NORBERT TERHURNE

 

A.K.A. “POOBAH” and “LITTLE PETE”

 

 

EXPIRED JULY 30, 2012

Brandon FL

 

Born Jan. 19, 1930 Breckenridge, Minn.

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A dwarf when he started public school in 1936, He was teased and bullied by some other school children because of his odd shape & size. 

 

When returning home from that first day in tears, his distraught mother for Bade him from going to school again.  Sadly he never learned to read or write. 

 

He worked at whatever meager jobs he could get, becoming a welcomed sight to the local citizens.

 

In 1954 Ward Hall brought his show to Breckenridge for the county fair, Geri Burke one of the performers; ask Ward, “Have you seen the cute little dwarf selling newspapers?”  When Ward replied in the affirmative, she inquired if she might recruit him for the show?  An hour later back on the lot Ward suggested since the local people knew “Pete”; he would have a clown’s makeup and take tickets.  A really flourish coarse.  Each customer hanging, the ticket, remarked “Hi Pete see you’re working the fair”.

 

A sad Pete was left in Breckenridge when the show made a long jump to Springfield MO.  Two weeks later on arrival at the Fargo North Dakota Fair, there was Pete waiting for the show, he had learned the show would be there, so he just told his mother that he was going to visit his sister in Fargo.

 

Pete wanted to play the South Dakota State Fair, so Ward detoured the show jump to go through Breckinridge to get his mother permission.  She said “put him on a bus and send him home when it’s over.  Pete had other ideas.  He wanted to stay with the show, which he did for the next 55 years.

 

Next fair was Spencer, Iowa on the second day a sheriff appeared looking for Pete, after a few minute of conversation he approached Ward explaining, Pete’s mother had call asking the law to make sure Pete was not there against his will.

 

Wards partner Harry Leonard took charge of training Pete as a performer, juggling, fire eater, sword dancing, lifting weights with a hook in his tongue, being Harry’s target man in his “Leonardo’s” knife throwing act, and the care and handling of the snakes.

By 1956 a show with only Pete and the snakes “Midget and the Monsters”, that winter he performed at the Shrine Circus in Macon GA, and toured with Byron Goshes “All American Indoor Circus.”   Summers were at fairs with Hall and Leonard sideshow.  In the spring of 1960 Pete worked about 6 weeks at the renowned “Hubert’s Museum on 43nd St. New York City.

 

Every Spring from 1961 through 1967 Pete was featured as the “Loveble Little Clown” with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey, in makeup he simply stood on his stage shook hands and sold a postcard sized photo of himself.  He sure sold a lot of photos, a new one each year.  One spring a prop boy put a chair near the bear cages offering a clear view of Pete on stage, it was a Sat. matinee sideshow performed for a one and a half; a well dressed man was ushered to the chair where he remained the entire time.  When the whistle blew signaling the end of the sideshow and the start of the circus in the main arena, the gentleman come over the Pete’s stage where Ward was then assisting Pete.  The gentleman asks Pete if he knew who he was Pete replied politely negatively as Ward spoke “I know who you are Mr. Pat Valdo, who books all the acts for the circus.  Mr., Valdo replied, “I have been watching Pete for all this time, and I think he may be the best clown on this circus.”  Ward asked why Mr. Valdo thought that.  He said, I have been watching him for an hour and a half, and he never stopped smiling, he then ask Pete if he would like to perform with the other clowns upstairs in the main show?   Pete smiled and shook his head No! Mr. Valdo was a bit startled by the answer and rebutted “But Why?” Pete made a simple observation “because the clowns upstairs are not allowed to sell their photos.

 

Those years at the Gardens were probably the happiest times of his life, he had his own hotel room the city to play in and there was never a lack of pretty girls in his life to romance.  He had a good size box with small photos of all his girl friend’s.

 

1963 Harry built a show where Pete performed all the acts himself, called “Pygmy Village”.  Harry said just like in the opera “Mikado” where “Poobha” does it all himself, the name stuck and he was know by the name Poobah the rest of his life.

 

Again in 1963 N.B.C. TV, news did an hour long TV documentary “Carney” Poobah & “Pigmy Village” are highlighted in it.

 

The last movie he performed in was “Passion Play” with Mickey Rouke and Megan Fox filmed in New Mexico in the fall of 2009 and released in 2010.  It was not a hit.

 

Poobah appeared in many movies and T.V. shows, His favorite was an M.G.M. movie “Carny” with Jody Foster, filmed on location at Savannah GA. 1979 Poobah is seen all the way throughout the movie.

 

In 1963 and 64 Ward and Harry did a lot of publicist work for the Kiddie Films of Ken (K Gordon) Murray’s Trans International Film Co.  In the summer of 1964 Murray made three Kiddie Films on location at Santa Claus IN.  In all of them, Harry portrayed the “Big Bad Wolf” and Poobah was in all as “Puss in Boots.”

 

In Nov. Harry & Ward were doing publicity for the films.  Harry died in N.Y.C. Nov. 24th.  Murray switched Ward and Pete to do a publicist tour for “Puss-in-Boots: throughout the U.S. and Canada finishing in time to make it to New York City for Madison Square Garden’s.

 

For 1963 a young man came from Buffalo to work at the sideshow.  He became friends with all those on the show.  Chris Christ and Pete became best friends, until Pete’s death.

 

Chris always regarded Pete as his little brother, although Pete was it years older than Chris.

 

Chris soon invested in the business and soon became president of the corporation.

 

Hall & Christ fielded may show units, Pete went with the unit operated by Dick Johnson, and became a member of his family.  Daughters Lisa 5 yes and Sharri 8 soon had a new brother Richard.  Pete and the Johnson Family remained close to his life’s end.  For Lisa’s wedding to Fred Anato, Marge Porter tailored a beautiful tuxedo for Pete at the receptions Lisa honored Pete with the first dance I never saw him so proud and happy as he was that day.

 

In theatre shows his natural bend for comedy reflected himself, he played miner rolls in 1960, 1979, 1995 in theater musicals.

 

From about 1996 through 2008, Pete was mostly a fire eater in front of the sideshow doing as many as 25 demonstrations a day.

 

Lori Ballard Photography

 

Of all the many things Pete did in show business, being a circus clown was his favorite,

 

THE CIRCUS HE CLOWNED ON,

 

1956 – Byron Gosh all American indoor Circus

1959 – Al G. Kelly & Miller Bros.

1961 – 1967 – Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Madison Square Garden.

1987 – 2009 – IISA – Gibsonton

1984 – Roller Bros.

1985 – Alan Hill’s Circus U.S.A.

1986 – Toby Tyler

 

Norbert - Pete - Poobah – YOU ARE MISSED!

 

Ward Hall

 


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