original posting date lost
Reviewing the Past Can Be Hazardous to Your Faith ...
Former Pickle Family Circus juggler and artistic director Judy Finelli, at odds with a photo caption reference I make of Lottie Brunn in my book Fall of the Big Top, mentioned in an e-mail to me sometime back that Lottie never "assisted" her famed brother, Francis, as I wrote. "Both were excellent jugglers," says Judy. I chose the word "assisted" because that's all I could recall of Lottie's presence when I first saw the act in 1951, and in at least one Polack program magazine, that's the word used to identify her in a photo.
Finelli (or somebody else) later forwarded me some links to old videos of the Brunn's in performance, and I have long delayed watching them. Perhaps I feared that the film footage would betray my memory. My thinking was that if Lottie did any juggling at the time, she would have been woefully overshadowed by her brother, for when they appeared with Polack Bros. Circus in 1951, the only person I was watching was Mr. Brunn. His astoundingly nimble acrobatics while juggling balls, hoops and clubs in every which direction left me dumbfounded. He carried on like some wizard from outer space possessing extraordinary powers born of another world ... That's what I have long remembered.
Finally, in deference to Judy, today I took the time to download a couple of the video links she sent me. First, I watched Lottie Brunn doing her own act in 1952 went she went solo. She sure does a lot, and she does it very well. Loaded with content, but with little of the choreography and dazzling showmanship that I recall her brother possessing. Or have I glorified my memory of a time when a juggler's magic sent me nearly sky high off a grandstand seat at the Grace Pavilion in Santa Rosa? Memory can be a careless editor. We do have a way of turning mere mortals into sacred cows ...
Then I watched the other video, admittedly afraid that Brunn might disappoint me. This one was of a 1947 vaudeville stage show, during which both of the Brunns work together. So, now, I would be viewing documentary truth of Francis Brunn only a year before John Ringling North lured him to America to appear with the Greatest Show on Earth -- when it was, without a doubt, just that. A forward to the video states that Brunn was compared to Rastelli; the Big Show went a leap further, billing him "greater than the great Rastelli."
When Brunn came on, although his sister did a little juggling during his act as well as assisting him, not only did he affirm my life-long high admiration for his creative genius, he surpassed it. And I feel triumphantly vindicated. Although not everything he did in Santa Rosa is on the tape, I saw other fantastic movements and manipulations that I have not remembered. Much much more, and I am about ready to declare Francis Brunn the greatest circus act I have ever seen. I am sorry, Judy, and all other jugglers of Planet Earth, FRANCIS BRUNN may have no equal, although I remain committed to my opinion that since Brunn opened my eyes to the miracle of circus, the greatest to follow Brunn that I have seen is the intensely dazzling Anthony Gatto, born and trained in our own shores, and currently appearing with Cirque du Soleil's Kooza.
Judge for yourself, World: Tell me if you think we will ever see the likes of what you are about to witness again.