The Talker is a look
at Showman Bobby Reynolds, it is full of laughs and jackpots of
Bobby's life and time as the Greatest Showman on Earth.
Below excerpt from the
I first met Bobby
Reynolds, self proclaimed Greatest Showman in the World. The
Spring of 1980 at my inaugural festival at a Los Angeles County
Park. A 1700 acre park that we in the Carnival Industry
affectingly call Legg lake. The park is named after a
deceased Los Angeles County Supervisor. The official name is
Whittier Narrows Recreational Area. A warm Spring Southern
California day it was, the door to my office trailer was wide open
and it was easy to spot the man walking across the festival
grounds towards me. He had silver streaked hair combed in a
1950's style pompadour, wearing a grey blazer jacket, white pants,
and a pink ascot around his neck. He climbed the trailer
stairs without asking my permission. Entered my office,
stuck out his hand, and held it there for what seemed an eternity.
Hi, I am Bobby Reynolds, the "World's Greatest Showman and
Sideshow Operator, and Show Biz is my Life". Larry Davis
called me and asked if I wanted to book in to the fair.
Larry Davis, or "The Big Tuna" I used to call him, owned the
Carnival Rides at my event. His Company "Carnival Time
Shows" was widely recognized as the best Carnival in California.
I was the promoter of the event. My respect for Larry was
and still is enormous. So I was happy to accommodate his
strange and bizarre friend.
I finally shook his
hand asked what do you want to book in, and how much frontage
footage do you need? Bobby replied, "My Freakatorium" has a
60' Banner Line, The "Killer Rat Show", needs 30', "Miss Peggy The
Fat Lady Show" needs 30', and The Two Headed Baby Show is a
trailer and needs 20' for the Banner Line. This began 30
years of a friendship that continues until the present time.
Many a cold night has been spent in my office trailer with Bobby
as he regaled me with his stories about how the Carnival Industry
used to be. These types of dialogues are called "Cutting Up
Jackpots" by Bobby. Over the years I found his stories were
more than allegories, the stories were descriptions of a time in
America that has long ago passed away. They are a slice of
my and you the reader's past. Many times I have related
these stories to strangers. Each time, each story, is
greeted by the most pleasant of sounds, laughter. His
stories contain many morals, and strike the listener as hilarious.
The stories, one hijink after another and more hijinks after
those. Bobby has navigated his way through his life from one
unusual situation to another. Slowly I came to the
realization that Bobby's history was our history. At first
telling each little story seemed to stand on its own.
Slowly, there emerged a pattern that morphed into a larger tale.
I realized that these stories are of historical note. A
history of our beloved country, as seen through the eyes of a
Carnival Showman. A time when we were naive and innocent
people, unafraid to spend 50c to have a laugh. The phrase
political correctness had not been coined yet. Bobby is the
last of distinguished line of midway barkers or talkers as they
refer to themselves. They are men and women who can gather a
crowd, or a "tip" by just talking. Bobby is proud to be in
the pantheon of legendary American talkers. When I suggested
to him that the time has come for someone to mold his many stories
into a novel. I was surprised that he agreed to allow me to
write a book about his life. I put off the project for six
months. I hurriedly resurrected the project when I began to
hear stories Bobby's deteriorating health. We all begin to
fail in our 70's and Bobby is 75 or so he claims.
We started his
biography at his kitchen table in his home in Fresno, California.
The house is in a middle class neighborhood and is not unusual
looking, with the exception that he has a life sized statue of an
elephant in his front yard, with a ceramic toilet behind it and a
Freak Museum in his garage. When the last ounce in my cup of
coffee was finished, I held up the empty cup and asked if he had
more in the pot. In a New York second he instantly replied
"you got a dime", with my second cup of coffee we were off and
running. He's talking a mile a minute and I'm writing a 1/2
mile a minute. We had navigated through his life from birth
in the 30's to the 1950's and some of the e1940's when we
adjourned for lunch. Close by his home is a coffee shop
called Perkos on Clovis Ave. We continued the dialogue. I
would ask questions and he would answer. Trying to get a coherent
answer form him is like putting lighting in a jar. Some how
we got to the women in his life. Bobby has been married 13
times. He was having trouble recalling the name of his 5th
wife, the one between Barbara Adler and Bird Feldman, As we talked
I became aware of a silence that had gathered and settled in the
cafe. I looked around and found the lunch crowd at Perkos
was leaning towards us straining to hear what Bobby was saying.
The are of the talker was mesmerizing them. Humor is part of
this every pitch. So Bobby asked our petite teenage waitress
if she was interested in marring him. She could be wife no.
5. She laughed, the crowed laughed, we left. I drove back to
Los Angles and Bobby to his Fresno home.
I hope you find theses
tales as entertaining as I do. This story to be continued in
Chapter One., Just Step Right this Way.
Author - Roy Hassett,
July 2010 "Just Another Boswell"
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