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August 27th, 2008 Matt Graham | Headout
 

Three-Ring Stiffs

While you relax, they’re still out to make you laugh.

     
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It’s Labor Day weekend, and that means your lazy ass gets to stay home and sleep. But some people actually have to work. So when you’re rolling out of bed half drunk at 1:30 pm, mentally preparing yourself for yet another barbecue, take a moment to remember the clowns. More specifically, the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus’ more than 300 clowns, animal trainers and other carnies, who’ll be in town this weekend performing while you relax. They’ve still got a job to do.

Tom Dougherty, clown

Dougherty was raised on opera and ballet and attended private schools where he studied Latin and ancient Greek as a child before tackling political science at college. When he saw an ad for Clown College, he played hooky. According to Dougherty, “A clown is a magical creature, with all the powers of a magical creature.” And apparently one of their magical powers was making us wet the bed as children.

BONUS FACT: Dougherty never saw the circus as a child! Shit, if we had to study Latin and Greek and never got to see the circus, we probably would’ve become clowns too. Take that, Mom and Dad!

Chuck Wagner, ringmaster

Wagner, 50, who married his wife Susan on the Love Boat, has a long history in acting. In addition to a two-year stint on the soap opera General Hospital, he has also starred opposite Desi Arnaz Jr. on the TV series Automan (he played a computer-generated superhero) and he’s worked with a true icon of the American stage and screen, Robert Goulet (GOULET!). Okay, he’s also been in Les Miz, too.

BONUS FACT: What new skill has Wagner picked up since joining the circus? “Learning to watch where I step.” ‘Nuff said.

Daniel Raffo, tiger trainer

Raffo, 36, is a fifth-generation circus performer who has been showing off his animals since he was 13 years old. But Raffo ain’t no one trick pony—he also has experience as an acrobat, a juggler and a high-wire artist. These days he pretty much sticks to training tigers, which we respect… we can’t even get our tabby cat to use his litter box.

BONUS FACT: “I’ve learned a great deal over the years from these tigers, I understand their feelings,” says Raffo. And we believe him. You know why? Because he’s never been mauled mid-performance by one of his beasties, unlike some tiger trainers we know…. We’re looking at you, Roy.

Jenny Vidbel, animal trainer

Vidbel, 33, got her start helping her grandpa take care of his elephants and has been performing since age 6. After all, when your family owns and operates its own circus, you don’t have much of a choice. But now she’s in the big leagues, taking care of 38 animals ranging from ponies to porcupines for the Ringling Brothers.

BONUS FACT: Her grandmother actually ran away to join the circus, which is the ultimate badass move. But do you think any kids from these circus dynasties ever run away to become CPAs? We hear the benefits are great.

James McGrath, clown

Before becoming a professional fool, McGrath, 27, was a bit of an egghead. He majored in psychology and minored in religious studies at Christopher Newport College in Virgina. While there, he wrote what he calls “groundbreaking literature involving the integration between neuropsychology and religious mysticism.”

BONUS FACT: “Since I didn’t play an instrument, I knew I couldn’t become a rock star. Being a clown is a great way for me to have funny hair, play and tour,” says McGrath. But it isn’t quite like being a rock star: Notice how he didn’t say, “Being a clown is a great way for me to get pussy.”

Headout Picks


WEDNESDAY AUG. 27

[DANCE/CLASSICAL] SHOHEI KIKUCHI AND PORTLAND TAIKO

Visiting Japanese folk-dance master and choreographer Shohei Kikuchi joins Portland Taiko for a summertime sneak preview of In the Footsteps of our Ancestors, PT’s fall concert. Echo Theatre, 1515 SE 37th Ave., 205-0715. 6:30 pm.

[MUSIC] THE WALKMEN

The Walkmen have gone out and birthed the best late-night rock album of the year. Better not sleep on ‘em next time. Doug Fir, 830 E Burnside St., 231-9663. 9 pm. $15. 21+.

THURSDAY AUG. 28

[SCREEN] SUPER ARGO AND THE FACELESS GIANTS

A red-suited, levitating crime fighter thwarts Italy’s dastardly foes in the NW Film Center’s last Top Down show of the summer. Hotel deLuxe parking garage, 729 SW 15th Ave. Music by Will Carpenter’s Towering Trees at 8 pm; movie begins at 9 pm. $7.

FRIDAY AUG. 29

[MUSIC] BON IVER, A. A. BONDY

When he gets going with all those layers of gospel-style self-harmony and lonely, isolated acoustic soul, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon starts sounding like TV on the Radio unplugged. And we mean that as an awfully big compliment. Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave., 233-1994. 9 pm. $14. All ages.

SATURDAY AUG. 30

[ART] ART IN THE PEARL

Arts! Crafts! Hippies! Tiny dogs with Swarovski crystal collars! More than 100 artisans sell their wares smack dab in the middle of the Pearl District. Northwest Park blocks between West Burnside and Northwest Glisan at Northwest 8th Ave. 10 am-6 pm Saturday-Sunday; 10 am-5 pm Monday. Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Free.

[DISH] PORTLAND PIE-OFF!

Grab your oven mitts and see how you stack up against Portland’s pie-makin’ finest. Get out there and make Grandma proud! Washington Park Elephant House, Southwest Sherwood Boulevard. 3 pm. $5 entry fee. Visit pie-off.blogspot.com for info. See wweek.com for a full preview of this event.

TUESDAY SEPT. 2

[MUSIC] JANA HUNTER

The thing people forget about New Beard America is that it wasn’t always so…hairy. Jana Hunter’s music occupies a strange, forlorn pocket in the New Weird Universe, haunted, sloppy-strummed and kinda lost-sounding in a real space-cadet way. Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., 239-7639. 9 pm. $8. 21+.


SEE: The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus appears at the Rose Quarter, 1 N Center Court St. 7:30 pm Thursday-Friday, Aug. 28-29; 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm Saturday, Aug. 30; 1 pm Sunday, Aug. 31. $10-$82. Visit rosequarter.com for tickets and info.
 
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