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

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

An Encaged Bird- Elimar the Juggler Part One

 This three part article on Elimar was inspired by David Cain's short mention here. I want to thank Elimar's daughter, Robyn, for taking the time to chat with me about her father. A lot of the information comes from official documents in the Australian Government Archives and newspaper accounts.

Part Two   Part three

 Elimar, the juggler who walked on a slack wire, was a promising young performer who took his act around the world in the late 1930s. However, his career was derailed during World War 2 when he was interned in Australia for six years.

Elimar Clemens Buschmann was born in Cologne Germany on November 18, 1917, to August Buschmann and Martha Meuller. He was the third and youngest son of the couple.

When he was 14, just before the Nazis came to power, Elimar left school, apparently against the wishes of his parents. He later told an Australian newspaper that he ran away to join the circus.

‘My parents found me already launched on a tight rope walking career and took me back home. They made me promise never to walk a wire again. However, when they found how interested I was, they released me from my promise and facilitated the study I have given to wire walking.’

It seems that Elimar was a wire walker before being a juggler. He found his first employment locally in Cologne, Dusseldorf and in other towns close to home, but his first international tour was to Switzerland. 

After this he began touring Europe, he claimed to have performed in France, the United States, and shared beer with the King of Denmark.  In Australia he told the press an exciting story about an adventure in Budapest where he was abducted and forced to impersonate a local prince.

‘Once I got used to the idea it was good fun- until a frantic girl, probably one of the prince’s discards, burst into the palace with a gun’

Elimar claimed to have been injured by one of the three shots she fired, but fortunately he survived the ordeal.  The journalist reporting this story doubted its veracity, but enjoyed its telling, proving that Elimar, even at a young age, was a skilled raconteur. 

Elimar from an early programme.

What is true is that in 1938 he was performing at the Palladium in London. In January the next year he was back in Germany and obtaining an exemption from military service from the government. Elimar was sending money to his parents regularly, and he believed this was the reason the government gave him an exemption.  

He returned to England in 1939. There was lots of war talk at the time but Elimar, at 22 years old and obsessed with his career, thought little of it.  When performing in London in April, he was spotted by Australian Frank Neil, who ran the Tivoli circuit. Neil booked Elimar for an Australian tour at around 50 pounds a week. The fair haired, 6 foot tall, lightly built young German juggler was on his way to Australia and was enthusiastic and excited about the adventure.

He left England in August 1939 on the Moloya. It was an eventful journey. On September 3, whilst Elimar was at sea, England declared war on Germany and Australia declared war the same day. The next port of call for the Moloya was Bombay, India, a British Colony, where Elimar and the other German passengers were interned for three weeks. The internment policy at that time was quite relaxed, so the internees were released to continue their journey to Australia after signing a document stating that they would take no action to harm the British Empire.  But more drama ensued when Elimar got into an argument with a fellow passenger about lights. Due to war time restrictions, all sea traffic had to travel in darkness, so there were strict rules about smoking on board and lights in the cabins. Elimar claimed that he had chastised a refugee for smoking in the open, while others claimed that Elimar had ignored the order to dim the lights in his cabin. The facts were disputed, but the German juggler and enemy alien was reprimanded, and a record was kept of the incident.  

He finally arrived in Australia in October 1939. For the first three weeks he stayed in Melbourne and relaxed, then he appeared on the Tivoli stage in November. He performed in a revue called, Carry On. The act was very well received by the Tivoli audience.

 He started on the floor, proving to be a skilled juggler with his feet on the ground, then moved to a slack wire and astonished the crowd with his abilities. Amongst his feats were juggling 8 hoops whilst balancing on one leg, and the highlight, standing on the loose rope, swinging a hoop on one leg, balancing a ball on a stick suspended from his mouth, and juggling eight hoops at the same time. The newspapers called him a ‘juggling genius’ and the ‘world’s greatest juggler on a wire’. His feats were described as ‘truly miraculous’ and he was touted as being ‘the only man in the world who has achieved what hitherto was termed impossible.’

He spent five weeks at the Tivoli in Melbourne and six weeks performing in Sydney. Tragedy struck the Tivoli circuit in January the next year, when Frank Neil, the man who had hired Elimar, died, and new management took over the theatre chain. Yet the performances continued. In February 1940 he juggled in Queensland at the Regent Theatre, entertaining between movies, in March he appeared in South Australia, but it seems his Tivoli contract expired shortly afterwards.  

Elimar was a German alien in an Australia at war. Almost immediately after war was declared, the Australian authorities had rounded up and interned known fascists and members of the local Nazi party. Other enemy aliens, including visitors such as Elimar, were subjected to stringent rules. He was obliged to inform the authorities when he left the police district or travelled more than 5 miles from his lodging, was required to visit the local police station regularly and sign yet another document stating that he would not do anything detrimental to the British Empire. However, in general, the Australian government was quite casual about enemy aliens. There was no urgency to intern them as facilities and money were an issue, and the authorities felt that their round up of German fascists, who they had been watching for some time, was sufficient to keep the country secure.

In April 1940, Elimar disobeyed the rules. He was lodging at the Alexandra Hotel in Melbourne and reporting to the local police station as required. One Monday after fulfilling his duty he was drinking at the hotel, when his friend, George Nichols, Australian comedian, and fellow Tivoli performer, invited him to go to Dimboola to shoot quail. Elimar thought this was a great idea and spent almost a week in the country with George and a group of Germans, to whom, on George’s advice, he posed as Danish.   They had an enjoyable trip and went to the annual military ball. However, when Elimar returned to his hotel in Melbourne that Friday, a detective was waiting for him. He was arrested and interned at Tatura internment camp for not informing the authorities of his movements.

He was swiftly released and after paying a 10 pound fine, was free to perform again.

Elimar from a newspaper 1940

In May 1940 he was touring Queensland with George Sorlie, a local vaudevillian and aspiring impresario. Also on the tour were several local performers including Buddy Morley, who was infatuated with Dawn Butler, a teenager, who assisted Elimar during his act. They toured the north of Queensland under a canvas tent and the group was warmly welcomed and applauded every night.

In Brisbane in July, Elimar gave an interview to a local paper, where he claimed to be Danish, and told the story of being abducted in Budapest.

That month, Elimar was happily performing with little care for events in the outside world. But the situation with the Allies had changed, the phoney war was over, and it was becoming increasingly real to Australians. Germany had invaded Denmark, and France had signed an armistice with the Nazis. The Allies situation looked bleak and somebody in the performing arts community did not think Elimar was fully supporting their effort.

‘Actors’ in the vaudeville community reported him to the authorities. Apparently Elimar had said ‘you will all be speaking German soon’, had openly made comments supporting Germany, and was having arguments about the war with fellow performers.  Elimar subsequently denied these allegations and suggested that professional jealousy may have caused some ill will. His salary was enormous compared to the wages of local performers.  However, the authorities decided that there was enough evidence of Nazi sympathies, and he was detained again.

In July, he was arrested in Brisbane and interned in Gaythorne internment camp, where he remained until October.  From there he was transported to Tatura internment camp in Victoria. He was to spend the next six years in Tatura as a prisoner of the Australian government.





Sunday, May 15, 2022

Some photos of Jugglers in Australia

My book What Goes Up. Australian Juggling to World War 1 is now available from Amazon for pre-order.

In honour of this momentous occasion I'm posting some photos of jugglers who appear in the book. Regrettably, only the photos that I own could be published in the book, the rest of the photos here come from the newspapers. 

A cigarette card in my possession.

Derenda and Breen from the newspapers- 

The Harbecks- He gambled -  she juggled. ( newspaper photo)

Joe Jalvan top right balancing (newspaper photo)

Kara- Sydney gave him appendicitis - from the newspapers. 

Lennon Hyman and Lennon- Australians- from my collection

Lucy Gillet- a postcard in my collection

Morris Cronin- the best club juggler in the world? From the newspaper

Rhodesia- The female Cinquevalli.(newspaper photo)- in the middle

Selbo (from the newspaper)

Victor Martyn early in his career (my collection)

Stan Kavanagh- later in his career (from my collection)

The Carmos ( from the newspapers) Friends of the Martyns.

W C Fields as he appeared in Sydney 1903 ( from my collection)

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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Cinquevalli- in NZ archives and more....

It's been a while since I posted here.

But I'm still researching some theatre history when I get the time.

 I received a present for my birthday last month...

A beautiful watercolour of Cinquevalli- I wonder if anybody has information about when or where this painting was produced?

It seems to be based on a photo in the New Zealand archives. 

I am very curious about its provenance and welcome any comments/suggestions.

He was gorgeous wasn't he? 

Friday, July 13, 2018

I went to Berlin and all I got were these (phenomeonal) postcards

Of course on my latest trip to Europe I went postcard hunting. Here are some of the many I picked up.

Most of these are vaudeville performers, and I found these cards at the Tiergarten markets in Berlin.

Below are some postcards of the Kremo family, they were Risley performers (they juggled things and people with their feet) and they visited Australia in 1910.

So from the bottom. Firstly, we have Ferry Mader, who was identified by juggling historian David Cain. You can read David's article about Ferry here.

Above Ferry is a postcard of a man who I think was called Fred Lesando,a musical clown.

Above Fred is Gerdy- Gerda, - I have no idea who this is.

Next we have from the top, Bobby Lang, and below him a lady who balanced plates. There is no name on this one.

Next, a repetition of the Kremos and a postcard of Tommy whose last name is unknown, but it looks like he is using a teapot as a diablo.

Below is the elegante Adoni, he's balancing glasses.

Finally, a page from a 1980 programme from the Hansa theatre in Germany. Yes, we have some club jugglers....

I have many more acquisitions from my latest trip which I will be posting soon.

If you can help with identifying or contributing information about the above photos, please drop a line.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Australia's early circus jugglers.

Circus and Juggling seems to be a natural association, and so it proved in early 19th Century Australia. Whilst the main attraction of early circus was equestrian feats, juggling was included as another, less important, feature. The Australian circus began in Tasmania in 1847, and by the 1850s several different circuses had evolved. The gold rush which started in 1851 led to further demands for entertainment and a consequent increase in circus activity.

One of the early exponents of circus in Australia was James Ashton and juggling played an important role in his show from the very beginning. In fact, as early as 1849, in Melbourne, he had a benefit which featured Monsieur Risley, a juggler. By 1852, Ashton was in New South Wales and promising juggling, balancing and acrobatic feats for the entertainment of people in Singleton, a country town.

Ashton seems to have also performed Risley juggling, that is juggling people with the feet. This type of juggling was named after Richard Risley Carlisle who introduced it in the USA in the early 1840s. However, this was not the same Risley who performed with Ashton in Melbourne in 1849. Ashton also seems to have juggled other items with his feet, this is known as ‘foot juggling’. There is some evidence that Ashton popularised foot juggling in Australia, as one of his apprentices, Robert Taylor, was well known for this skill.

Taylor, born in Windsor New South Wales, was foot juggling in Sydney by 1855, firstly with Ashton and later with Burton’s Circus. An early picture of juggling published in the newspapers, showed Mr R Taylor upside down laying on his back, with a large ball balanced on his foot. Taylor is dressed in a one-piece frilled body suit which resembled the costume of a clown. His lower legs are encased in decorated stockings and his feet covered by flat pointed shoes with bows. In 1857, Taylor performed at the goldfields at Bendigo with Burton’s circus. In this performance he put a large ball ‘through a variety of evolutions moving it with the same facility with his feet as if they were his hands.’ He also stilt walked and balanced on a large ball whilst juggling.

Ashton was not the only circus proprietor at this time, in Sydney his circus had a rival, Malcolm’s Royal Australian Amphitheatre. At Malcolm’s they had a house juggler called Signor Cardoza, called the juggling king, who performed a ‘grand juggling act on a courser’, a horse.

Another competitor who arrived around 1852 was Henry Burton.  On Boxing Day that year he introduced his Grand Fete at the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel at Botany Bay Sydney. It featured his great equestrian artistes, including Major John Downey, who juggled whilst his horse galloped at full speed, and an equilibrist who, on the back of a white horse, spun plates and manipulated other items.
It seems therefore that object manipulation was a major part of the circus tradition, although only a tangential part of the show. Juggling complemented feats of equestrian acrobatics, probably played a role with the clowns and tumblers and was in the skill set of most circus performers.

The discovery of gold in Australia changed everything for entertainers in the country. It brought wealth, thousands of people, and a multicultural mix to the small insular society. This resulted in a higher demand for shows, and many circuses responded by becoming itinerant and visiting the gold fields, chasing the money of those who were chasing their dream.

With this desire for more entertainment came a requirement for more performers. One way the circus met the demand was by adopting or acquiring unwanted Aboriginal children.   One of these was a young indigenous boy, nicknamed ‘little nugget’. In 1852 the young boy was juggling with Burton’s circus near the gold fields at the Commercial Hotel Bathurst. He performed as one of the jugglers of Antwerp, ‘spinning plates and throwing balls’.

The young man was ‘adopted’ or kidnapped, as many young Aboriginal children were, and trained in circus as an added, exotic attraction Later he was renamed ‘Billy Jones’ after John Jones, a former Burton employee who left to form his own circus and took Billy with him. Billy Jones was the first  documented Aboriginal person to perform in a circus, he was an acrobat, juggler, equestrian and superb performer.

By the 1860s circus had become a featured entertainment in Australia and juggling was part of the show. These early jugglers were some of the first to introduce juggling to large Australian audiences and from them comes a large part of the Australian juggling tradition.

- A lot of the background information for this article, particularly about 'Billy Jones',  comes from Dr Mark St Leon's superb book, Circus The Australian Story

If you are interested in present day juggling try Sydney Juggling

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Ma'mselle Rhodesia- The only lady juggler ever seen in these parts

Described by various writers in Australia as ‘beautiful’ ‘pretty’ ‘ladylike’ and the ‘lady Cinquevalli’, Ma’mselle Florence Rhodesia was one of the first female jugglers to perform in Australia.

Florrie was born around 1885 in England according to a US census. This means that she was a bare 15 years old when she came to Australia. It is, however, entirely possible that Florrie may have ‘fudged’ her age a bit.

 She made her debut in the antipodes in 1900, when she toured Australia and New Zealand with Fitzgerald Brothers Circus. The brothers, Tom, and Dan Fitzgerald, called her Rhoda.
According to an interview she gave in New Zealand, she began her circus career at 8 years of age as a slack wire walker. When her apprenticeship ended she toured South Africa with Fillis Brothers and began juggling. Whilst there she met Cecil Rhodes and acquired the name ‘Rhodesia’.  She then returned to England and began juggling on the variety stages where the brothers Fitzgerald found her and asked her to tour Australia.

Rhoda toured for several years. Her act incorporated several skills that Cinquevalli had introduced to the Australian stage. Florrie turned herself into a billiard table and rolled balls around her body until they slipped into the pockets of a specially designed coat, she also did ‘everything Cinquevalli did’. However, most contemporaneous accounts focused on her looks and ladylike demeanour, with one Australian newspaper saying, ‘the lady is personally very attractive which is a feature unto itself.’ For a publicity shot in 1902, Rhoda wore male attire, including pants, a suit coat, and a shirt, she also had a top hat by her side. This costume placed her firmly in the tradition of gentleman juggler and contributed to her appeal, particularly to male audiences.

Rhoda was well liked by her peers and when she left Australia in 1903 she was farewelled with a cart full of bouquets, the music of the circus orchestra and a gold medal from her employers. They also penned her a note,  

Dear Rhoda, as you are now leaving Australia, we must express our sincere regret at your departure. You have behaved yourself always in a ladylike and graceful manner and you leave behind you many true friends and well-wishers. We consider you a true artist, and a credit to your profession- T and D.

According to a contemporary newspaper, Rhodesia was the only lady juggler ever seen in ‘these parts’, probably referring to Australia and New Zealand.

In 1905 Florrie wrote a letter to friends in Sydney announcing that she had married Mr William Seeley in Capetown South Africa. Seeley had performed in Australia on the Tivoli circuit as one of a team called Seeley and West, it is possible that the pair met during Rhoda’s Australasian tour.
Florrie returned to Australia, as Madame Rhodesia, with her husband in 1907 and performed at the Tivoli. However, this time her act was not as widely applauded. One newspaper dismissed her show saying the only unique part of it was that she was female. Time and imitators had apparently eaten away at her novelty.

Florence continued to perform with her husband, primarily in the United States. In 1910, Florence and William settled there.By the late 1920s Florence was the proprietor of an Inn in Suffolk New York. Genealogical information suggests that she passed away around 1938 in the same area.

For information about present day juggling try Sydney Juggling