Sunday, January 21, 2018

In Search Of: Flip's Legendary Saloon Routine

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In the 1980s I kept hearing a lot about a highly-regarded physical comedy act by the clown Flip, a member of the New England troupe, Loco-Motion Vaudeville. Loco-Motion had impressed everyone mightily at the annual convention of the International Jugglers Association (IJA), winning Bronze in 1979. They later moved their operation to Key West, and Flip ended up resettling in Australia, and I never saw the act.

In our YouTube era, I had hoped to find a video of it, but came up empty-handed. It didn't help that I had gotten it into my head that the act had been done by company member, Bounce, not Flip! Then Scott Houghton posted this on Facebook, thank you very much. From the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville...

That 3rd-generation VHS quality is enough to make me nostalgic!

I always loved that back extension roll to a no-hands head balance. I'd first seen Tonz Azito do it in a crappy Joe Namath movie, so I tried it (also in the 80s). I sortakinda got it, but it was real crunchy on the neck vertebrae, even on a mat, so I backed off. Here are four versions of it in chronological order: Lupino Lane, Flip, Tony Azito, and Rob Lok:

I didn't know anything else about the Loco-Motion guys, not even their full names, but I spotted a reference to "Rodger on the accordion" and wondered if this could be my old buddy, Rodger French, aka "Lenny DeLuxe," so I wrote him. Sure enough!

That is indeed me on the accordion. Great routine; we had so much fun with it. Flip's given name is Ron Ressigeu, or something like that, but his real moniker is Flip Ripley. He lives and works in Cairns, Australia now.
Rodger. who's usually smiling

I spent a season in 1981 with Loco-Motion Vaudeville: two college tours and a three-week gig in Saudi Arabia playing shows for workers at ARAMCO camps. Saudis, Brits, Americans, Filipinos, and Koreans, as I recall. It was a bit surreal. [NOTE: My clown partner Fred Yockers and I did that gig in Sept. 1980. Surreal, indeed.—jt]

Since Loco disbanded, Bounce the Clown (Steven Margil) has been working with his wife Karen Grant-Margil ("Mademoiselle Ooo La La", who is terrific) and sometimes their son Daniel. They're based out of Key West. Cyrus P. Koski (John Sikoski, I believe) is... well, I have no fucking idea where.

I also remember severely pinching my left sciatic nerve in April and spending most of the time in some form of pain. Apart from that, it was a great experience.

And here's an October, 1981 interview with Bounce, conducted by the IJA president, Geno (no last name used):

Geno: I've known you for five years, and seen the changes you've made. Would you review the history of your group and how you got started?

Bounce: We started in 1974 when Cyrus and I first got together at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. We juggled three balls each, but really got into it after going to a local juggling fest. We went our own ways for the summer when I tried to get into Ringling Brothers Clown College, but I didn't get accepted and went back to Amherst and Cyrus. We started passing clubs, and then getting jobs.  Our first job was in the school system, where we did seven shows in three days. It went well, and we decided to try to stay together. Dawn Trina helped us for a little while at the beginning. "Bounce and Cyrus" wasn't a big enough name so we looked in the thesaurus to find one. We found "locomotion" under' 'movement" and decided to stick with it.
From top to bottom: Flip, Bounce, Cyrus

Geno: It seems that juggling was the center of everything at first. When did you get into acrobatics and balancing?

Bounce: We started mostly with juggling and unicycling. Then we saw the Chinese acrobats from Taiwan and that turned us on to doing other circus arts. My size and Cyrus's were perfect for hand balancing together. So, we worked together for about three years and ended up teaching down at Ringling Brothers Clown College. Flip was a student there, we met him in 1976, and he joined us a year later. He's been with us since.

Geno: I started the college circuit in 1975 and I believe you showed up at the end of that year. So, you've put a lot of time in it. There seems to be a lot of interest in performing at colleges now, with more and more jugglers popping up on the circuit all the time. What kind of comments do you have as far as your college work?

Bounce:  Yes, there are a lot of jugglers moving into the college circuit. I think, in large part, Cyrus and I opened the door and showed them this market was there. To get in, you join the NEC, then you showcase at conferences of college entertainment directors.  But life on the road is no picnic. You have a lot of tough times, including the occasional all-night drive. I guess a lot of it depends on how successful you are. The more successful you are, the more you're traveling without stability or a home base. Your home is your vehicle or hotel room.

You meet a lot of new friends in different places, but the travel is taxing. We're at that point now, really traveling around. We performed at close to 100 colleges this year, six to seven months of solid travel. A lot of people want to see our show.,p14.htm


Jef Lambdin said...

Gene Jones was Geno the Clown, also on the NEC college circuit.

Mime Tim Settimi had a performance venue at his home in Atlanta. I once saw Flip do a show there in which he entered from the roof of the garage with a back flip to the ground. Elegant!

jt said...