encountered young juggler Jimmy Wallace. Jimmy later said that he was lucky that Bert was a juggler because their shared profession ensured encouragement and reinforcement for his later career. Presumably, the pair swapped tricks and ideas, just as George Campbell and Bert had done many years earlier.

Managing the station left Bert with little time to juggle, but he continued to do so at the community concerts and public radio Xmas parties. He is recorded as juggling occasionally until the 1940s.

He also took a risk in the mid-1930s when he travelled to England for radio business and briefly appeared as a juggler in the London music halls. Upon his return to Australia, he said he just wanted to find out if he was still capable. On that trip, he also witnessed an early version of Baird’s television and reported to the Australian press on his experience.

Bert was a pioneer of radio and a mentor for Sydney jugglers. He provided a bridge from the old generation, such as George Campbell, to a new generation, such as Jimmy Wallace, who had to adapt the art of juggling to the demands of new technology.

Bert and his family eventually settled on the Northern Beaches in Sydney and he passed away there in 1958. He still has descendants living in the area.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Ossie Delroy...mmmm was that really his name? with Jimmy Wallace.....mmmmm was that really his name?

This amazing two page spread of Ossie Delroy and Jimmy Wallace comes from Everyone's Magazine in 1940. Ossie was a legend in the juggling world and travelled overseas to entertain the troops in World War 2.

I suspect his real name was not Ossie Delroy, and I also suspect that his mate, Jimmy was actually James Bell who lived in Marrickville with his sister Florence...

I will be confirming this in the future- I hope.

And look at those clubs- how clunky are they?


Sunday, February 26, 2023

Frank, Lank and Alice- 'The only juggler in Australia juggling three clubs in one hand..."

 Frank, Lank and Alice was a prominent Australian juggling trio during the First World War. Frank, born David Francis Uren, was the straight man and most skilled juggler, Lank, W .Thompson, was a juggler and comedian, whilst Alice, Alice Johnson, was a contortionist and juggler.

David Francis Uren was born in Victoria in 1894. His father, Thomas, was a miner, who later bought a pub near Melbourne. The Uren family was large, and David, whose stage name was ‘Frank Uren,’ had many siblings and cousins in Victoria.

Frank began his juggling career as a teenager. His first recorded professional engagement was in 1911 with Jones Moving Theatre. He was billed as ‘the London Juggler’ and was 17 years old. Carl Bracken, a strong man and wire walker was also performing with Jones at that time.

Shortly after this, Carl and Frank teamed up and began touring Australia with small variety troupes. Carl walked the wire, juggled and re-enacted Cinquevalli’s cannon ball trick, catching a cannon ball on his shoulders, whilst Frank juggled clubs, plates and balls.

Carl Bracken- Frank's first partner

In March 1912, Frank juggled lighted torches, plates and clubs in Devonport Tasmania with Coronation Circus. In July that year, he and Carl were in South Australia en route to Western Australia. In August, they appeared at the Shaftesbury theatre in Perth. They used different names, Carl and Frank Brackens, or The Urens. As The Brackens they incorporated a loop the loop turn with a bicycle and as The Urens they were ‘the greatest juggling act ever seen.’

They were still in Western Australia in October 1912 and advertised as The Urens. They were ‘Australia’s Comedy Jugglers’, manipulating, ‘balls, plates, racquets, clubs, hats etc with perfect ease' and finishing with a grand finale of juggling 6 fiery torches. This later became one of Frank’s specialties.

Frank and Carl parted ways after a year, and by 1913 Frank was working as a solo act at Her Majesty’s in Geelong, Victoria. He was with another small variety company, Coles Vaudeville, and advertised as an ‘expert sensational juggler.’

However, the next year, Frank was again part of a duo. He had met his future wife, Alice Johnson, a contortionist. They appeared in October 1914 as Frank and Alice, in Townsville Queensland, between movie showings. Alice was born in 1899 in Balmain, Sydney, and was thus 15 when she and Frank teamed up.

Life on the vaudeville circuit in Australia was difficult. Performers commonly complained about the    quality of the food , they were often underpaid or refused wages, accommodation was basic, and the constant travelling was uncomfortable. It may have been an exciting adventure for two young performers such as Frank and Alice, but they were also inexperienced and open to exploitation. A duo was less vulnerable than a solo performer, and the comfort of a partner would have helped when dealing with unscrupulous employers.

When war was declared in 1914, many young male performers immediately enlisted to support ‘Mother England’. This created vacancies and opportunities in Australia’s larger vaudeville circuits, the Tivoli and Fullers, for acts that were languishing with smaller troupes.

In 1915, Frank and Alice added another member to their team, Lank. He was later identified as W (perhaps William) Thompson and was a comedian. Together they became Frank, Lank and Alice, a combined juggling, contortionist, comedy trio.

Thompson’s real name was rarely used in descriptions of their performances. Perhaps he relished the anonymity. A William Thompson occasionally appeared on the same bill as Frank, Lank and Alice, and it’s possible that this was Lank, supplementing his pay with another comedic turn.

In Queensland, in 1915, the threesome appeared between movies in a performance which included acrobatics. Lank was ‘droll and witty’, and they were described as ‘expert jugglers’

In March that year Lank was being praised for his Chaplin impression which was part of the act. The newspaper said that ‘In addition to his makeup- his walk, actions, and impressions are Chaplin to the life.’ In December, in Broken Hill, Alice also received plaudits, with the local paper noting that ‘Miss Alice contributed some graceful and clever contortionist work’

 They had perfected their 10-minute turn. Frank was the straight man and Lank the clown. Lank casually walked across the stage as Chaplin and stole Frank’s clubs to much applause and laughter. Then Alice joined the men for juggling and the trio juggled up to a ‘dozen’ clubs from one side of the stage to the other. Frank then juggled lighted torches as a finale.

On the cover of Variety

In February 1916, 17-year-old Alice Johnson married 22-year-old David Francis Uren in Balmain in Sydney. At that time they were sporadically employed by the second most important vaudeville company in the country, Fullers. A week after the wedding, Frank, Lank and Alice were on the cover of Australia’s Variety Magazine.

The accompanying article described the trio as youthful and attentive to their work. It said that they had improved greatly over the last twelve months and the ‘excellence’ of their act meant it was ‘fit to take a prominent place on any bill.’ It was high praise from an influential publication.

In August 1916, Frank did a brief solo run in Newcastle for Smith’s vaudeville. He was advertised as juggling five clubs and as the only juggler in Australia who could juggle three clubs in one hand.

War was raging overseas, and the population was suffering. It is likely that Frank was exempted from war service due to ill health and Lank may also have had an exemption. There was no conscription during World War 1, but social pressure to enlist was immense. The previous April had seen the disaster at Gallipoli, and society was tense and angry with those who did not serve.

Considering the times, it seemed appropriate for Fullers to present a pantomime to cheer the home crowd and stir up nationalist fervour. The result was The Bunyip, one of the biggest pantomimes ever staged and Frank, Lank and Alice were an integral part of the show.

Bunyip concerned the adventures of a Fairy Princess, Wattle Blossom, her paramour Arthur, the son of a squatter, and the evil gnome king who turned Wattle into a Bunyip. Included in the show were several sumptuous Australian themed scenes, including ‘The Corroboree.’ Frank, Lank, and Alice appeared in a transition scene which led to the corroboree extravaganza. In ‘black disguise,’ presumably black face, they threw boomerangs over the heads of the audience and caught them as they returned. They also juggled Nulla, Nullas, Aboriginal throwing sticks, fire sticks (torches) and spears. In preparation for the role, they were also, according to the press, watching news reels of authentic Corroborees.

When the pantomime opened in Sydney, Alice was heavily pregnant. In December 1916, during the run, she gave birth to Virginia Wattle Blossom Uren.

The panto toured the country and Frank, Lank and Alice and Virginia toured with it.  It was usually produced at Christmas and Easter in Sydney and Melbourne. Between performances, the trio appeared in Fuller’s theatres in Australia and New Zealand. In June 1917 they were at the Bijou in Melbourne and had added plate spinning to the act.

They stayed with Fullers until the end of the war, mixing pantomime performances with individual shows. By 1919 they were back on the suburban and country circuit performing between movies.

In 1920 they went to New Zealand for a brief tour. They were warmly received, and their club spinning was described as ‘highly spectacular’.  The ‘interlude,’ when Frank spun lighted torches,  was also popular.

Later that year they returned to Australia and performed in Rockhampton Queensland.

‘The vaudeville turn provided by Frank, Lank and Alice is fully entitled to be labelled delightful. The artists manipulate brightly ornamented clubs with the ease and grace of born entertainers. Lank walks unconcernedly across the stage, and off it, with a club or two collected from Frank’s performance, en passant, so to speak, which is most amusingly clever. Frank does most of the real work- that with torches being unique- and the lady appears to be as gracefully clever as the other two altogether. The turn won unstinted applause.’

This was one of their last performances. Frank was ill with tuberculosis. In 1921, he, Alice and daughter Virginia were living with his family at their hotel, the Great Western near Melbourne. In October, Frank’s cousin, Tommy, was in a prize fight, and Frank went to the event. The next day, he went out ‘motoring’ returned home, and then, unexpectedly, died in his sleep. He was 27 years old.

Frank was eulogised as ‘a clean-living husband who was a credit to the vaudeville profession’ and as ‘Australia’s greatest club juggler.’ He left Alice a widow with a young daughter.

The Uren family was large and supportive, and Fullers also provided support for the young woman. She was almost immediately employed as a ballet mistress with the vaudeville chain and from that experience she created a ballet school in Melbourne which had a long and distinguished history. Alice remarried in 1924 but maintained her professional name as Alice Uren. Her daughter Virginia appeared in a Fullers pantomime as a child and in later life worked in radio. She had a society marriage in 1939 and had at least one child.

Virginia's wedding in The Age newspaper society pages

W Thompson, Lank, is more difficult to trace. He was apparently in Queensland when news of Frank’s death broke. He praised Frank as a good man. Thompson may have continued his career with Fullers.

Alice died in 1979 after a long and distinguished career as a contortionist, juggler, ballet and dance teacher.

Frank. Lank and Alice did not become international superstars, but they were part of the backbone of Australian vaudeville during the First World War, when many performers were absent. As such, their short career played a significant role in ensuring the visibility of juggling during a difficult time for vaudeville in Australia.


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Mozetto or Rupert Ingalese ' No "one" is born a Juggler'

 Most of the story of Mozetto aka Rupert Ingalese aka Frederick Priest has been written by juggling historians Reg Bacon and Thom Wall. Thanks to them both for their help with this- I've just focused on the Australian bits....You can check out Reg Bacon's website  or pick up Thom Wall's edition of Ingalese's book

In 1912 an unusual juggler came to Australian shores. He travelled under the name F Mozetto and was an extroverted young man with very strong views about the art of juggling.

Mozetto, who looked more German than his Italian name suggested, according to a newspaper account, was booked by Tivoli owner Harry Rickards.  Rickards died before Mozetto arrived in Australia, but the contract was honoured by his successor, Mr Hugh McIntosh. The juggler had a very long tour and claimed it as a world record.

Mozetto was described as an American juggler in the Australian Press. In an interview, he claimed that he had been juggling since he was a child, and that he was inspired by the juggler Charlene.  He gave several long interviews. In each one he emphasised the necessity of practice.  He claimed, ‘before I go on stage for a performance, I put in half an hour or an hour just doing a few old tricks to get my nerves and muscles under control.’

Mozetto on the Tivoli Programme

 In Australia, Mozetto was described as the originator of the marvellous coin catching trick. This trick was the talk of the Australian vaudeville world and featured in all the reviews of his act.

In the coin trick, Mozetto took seven coins, threw them in the air and then caught each one individually as they fell. He used pennies. He claimed that he could catch nine, but he would only catch seven on stage.

He also had an assistant in his act, young Eugene Cottin. Cottin’s role was to provide the humour and act as a balancing prop. As part of the act, Mozetto held Cottin in his left hand, juggled two plates with his right hand, and balanced a billiard cue with a lamp on the end on his forehead. His balancing tricks were described as ‘very clever’, whilst his coin catching trick was seen as ‘neat.’

During his tour, Mozetto had one major problem, the Australian climate. The humidity made juggling difficult. ‘Australia is the worst for a juggler to show in. By the time I have done two or three tricks my hands are as slippery as wet eels.’

Despite his complaints, he also complained about the lights, it seems that Mozetto was quite popular in the country. In Sydney he associated with a group called the Chasers, who met every Thursday at the harbour. He created a record for the group by eating nine chops in one sitting.

Mozetto and presumably Eugene Cottin from an Australian newspaper

He also seemed popular with the ladies, and in April 1913 Miss Vera Remee, an actress, confided to an Adelaide newspaper that she was engaged to Mr F Priest of Priest, Dodd and Co, London, better known as the world famous, Mozetto the juggler. Miss Remee later starred in an Australian movie called The Sundowner, but never seems to have become Mrs Priest or Mrs Mozetto.

Mozetto left Australia in 1913 with his assistant Eugene. He continued working internationally until around 1920, when he disappeared. However, he was replaced by another juggler standing 5 foot 7 inches tall, with fair hair and blue eyes, the well-known juggling ‘sage’, ‘philosopher’ and author, Rupert Ingalese. Strangely those measurements were similar to those of Mozetto.

It was Mozetto’s habit of dining on the shores of Sydney Harbour that led to the discovery by modern jugglers that Mozetto and Ingalese were the same person, as the article which mentioned the world record chop eating feat referenced both names

The Chaser's club, a few years before Mozetto joined them

 Mozetto and Ingalese, were the stage names of Frederick Rupert Priest who was born in England around 1885.  Fred Priest began his juggling life as a ‘boy juggler’ in the English music halls, he had changed his name to ‘Mozetto’ by the time Harry Rickards hired him for his first Australian tour.

In 1920 Mozetto disappeared from the billboards to be replaced by Rupert Ingalese. The next year, Ingalese published a book called, Juggling, or How to be a Juggler. The book detailed how as a young man, Ingalese had seen a street juggler dressed in tights. Later he encountered the juggler Charlene and then he had a prophetic dream.  In the dream, a young Ingalese was thrilling a large theatre crowd with his juggling feats. The book advocated lots of practice saying that practising juggling developed ‘admirable qualities of the mind, patience and diligence’. The instructional manual approached juggling as a skill and showed a love of the art shared by all jugglers. According to Ingalese, ‘no man is born a juggler. It is an acquired Art, - requiring similar qualities of mind and character to those necessary to enable a man to excel in any walk of life.’

In 1924, he returned to Australia using the Ingalese name with his wife, Dorothy, and assistants. Several articles in the Australian press referred to his ‘real name’ being F R Priest and mentioned that he had previously toured Australia.

Ingalese arrived in November under contract to JC Williamson. The announcement of his arrival identified him as Mr F R Priest, who in ‘1911-12 performed without a break for 45 weeks which he claimed as a record in Australia in a ‘dumb’ act.’

Rupert Ingalese from an Australian newspaper

The Ingalese turn was completely different from Mozetto’s show. The act was set in a red drawing room. The curtains opened to Agnes Grey, (Mrs Priest) playing Moonlight Sonata on a piano, her hair was red. A footman, in red breeches, entered with a card, and was closely followed by a gentleman in a cloak, lined in red, Rupert Ingalese, who proceeded to juggle various objects in the room. The whole was conducted in silence, with the footman providing the humour and Agnes the piano accompaniment.

Ingalese juggled the candles lining the room, he balanced the servant in one hand whilst juggling with the other, he played the piano with one hand and juggled with the other, there was balancing, coin tossing and humour.  In Perth he performed a trick that he claimed had never been performed before, he spun a hoop on one leg, played a musical instrument on the other, juggled with one hand and balanced a lampshade on his forehead.

The threesome performed all over Australia, sometimes between short films, sometimes on a vaudeville bill. It was a long exhausting tour.

Ingalese, wife Dorothy and partner, left Australia and continued to tour the world. He changed his name twice more, once to Paul Wingrave and then to Rajputana.

The juggler of many identities died in 1958 and was survived by Dorothy, in his will he left her 2000 pounds.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

I am unable to sing- Elimar the juggler Part 2


This is part two of a three part article on Elimar the juggler. This mainly concerns his imprisonment in an Australian internment camp. There is very little information particularly about Elimar in the camp, but the transcript of his appeal is available through the Australian National Archives. Most of the information here comes from that document. Some files about Elimar are still sealed. 


Tatura is a beautiful town in country Victoria, it was a perfect site for an internment camp because of its isolation. It was a bare bones camp, there were corrugated iron huts with bunk beds but no insulation, sitting close together on a large flat plain, barbed wire surrounded the housing and armed soldiers guarded the perimeter. The internees were treated as prisoners of war, there were set food times and menus, daily parades and roll calls. For a travelling performer in particular, the lack of freedom of movement would have been excruciating.

Camp 1 was the male camp. In October 1940 it was populated by a group of German men who were mostly members of the Australian Nazi party and had been rounded up almost immediately after the outbreak of war. In the camp they had their own regulations and enforcement, Nazi ideology was celebrated, and they openly supported Germany during the war.

This was the atmosphere that awaited 23-year-old Elimar Clemens Buschmann as he entered the camp that was to be his home for the next 6 years.

Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack Woodcut of Tatura internment camp 1941,National Gallery of Victoria.

When arrested Elimar possessed his juggling and slack wire walking outfits and a leather bag full of personal property. The personal property was undoubtedly his juggling props. He also had 30 shillings in cash, but as he later sadly admitted, he had not saved any of his handsome salary, so the 30 shillings was not enough to sustain him during his long imprisonment.

Fortunately, there were some things to do in Tatura. The prisoners had arranged lectures and performances, and one prisoner had a personal projector for films. Elimar spent time practising juggling, although it was difficult. The terrain was windy, and the roofs of the huts and communal areas were low. When speaking about being unable to juggle, Elimar said ‘Unfortunately I feel like an encaged bird, so that I am unable to sing’

He could and did receive letters from his family in Germany, and he was surrounded by his countrymen. However, it is unlikely that he agreed with the dominant fascist ideology of the camp.

In 1941 the Australian government allowed internees to lodge an appeal against their internment and Elimar travelled to Melbourne to plead his case. He did not have any legal representation and had to rely on his own wits to try and persuade the Tribunal that he could be released into the community.

When deciding to free an internee, the government considered several different issues. Amongst these were the age of the internee, (being military age was a disadvantage), the subject’s commitment to their home country, the possibility of disruption in the community, and whether they could be blackmailed by their home government. The questions the Tribunal put to Elimar during the appeal reflected their concern with these matters.

Elimar was young, and of military age, in addition, both his brothers were doing war work for Germany. One was on active duty. When asked if he would work for Germany if he was a resident there, he replied

‘Of course, I would have to obey the laws of the country’

When it was suggested that the German government could threaten his parents if he did not do their bidding in Australia, Elimar insisted ‘I would not believe that they would make my parents suffer for anything I would do wrong here.’ He also said that he would honour the commitment he made not to do anything to injure the British empire

Elimar insisted that ‘I am really international in a way, as I am just a performer to the audiences of the world.’ Although he did admit that he had sympathies with his parents who were in Germany, when asked if he wanted Germany to win the war.

Oddly Elimar seemed to have no inkling that a fellow performer had informed on him. He insisted that he was on good terms with everybody in the profession, that he had no arguments about the war, and that he was confident that he could obtain work with either his former employer George Sorlie or the Tivoli or even Wirth’s Circus if released.

Throughout the hearing he showed an eagerness to return to work and most of his answers concerned his desire to return to performance. He was obviously frustrated with his position, and anxious to pursue his career as a juggler. Overall, his answers suggested a young man who cared more about professional juggling than politics.

The Tribunal regarded Elimar favourably. They described him as an’ honest and decent chap’, an attractive youth who impressed them with his character and demeanour. However, there were several points against him. He was of military age, he had undoubted sympathies and connections with Germany, and he could be blackmailed because his parents still lived there. However, the factor that most weighed against him was the risk that he could cause disruption in the performing arts community.

It was suggested that this could be ameliorated if he had a contract upon release, but this was countered with the fact that his fellow actors had denounced him. It seemed there was fear that, given his high-profile profession, his release would cause unfavourable publicity, and dissension within the community.  There was also the possibility, not mentioned but implied, that Elimar could be in some personal danger if he left the protection of the camp.

Elimar was returned to Tatura.

Tatura was developing its own community. By July 1941 camp 1 had a hairdresser, a tailor, a garden, a carpentry shop, a school, a newspaper, illicit liquor, and the inmates were performing concerts and shows. There were several skilled musicians, a few actors and some writers at Tatura and entertainment was a feature of the camp’s life. According to Elmar’s family, he played a major role on the entertainment committee.

Regular shows which lampooned the internee’s situation were part of life at Tatura and Elimar participated in at least two of these. In 1943 Die Klage Sal, with a ‘new variety program organised by the corrugated iron company under the direction of E Buschmann’, was prominently advertised in a handmade program. The reference to corrugated iron was an obvious nod to the omnipresent huts surrounding the audience.   Similarly, at Easter 1944, E Buschmann was a featured player in the performance of Die Strape nach Dover, another show at the camp theatre.


Part of a programme from Tatura Internment Camp- E Buschmann on left hand side

There were also conflicts in the camp. Internees were organised according to nationality so fascists and anti-fascists, Jewish refugees and anti Semites could be in proximity. This caused dissension and occasional violence amongst the inmates.   Some of the inhabitants who had no income relied on handouts from the German government, which was contingent on expressions of loyalty, whilst day to day living depended on the whims of men who were devoted followers of Hitler.

When several internees, amongst them Elimar declared their intention to remain in Australia, the Nazis in the camp were ferocious in their condemnation. Elimar had told the Tribunal that he intended to make Australia his permanent home and this determination did not change despite his perilous circumstances.

 The atmosphere of claustrophobia caused by constant monitoring of mail, movements and activities for six years must have taken a psychological toll on everybody who experienced it. For Elimar, who came to the camp as an aspiring 23-year-old juggler of elite ability with a promising future, the lack of practice, experience, networking, activity, and stimulation must have been an ordeal.

The war ended in 1945 with the defeat of Germany and the victory of the Allied forces, amongst them Australia. The inmates at Tatura were released slowly. They were shown movies of the liberation of Belsen to illustrate the reality of the Nazi regime and thoroughly vetted and cross examined before being released to the community. Many who were irredeemable fascists were deported.

Elimar was released in May 1946, he was 29 years old and eager to continue his career, but he was to face more obstacles.


I am just a performer to the audiences of the world.- Elimar Part 3

 This third part of the story of Elimar is sourced from newspapers and from Actor Equity files held in Sydney. I am trying to discover more about the Equity case through files in Melbourne- however I cannot access these without permission, which I am trying to obtain. Once again thanks to Robyn, Elimar's daughter, for sharing her memories. 

Part one  part two

After six years of internment, Elimar Clemens Buschmann, juggler, was released from Tatura camp in March 1946. He headed to Melbourne and in April made his reappearance on stage in a charity performance at St Kilda Town Hall. Later that month he was preparing for a return to professional performance in a Tivoli revue called Forbidden City.

Elimar in 1946 from the Forbidden City Programme

Forbidden City starred a roll call of Australian performers who had been popular during the war. Amongst them were Val Jellay, Iris and Ron Shand, Lulla Fanning, Babby Le Brun, Summer Lock Elliott and Elimar’s old friend George Nichols. George had never gained the fame of his sister Joy, who was a War time superstar, but he had been employed steadily on the Tivoli circuit during the war where his impersonations and comedy made him a household name.

However, there were rumblings amongst the cast about the German Juggler and his loyalties. It seems this was prompted in part by Elimar’s application for membership of the union, Actors Equity. Without that membership he would be unable to perform, as the arts industry in Australia was a closed shop at that time.

Forbidden City opened to rave reviews but the principals in the cast were unhappy with Elimar’s presence and threatened to walk out. They held a meeting where they agreed that Elimar should leave the show when it moved to Sydney, or they would boycott the production. They complained to Actors Equity and were assured of support if they decided to make the show ‘black.’ They were outraged that an alleged Nazi sympathiser was working when former soldiers and Australian performers were unemployed.

In early June the storm broke and the tabloid newspaper, The Truth, was reporting the scandalous fact that a German, a man who had been interned during the war as a suspected Nazi, was performing on the Australian stage. Somebody had informed on Elimar- again.

Elimar was front page news, the fact that he had been interned for the whole duration of the war was a red flag for the newspapers, who assumed this was due to his Nazi sympathies. Equity stated that

‘The background of the war against Nazism seems to have been forgotten by the Melbourne Tivoli manager Mr Jack Martin, He appears quite content to use any measure to ensure profits for his company. Mr Martin appears to have forgotten Buchenwald and numerous other Nazi torture camps. A member of Equity, Max Pearce, died in one of these hell holes and a number of our members were killed in the war against Nazism’.

David Martin the managing director of the Tivoli defended the juggler

‘He is not replacing any other performer, and I do not think there is another artist in the world, and definitely not Australia whose work may be compared to his.’

Indeed, Charles Waller who probably saw Elimar during this run said that

‘His work and manner showed tremendous improvement since his last appearance at the The Tivoli. With this act he was fit to star on any programme.’

Six years of internment had perhaps made Elimar a more mindful, and creative performer.

Nonetheless, the improvement in skill and presentation meant nothing if he was banned from joining Equity. In late June Elimar was subjected to an investigation by the union. He and those who had ‘denounced’ him were summoned to the union offices in Victoria and Elimar was asked a series of questions regarding his loyalties.

The union called general meetings in July so that the membership could vote on his application for membership. The investigation had determined that

‘It is our firm opinion and belief that at no time was Elimar a Nazi or Nazi sympathiser and he is completely exonerated after full and thorough enquiry.’

The motion to accept his application for membership was approved by 195 votes to 14.

Elimar proceeded to work in Sydney in Forbidden City, he was described as one of the ‘bright spots’ of the show and received a good reception from the Sydney audience.

Despite being cleared by equity and enjoying success, he was still subject to some animosity from his fellow performers. Val Jellay an Australian Tivoli performer who was one of his on-stage assistants in Forbidden City and knew him around this time said.

‘Elimar was so demanding of himself. Whenever possible he would rig his slack wire working for hours and if he missed a trick, he would slap his own face with force and real venom yelling and swearing in German. The result was a sensational act. …. because of his nationality he was shunned and made to feel an enemy. Even fellow artists would turn from him. Elimar was a gentleman, that was all I knew. ‘

His other assistant was Dawn Butler, real name Sadie Dawn Butler. Dawn and Elimar had met in Brisbane before the war when she was still a teenager. During the war Sadie had been constantly employed as a member of the famous Tivoli ballet, she also worked as a choreographer for the Tivoli shows.

Elimar and Dawn Butler (aka Sadie Dawn Butler) From a newspaper 1940

Dawn’s war time experiences included some ill-fated romances. In 1942, she went through a marriage ceremony with comedian Buddy Morley, who had accompanied Elimar on the Queensland tour with George Sorlie in 1940. Early in the war Morley had joined the Australian Infantry Force (AIF) and toured the Middle East, upon his return in 1942, he and Dawn got married and lived as husband and wife for 9 months. However, Buddy had not divorced his previous wife. He was a bigamist. He was charged with bigamy and gaoled. Dawn was left to fend for herself at the Tivoli.

Her adventures were not over. As a Tivoli ballet girl, she had many admirers, one however, was braver than the others. One night after returning home exhausted from another show, Dawn discovered a pair of men’s shoes under her bed, attached to them were the legs of Russell Maher, an admirer who hoped ‘to sneak a kiss’. Dawn ran outside screaming and called the police. Maher was imprisoned for two months.

 Dawn was now performing on stage with Elimar, the gentleman, every evening, and a romance developed. In July, the romance became a marriage. The pair married in July after Elimar was cleared by Equity and proceeded to develop a double act that they took around the world.

1947 saw Elimar and Sadie in New Zealand on tour with a Tivoli revue called, It’s Foolish but it’s fun. Elimar juggled hoops and balls on the floor and on the slack wire but the most popular part of his turn was the audience interaction.

‘No one was more popular with the audience than Elimar the juggler, not so much with his brilliant juggling either on the floor or on a slack wire as with the way he brought the stalls, circle, and gallery into his act. He kicked or threw a ball to them and when they returned it gave a remarkable display of retrieving.’

Elimar would catch the ball on a mouth stick, balancing and swaying and making both the audience member and himself look good. The company also performed at a Food for Britain charity event on this tour. There was no press mention of Elmar’s war time record.

In New Zealand, Elimar was advertised as ‘The International Juggling Genius’ which suggests that it was around this time that he was filmed by Tex Glanville, a fellow juggler.

In 1950, Elimar was contracted to star in Ice Follie, a revue performed on ice. Elimar had never skated and according to family legend hired an ice-skating rink for a few nights so he could learn the skill. When the show opened in Perth, he juggled on ice skates for part of the act and for the other half wore soft slippers which resulted in very wet feet.

Elimar and Sadie Dawn spent most of the early 1950s touring the world. In 1951 they appeared at the London Palladium. According to Billboard in July that year

‘Best of the bunch was Elimar. Starting off at stage level juggling 8 hoops, balancing a ball on his head and waving a band around his leg he mounted onto a wire tightrope and did the same things there to great applause.’

In 1951 he was back on skates in Chicago the Billboard reviewer said

‘He was the first skating juggler used here. His juggling of a tennis racket between two juggling sticks was the big bit…. his closer with a maze of strobe rings going in different directions was highly effective visually.’

Elimar from a Harlem Globetrotters Programme 1955

By 1954 he was performing in the Harlem Globetrotters floor show. It was a time of segregation, and the Globetrotters were subject to its discriminatory practices. They were refused accommodation in hotels, played to segregated audiences and were often abused by racist comments from their audiences. Before 1950, when the American National Basketball Association (NBA) was desegregated, they were one of the few opportunities for professional and paid appearances for talented African American basketballers. By the time Elimar joined them they were increasingly becoming more entertainment focused.

 Elimar stayed with the Globetrotters for many years, he appeared in Israel in 1955 and in 1956 he and Sadie travelled to Brazil, probably also with the Globetrotters.

By 1958 Elimar had returned to Australia and was performing in Sydney. In 1959 he appeared in the revue Many Happy Returns, which starred Australia’s most popular performer Gladys Moncrief. Also in this show was a young singer, Louise Matheson.

Louise born 1934 in Queensland was a talented performer who had appeared in several Australian legitimate theatre shows. In 1955/56 she performed in the long running and tremendously popular show Kismet. It ran for a year, and the next year she was in the Pyjama Game, another popular production.

In 1959 she was part of the singing chorus in Many Happy Returns, and it was here that she and Elimar probably met. They would spend the next 15 years together.


Louis Matheson, in White Dress from the newspapers

In the early 60s Elimar and Louise toured with the Harlem Globetrotters. Their daughter remembers,

They were billed as "Elimar and Louise"…… Mum and Dad's act comprised three sections. First Dad would juggle using balls, tennis rackets, and clubs and do a routine with a bunch wooden cube. Mum would toss him stuff. Then Mum would sing, her style a fusion of Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland with some French songs thrown in for good measure, while the rig was set up behind the curtain. Then Dad would perform on his wire, juggling and using numerous small hoops on his arms and one leg. Again, Mum would toss the rings, he would get them all spinning then do a bit where he would throw a ball to the audience, and they would throw it back for him to catch on a stick held in his mouth.

Elimar in 1954

In 1965, Elimar stopped touring and returned to Australia to work on the ‘fringes of carnie life’. In 1977 he had a home in Sydney.

Elimar passed away in Sydney in 1999, after a life of tribulation and juggling. He was an incredible performer, a talented juggler, and a man who crossed cultural boundaries to entertain people around the world.















Saturday, May 7, 2022

Anita Martell in Australia


Irish born juggler Anita Martell spent most of World War 2 performing in Australia on the Tivoli circuit.

Anita was born in 1916 in Dublin Ireland, her real name was Nita Janette Davidson, though she appears to have used the name Janette. Her father, John Davidson, stage name Martell, was a professional juggler and her mother, Mona Anderson, known as Mona O Leary, was a singer.

The family moved to England when Anita was a child and by the time she was 14 she was performing on stage as a singer and dancer. One day her father saw her playing with tennis balls in the backyard and he decided to train her in his own profession- as a juggler.

John trained her 8 hours a day and she hated it. It took a long time for her to gain confidence in her abilities. The noise of her training became so annoying to the neighbours that the Davidson family had to hire a hall  to avoid their complaints.

At her first juggling audition she dropped regularly, however she was hired and made her professional juggling debut at age 17 with the Windmill theatre in Brixton.

Her career progressed rapidly, and in 1936 and 1937 she appeared in two films, Cabaret and Windmill Revels.

In 1939 she met future husband, singer and performer Len Young. Len’s real name was Louis Yenish he was Jewish and born in England. But the youthful romance did not last and the pair split amicably.

Until the next year when Anita heard Len dedicate a song on the radio to AM. Anita phoned Len and the two reconciled. In 1940 the pair married and shortly afterwards travelled to Australia for a working honeymoon.

London, of course was suffering from German air raids, so the trip to Australia was not only a voyage for work but a bid for safety. Len had been exempted from service, so was free to join his wife.

They arrived in late 1940 and started working immediately. They were contracted to the Tivoli circuit which was suffering from a lack of performers due to war exigencies. Anita’s versatility as a juggler, a singer and a dancer, meant that she was a valuable addition to the Tivoli’s dwindling roster.

In 1940 Anita appeared at the Majestic Theatre in Adelaide in the revue Vogues of Variety as a juggler. She wore long black silk tights, ‘the briefest’ of cloth black shorts, a tailored white waistcoat and black jacket, which complemented her slight 160cm frame, hazel eyes and brown hair.

She juggled tennis balls whilst keeping up a humorous patter and she also juggled hats. She was fast and dexterous, and claimed to be the only feminine juggler in the country. The revue travelled to Sydney and Brisbane where the reviewer said that there ‘was a freshness and vitality to her work which makes it outstanding.’ Her good looks and skimpy outfit were part of her attraction, and most reviews concentrated on these aspects of her performance. Whilst juggling she kept up a humorous patter. One joke revolved around her father, ‘ My father taught me how to do this trick, he can’t do it himself.’

She followed her appearance in Vogues of Variety with Black Velvet, a major revue which travelled all around the country. She was very popular in Brisbane where she gave several interviews to the newspapers including one where she admitted that juggling was exhausting and that she ended every show feeling like a ‘wet rag’. Despite this she still had the energy to take an active interest in fashion and designed most of her own costumes. She also trained at least 2 hours a day.

During 1940 and well into 1941 Anita played almost constantly in various revues around the country. One significant show was the all ladies show, ‘Ladies First’, which was apparently the first all female vaudeville show ever produced ( according to the Australian newspaper) .  One review said it may have ‘lacked the robustness provided by a proportion of masculine turns’ but  ‘there are still sufficient headliners to make a good show’ and it was ‘tuneful and colourful’.

Anita’s husband Len was in many of the shows with Anita and performed vocal impressions and humorous patter. However, Len’s work permit was limited and he was soon battling immigration authorities to stay in the country.

In late 1941 Len’s working permit expired. Anita had no desire to return to England, but Len, who had been exempted from military service, was being forced to leave Australia.

Len had failed the notorious Australian dictation test. The dictation test, a flimsy cover to preserve Australia’s racist “White Australia Policy’ meant that any prospective visitor to Australia could be asked to take a dictation test in any language. If they failed the test they were not allowed to enter or remain in the country.

British born Len had been asked to take a dictation test in Romanian, and had, of course, failed. It is probable that his Jewish heritage played a part in the farcical situation.

Len appealed his proposed deportation and was allowed to remain in Australia for three months but he had to pay a large bond and report to Immigration authorities regularly.

That Christmas, Anita displayed her versatility again by appearing in the annual pantomime Cinderella as ‘Dandini’. In January 1942 Anita appeared in ‘Laughter Express’ and was described as a ‘dapper streamlined young lady’ who promoted the ‘bare leg mode’. The newspapers heartily approved.

Anita and Len disappeared from the Tivoli circuit around April 1942 and Anita returned to prominence in October the next year. They probably temporarily left Australia to sort out Len’s work permit problems. His three month extension expired in April.

From October 1943 to the beginning of 1944 Anita appeared regularly in Tivoli vaudeville revues. She juggled, she sang, she danced, and she supported names like Ethel Formby, sister of George, and Roy Rene- Australia’s superstar comedian.

War time shortages were beginning to hit stage props by 1944 and Anita was having difficulty getting silk to line her hats. This was considered a minor inconvenience in the latter stages of the conflict.

In February 1944 Anita left Australia and travelled to California. She travelled under two names, Janette Yenish and Anita Martell. She gave her last permanent residence as ‘Tivoli Theatres Australia.’ She had been in the country for most of the last 4 years.

In 1946 Anita performed in a USO show in Guam, but she returned to the mainland US regularly. She travelled to France and back to the US and in 1951 married Californian humourist Roger Taylor Price. Anita and Price worked on the TV show ‘How to’ for CBS  together. The marriage lasted a year, and mentions of Anita are rare from that date.

She is said to have died in the United States in 2000.