Lee would you take a few moments to introduce yourself to
I'm the guy that may just teach you a thing or two about
Let's start at the
beginning, how did it all get started for you?
One of my earliest childhood memories is of riding among
Circus wagons bouncing along on the flatcars of the Show
Train crossing the Alps. I was already a seasoned veteran, a
cosmopolitan world traveler, and a working Showman at the
age of three...
You say one of your first memories was riding among Circus
Wagons, and your were already a seasoned veteran, a
cosmopolitan world traveler, and a working Showman at the
age of three. Would you give us more background of what
your experiences were at that time of your life?
A whirlwind of travel and adventure. An overdose of global
culture. Gorging myself on strange languages and customs, at
an endless smorgasbord of humanity. All still shell shocked
and recovering from the greatest war on earth. A common
denominator of wounded humanity stretching across Europe,
desperately seeking to escape the bitter memories of a war
that destroyed all fun. We brought fun. We were heroes
arrived to save the day…
All still shell shocked and recovering from the greatest war
on earth. What did your family do during the war, did they
perform, teach etc. and what effect did the war have on the
Conscripted to serve the war machine of the Nazis under
occupation, they served the Allies in the underground. All
between practice sessions at the school gymnasium...
We brought fun. We were heroes arrived to save the day…from
your perspective what impact did your show have on the
population. Was it healing, a diversion, etc.
Postwar Europe was ragged. Circuses were immensely popular.
People seemed happy at the shows...
Iron Curtain Circuses accomplished the same effect in the
Popular shows are always good for public morale...
Much of my knowledge of this era is gathered from stories
told by my parents...
I actually remember things like riding my bicycle around the
big top and unexpectedly finding my way blocked by a train
of rolling cages, filled with snarling wild animals all
pissed off about the bumpy ride from the train yard to the showgrounds. Some gilly was yelling at me in Polish. I
managed to stop the brakeless two-wheeled contraption
despite his best efforts to distract me. Without my ability
to focus and get the job done, I could have easily ended up
under the wheels like cat meat...
When did your family leave Europe and come to the United
Late fifties I believe…
was the reason they came to America?
yes, America the land of opportunity. What was it that your
parents were looking for and did they find it? IF so, is the
opportunity still available today?
They simply wished to prosper by entertaining others…
They met with enormous success…
Their grandkids all still participate in and own part of the
The family now has more show than we can operate at any
We are offered more opportunities than we have time to
There are greater opportunities in the world of
entertainment than ever before…
At one time or the other most of us have thought we wanted
to run off and join the circus. In your case you did. What
influence did your family have on you and did they encourage
or warn you against working in the industry?
I have never "run off and joined" anything...
Show business has always been my life. I grew up backstage
at the finest shows around the world. I studied the art
firsthand from an early age. My school day was scheduled
around show times. My classroom doubled as a dressing room…
My parents were educated people, they both held degrees, my
father was an instructor at a prestigious Circus School in
Budapest. They both took Show Business very seriously. They
encouraged me to study and learn, and warned me to distrust
authority and convention...
To me, there is no "Industry," all of Show Biz is an
interrelated field of study...
Show business has always been my life, I studied the art
firsthand from an early age, my school day was scheduled
around show times. Would you explain what it was like to
spend your days with the circus, and does it differ from the
experience your children have today?
We were lousy with fun… A thrill-a-minute… Never-a-dull-ll-ll-moment…
This is according to my troupe of offspring who are now
poised on the springboard. Pretty well sums up what I
remember. It must go with the route...
Nobody would believe the amount of misery one must endure to
create all the fun...
My kids know precisely…
Have your children followed you into the business?
So far, every one of my kids has, at one time or another,
traveled with a show, performed in the Circus, sold tickets,
made a pitch, spun cotton candy, studied between shows,
worked with wild animals, took part in hitching a truck to a
trailer, loading props, and all the many things that go with
Circus life, and they all perceive Show Business as
My eldest son is currently on the road, operating several
family owned show productions at major entertainment events…
would believe the amount of misery one must endure to create
all the fun. Most of us have heard the term, You've got to
pay your due, if you want to play the blues. What dues does
a showman have to pay? Why and how long?
Constant and never ending. And that's just the privilege...
No health and dental plan either...
"I wasn't born a freak. I became one. Not a freak of nature,
I was a cultured freak." Could you give me some background
about this statement, and how it has affected your life?
What people commonly refer to as "freaks of nature" are
merely abnormalities created by genetic or other factors,
What I refer to as, "a cultured freak", is an abnormality
created by social and cultural conditions...
Freaks usually tend to regard themselves as quite normal,
and others as being different We all feel more comfortable
around people with whom we share something in common, I am
most comfortable in the company of Showpeople, a group which
society considers freakish at best...
a group which society considers freakish at best. Why do you
say that and what are some of the reasons?
The front pages of the supermarket tabloids feature
scandals, mass murderers, the morbidly obese, Bigfoot and
Elvis sightings, Royalty, Freaks, and of course, Showpeople…
I know with your children you have had 3 generations in the
industry, What has been the biggest challenges working with
your family and why?
Working with one's family is the way God intended for
society to be. The finest cultures and greatest
civilizations in human history have been family centered.
Primitive cultures have always been all about the family...
I truly admire the Amish, they live in an iconoclastic
society much like Showpeople...
The biggest threat to the family is now government and the
school system. Both force feed values to people which serve
the agenda of the system and stifle both creativity and
To homogenize, is essentially to destroy...
The educational system now consists largely of people who
don't understand the material, checking to see if others who
can't understand it, are able to repeat portions of it
The purpose of education today seems to be to program people
to be manageable, when it fails, the task falls to the
homogenize, is essentially to destroy. I have given this a
lot of thought, are these a few of the things you mean, to
make the same, to make uniform, to make politically correct,
to make manageable and to destroy all of what makes us all
individuals. How do you feel this has affected today's
culture and what are your thoughts about what the future
holds for us?
Mass media and communication have created a lemming like
society of mindless imitation, which suppresses originality
and individuality. People thirst for spontaneity and
unpredictability. Adventure is what they're looking for.
People don't want to watch a film, they want to live it…
To incarcerate, to take away freedom if one does not comply.
Throughout history this has been something that human kind
has been faced with. How has that affected your family and
do you feel that because we haven't learned from the past we
are destined to repeat it?
I meant simply that every prison cell contains an example of
school and family failure…
Let's step back in your history, how has what happened to
your parents affected your feeling about the government and
its effect on individual and the family in today's world?
I am not anti-government. I like good roads and good
schools. I just wish that they'd deliver…
Sideshows & Show
are some of the shows you've framed for yourself and others?
I have created many different Show productions for both the
Circus and the Sideshow, and I cannot recall ever having
created a complete Show for anyone other than for myself or
my family these projects are too large for most individuals
to conceive. I have occasionally sold surplus equipment or
supplied components to other Showmen, but I can't remember
ever framing a complete Show for anyone...
I'm a little confused. It's my understanding that you have
sold shows in the past including the Smallest Horse and the
Biggest Pig show?
The Little Horse Show that pioneered the center of the
midway "Barn Design" was lost as collateral in a disastrous
business transaction intended to finance a Circus tour…
never got to operate The Giant Pig Show on the antique
Chevrolet farm truck. It was an incomplete prop when it was
sacrificed in order to acquire capital due to financial
losses in the overall operation…
What shows have you framed for your family and how is it
working with your brother Pete?
Half a hundred show productions all sacrificed to Chaos on
the field of battle...
I have a list somewhere...
Pete hates to work nearly as much as I do, so consequently,
when we get together we never work...
is your favorite?
Without exception it is always the current project...
Looking back on your past sideshows/ grindshows, which one
are you most proud of and why?
I am proudest of the bally work I did on my dad's ten-in-one
back in the seventies…
know you have had a few shows out on the road over the last
few seasons, What are your current projects and what are
some of your plans for the next few season?
I am trying to re-mortgage the farm in order to finance the
framing of a girl show, and I'm hoping to avoid eating up
all the profits!
girl show, is your plan to frame a old style girl show, how
do you think a girl show will sell today with the openness
and sexual mind sets. And why?
Yes, I plan to give it away, for the candy pitch...
And the satisfaction...
And the satisfaction, could you explain to the reader what
you mean by the satisfaction?
Same as the candy pitch, boys and girls, it's all so cotton
candy good, fresh made and deelicious…
Is it because they were moneymakers or did they provide you
It has never been about the money I have never been
obsessed with the accumulation of wealth I am not impressed
with large amounts of money. Any moron inheriting enough
money can be a millionaire until it finally runs out...
Each show production was an experiment created to test a
theory, It was all in the pursuit of a lifelong study of
Showmanship. Both the art and the science of Showmanship is
only dimly understood. Much of what exists today is simply
primitive hit and miss shooting in the dark…
Some Masters of the Art have developed an instinctive grasp
of it, but it is largely by conjecture. I wish to develop a
knowledge based on scientific research and experimentation.
Create and then establish, a curriculum which can be taught,
and teach others to teach it, Then found a school, which,
ideally, will produce great Showmen...
Civilization has evolved and now needs better entertainment
The real entertainment is not in the watching of the show,
but rather in the putting on of the show and making it good
enough for people to come to, pay for, and sit through...
Interactive is the popular trend in entertainment now,
things people can see and do. People want more fun. They
want to be seen having fun...
The most interactive and coolest thing one can do is to put
on a show. It commands attention It wins applause It excites
envy It's got it all...
This requires training. It costs way more to be in the show,
than to buy a ticket to watch the show, but it's way more
fun, a greater experience, more real...
When everyone learns this, everyone is gonna wanna be a
I believe that I have a bright future as the Ph.D. of
Both the art and the science of Showmanship is only dimly
understood. Would you give us some insight into what you
mean by dimly understood?
If we fail to master the art and science of having fun, at
least as well as we've perfected CPR, then we will all die
an example of the thought process and research that goes
into framing a show, would you take one of your popular
grindshows and explain what went into it's design and why it
Only a lifetime spent learning about what people like and
how to sell it to them…
I like to bring out original work. Something which can enter
the field without opposition. This way I get a few years to
recoup my investment before the copycats catch on and jump
on the bandwagon…
You say it's never been about the money. I understand that
from an artistic viewpoint but isn't a major element in
judging the success of a sideshow/ grindshow its ability to
draw large numbers of paying patrons?
Most Show Business ventures are intended to make money…
More Show Business ventures fail than thrive. Broadway sees
more closed shows than long running hits. Hollywood has
produced more films, which died at the box office, than
Circuses, overall, play to more chair backs than to straw
In the Outdoor Entertainment Industry, it is a universally
accepted fact that we make ninety percent of our money in
ten percent of the time …
When, and only when, conditions are right, is it able to
make a great deal of money. As with a rifle at the shooting
gallery, there are more ways to miss than to hit the target…
I don't even want to get into how fast the costs eat up the
Basically, you have to either love it or get away from it…
Can you explain more about mastering the art and science of
I have developed a plan to crank it out like sausage...
I'm working on the marketing…
It costs way more to be in the show, what are some of the
costs and risks of being in the show and Why?
At the worst death or prison...
At the best, all manner of headaches including hard work,
discomfort, stress, financial instability, etc…
It's not just a job, it's not a career, it's not a
profession, it's not a way of life…
I believe that it's a disease…
You say you believe it a disease other showfolks have told
me it's in the blood, is there a cure, what would it be or
do we even need a cure?
I despair of a cure, and I now wish to infect as many as
Civilization has evolved and now needs better entertainment,
in today's world we are over stimulated, what was once
wonder is now over looked for a temporary fix and then on
the next fad. Is the evolution in rediscovering the wonder
and being amazed again?
Mass media entertainment has us over stimulated and under
involved. Live entertainment is up close and personal,
fully absorbs one's interest. It is an adventure. It is
real. Real is better than
A great adventure always leaves
you better than it found
In the audience, the spectator
marvels at the act on stage…In the act, the actor marvels
that it's working on the
Q: It sounds like you have
enjoyed the fun, what is
it that you
the most about being
part of show business?
The travel, it never gets old…
do you like least? and Why?
The travel gets old, with endless miles of driving, you
never ever really get there, 'cause almost as soon as you're
there, it's time to go somewhere else…
Regrets? If so what, if no why?
I wish I had paid more attention, I can't seem to remember
everything I think I know…
I have heard rumored, that at
some point along the road you acquired Lew Dufour’s
two-headed punk that was displayed at the 1933 Chicago’s
“Century of Progress”. Could you tell us about acquiring it
and your interest in the piece? (Lee, if this is an
you would not like to discuss in the interview I understand.
Are the facts correct in the question?)
always been a bit of a horse trader, but this was entirely
accidental, or coincidental, possibly fate...
I purchased a show trailer for back storage charges from a
Showman's winter quarters in Gibtown. The owner had passed
away in a rest home in Tampa. I used to visit him
occasionally. You know, one of those places for the
indigent, with the stench of public housing permeating the
building to it's foundations. Urine soaked hallways of doom
leading to cubicle sized waiting rooms for the crematory. I
dropped off Billboards and cut up jackpots and picked old
Doc's brain. I was one of three people who visited him...
I came in off the road one November, and in my mailbox was a
letter informing me that Doc had made his last show. An
earlier letter from him included the title to the trailer. I
still have it . It was an open title, it had never been
transacted. It has the signature of Lou Dufour at the
bottom. The trailer was filled with all manner of Show Biz
artifacts. I really had no idea what the contents were. It
took weeks to mine through it all. I was surprised to find
the punk in there...
would you like other showmen to remember you? Why?
As a good capable Showman. I've heard one or two say I'm
probably capable of anything…
I have read that Bobby Reynolds wanted "Screw you, I got
your dollar" put on his tombstone. What would you like
inscribed on yours?
Nothing quite yet…
"At liberty, contact my agent"…
"Who booked this stiff?"…
"Held over by popular demand"…
"Return engagement Planned"…
"Out booking new territory"…
Regardless of what goes on the marquee, if I can't play
heaven, I'll do my best to pack the house in hell…
Would you share with us what changes you have witnessed
during your lifetime in the outdoor entertainment business?
It's getting so big it's scary…
It might be interesting to see an expanded answer to this
More people are alive today than at any time in human
history. If one were able to take persons from different
cultures, at different times in history, and do a side by
side comparison, one would undoubtedly find that there exist
far more similarities than differences...
This simply means that people haven't really changed. The
They still love the Circus. Just as the Romans did. They
still love the Theatre. Just as the Greeks did. The Midway
is the new Circus. Cash is the new applause. The masses have
What are your plans for the future?
To ride the waves of sweeping change in the coming
revolution in the lively arts, like Elvis driving into town
in a solid gold Rolls Royce…
seems to be a lot in the media about sideshows today, What
do you think is in the future for sideshows? Why?
A renewed interest, due largely to the staleness of popular
What other interests do you have?
Writing, Photography, Art, Music, Staying Alive…
given many newcomers to the business advice about how to
make more money by improving the front, advertising, etc. in
a business that has been known for its secretive nature,
this is unusual to say the least? Why?
A poor show is bad for everyone…
A Great Show is Great for everyone…
John Robinson & Rick West