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.


John Robinson

Sideshow World


Below excerpt from the Author


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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