Melvin Burkhart

The Man, the Magician, the Anatomical Wonder & Much More!


A Sound Tribute Part 1


by Richard Mullin

The rare recording from which this transcription came was made in 1973 at Slim Kelley’s “Museum of Natural Mistakes” on the Strates’ midway. This transcript is dedicated to showman Melvin Burkhart (1907-2001)

Dedicated to showman Melvin Burkhart.  Mr. Clarence Melvin Burkhart, born on February 17, 1907, started his career as a performer in the profession of boxing in the burlesque halls of Louisville, Kentucky.  He admitted later in life that he wasn’t a very good boxer. “I got hit in the nose a lot.  Too slow on the defense.  It was so bad that in 1926, my nose required an operation, so I gave up boxing.”


During 1927 he got a job with Conroy Brothers Circus working for Leroy Easter. While working there, he discovered that he had a real knack for that sort of entertaining. “Their one ring circus had 14 acts and by the end of the first season I was involved in nine of them.” Melvin continued to entertain for the rest of his life, working at Huber’s Museum in NY, Ringling Brothers Circus, on the midway of the James E. Strates Shows, and finally at Coney Island’s Sideshow By The Sea.  this transcription came was made in 1973 at Slim Kelley’s “Museum of Natural Mistakes” on the Strates’ midway.  He was more than 65 years old at the time, but considering that he was still entertaining folks years later at 94, he was still in his prime. 


Carnival midway showman Ward Hall said of him: “Melvin was a great guy.  I never heard him say a bad word about anyone and I never heard anyone ever say a bad word of him.  A remarkable, wonderful way to go through life.”


Mr. Burkhart greets us as the inside talker and emcee for this first show of the day:


“Right here in the center will be first, friends.  Now we just opened up our door a minute ago and had a lot of speakers going, so a lot of people have been stopping by asking us when we were going to open.  As long as they hear that speaker, they know that we’re ready to start.


Right down here in the middle, right here on the stage or platform, will be first.  This of course for your stay in our show we present ten acts.  One act appears at a time on the stage before you.  Each act follows one right after another.  You see all ten acts.  You won’t see two acts at a time. You wouldn’t know which one to watch.  I’m the first act on the program.  I’m the world’s greatest magician… well, I am. You don’t believe that, you can ask me and I’ll be very glad to tell you.  I figured I might as well tell you first. You might not be able to figure it out otherwise. I only get two or three minutes to show you two or three tricks.  So I have to work fast just to make you laugh or smile – I fool or deceive your eyes.”


“Now let me give you a real simple demonstration of how slight of hand works. 


If I would place a thimble upon my finger, and that thimble disappears, you’d wonder where the thimble went, so brush your teeth with Pepsodent – commercial! 


You know what? 

That’s it.  All I have to do is that – it’s gone. 


There it is right back again. 


Of course you’re going to think… she had it all figured out – wrong!


I’ll do it in slow motion.  Watch! 


When I close my hand, you’ll wonder what the heck the thimble is doing over here. 


All you have to do is be really fast. 


Now anybody could do that. 


It doesn’t take any brains, so even I couldn’t do it.” 


“Now some tricks, of course, do require more slight-of-hand ability than others.  Now here’s a trick that’s done with an empty cup.


The reason why I use an empty cup is because there’s nothing on the inside – empty cup, empty hand, empty head – No! 


All I do is reach up into the air and get a coin. Put it over in that cup. 


Get another coin.  Put it in the cup. 




Is that silly, putting money in a cup?  Put it in the bank!  It’ll last longer, go further. 


Real?  Of course it’s real!  I wouldn’t have phoney moany – I mean funny money.


All you do is put it over in the cup.  Don’t forget, once you place it in the cup, you’ll always know where to get another one. 


And you put it in the cup. 


Get another one.


Put it in the cup.


{Each new coin can be heard as it falls inside.}


You don’t want to put ‘em in the cup? You can always eat ‘em.


Want your money to go a long way?  Choose this method right here.  It goes a long way.  It doesn’t get very far with you, but don’t forget:  Put the money in the cup. 


They say that money flies.  If you see any money flying around here, just reach up and grab it.  Put it in the cup.

Get another one.  Put it in the cup.


They say that money talks, but all it ever said to me was ‘Goodbye!


{He turns the cup upside down and it is still empty}


To  be continued



Melvin Burkhart Human Blockhead - back ground Banner painted by Mark Frierson

Coins in the CUP created by jrrobinson


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