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JuggleNow News , Issue # 16, Dick Franco Interview, more
November 28, 2003
Hello

Nov 28, 2003

Most of this issue is dedicated to an interview we did with Dick Franco. To the juggling world, his name is certainly recognizable. And the interview, I think, is quite interesting to anyone. He has some great views on juggling. I think you'll find it quite interesting. Let me know what you think.

We will continue to include book reviews, but they will be alternated with more interviews.

And of course, Christmas is coming quickly! We have plenty of juggling supplies in stock, and get more quickly if we do happen to run out. Usually only a couple days delay. But. Most orders ship immediately, so there is plenty of time to find some great juggling gifts for Christmas.


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** jugglenow News! **


CONTENTS

1. Dick Franco Interview

2. Plenty of Time

3. New! Light Up Balls

4. Final Thoughts


1. Dick Franco Interview

Dick Franco is a world renown juggler. He has written several books, and received numerous awards. But more than that, he is truly dedicated to the art of juggling. I feel privileged to offer his thoughts. Below is his interview with JuggleNow.

Quick side note: Dick Franco had visited JuggleNow just before our last issue came out. We had a contest - the first person that responded with the correct location of his comments, somewhere on jugglenow.com - would win one of Dick Franco's books. Chip Wilson, from Annapolis, Maryland, was the winner. Congrats. I'm sure you'll enjoy his book!

Dick was gracious enough to take the time to offer some of his thoughts - on the state of juggling, on his beginnings with juggling, and a lot more. I hope you enjoy....


JuggleNow: How and when did you first start juggling? (Did you learn from someone? Teach yourself?)

Dick Franco: During Jr. High and High School I was a competitive swimmer and diver for the Youngstown, Ohio YMCA. Naturally, during the summers, I was recruited by the Parks and Recreation department to serve as a lifeguard at one of our local swimming pools.

It was there, in the summer of 1970, that I met Joe Sullivan who was also a life guard that year. I had heard about Joe but I didn't know him personally. He lived in the next neighborhood over and went to a different school, however, most people in town knew about him because he was the local kid who was one of the group chosen to attend the first Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey clown college. It was in the local news and in the papers so he was kind of "famous" in our area.

At work we would clear the pool on an hourly basis, do a pool check, and change lifeguard stations. There was a fence that stuck out of the water about 12 inches dividing the shallow water from the deep area. At clown college Joe learned many circus skills so instead of swimming over to his next lifeguard station, he would "tight rope walk" along the fence to the next chair. He would stop to juggle along the way and "fake" losing his balance to make the huge summer crowd ROAR! They would applaud like crazy when he would finally "just make it" to his chair. Joe was a sensation at the swimming pool always surrounded by pretty girls.

Joe asked me if I wanted him to teach me to juggle and I said no. I remembered seeing jugglers on the Ed Sullivan show but never imagined doing it myself. Joe stayed after me and offered again and again to teach me. Eventually I gave in and tried 3 balls. There was no way I could do it. Joe persisted and finally, three days later, I got my first 6 throws with three balls. I was elated! I remember well that moment when the earth stood still as I juggled 6 throws.


JuggleNow: When did you know that juggling would be a big part of your life? (Can you tell me a little of how you progressed, as a juggler.)

Dick Franco: The first time I managed to juggle 3 balls I knew immediately that there was something very impressive there. I was not sure what, but the feeling I had was profound and a lot of things came together and made sense. I was really blown away.

As a kid, long before I ever thought about juggling, I used to lay on my back in the living room watching TV. We lived in an old house that had heavy door frames with 2 inch crown mouldings over every doorway. During commercials, laying flat on my back, I would toss a tennis ball up to that moulding. With just the right backspin I could get it to rest perfectly there, sometimes ten times out of ten. During the days I would play ricochet games off the side of the house doing fancy catches under the legs and behind the back.

When I was a teenager I would go downtown with my friends and as a challenge I would stand over a grid in the sidewalk and toss my keys up to a catch behind the back or through the legs. I never lost my keys, but my friends did!

The first time I played golf, I beat everybody. During high school I always won and had several "holes in one" at the Par 3 course near my home. It was the same with tennis. I won by cutting and slicing the ball to nick the top of the net and drop into the dirt. In baseball I caught behind the back or under the legs whenever the opportunity presented itself. In ping pong, no one could touch me.

I never thought about juggling, but when I finally learned to juggle it all come together and suddenly my efforts became focused in one direction.... to learn more about juggling.

Along with Joe Sullivan, I practiced for hours on end, every spare minute of the day and night. As I found more and more time, my practice time increased. I read an article where someone doubted that Sergei Ignatov could practice 9 hours in a day. I am sure he practiced even more than that, because I did too! My usual practice was at least 8 hours, but I could easily spend 12 to 15 hours in the gym at a time of non stop juggling. I kept this up for many years until I started working and then I tapered off year by year.


JuggleNow: No need to be too humble here.... What one juggling "feat" that you've done, are you most proud of? What honors, awards, etc. have you received?

Dick Franco: I don't have any one trick in particular that I would single out. I am particularly proud that I could pass this art to my daughter Noelle. She has been a working professional for many years now and makes a very nice living doing what she wants to do, be a juggler! She's traveled the world and is currently in her 3rd year at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas. She is terrific at what she does.... super great and extra professional! I am grateful that she is not sitting behind a desk in somewhere.

Also, my wife Carlene was my stage partner for many years. She contributed greatly to the look and style of the act that appealed so well to the European audiences at the time. A lot of our success was contributed to that.

As far as actual juggling goes, I have tried everything that I wanted to try and perfected the things I like. I juggled 9 in my act during my final tour with the Harlem Globetrotters and continued it in Europe after I left the tour... I did 10 rings in practice with very good control. I did a kickup to 5 clubs followed by 5 club back crosses in my act during 1979 and 80. Only the Russians were doing it then.

In 1979 I won the Gold Medal at the Circus World Championships with Kris Kremo and Rudy Schweitzer. They were two big names in Europe so it was very good for me to win. Kris and Rudy are both great performers. Because I won, I don't claim to be any better than them, in fact, the only reason I accepted the offer to compete in the championships was to be seen in the same show as Kris Kremo and Rudy Schweitzer. They were my idols. I had no expectation to win. It was the luck of the draw, I think. I worked third after them, both hat and cigar box jugglers. My style was completely different and it was the first time that the public saw a ping pong juggler in England. I was lucky enough to catch the audience and the jury by surprise. It was very good for my career in Europe at the time. I was grateful to have won, but the satisfaction I feel comes from having been in the same show as Kris and Rudy. I repeated the Gold Medal win at the 1986 Circus World Championships.

After the first Championships I was invited to the Monte Carlo Circus Festival. Again, to my surprise I won 3 major prizes, The Silver Clown, Prix Andre Rivillet and the Prix Club Suisse du Cirque. In that show I was competing against 40 acts of various kinds. I was the first juggler to win a major prize in the seven years that the Monte Carlo Festival had been presented.

John Ringling North was one of the judges. At the awards ceremony he told me I was the best juggler he had ever seen. That was a high compliment. Princess Grace personally presented the award to me. She introduced me to all of her Hollywood friends including Cary Grant, formerly a circus acrobat and co founder of the circus festival, who said "I'll see you in Las Vegas." It wasn't long after that when a man came up to me backstage at the "City Lites" show at the Flamingo Hotel and said, "See.. I told ya!" It was Cary Grant! The Monte Carlo Festival was a wonderful experience and I am very proud to have been able to participate.

In 1980 I did 5 ping pong balls with no hands on national television. The show was taped with a live audience. The pressure was tremendous, but I made 2 passes on the second try.

In 1983 I was the first to juggle 3 running gasoline powered chainsaws, a feat which has gotten me on dozens of world television shows!

I think my greatest accomplishment is yet to come and that it will be professional longevity. Through longevity I will have the opportunity to add even more friendships and unbelievable experiences to what has already been an awesome career. It could all end today and I would have no complaint, but I am still looking forward to and fully expecting that the best is yet to come.

I have been working as a juggler now for more than 25 years. I am 51 now and would like to continue as long as I have the desire and physical ability to continue.

I must admit that at the moment, desire is lacking. I just took 5 months off to work on my house and haven't missed juggling at all. I just saw Anthony Gatto perform last week and that lit a fire under me. I forced myself to start practicing again and will eventually get back to work, but I don't know when. Sometimes it takes a good offer to get me going, so I will continue to practice and wait and see. At my age, I am still as good as I ever have been, fast and still very consistent. I have learned to prepare well, to focus and to have patience in what I do. This results in consistency. I rarely drop anything in my shows and as long as I can stay like that I will continue.


JuggleNow: Please tell me a little of what you have been doing (with juggling) in the past year. Shows, conventions, working on anything new, just practicing, taking a break, etc.

Dick Franco: Over the past year I have been coasting, more or less, waiting to find some direction. My wife of 30 years and stage partner died of cancer last year. It was a 6 year battle and I know it will take time to recover from that. I have been working my act a little on cruise ships and I spent 8 weeks in Japan, but mostly I am getting my life reorganized and starting over again.

I have in mind to do different things and am currently working on a 2 man show with my friend and magician Roy Shank called "OUR FEATS ARE KILLING US!" The show is about 2 middle aged guys struggling against the ravages of time, clawing their way back from the brink of retirement! The show is based on the reality of our own middle aged situation and will feature our best work presented in a comedic, self deprecating style. I once said "I don't want to be 50 pretending I'm 30." This show is a concept that I can grow into comfortably as I get older.


JuggleNow: Is there a juggling related goal that you want to work on for the future?

Dick Franco: Other than maintaining my current skills I have no plans to learn or create anything new. I do plan to consolidate my juggling projects and market them through my own website. In the past I have had my books and videos sold by just about anyone anywhere. I intend to have better control of my products and more say in who sells them.

I have a number of new projects in the works including books, videos, DVD's and artwork. When they are ready I will market and sell them through my own website and wholesale only to select professional distributors such as Brian Dube and other reputable dealers.


JuggleNow: Is there ONE THING that you would like to say to fellow jugglers?

Dick Franco: Just that we are here because of those who came before us. The history of juggling is fascinating and profound. I was a truck dispatcher in Youngstown, Ohio before I became a juggler. I would still be there if it were not for this art and people like Joe Sullivan, Bobby May and Gran Picaso.

Because of juggling, I have had an incredibly rich life of world travel full of amazing experiences. I have seen many great artists. I have made many wonderful friends. Before there were prop makers, video tapes and juggling conventions, people learned to juggle on their own and with their unique ideas and desire went on to create unbelievably original acts which are truly works of art. Jugglers such as Rudy Horn, Bobby May, Francis Brunn, Truzzi, Gus & Ursula Lauppe, Bela Kremo, Rob Murray... names such as these. Any serious juggler should see films of these acts, read about their careers and keep their memory alive. Juggling is a powerful thing. It can change your life.


JuggleNow: What suggestions would you give to a beginning juggler?

Dick Franco: Practice!

Focus on what you are doing!

Donít show your skills until they are perfected.

Separate the tricks you have perfected from the ones you have not. Show only what you can do well.

Be humble, although occasionally you may have to teach someone a lesson.

Be honest!

Be honest with yourself!

Don't copy or steal material! Develop your own style!

Donít listen to "arm-chair" jugglers!

Trust your abilities and ideas!

Set your goals and always surpass them!

Don't sign your life away to get a job!

Don't smoke pot or use drugs!

When you need help or advice ask someone who is actually a working professional juggler!

Criticism is not help or advice!


JuggleNow: Is there anything else you would like to include? (Other juggling/circus related skills? Feelings about the "state of juggling" these days. Whatever else you might want to say.)

Dick Franco: Professional juggling is alive and doing very well these days. I believe it always will be, as the demand for quality entertainment does not cease. There are adequate jobs for the amount of quality jugglers in the world market today.

On the level of amateur juggling, i.e. juggling organizations, festivals, and conventions, I don't think things have ever been worse. Juggling conventions were once friendly places to be with a focus on juggling, but in recent years they have been turned into "festivals" where people who know little about or have little to do with juggling get together as kind of a social club of "arm-chair" jugglers whose critical view point won't allow them to be constructive.

I think juggling as an art would be better off if all amateur juggling organizations and juggling festivals went away for a while and everyone got back to practicing and creating on their own, from their own individual desire to be jugglers without outside influence. I think it would do the ART of juggling a huge favor to give it a break for a couple of generations! I have often said "Even if civilization ends for a while, like the cockroach, juggling will be back". It will!

--DICK FRANCO
You can reach Dick Franco at icanjuggle@earthlink.net.

If you'd like to get Dick Franco's books - Three Club Juggling and Three Ball Digest you can of course, find them at http://stores.yahoo.com/jugglenow/books.html


2. Plenty of Time...

...to Order for Christmas

We are well stocked with Juggling Supplies, and as always, ship immediately. If we are ever out of something, we will email you right away, with info about delay. And any delays are generally only a few days.

If you have a question whether something is in stock, or if you will receive your order in time for Christmas, just give us a call at 859-380-7460, or email us at jim@jugglenow.com


3. New! Light Up Balls

We finally have them! Our 2" Light Up Balls have been some of the most popular items we've had. And now, we have new styles, sizes, and colors. NINE color choices. Hard and Soft shell. And a great new looking, fun Light Up Juggling ball that we're calling the "Atom" ball.

Here's a really unique gift. So nice you'll probably want to get a set for yourself too!

Find out more at http://stores.yahoo.com/jugglenow/lightupballs1.html


4. Final Thoughts

Our next big contest will happen shortly after Christmas... It will be for Original Juggling related Artwork! So if you can draw, start doing some sketches....

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Watch for a fun new video to be added to our store - "Things You Can't Do!!!" It is a montage video showcasing the talents of some of the best jugglers alive today. The video features the talents of: Chris Chiappinni, Gold Medal Winning Team Rootberry, Jack Kalvan, Jeffrey Daymont, Luke Jay, Scotty Cavanaugh, Ivan Pecel, Jonathan Root, Bill Berry, Ben Jennings, Dan Bennett, Samvel and Edgar Mkrtchyan, and a special appearance by "Shakes the Clown..." (Jason Garfield). Watch for it (maybe by the time you read this) on our Videos page.

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Don't forget to pick up your copy of Dick Franco's book. And check out our new Light Up Juggling Balls. NINE different colors now available.

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And here's a note for those of you interested in your own web site! If you've been thinking of using SiteBuildIt! for your web business, now's the perfect time. For more info, visit Site Build It!
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Please let me know what you think of the Dick Franco interview. Would you like to see more? Write to jim@jugglenow.com


That's all for now.
Keep Juggling...
Jim Nelson

Send me your thoughts (juggling or not) to jim@jugglenow.com


Visit us at http://www.jugglenow.com

Our storefront is at http://stores.yahoo.com/jugglenow/

(c) Copyright jugglenow.com, 2003

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