Paul T. Gilbert

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the stories: Snake CharmerArthur Borella, ClownThe Flying WardsReporter in TightsElephant TrainerTight WireDress Rehearsal

Post Reporter in Tights Rides Nag in Circus Ring

Realizes Youth's Dream as Steed Prances in Sawdust

—Paul T. Gilbert, from the Chicago Evening Post, April 12, 1923

I realized the ambition of a lifetime yesterday only to be disillusioned. Ever since I was a small boy it had been my dream to ride out into the sawdust ring, in pink tights and spangles, on a prancing rosin-back, while the circus band played "Beautiful Blue Danube."

Joe Hodgini, equestrian director of the Sells-Floto shows at the Coliseum, placed a snowy steed at my disposal, and said I could ride out with the act.

"In pink tights and spangles?" I asked him.

The equestrian director, who was applying clown-white to his face, laughed.

"Where did you ever get the notion of pink tights and spangles?" he demanded. "I doubt if there's a pair of pink tights in the outfit, unless one of the aerialists has a pair. Don't you know those things aren't worn in the equestrian acts any more? It's all character stuff now—you go on as an English dude, a clown, a cowboy, or an Indian. Maybe Hodson over there can let you have an Indian outfit.

His Face Falls.

My face fell. "But," I stammered, "I thought everybody in the circus wore pink tights."

Mr. Hodson, who was making up as an Indian, glanced up curiously from the pages of the Texas oil paper he was reading.

"Maybe I can help him out," suggested Harry la Pearl, the clown. "Seems to me I used to have an old pair of tights down here in this trunk some place. I can find almost anything if I dig down deep enough."

Mr. la Pearl dug down thru several layers of shoes, slapsticks, battered cornets, and other paraphernalia and produced a rather sorry pair of tights. There was a hole in one toe and the other toe was darned. The tights were of cheap cotton and faded, but they were better than nothing.

"I use 'em to clown in," said Mr. la Pearl.

Finds Green Sash.

"Now, you just sit down here on the kinker's home," he went on, indicating his trunk. "This trunk, by the way, was my cradle. I've lived in it all my life. And look here, what I've found—a green sash that you can tie around your waist.

"Oughtn't I to roach my hair?" I suggested.

"Say, but you're old-fashioned," he replied. "That reminds me that I used to roach my hair back in the old days when I was riding, but it's not being done any more. See—here's a picture of me in the bareback act I did when I was a kid."

It was a picture of a graceful young man in pink tights and spangles, turning a somersault from the back of a ring horse.

"But I quit riding for clowning," he went on. "It's a lot easier, you know, and not so much chance of breaking your neck. You know, some people think the greasy old clown don't amount to much, but here's a telegram I got the other day from the mayor of Huntington, W. Va., my home town. Read it. It says: 'Accept best wishes of the city officials and the people of Huntington for a successful season. Our kindest thoughts are with you.'"

Hears Circus Call.

"You see, I'm the head of a big advertising and electric sign business in that city, but when spring comes I hear the call of the red gods and the smell of the sawdust gets into my nostrils, and I just have to go out on the road."

He delved into the trunk and brought out a pair of sneakers for me, then adjusted the green sash.

"There, now," he said approvingly. "You look just like Bob Stickney, the somersault champion. He has a little paintbrush on his upper lip, too."

Mr. Hodgini then told me that my steed was waiting. There were no stirrups, but with the aid of a pair of handles fastened to the rosin-back's neck, I managed to get up.

"Now, I'm going to give you your first riding lesson," he went on. "Just cling to the handles and let the horse gallop around. You can't fall off."

"When do I learn to stand up and do the flip-flop?" I inquired.

"Oh, you'll have to practice those on the ground first. Then I stand behind you on the horse and hold you. It's like teaching a child how to walk. Then, after that, we use the 'mechanic.'"

Dream is Realized.

"I can't remember when I learned to ride. My father and three uncles all were in the profession. Our name is really Hodges—English—but when one of my uncles went to Italy and organized a circus, he Italianized his name, and all of the rest of us have used it ever since."

The band was playing now—I can't remember whether it was "The Blue Danube" or the latest blues. I clung tight to the handlebars. I was out in the ring on my circus steed—at last a "Pauly of the Circus." The dreams, the ambitions of a lifetime, were being realized.