Sideshow In Madison Square Garden
There was no set time for the sideshow
to open at Madison Square Garden. We all had to be there by noon
and be ready. It would depend on how may people were gathering
outside of the Garden, when the sidewalk got full then they would
open the doors and let them in, that's when we opened.
What they would do is have someone upstairs, I don't even know
who it was that did it, but as soon as they would let the people
in they would blow a whistle. When we would hear the whistle (it
was like the one the equestrian director would use) then somebody
downstairs like the head of the animal determent would blow his
whistle then all the animal men would get into position and we
would also get into position by the time the people started down
We would get tremendous crowds down there because there wasn't any
admission to the sideshow or the menagerie if you came into the
Garden then you were automatically entitled to the sideshow and
the menagerie also as well as your seat upstairs.
We would work, let me use myself as an example, I would do the
Ventriloquist thing, segue into the magic, and then make the
sell. As soon as I could sell everything that I could I would
start all over again. Everybody would continue to do this until
the whistle blew. As soon as the whistle blew it didn't matter
what you were doing, if you were in the middle of a sale, if you
were in the middle of the act, if you were just starting an act it
made no difference, what ever you were doing when the whistle blew
you would say "Now ladies and gentleman it is time for the circus
to start, we thank you for attending the sideshow please take the
stairways up to the seats." That was it, you just stopped right
there, because they wanted everybody out of there.
They paid us a set amount for the sideshow plus we got to keep all
of our pitch money. Everybody down there sold something. I sold
the magic packages which were the most lucrative, next to the
rings, the giants rings, they were the best selling pitch down
I would say the giants rings, the magic tricks and next to that
would be the miniature bibles that were sold on the midgets, after
that was probably the sword swallower. I did something different
with her, I had a special picture made of her were she was just
holding the sword not swallowing it. She had her head back with
her mouth open, I would have them punch a hole right there where
her mouth was and she would have
these little cocktail swords, they were little gold cocktail
swords we would buy them by the gross. She would say here is my
picture and I will swallow a sword for you anytime you wanted.
Then she would take the sword and put it in her mouth in the
picture, she sold a lot of those. I don't know if she sold more
of those or little Pete, Poohba sold of his pictures.
Anyway Little Pete Terhurne, Poohba as he was known, was made up
as a clown and we had a sign up behind his stage it said "meet our
lovable little clown and get his photograph for only ten cents."
When he came in right at first we had him walk the sword latter,
around the second day Nate came to me and said "you better take
out the sword ladder." I asked him "why, what’s Pete going to
do?" He said that it was taking up too much of his time and he
couldn't sell his pictures. Pete would sell between twenty five
and thirty five thousand pictures there every spring.
I want to tell you something about little Pete. As I was telling
you he worked in clown make-up. Pat Valdo who was a fine, fine
gentleman, had been the talent scout so to speak. He hired all
the performers for the circus.
One day he had somebody bring him a
chair and he set over by the end of one of the cage wagons where
he could watch Pete. He sat in that chair for the whole hour and a
half. When the whistle blew, I was over on Pete's stage and we
were counting up his money when Mr. Valdo came over and said "I'm
Pat Valdo, I don't know if you know me or know who I am." I said
"Oh Yes! Mr. Valdo we certainly know who you are." He said "I
have just been sitting over there for the last hour and a half
watching this little clown and I will tell you he is the best
clown we have in this entire circus." I said "why would you say
that Mr. Valdo"? For that hour and a half he never quit smiling.
He then turned and said to Pete "wouldn't you like to perform
upstairs with the rest of the clowns in the arena." Pete said "no
Sir I wouldn't", Mr. Valdo said "why not," because he figured he
would jump at the opportunity you know. He said "well, why not?"
Pete looked at him and said "the clowns don't get to sell
pictures." Valdo just smiled and he said "I thank you!"
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