photos of my experience with Big John's Circus. I was
there between '82 and '84.
My time with
Big John is one that I will never forget and I have been asked
if I could play my life over, would I do it again? With out a
dought I'd be there. It was one of the best experiences of my
(everyone in the show called me "Smurf")
Brian AKA Flip Flop the Clown
All images courtesy of Brian R.
all rights reserved.
I thought I would tell
you a little history about the photographs. John Strong III
First the person that sent in these photo's said his name was
"Smurf"? or his real name Brian R. Murphy posted at end of this
I wasn't on the show in the last years of my Fathers Circus.
However I see a lot of picture's here of "Pee Wee" and his wife
Carman. I think Smurf was also called Pee-Wee.
JZ - Jim Zajicek was
there then and would know more from the last two seasons.
What I do know is a lot.
The first picture shows my Father in his gold top hat. That was
taken in 1983.
That top Hat was over 40 years old. My father Big John use to
recover it a different color each year. Same hat only a different
color each year. I remember asking my Father if I could borrow his
Gold Top Hat and Tail Coat in 1985 for a show I was doing at the
Rose Bowl Flea Market for R.G Canning Productions. I use to get
paid to walk 12 foot stilts and meet and greet people coming to
the World's Largest Flea Market held once a month in L.A. area.
Some how I lost my dads 40 year old top hat that day. I really
felt bad about that. Bought my Father another one, but it was
never like his 40 year old gold top hat he had most of his circus
Smurf has a V.I.P. pass for my Dads Circus. I use to have
thousands of them when doing advance work for my Fathers Circus.
These passes were like gold to get the free passes in the schools
or stores in the different towns we were playing.
The Spool Truck rolled up the tent everyday on the many one niters
my Father played. The seats were bolted together 5 high and put
two together for 10 rows of seats to a section.
Pee-wee was a tent crew worker. Met Carman on our Circus. Carmen
taught Pee-wee many Circus skilled acts. I last saw Pee-Wee and
Carman at the Mobile La. Fair two years ago. I was visiting the
fair to see Pete and Athena Kolozsy.
Pee-wee and Carmen were selling water tattoo's they air brushed on
the customers. They had new truck and trailer. Also told me they
had three houses they rent out for income. They came a long ways
Pulling on the guy line is Heidi, Jay Evens, Wally, Chris. I could
go on and on with some of these names. Heidi is our age and we
grew up on our Parents Circus. Since she was three years old. Her
Mother started the Funs-a-Popin Circus to great success. Heidi is
back east with a dog grooming business and has lots of horses
which she loved her whole life. Jay Evens is working with the
Mayor in a large New Mexico City. He was quite a painter and
Pee-wee on top of the tent. He liked to go there to see all the
sights of the new day.
Ron Pace and Chris Kennington also met on my Fathers Circus. Ron
was a black American that was a tent worker. He later took care of
our elephant Neena. He met Chris on our Circus and they did two
different high acts together. Their show names were "Sugar and
Spice". I always called them "Salt and Pepper". lol They are
retired from Circus now and live in Mesa Arizona. Chris also
worked on top of our elephant in the elephant act. With Ron as the
Pee-wee and Carmen also sold peanuts in the Circus peanut Pitch.
You can see them getting the boxes of peanuts out of the semi
Neena gets a bath. Looks like Wally my dad's tent boss for many
years. However not quite sure?
BJ the clown was the main clown in those years. He went on to be
C&M Circus tent boss. Then took over the food concessions on that
business. He is still on that Circus in the concessions business.
Also one of my Fathers #1 fans to this day.
JZ did wire, Rolla Bolla and Juggling act. JZ started as an act in
a few Circuses before he when on to great success in the elephant
business. And now owner of the BSC Sideshow traveling the world.
Chester Cable doing a foot juggling act. Chester could juggle a 10
foot 100 pound table. What an act. Chester met Wini Mckay on our
Circus. They went on to produce their own Circuses world wide.
Many in China. They are right now filming a Movie called "Water
for Elephants" in L.A. area. It's a 40 million dollar movie they
have all the circus props and
acts on the movie.
Henry Cowell did the Tramp act. Boy was this act Funny. He fall
through the springs of the tramp. Even get his head stuck in the
springs. Then he kick his legs wildly to try to get loose. I would
laugh every time he performed. The Cowell own their own small
family circus and play mostly fairs in Ca. Henry is still
performing his famous Tramp act at 80 years young.
Well it was fun looking back in time. Thanks to Brian R. Murphy-
'Smurf" for some great pictures.
If JZ has some
facts for this time. Lets here them.
(JZ - Jim Zajicek
aka The Curator -
The Tent show pictures
have to be from '83 cause the show became Kelly-Miller in
'84...What wonderful photo's...The Spool believe it or not was
hand cranked....In the 4th photo down from right to left pullin
the tent off the spool is Jay Evans, Zippo aka Ted Tutwiler
(Deceased), Jim Z, Mark Vossa, obscured by Vossa, Pee-Wee,BJ aka
Jim Hebert (Current Concession Mgr on CM Circus), Obscured by BJ,
Carlos Rivera, Donicker Dave Kilowatt aka David Donahue, Ed
Rivera...John, Smurf was Smurf, Chitlin and Grits were the
Brothers that bounced back and forth from Vargas and Big John
Strong...Not Smurf. The 2 years I was
with The Big John Strong Circus were 2 of the Best years of my
life...The people I met there became Lifelong Friends, and I
learned more about Shows in those 2 years then in any other 2 year
time frame in my Life...If you were Loyal (With it and For it)
what Big John didn't pay you in cash he would pay you in
opportunity, to Learn! Good Deal for Big John, Good Deal for those
wise enough to see the pay-day would be in the Future if they
stayed in the Business.. I only worked for Big John 2 seasons...But
he helped and was interested in me till the day he died...and My
story with Big John is one of the lesser ones...Many, many People
were influenced and cut their teeth with Big John and have similar
and grander stories of Big Johns Loyalty and help in their
Careers, Big John to many, was their Father in the Circus, myself
included. I miss him dearly.... The Curator)
I just tore down at a large fair. Have to travel many miles to my
Little John Strong
Proud Son of "Big John Strong"
"The Man with more Friends than Santa Clause"
Tall Grass Showman
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