8/6/17: About the nicest person I ever interviewed. So naturally down to earth. He seemed as eager, as challenged and happy to be running a circus then as I imagine he was when he took over management of the Beatty-Cole Circus many decades before. How I wish Johnny Pugh was still on the road. He brings pure gold to the Ring of Fame.
He just might be the nicest guy under the big top. A native of England, he started out as a movie stuntman and performer, along the way executing the more difficult moves as a double for Richard Burton in Cleopatra, and watching the Burton-Taylor romance bloom before his eyes. He joined Clyde Beatty Circus in 1961 and has been with the show ever since.
First performing as an acrobat, following a career-ending injury, Pugh was offered the assistant manager position. From there on up he advanced to the top of the big top.
"For job preservation, I went on to be the owner," Pugh with a laugh told Pat Hatfield of the DeLand, Florida West Volusia Beacon.
Johnny Pugh is not resting on yesterday's spangled memories, and shows no signs of slowing down. "It's a seven-day-a-week job. I enjoy it. It's a great life."
He has also served as a judge for the world's most prestigious international circus competition -- the annual Monte Carlo Circus Festival in Monaco.
Soon, Pugh will be giving something back to the world when he boards an airplane bound for Haiti with a lot more than the acceptable carry-on-bag. He'll have with him a complete three-ring size circus big top, taking it there in response to a Haitian government request. Pugh estimates, given the local help he plans to personally supervise, that it may take a day or so to set the canvas up for much-needed temporary shelter.
The name JOHN PUGH in the Sarasota Circus Ring of Fame should add luster to an institution that in recent years has honored some not-so-distinguished figures. Pugh said the induction was emotional for him. His wife, Brigitte, introduced him at the ceremony.
And the show goes on. Cole Bros. Circus, marking its 126th year in business, opens its 2010 season in DeLand on March 20.
Congratulations, John! Well deserved!
First posted February 18, 2010