Lori Ballard Photography

 

You will be forever missed on midways across the country!  Lori Ballard

 


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I.I.S.A. Memorial for Pete Terhune

Norbert "Pete" Terhune Memorial


Norbert - Pete - Poobah

YOU ARE MISSED! - Ward Hall

A Video Tribute to Poobah

by Lane Talburt


a

POOBAH

 

Devote to the Oddity Who is My Best Friend

 

I must devote the most space in the book to the oddity who is my best friend and who has been with me in good times and bad for thirty-six years. I sometimes joke that "Pete isn't very reliable, he probably won't stay with the show". He's only been here for thirty-six years!

We were in Breckenridge, Minnesota, for the county fair. Gerri Burke, one of our show girls who was always kidding around asked me if she should "Go promote the dwarf we had seen on the main street earlier in the day". I responded for her to try. To my surprise an hour later she returned with a handsome little fellow with bright blue eyes and golden curly hair. He did want to work for the week so we had him bally and take tic kets. This being a small community we put him in clown make up to mask his identity. Just about everyone who came in the show recognized him. greeting him by name. He enjoyed his week with us and was sorry to see it end.

After three weeks we were in Fargo, North Dakota. Pete's sister lived there. He decided to spend that week at her home. On opening day he persuaded Audrey to bring him to the fair. He wished to be with the show for the week. Of course we were glad to see him. My partner Harry taught Pete the iron tongue act where he places a hook in his tongue, lifting   weights with it. Harry also provided Pete with is first stage name, "Poobah", borrowed from a character in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Mikado".

Our next jump to the South Dakota State Fair at Huron took us through Breckenridge. Pete asked me to stop and talk his mother Gladys into allowing him to cont inue on to Huron. She agreed with the stipulation that we would put him on a bus for Breckenridge at the close of that fair. Pete was very shy. He would only go to the front of the fair to go to a restaurant if Geni, Harry or myself were going. By mid-week it was obvious that Pete was unhappy. I assumed he was getting homesick, so I consoled him, reminding him he would be returning home in a few days. The problem was that he didn't want to return home and asked if he could please keep his job. He was twenty-four years old, so I readily agreed. We sent his mother a telegram to that effect and proceeded to Spencer, Iowa.

When we had opened there we were visited by a Clay County Sheriffs deputy, who requested speaking with Pete. Pete's mother just wished to be sure he was okay and that he wanted to be there.

That season closed the last week of October in Anniston, Alabama. We stayed there the next week so we could attend the Ringling circus, after which we took Pete to the Birmingham  airport. He flew home for the winter.

The following spring, Pete was back and that winter he spent with Harry and I in Miami. We enjoyed many fun days at the beach that year.

Pete's parents were overly protective of him, to his detriment. On his first day of school, some other boys made fun of his dwarfism. He came home in tears, his mother never allowed him to return to school, resulting in his being illiterate. After a few days , the other school children would have become accustomed to his difference. He would have been accepted and educated, since the basic intelligence exists, and he learns fast.
 

Gem City Shows Bainbridge GA. Oct 1954  Hall & Leonard Show
 Left to Right Ward Hall - Jan Del Rio - Diane - Frank Donnell - Pete - Harry Leonard


When our seasonal business was good , we had Pete stay the winter with us. If we were broke, he would have to spend the winter in Minnesota. For many years now, Pete will visit his sister and remaining family in Minnesota, but this is his permanent home. He had been treated as a child until he joined the show. Therefore, the first tune he was treated like a man.

Wintertime often found us performing in night clubs or theatre revues, where Pete participated in comedy routines. He learned to juggle, eat fire, and handle large snakes. In his third year -with us, we didn't take the sideshow on the road. We built a show titled The Midget and the Monsters", where Pete occupied an enclosure with a large boa constrictor.

During a weeks run in Toledo. Ohio, the big snake died. We ordered a replacement, but took a few days to arrive, It was springtime, money was short Pete believes the old adage The show must go on". He took his usual stance with the boa corpse. When people were suspicious asking the snake was dead, Pete would cock his head, and with a sly smile, would retort, "NO, it's just sick". He soon got bored with the inactivity of that show. He always enjoyed actively entertaining.

On a Sunday off, Harry, Pete and I went to the movies. Approaching the box office the cashier inquired, "Two adults and one for the little boy"? Pulling himself up on his tip toes, he said indignantly, "I'm, no little boy, I'm a man"! Such an assault on his manhood would surely anger him.

Pete's legal name is Norbert. For theatre shows he is "Little Lord Leon". The sideshow world has always known him as "Poobah". While in the circus industry, he is "Pete the Clown". Pete has clowned on numerous circuses with which we were associated. For six years, he was a clown in the sideshow of Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey at Madison Square Gardens, New York. As was the custom of sideshow acts, Pete sold his photo to his fans, he was the only Ringling clown allowed to sell to the audience at the garden, and he sold a lot of them.

Pat Valdo the venerable performance director for RBBB, and himself a clown, one matinee, watched Pete for the entire hour and a half he was on stage. When the performance ended, Mr. Valdo shook Pete's hand saying, "You are the best clown with this circus, because you smiled all the time you were on stage. Would you like to be a clown in the arena performance upstairs"? Pete thanked him for the compliment, declining his offer with the explanation that he preferred to be in the sideshow since the big top clowns were unable to get the extra money with the photo sales.

There could be no doubt Pete's income was far more than any of the well publicized Ringling clowns.

Harry's health was failing in 1963, so instead of having the big sideshow we built a small show which we titled "Pygmy Village". I worked the front doing the "talking" and selling tickets, Harry was the inside lecturer. Pete was "Poobah, the Pygmy", dressed in leopard skins, he wasn't very ferocious looking. He juggled, ate fire, danced barefoot on broken glass, did the iron tongue act, handled the snake, and Harry threw knives around him. In July while at the Muncie, Indiana Fair, our show was filmed (this was prior to video tape) for a CBS TV special, "Carny". It was aired the following April, narrated by
Sally Rand. She commented when Pete was shown doing his acts, 'Well, Hall didn't promise six pigmy, he promised six acts".

That was Pete's first TV show, since then he has been seen on close to one hundred.

In 1965, he acted as "Puss n Boots" in three movies produced by Ken Murray.

When Harry died of a heart attack in New York, he and I were on a movie promotional tour for Ken Murray, who kindly had Pete and I take a nationwide tour including Canada to publicize his movie "Puss n' Boots". That winter Pete did TV shows day after day in cities all across the country. We finished that tour just in time to go to New York for the Ringling Madison Square Gardens showing.

We had to fly from Houston to New York. We were running a little late and had fifty pieces of baggage. When the taxi loaded down with luggage arrived at the airport, I suggested Pete arrange for porters to deliver it to check in while I pick up the tickets, reminding him to tip the sky cap. Once reclining in the plane, as it was taxiing for take off, Pete gave me the baggage claim checks. Upon asking if he tipped the porter well, his upper mid-west thriftiness surfaced as he replied he had given him fifteen cents.

While working the circus in New York that year and the next, he moonlighted at the Biograph Movie Studios having bit parts in three movies. In 1982 and 1983, he performed with "Wondercade" revue dancing in production numbers and doing comedy. His career is a busy one, doing the full season on the sideshow, at circuses and fairs, while performing off season at conventions, circuses, etc.

He says his biggest thrill was to be invited to perform at all four of the Spring Celebrations (1979-1982), at the Museum of American History, Entertainment Division of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

 

Ward Hall

 

from Ward's book  My Very Special Friends

 

     Lori Ballard Photography

 

     Lori Ballard Photography

 


May your sleep be peacefully on the road and your performance be perfect for the angles on that great midway in the sky.

 

See you down the road!

 

John Robinson Sideshow World

 


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!"

 

Ward Hall

 


SMILES AND LAUGHS

A couple of funny stories about Pete

 

                          Lori Ballard Photography

 

We had a strange thing happen with Poohba (little Pete), we had a lot of strange things happen with Poohba but this one thing in particular.

You probably have never met anyone that is obsessed with doing their laundry. Pete always enjoyed doing his laundry, I think that may be because when he goes to the Laundromat the woman will fawn over him or something like that you know! We were making a seventeen hundred mile jump from Regina Saskatchewan to Toronto Ontario Canada. We were on the number one highway from Western to Eastern Canada. But that’s not saying a hell of a lot in 1983 it was just a two lane highway. We had five semi’s on our show that year, we had this guy I don't remember his name right now but we called him the 'Polak', because he was from Poland. He was driving along out in the middle of nowhere, way out in the middle of the woods. He dam near ran off the road, well actually he did run off the road and almost went over a cliff with the truck. He was pulling our office and living quarters. Chris came along and said "what are we going to do? If we move it I'm afraid it is going to go over the cliff." Finally someone found a phone or Chris used a radio and called it in. After a while they finally sent these two big wreckers out and it took both of them to get the truck back on the road. One of the wreckers was hooked onto truck to stabilize it, while the other wrecker was used to pull it back upon the road. We had all these sideshow people traveling with us and the worst thing you can do is to have all these people under your feet when you are trying to direct this kind of an operation. Or each of them trying to get their two cents into the conversation. There was this big rock over on the other side of the road, so Chris ordered everybody to go over and sit on that rock. You need to picture this, In the middle of this operation, (SMILES AND LAUGHS) the semi is just about to go over the cliff and these two big wreckers are trying to pull it up. Well, Pete came over and pulled on Chris’s pant leg, Chris stops and says to Pete “yes what do you want?”. Pete said “could you take me to do my laundry right now?” (SMILES AND LAUGHS)

 

 

Photograph by Dan Gottesman

 

Now I want to share another story about Pete with you that is a similar situation. It was in the winter of 1964 and 65 here is Gibsonton. We don't know for sure what caused the fire but it was an electrical short of some kind. It was about six thirty or seven o’clock in the morning, Chris came into my bed room and woke me up, he said “get out of here right now the trailer is on fire.” I grabbed some clothes and started to get dressed and he said “just get out of here.” Chris was running around in just his underwear, no shoes. The fire was probably caused by one of those electric heaters we were using it probably over-heated a line. Well anyway, it was one of those nights we get every once in awhile where it gets very cold here in Florida, you know where there is frost on the ground. The first thing that Chris did was, (Pete wasn't staying in our trailer he had another one where he was living) he got on the phone and called the fire department. He grabbed a fire extinguisher, at that time the fire was mostly on the outside of the trailer, but it was just about to break through the wall into a closet. Chris was running around with the fire extinguisher trying to get the fire under control which he was able to. While we were waiting for the fire department to arrive, Pete saw all of the excitement so he got up and came out of his trailer to see what was going on. It was right before Christmas and Chris had promised Pete that for a Christmas gift he was going to take him up to the Adult bookstore and buy him a video tape. I am going to say this is three days before Christmas at seven o’clock in the morning, Chris is out there with no clothes on, running around with no shoes trying to put this fire out on the frosty grass. Pete came up to Chris and pulled on him, Chris said “yes Pete what do you need?” Pete said “can you take me to the store and get me my tape right now?” (SMILES AND LAUGHS)

 

Ward Hall
 


 

YES IT IS TRUE NORBERT "PETE" TURHUNE ALSO KNOWN A POOBAH PASSED AWAY IN HIS CHAIR. CHRIS CHRIST AND WARD HALL IS TALKING TO PETE'S SISTER AND IS MAKING ARRANGEMENTS. SO PETE YOU ARE NOW IN THE BIG MIDWAY IN THE SKY. YOU WILL BE MISSED BY ALL YOU FRIENDS AND FANS EVERYWHERE.


I'LL SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD!

"RED!"

RED,

 


 

Peace be with you, Pete. --- I shot this photo three Januarys ago when I spent a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening afternoon with Ward at his home. While there, I met Chris and Pete as well. As I wrote in another post, only last night I dreamed of Pete for some reason. In the dream -- which was located on some midway of my mind, there was Pete, strolling toward me with that big grin. The only other thing I recall is that I wanted, in the dream, to say "good-bye" -- but did not. How odd that was -- and just last night. I only met Pete officially once, though I saw him on several midways and films. --- He must have had such an amazing life! He was truly one-of-a-kind. 

 

Drew Edward Hunter

 


The biggest little talent in the world! RIP.

 

Todd Robbins
 


 

I have just learned of the sad passing of one of the last of the old-time sideshow greats, Pete Turhune, better known in this business as "Poobah", has passed away. I remember first seeing Pete back in the early 70's, at the Florida State Fair, in the days when the midway was mostly actual shows and few rides and games. In the decades that passed I would see him on the bally of Ward & Chris' show eating fire with that big grin and making his eyebrows jump up and down in amusement at his feat. I had also seen him perform the "Iron Tongued Wonder" act on many occasion as well. Everyone simply loved him - it was VERY easy to do. Although he might have been short in stature, but made up for it with a huge heart and giant personality. I know he had retired from performing a few years back and recently had to be placed in a rest home to be cared for. Even though his death is unwelcome to his friends and loved ones, it came to him as a blessing in disguise, as he will be at peace and no longer have to be in that lonely home. RIP my little friend... :o(

 

Mark Frierson

 


 

That pink bunny suit is one of my favorites things ever. Pete was certainly one of a kind.

 

RIP brother Pete.

 

D.B. Doghouse

 


 

 

Rest In Peace - Pete "Poobah" Terhurne. :'( You have left me with many, many fond memories that I recall time and time again. You were so much more than just a co-performer during my time out with the World of Wonders carnival sideshow. You helped me through a few really rough times and were always great to be with and around! You will always be special to me - not for being a fire eating dwarf - but for just being you... Even after I stopped touring with the show, but would stop in to visit in Florida, you were always the most pleasant person with a smile as long as the brim of your hat. Thank you, Pete, for all of the wonderful memories. I will miss you, my friend, as will all of the lives you've touched. Until we meet again in that Big Top in the hereafter..... Rest easy, Poobah. 

 

Ses Carny

 


So sad to hear that Norbert "Pete" Turhune, AKA Poobah has passed away. He spent MANY years entertaining others, and bringing smiles to faces. I'll never forget the first time I saw him perform. He'll be greatly missed. Our hearts go out to his family, and to Ward, Chris and, Red who've known him longer than we've been alive. 

 

Switchblade Sideshow

 


 

                                                Lori Ballard Photography

 


I can not believe this sad sad news. Lil' Pete was a hero. I literally watched Pete on Ward Hall's Bally Stage at the Indiana State Fair when I was growing up for years and years. In 2005 I was able to perform on stage with him as a sword swallower with the World of Wonders Sideshow at Tampa... Something so incredible I can hardly wrap my head around it. RIP, Poobah, the fire you ate for so many decades lit my path to the greatest part of my life. Thank you for all the shows! 

 

Alexander Kensington

 


R.I.P. Pete Terhune, whose charms lightened the burdens of the people, one bally stage at a time. May the fond memories of your years together give you the strength to deal with his loss.

 

Paul Szauter

 


 

Photograph by Chip Weiner

 


Petey was a true trouper, performer, clown, carny... he was with ward for decades and you could always find him half asleep on stage with that damn snake,,, or thrilling folks with his fire or eye lid lifting,,, he had the eye for the ladies and a good vantage point for the viewing,,, hope he was happy until the end ,, bless him ,,and ward and Chris for being his family for all these years .  

 

Prof. Ouch

 


R.I.P. Pete Terhune...


My sincerest condolences to "POOBAH'S" true family, Ward, Chris, and all the others who lived and worked on a daily basis with Pete, who may have been diminutive in stature, but known to us, his peers, as a great Showman

May the Angels find you as delightful as did we your friends and colleagues

 

Lee Kolozsy

 


Ward, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Pete. I am sorry for your loss and I know that you will have many fond memories of working with him. He was a GREAT partner in your Show and a wonderful and warm person. He was always smiling when I saw him... and I am sure he is smiling down on you now. Rest In Peace Pete Terhune. YOU will be missed. 

 

Scott Mclelland

 


                                              Lori Ballard Photography

 


I considered Pete my buddy on the Hall & Christ shows. When we were in the Tampa area two summers ago, Chris informed me that Pete was now at a nursing home, but neglected to say which one. So we never did get to swing by for a rendezvous.

When I was in Gibtown in the early 2000's, I'd often drive down to the Giant's Camp or over to the Showtown to pick him up, where he'd walked for dinner. Sometimes we'd go to dinner together, for old times' sake. Pete and I shared a meal many times. We worked and lived together on the show, and shared a hotel room in DC for the Ringling show there in 1975.

I knew Pete was illiterate, and one of the little amusing things was at a diner, when he'd meticulously study the menu. Once the waitress was out of earshot, I'd quietly read my own menu to him, so he could make an informed choice. Then the waitress would announce that his meal came with one or two sides, and what would he like....? With her standing there, I couldn't very well dictate the list of sides. He had an old trick, though. He'd crunch up his nose and finally ask, "Uh, do you have any sliced tomatoes?" He knew that's something that's rarely printed on the menu! So the waitress would say she'd check with the kitchen, and sure enough, he'd get his plate of sliced tomatoes! He had little gimmicks like that to work around his disability, like most of us do. And they worked just fine for him.

It's pretty ironic, really, that Pete passed sleeping in a chair. Many were the times he'd lay down in the grass or even on hard pavement, for a brief nap. Sometimes somebody would see him and panic, running to Ward with the news that his dwarf is dead.

He's not dead. He's just sleeping there! Sleep well, my friend.

Fred Lulling
aka Mephisto

 


 


Pete "Poobah" Turhurne was one of the last of the greats! He is probably the last of the old time "freaks", and I don't mean that in a derogatory way.... He made a honest living entertaining millions for decades as a clown as well as a sideshow performer. He even had a ten in one framed completely around him being the only performer doing ALL ten acts! He trouped with Ward Hall and Chris Christ until he could no more... You would always see him sitting on the bally with a snake or eating fire ( Ward saying Poobah are you going to eat Chocolate or Vanilla). I always looked forward to seeing him as well as talking to him! He will be missed immensely by the entire sideshow community! We lost one of the greats!

 

Kevin Gerrone

 


 

So sad to hear of the death of Little Pete "Poobah" Turhurne.  He led an incredible life and the time I spent with him was a privilege.

 

Simon Tatum

 


There's no business like show business and "Poobah" was one of the best. He learned from the best in the business, Ward and Chris. I never got to share the stage or tent with Pete but I always knew when the show was in town because Pete lit up like the torches he carried for so many years. He would always have a kind word and a smile that said: "Hi I’m Poobah and I'm happy to be here for your entertainment." Pete, I guess you heard the fat lady singing that final number and had to return home to that midway in the sky. May all your days be circus days and may you rest before your next spiritual jump.

 

Mark Mysterrio

World Record Holder& Magician

 


Today my friend Pete Terhune died at 81. He was a great performer with 60 years of showbiz under his belt, I'll always remember his kind and gentle ways, truly the end of an era.

 

Matthew Bouvier

 


 Lori Ballard Photography

 

Pete was the Biggest Sideshow Star I have ever have known personally, I cherish his Friendship and his memory will forever be in my Heart...

 

Jim Zajicek

 


A giant personality in a small body... A big smile and a BIGGER heart... RIP Petey.

 

Jim Hand

 


   

Photographs by Adam Pantozzi

 


Photographs by Joel Sartore

 


Photographs by Joey Harrison

 


Photographs by Waltcore

 


Giant Francis Cook - Pete Turhune aka Little Poobah 1977- Dallas

 

Photographs by Nick DeWolf

 


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