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Archive for February, 2010

Pierre Trudeau – Quoted

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“Canada is a country whose main exports are hockey players and cold fronts.”

Pierre Trudeau, Canadian politician (1919 – 2000)


“Make that Gold-Medal-Winning Hockey Players!!!”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

OK, so I sort of cheated on this one… Normally quotes go up on Saturday and this post is back-dated so that it looks as though it was posted on Saturday, but truth be told I waited until after the Men’s Gold Medal Hockey Game to find the quote, and throw it up… What a great way for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games to wrap up! Awesome Hockey! Yippee!

James Johnson • Interviews from the Inside

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: James called me out of the blue asking if we could get together in about 2006 I think it was. We hooked up at a Tim Horton’s near where I live and discussed performing. I think the basic question that came out of that initial conversation was – how do I become a successful performer. My answer? Just keep doing it. Do it a lot! Do it every chance you get. Apparently he listened because I kept hearing about him on gigs here and there but it wasn’t until the Nanjing Clown Carnival in 2008 that we really spent any time hanging out… Had a hoot performing with him in China, then got to hang out with him again in Miami in December this past year. He had a gig in Miami for about a month and I came through on a couple of Cruise Ship gigs. Gave us the chance to hang out and have him tell me about his passion for powered para-gliding. He keeps threatening to get me up flying at some point and I sure do hope that it works out that I get the chance to play because it looks like a hoot!


Name: James Johnson (was Jamie Biggar)
Birthday: April 14, 1975
Place of Birth: Richmond, BC, Canada
Started Peforming/Working in the Industry: 1999 as “Baxter” the clown
Discipline: Variety Comedy and climbing inside a giant balloon.
Website: www.biggerballoon.com
Video Link: http://www.biggerballoon.com/video.php
Venues Worked: Most fairs across Canada, some state fairs and special events in China, Saudia Arabia and Fiji.

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Soy Chocolate Chip mint-perfect combination of cold chocolate chunks to chew on and an awakening minty flavor that has a good after taste. Almost good enough for a meal!
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films.Dumb and Dumber with Jim Carey.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • G.I. Joe F16 tomcat fighter plane.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • David Aiken – first street performer I ever saw perform.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • The Ice man surfer guy.
  6. Name something that scares you.Drowning.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • Captain in the Canadian Armed Forces.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? BASE Jumping.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • Loosing my voice.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • “Why the heck are you here so early?”

The Nugget:

Pick one nugget of wisdom you’ve picked up from your career in Show Business to share with the World.

“The audience is everything. If there is no one who wants to watch your show then the whole purpose of performing is pointless. I am grateful that people actually want to take the time out of their lives so that I can share my idea of entertainment with them. To me this is an honour so I like to perform my very best every time.”

–James Johnson

Tools in your Tool Box

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Still in the middle of the BC Street Jam program on Robson Square at the moment. It’s been a great run to date and today was the last day of the run for two great acts – The Chairmen and Mike Battie. It’s a pleasure to work with these two acts, because the totally ‘Get it.’ I was talking with Bob from the Chairmen after his show last night and really just thanking him for making it so easy to bring the Chairmen in as an act in the program.

Every gig is different and each environment dictates a certain acceptable or expected behaviour from the people fronting the bill. Working a straight street pitch is one thing, working for a corporate client is another, doing work on cruise ships another beast all together. Each venue needs to be approached as it’s own entity and appropriate behaviours learned for each. It’s been really interesting for me to be involved on both sides of the equation with this project during the Olympics, both as an act as well as part of the production team, because I’ve become even more aware of how important it is to make sure the performers involved in the program help promote the positive image of the end client in this particular case the Province of British Columbia.

In my conversation with Bob we used the analogy a mechanic pulling out tools from his toolbox to work on different jobs and compared that to what a performer needs do every time they work with a different client. A great set of skills, appropriate costuming, good promo, these are all a given. You need these ‘tools’ if you want to get the gig in the first place, but beyond this, the ability to recognize that when you step out on stage (and off stage for that matter) you are actually a representative of the client who booked you is critical. Understand this successfully being able to executing any tweaks to the content of your performance to keep your show and it’s image in line with that of the end client is critical if you want to craft a win-win scenario that might see you working for that client again.

Now for true ‘Artists’ these sorts of restrictions placed on their creative head space may appear too limiting and for that sort of performer, working for certain clients may not be the best option, but having the ability to adapt and conform a bit will open WAY more doors for you work-wise. Having this understanding of how your show reflects on the person who’s hiring you could well be one of the most important tools in your toolbox.

To use a hockey analogy, you need to not only be good on the ice, you need to be good in the locker room as well.

Having a sense of the bigger picture that your show is fitting into at a large event like this one I’m currently involved with is just a part of the job. The BC Street Jam program is just one part of the larger Celebrate British Columbia at Robson Square Programming. The result is that each show that’s part of the BC Street Jam ends up being one small element in a much larger picture made up of many other elements. The more harmoniously the individual parts flow together, the better the results are going to be for the entire program and the happier the end client is going to be. Playing well with others just make the whole thing work.

2010 PNE Street Stars Update

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Since 2005 I’ve consulted with Patrick Roberge, the creative director for the Pacific National Exhibition, on the PNE’s Street Stars Program. Over the year’s we’ve had some of the best artists on the street in the program and as we gear up for the 100th anniversary of the Fair August 21 and September 6th 2010, I’m hoping to maintain the tradition of excellence when it comes to the Street Stars Program.

I’ve always assumed the role of “Man Friday” for the program because although I go out and do most of the leg work when it comes to tracking down the acts that I think should be involved in the program, it’s Patrick who has the final say in who comes in to perform. This isn’t the worst scenario in the world and it has certainly allowed me to learn and grow my knowledge of how to create a world-class street program and include it in a bigger event such as the PNE which has been great. One of the biggest challenges involved comes to co-ordinating the decision making process around each other’s schedules.

Along with being the creative director for the PNE, Patrick also runs a special events company called Patrick Roberge Productions (PRP). This company does everything from help organized and run awards shows to creating new stage productions for the PNE to managing and producing the opening and closing ceremonies for the upcoming Paralympic Games. This year has been a huge year with the Olympics and Paralympics in Vancouver and related events have meant A LOT more work for Patrick and his company.

The result of all of these additional events is that decisions about the 2010 PNE and the Street Stars Program, which have traditionally be sorted out by this point in the year, have been put off. I had an initial meeting with Patrick a few weeks ago, but it was very clear at that point that other projects were taking priority. I was trying to set up a meeting this week to start moving forward with things, but the scope of the Opening and Closing of the Paralympic Games is such that all other projects are being put on the side-line for the time begin.

The Paralympics wrap up on March 21st and Patrick and I won’t really get into the programming of this year’s Street Stars Program until after that, so, to those of you who’ve expressed interest in the program. Thanks for your patients, If you end up getting other offers for work at the same time and need to make decisions my advice would be to take the guaranteed gigs, but please do keep me in the loop as to your availability. For those of you who haven’t contacted me yet but who are interested in the gig, please get me the following information so I can add you to the ranks of those being considered for the 2010 fair –

  • Act Name:
  • Real Name(s):
  • Web Site:
  • Web Video :
  • Email:
  • Mailing Address:
  • Phone Number(s):
  • Bio/Program Blurb (40 – 60 words max):
  • Photo (4 x 6, 300 dpi, jpg):

If you haven’t heard anything more about this by the end of March feel free to contact me to see where things are at. That’s the update for today!

Travel Adaptors

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Nothing too complicated about today’s post. I travel enough that I’ve run into most of the plug types that are out there and have gotten into the habit of carrying the various travel adaptors with me. I do this primarily so I can plug in my computer where ever I happen to be in the world. Now if I was actually a bit more organized I’d actually swing by a handy dandy on-line resource to check which plug type(s) I’d need for any given trip, but two of the three adaptors in the picture above are small enough so that I just have them tucked into a small case that carries various cables and connectors for the electronics that I fly with.

On a recent trip to India I ended up spending about five hours in Hong Kong Airport on the way over and even longer on the way back. The great thing about the airport in Hong Kong is that you can tap into a free wifi connection which is awesome. The tricky think about a five or more hour lay over is the fact that my computer’s battery was pretty tapped out by about the two hour mark. Hong Kong’s plug (the white one in the picture) is the same as that in England and although I had already picked one of these up in my travels I totally spaced on the fact that I’d need it for the layover in Hong Kong.

Thankfully there was an electronics shop in the airport that sold the adaptors, so I picked one up and was away at the races in terms of charging up my battery and plugging away at the seemingly endless amount of internet-ing that needs to be attended to on a daily basis. Actually it was the layover in Hong Kong on the way home where I was able to catch up on about a week’s worth of blog posts… I seem to have been running a bit behind on my self-imposed blogging schedule, but somehow I seem to be able to get the posts up eventually and am more or less on track with things…

Anyway… Travel adaptors… Check where you’re going before you fly and make sure you pack the right one(s). Most AC adaptors will convert the input voltage so that when you actually plug it into your machine it doesn’t fry the circuitry but I did experience a pretty odd phenomena while I was in India… The voltage coming out of the outlets in India is 230 volts, the voltage in Canada is 120 volts. The increased voltage didn’t have an effect on my computer’s power adaptor’s ability to recharge the battery and run my machine, but the aluminium body of my Macbook Pro seemed to vibrate when I touched it… It was as though the additional voltage was making the whole machine quiver… When I’d unplug the machine the vibration would go away, when I plugged it in I could literally feel the voltage running through the aluminum casing of the computer in this weird sort of way. Imagine running your hands over a velvet surface and that feel of the little hairs of velvet running underneath your hand… That’s about the closest way I can describe it… Very odd to be typing away on my machine and have this sensation occur. It was almost like the machine was alive… I got into the habit of unplugging the adaptor when I was working, working until the battery died, then taking a break while the battery recharged… It was just a little odd…

Anyway… Keep in mind that countries around the world run on everything from 110 volts to 240 volts and although most AC adaptors can accept inputs in this range you’ll need to carry a collection of adaptors to ensure that you’ll be able to keep your electronics juiced up!

Tapping into your Fan Base…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

OK… So I admit it… Just two short weeks ago when I posted that I’d created a Facebook Fan Page I was a bit sceptical about the how’s and why’s of it all, but I’m becoming a convert. I think this is in part because at the end of the shows I’ve been doing on Robson Square during the Olympics I’ve been mentioning to people that if they liked the show, they should check me out on Facebook and they have… Someone (Gina Johnstone) even sent me a link to a video she had taken… How cool is that!?!?

OK… It’s not like I’ve got a gazillion Fans who have actually signed up to the page at this time, but I’m starting to wrap my head around the importance of building a bit more of a resource on-line to specifically reach out to Fans and not only for me to reach out to Fans, but for Fans to reach out to me… I Fans can interact more immediately with a Facebook Fan Page than I had at first realized and the ability for them to post pictures and videos to the Fan Page is pretty cool.

I’m a big fan of Steve Martin, have been for years and around about the beginning of this year he posted a little video of himself playing banjo and inviting his Fans to create a video to go along with a song that was inspired by his dog running around the back yard. He offered a cash prize for the best video submission and then sat back and waited to see what people would come up with. What a cool way to create a music video! Let other people do it for you! Ha!

My friends in the Barenaked Ladies have also got an amazing dialogue going on with their fans and have had videos created for them by Fans as well. The BNL boys have actually done a pretty amazing job of reach out to fans and giving them the tools necessary to play with the originally recorded music tracks for creating new and interesting mixes of BNL songs and generally making the relationship flow both ways… Artist creativity flows out but then is reciprocated by some amazing Fan based creativity.

Since creating the Fan Page on Facebook there’s been a slow rumble of interest from people who are connecting to the page and connecting to me and slowly but surely I’m learning how to feed Fan interest with this page… Hopefully over time it will continue to grow and I’ll be able to tap into the the creativity and brilliance of some of the folks who’s watched my show, had a laugh and saw something there they might be able to contribute to – who knows where it might lead. Should be fun finding out!

Citizen of Earth

Zimmy Page Strikes again! The Sunday guest blogger tradition continues with this fantastic take on traveling as a performer! Hope you love this piece as much as I did!


d. – checkerhead

I don’t remember much. There were all these strange little creatures buzzing about, speaking some crazy-sounding language. I had this awful feeling of dread as they took me into this big room with all these bright white lights. Then this other one, I guess he must have been their leader or something because his uniform was a little different. He leads me into this other smaller room. They stripped me down, turned me about and began to probe me. At one point, I turned around and there must have been about five or six of these creepy little beings all gang-probing me. It was ter-rib-le…weep, weep, weep!

No doubt about it; going through customs in Singapore was the worst.

(You know, they stamp a skull and bones right on your passport just to remind you that they kill people for drugs there. “Welcome to Singapore, imperialist dog! If you brought any herb with you, prepare to die. Have a nice day.”)

Traveling is far and away the best and worst thing about choosing street performance as a career. My buddy Mickey O’Connor quotes the adage–“I don’t get paid to perform, I get paid to travel.” That’s because it just plain SUCKS to travel now. It used to be so glamorous, “jetting” here or “jetting” there. Something bad must have happened in like, late 2001, because ever since then, moving a whole show of props, a week’s worth of regular people luggage and my own ass through airports just about kills the joy of getting to see this planet on someone else’s dime.

Still, it is great once you’re there. Wherever you land is usually pretty fantastic. I mean, how great and smart are British audiences? Plus, you’re in the U.K. Congratulations! Top of the food chain, baby. Ever been to Japan? Dave Aiken is HUGE there…he towers over his audiences. I hear that buskers are beloved in Brazil and cities like Barcelona and Prague.

Personally, I love Canada the best. The people are probably the nicest anywhere. As audiences, they’re razor sharp like an L.A. audience, but they’re unarmed. I like that.

Most countries will love you more if you make an effort to speak the local language. Knowing how to say your hat lines in Quebec-quois gives them the sense that you’re no tourist, man. You care about them. Now you’re a welcome guest. (Yes, I called Quebec a country…but only because it IS one.)

Same thing if you learn those same lines in Parisian, they WILL notice the effort…unless of course, you’re from the States. For the last time, I wish to explain this. I do not create U.S. foreign policy. I just live there. I don’t even vote. Voting is for suckers! Remember George W. Bush? We didn’t elect him–TWICE! They do whatever the hell they want, man. I’m just here to learn parts of my show in your language, make you smile and then bugger off. I may foul one or two of your local women, but I won’t endorse or enforce any of my countries’ insane politics. (Okay, maybe three women if I can lose the last of this beer weight.)

Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not some farcical hipster doofus marionette ceremony!

It was in Cannes, France that I experienced the worst anti-American contempt of my life. They lost the ONLY key they had to my quaint little hotel room, right during the half hour I was supposed to be on stage at the MIP-TV convention. That same key re-appeared on cue just seconds after my gig was ruined. I think it was done to me just because of my passport.

The worst part is, the British producer who hired me understood. He knew it was possible and therefore, true. That’s okay, I got even with ’em. I kidnapped a French guy and actually bathed him. Gave him a splash of deodorant…he was instantly deported.

Here’s a great example of my performance persona standing in conflict with my nationality. I was working in Vlissengen, Holland. I went into a restaurant with a fellow busker from Scotland. He ordered his meal in his thick accent and with no problem.

I tried to order, even attempting to read it as written–I wanted a hot dog. Of course, the word for hot dog in Dutch is something like “hottendorgen doggendonkendonkendurgan.” (I think one of the ‘o’s had a line through it…I mean, what the hell is that?)

I guess I said it wrong because all of the other patrons gave me foul glares…my own accent so rich in U.S.-itude.

I apologized profusely, citing “how difficult I found the language to pronounce.”

The owner replies, and correctly so, “Really? Because I see it being spoken every day by very, very small children.” He was right. He was also a fascist douche bag who deserved my wrath. The whole place howled, and all twenty patrons made me feel like a political rodent. I held my tongue though, as I didn’t want any “spitten hocken” on my sammitch, okay?

We walk around the corner and are stopped cold by two couples…four well-dressed perfect human specimens, the kind of people you only see in beer ads and Holland.

“You! You are The Puppet Guy! Everyone on the boardwalk is talking about the show you make here today! Let us take you out…let us show you around!”

And they did. They were fantastic and warm, wonderful hosts. I didn’t have the heart to feel anything but overjoyed…I instantly forgot the ugly events of five minutes earlier.

That’s because Lee Zimmerman is just some obnoxious loudmouth from the United States.

The Puppet Guy is a citizen of Earth.

George F. Will – Quoted

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

“Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence.”

George F. Will, US editor, commentator, & columnist (1941 – )


“The 2010 Winter Games not only provides a venue for sports excellence, but also amazing crowds in good spirits to play to as a performer!”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

Wanted to have a quote that I could tie in to the Olympics and found this one… The Olympics certainly has transformed Vancouver. I discussed it a bit a couple of days ago, but it really is amazing to walk down town and feel the excitement in the air! The enthusiasm and spirit that’s floating around is just incredible and it’s a joy to be in the middle of it all! If you can get yourself here before the end of the Game you’ll see what I mean. If not, enjoy the buzz on TV or however else you can!

Robin Chestnut • Interviews from the Inside

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prologue: Flash back… Flash waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back to the spring of 1990. I had just completed a two month contract at the Hana Haku Flower Expo in Osaka, Japan and my re-entry into performing in North America took the form of a contract at the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival. This is where I first met Robin Chestnut who describes his memory of the event like this –

“My first recollections were meeting you at the 1990 Winnipeg International Children’s Festival when I’d first partnered up with Tawny Ross, some may know him as Aytahn now. I remember the checkered outfit, that you had a lot of energy and you juggled 7 balls. And you were kind enough to come yak with us young punks in the workshop area. But it wasn’t until later on at the CAMP program that we started to get to know each other better.”

When we first met Robin was just getting started as a juggler, but I’ve been nothing but impressed by not only how hard he’s worked to become and excellent technical juggler, but also how his show and performance character has evolved over the years… It’s also a hoot going out to his place in Teulon, Manitoba to ride horses… Good guy! Good fun!


Name: Robin Chestnut
Birthday: April 27, 1974
Place of Birth: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Started Peforming/Working in the Industry: Started performing at age 12 doing local gigs, competitions, and didn’t go to work full time until near the end of university in 1997 and officially started the business Jan. 1st, 1998. B.A. English, Psychology.
Disciplin: Comedy Juggling
Website: www.robnut.com
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88XVhPU66Kk
Venues Worked: Highlights include Premiere Cruiselines, Saudi Arabia, China, Fairs and Festivals in Canada, some Street Festivals, but mainly corporate and school gigs. A highlight has also been doing the world famous CAMP program here in Manitoba. I’d love to see Australia/New Zealand at some point.

Hot 10 Questions:

  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? • Vanilla is the short answer. There’s a part of me that wants you (the reader) to think I’m something exotic, mysterious, special like Tiger-Tiger, but I’m Vanilla. Of course I include the potential for all flavours, but in most situations, and most of the time I’m plain ole’ Vanilla. And more and more, I want to be just plain old Vanilla.
  2. Name one movie that would make it to your Top 10 all-time great films.Usual Suspects, Shawshank Redemption, V for Vendetta. Good Will Hunting is up there too.
  3. What was your favorite toy from childhood? • Lego, hours and hours of Lego.
  4. Who were your biggest inspirations when you got started? • The 1986 IJA competition VHS tape. I’d watch it daily for hours. It included Dan Bennett, Larry Merlo, Dan Menendez, Jerome Ellis, Benji Hill, Scott Burton, Anthony Gatto, and possibly one more that escapes me. I also liked The Passing Zone and Raspini Brothers from that tape. Later I’d spend varying amounts of time with all of them save Jerome Ellis. When I was 17 I got to be in the editing room for the making of Anthony’s video, To Be the Best. Benji Hill was my coach, and I worked on the cruise ships with him. We haven’t spoken since ’94.
  5. From the world of animation what one character do you most identify with or see yourself in? • Probably the main character in Antz, what was his name? (His name was ‘Z’ and he was voiced by Woody Allen)
  6. Name something that scares you.Bungee Jumping and not reaching my potential, whatever that is.
  7. Apart from the entertainment industry, name one other job you’ve had. • Turkey Poult Delivery Driver.
  8. What’s something you haven’t done yet that you’d like to try? SCUBA Diving, and Bee Keeping, the latter will likely happen this year, I’ve done ‘SCBA Walking, and even ‘SCBA cut-a-hole-in-the-roof-of-that-burning-building‘ with our fire dept here in Teulon, but would love to add the underwater part. I hear one of the best places in the world is off the west coast of Vancouver Island, lots of ship wrecks to explore.
  9. What’s your least favourite thing about being a performer? • Being away from the farm, my wife, my community, and trading time/skill for money, and the promoting, I could improve my promoting/marketing skills.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? • I’d like to look him in the eye in a long extended expressionless stare, then at the exact same moment we’d both wink, his left eye, my right. Then a grin would creep across our face, and we go have a yak about the whole thing, a debrief if you will.

The Nugget:

Pick one nugget of wisdom you’ve picked up from your career in Show Business to share with the World.

It’s about the people. When I look back what I remember most are the relationships with all great folks I’ve met along the way.

–Robin Chestnut


Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

In yesterday’s post I mentioned how people from all over the world are descending on Vancouver to enjoy the fever and excitement of the Olympics. Not only spectators, but performers too as Street Performers always seem to gravitate towards where ever large crowds are congregating… One such performer is my friend Cathy Peace from Swank Street Theatre Company.

Cathy and I met at the 2009 Edmonton Street Performer’s Festival and had a hoot hanging out then, so when she said she was coming to Vancouver to perform with Dana Fadkin (another performer I met at the 2009 Edmonton Festival) and needed a place to crash I was happy to provide a place for her to crash…

One of the big things I love about the world of Street Performing is the people who populate it. Lee Zimmerman recently painted a lovely picture of the ordeal that happens at a Festival when people gather for the ‘Circle of Judgement’ at the opening meeting of an event and captured a glimpse of the wonderful characters that inhabit this world. These hugely talented misfits are amongst the most interesting people I’ve ever met and the friendships I have with these people are amongst the most important relationships in my life.

I’m very good at compartmentalizing my life so I can give full focus to what ever it is I’m doing. I love being a performer, but I also love being a father and a husband. Both aspects of my life, the ‘work’ part and the ‘home’ part are incredibly important to me and I’ve spoken before about trying to craft the ideal balance between the two. It’s never easy and I find it much much easier to go away from home to work and when I’m home focus my energies on my family. The trick with it all comes when I get a gig like the one I’m doing currently for the Olympics in town because I run off, do my shows, then come home and attend to the duties at home. I’m in one of those ‘burning the candle on both ends’ situations and I find it exhausting.

I’ve learned from experience that when I’m in a scenario like this, getting enough rest becomes hyper-important. If I try to do too much on not enough sleep, everything suffers… So, I’ve been trying to remember this, not party too hard in the evenings though the temptation is there and stay on track and pace myself as there’s still nine more days of shows to go.

Cathy showed incredible insight the other night because I think she could sense my general energy drain and she stepped forward and offered to make dinner. In a world where Facebook makes it so easy to have superficial relationships with so many, there’s something really amazingly valuable about having a friendship that go a bit deeper. Cathy did the shopping, the prep and the execution of a lovely pasta dinner. Add to this a couple of baguettes that my wife made and I found myself very happily blending my family life and my work life over a fabulous meal which gave me an enormous amount of pleasure…

Hmmmmm… Friends!

Shows at Robson Square

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prep for the BC Street Jam Program at Robson Square started for me shortly after I wrapped up work at the 2009 PNE back in September, before it wrapped up actually as I had the initial conversation about helping co-ordinate the street performers on Robson Square before the PNE even finished. The BC Street Jam and all of the activities at Robson Square are being funded by the British Columbia provincial government and terms like ‘cultural diversity,’ ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ were being tossed around so much that the red tape and bureaucracy leading up to this event was likely the most intense that I’ve ever encountered.

So… Six months of jumping through hoops and cutting through red tape and being accountable and during this entire lead up to the Olympics no one really knew what the crowds were going to be like once The Games actually started. Well… Robson Square is becoming THE spot to meet, congregate and enjoy the Olympic Atmosphere and the programming has almost become too successful. The original stage that was set up for the BC Street Jam that I featured in a post a while back ended up getting scrapped. Crowds on Robson Street have been so huge that after the first weekend of shows in that original venue, the organizers were asked by the police to find an alternative location for the program. The result? The north end of the skating rink at Robson Square right in front of a huge staircase that turns the pitch into a natural amphitheatre. It’s Awesome!

The vibe in the air is incredible as well! People from all corners of the globe have descended on Vancouver for the common goal of witnessing excellence in sport. Yes there’s a flood of red maple-leave clad folks on the streets and it’s very clear who the home town crowd is cheering for, but no matter what country people are from, they’re all in a good mood and this translates to huge happy crowds which are a pleasure to perform for. The energy sort of reminds me of the feeling I get every time I get to Ottawa for Canada Day. People have become hugely patriotic and enthusiastic. The difference this time around is that Canada Day is a one day event and the Olympics is running for 17-days straight.

Beyond just the BC Street Jam Program that I helped co-ordinate, there’s been a huge influx of performers from all over the place who have come in to work the streets and apparently the hats are huge. I’ve got my hands full enough with what I’m doing to not really be all that fussed about pursuing additional street shows during the run, but many of the other performers are cranking it out and doing very well.

I’ve never seen Vancouver look better and it’s really cool to have been a part of helping create the excitement both leading up to the opening with the co-ordinating of performers and during the run with my own shows. If you get the chance and are anywhere near Vancouver, you really should get down and check it out. Like the slogan for the Provincial Government states –

“You Gotta Be Here!”

Don’t Bring Your Balls on the Plane…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

This one really caught me off guard… As I was leaving India on Saturday night I checked my luggage in with Cathay Pacific at the New Delhi International Airport and headed towards security on my way to the departure gate. I went through the regular ‘are you carrying any liquids or gels‘ schpiel and pulled my laptop out and put it in a separate tray for the x-ray machine then walked through the body metal detector thing and when I got to the other side there was an delay in getting my bags…

Now this is fairly normal for me because as a juggler I often put stuff in my hand luggage that the airport security people raise an eyebrow over… Most travellers, for example, don’t carry hat boxes with Top Hats in them… I’m used to having my bags run through the screening process multiple time and questions asked about the content of my carry on cases, but typically once the questions are asked I’m allowed to go on my merry way having suffered only a minor delay.

Such was not the case on Saturday night however…

I get to the other side of the screening and sure enough my bags are run through a second time. Then the bag search… They open up my top hat bag and pull out my five silicone juggling-balls

“We’re going to need to run these through again…”

OK… What ever…

Now I should also point out at this point that the guys who do the security at the International Airport in New Delhi are Indian Military and not your typical TSA guy from North America. They have a slightly more menacing appearance and some of them carry side arms or rifles… Definitely not the sort of guys you want to piss off…

“Can I see your boarding pass please.”

I hand it over and they look at it, then look back at me and say –

“I’m afraid you can’t travel with these balls, they’re a restricted item.”

I’m like – What? – Juggling balls a restricted item???”


“Can you tell my why I’m not allowed to take them on the plane? I mean I didn’t have a problem on my way to India with these and I’m having a hard time understanding what the problem is..”

“They are a restricted item… Can you follow me to the head of security please…”

So I go over to the dude in the picture and he explains to me that I won’t be able to carry these on the plane in my hand luggage. These ‘Restricted items’ will be placed in a special Cathay Pacific box and put in the checked luggage area of the plane…


At this point, a representative from Cathay Pacific is there helping and I turn to him in the hopes of getting some sort of explanation –

“I’m sorry for the confusion,” I say, “But can you explain to me why these juggling balls are a ‘Restricted item’?”

The guy from Cathay smiles at me and says…

“Well… You might start juggling and distract the pilot…”

I smile, resign myself to the fact that I won’t see my balls until I get to Vancouver and stop resisting the inevitable.

Flash forward to my arrival in Vancouver on Sunday and sure enough my specially boxed juggling balls were spat out onto the baggage carousel at YVR so the story had a happy ending. To be honest, not having to carry the extra weight of 5 three-inch silicone juggling-balls in my hand-luggage wasn’t necessarily a bad thing… The only reason I normally keep them in my hand-luggage is to keep the weight of my checked luggage below 50 lbs… On this particular trip I could have checked them as I wasn’t travelling with quite as much in the way of props as I sometimes do… Oh well.

Lesson learned… When in India, Check your Balls!


Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

About five years ago when I first started getting Cruise Ship work through the Don Casino Agency in Miami I was asked to submit my availability on a weekly basis. Every Friday I send them an update on what dates are available and periodically they send me offers from various cruise lines based on the dates that I’ve said are available.

Just recently I decided to dress up the look/feel of my weekly availability reports to Don Casino by turning it into a PDF with a bit more of a ‘branded’ look. My thinking was that if all of their acts are sending in their availability, I wanted mine to stand out a bit from the rest of the crowd. It seemed to me to a perfect opportunity to raise the bar in terms of using this as a marketing vehicle.

Then I got to thinking that sending out regular availability updates is something I should probably be doing for other clients/agents as well. Sending out weekly, bi-monthly or monthly updates to certain clients I work for on a regular basis or agents who frequently get me work severs a dual purpose. First it gets my availability information into their hands, but beyond that it keeps me in the client’s mind by showing an ongoing enthusiasm towards getting more work and delivering great shows!

The theory of this makes perfect sense, but the reality of putting this system into action is eluding me a bit at the moment. After getting back from India on Sunday, this ‘Monday blog post’ has been delayed in being posted as I scrambled to get my body and mind ready to start shows as part of the Celebrations on Robson Square that are going on during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I’ve had a very very full week and am just now (Friday) getting around to writing this post which has been bouncing around my head waiting to get out… I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get the rest of the week’s posts out of my head today as well and get caught up…

But I digress… Back to the original topic. Sending out a regular-ish message to past and potential clients letting them know that I’d love to work with them just makes good business sense. There is a fine line between being persistent and being annoying though, and everyone has a slightly different threshold when it comes to this, so taking the time to check and see if this sort of regular update is appreciated or just considered annoying is likely a good idea before you start bombarding people’s inboxes with daily updates. If you can get approval for this sort of steady communication it can only increase your opportunities to land more gigs and keep you working!

Hanging with The Others.

The third instalment from Zimmy Page… A wonderful look at the world that materializes when Street Performers Gather!


I tried to explain to a normal person what it’s like to travel around and hang out with other street performers all the time. I quickly realized that it almost defies description. And if you’ve ever appeared at one of these international class street performer festivals yourself, then you know that I’m right.

Most people live their whole lives, maybe they get to meet ten interesting, unique characters. Other people stop in the middle of the boulevard, draw attention to themselves somehow, get folks to watch them and get paid to do it. Other people are different.
Going to a place where a lot of The Others are congregating is better than the circus coming to town. A lot better.

First of all, you’ll be spending a good stretch of time with anywhere from twelve to fifty hilarious, unusual people, some of them with amusing accents. We’re talking about people who had to invent a job for themselves in order to survive in a normal world. Many of them are heavy drinkers and physically beautiful as well, so you may not wish to attempt this lifestyle while married.
And the skills that some of these people have are often baffling…not just the amazing weird-ass show that they came up with, but all the other mutant, strange gifts they possess.

How many of them are musicians–75 percent? 80?

It takes a musician’s timing to launch a street show, so that doesn’t surprise. A lot of buskers seem to have created amazing kids, too. And that does surprise.

There are so many world class performers that can do incredible, cutting edge computer shit. People who can sew and design clothing, sculptors, true artists who use glass, iron and wood…AND they can gather up strangers into a ring. How about those super-smart builders who can construct virtually anything the mind can dream up, like Peter Boulanger and Tom Comet? And almost all of these people are funny. Almost.

That’s why it’s never fun to go to the first meeting–‘orientation.’

Most of my peers aren’t very Oriented to begin with…except for Master Lee. Most of us are decidedly DIS-oriented and we like it. It takes effort and costs good money. Money you do not want to waste. The last buzz-kill you need is to be stuck in a room filled with a dozen class clowns TRYING to outdo one other in the “Circle Of Judgment.”

The co-ordinator is rambling on as you paw absently through your envelope, “yes yes yes I won’t set up there no no no I won’t pull the kids pants down like that guy did that year that time no no no I won’t be racist…I swear, whenever I see any Jews around I promise to shut up, okay?”   …blah blah blah.

No, the real joy of being a street performer at a street performer festival is found in the tents and green rooms between shows. Even better is the hang back at the hotel. Watching the stilt guy learn to juggle from the yo-yo guy who’s also a killer dancer…his bendy chick girlfriend wants you to stand still so she can do body curls hanging backwards off of your torso. Sure, baby.

If she likes you and the room is quiet enough, Emma Lloyd can lean into your ear and create the sound of mice tap dancing. Rhys Thomas can recite pages and pages of memorized dialogue like Shel Silverstien poetry for instance…but only in linear form. If he misses a line he has to start over again. Pee-Wee Murray can lay on his back…and leap up into the air using only his back muscles. He gets serious air, too! Eric Amber, who normally speaks with the hushed reverence of a bishop, can fashion the “C” word into over a hundred meanings, tenses and uses.

It’s so great to just absorb all the laughter the riffing the scheming the pissing contests, and of course everyone has a Jimmy Wong story or a Kim Kelley anecdote, and some of them are actually not unpleasant…naaaah, not really. They’re all pretty bad.

It’s never failed to stop me in my tracks at some point during the week–“This is all way too cool to take for granted.”
And then at night, guitars appear. This can be great. But what if it’s God-awful ukuleles, oy! People cluster up into teams as in every micro-culture.

The drunks always find each other and figure out if they have enough booze left.

The nerds always find each other to play “Settlers” and figure out if they have enough wheat left to play other nerdly board games.

The sluts always find each other to play “Bodies”. “Look there, nature lovers–she’s displaying!”

There are even outsiders. Can you believe that?!

Buskers that are also outsiders– sitting alone and dejected while surrounded by many other seemingly happy outsiders.

“Thirty certifiable nut jobs we got here, gathered up drunk in a room, and you can’t talk to any of them? Well, you go right ahead and just sit there staring. It’s your lucky day, smelly. We don’t ALLOW that around here. Wipe that gloopy look off your face and pull up a chair! We’ll make you have fun!”

This goes on for three, maybe thirteen days in some places, man. It’s so exciting to be inside this bubble, and the first few times you do one of these fests, it really affects you. It can change the way you think about yourself, your show, or even your place in the world.

You may even change countries.

Think of this: think of all the buskers who have pollinated, pollinated again and even cross-pollinated. Too many to count, but just enough to launch a really creepy porno site.

The examples that we all know of are hilarious to some, painful to others. Of course when it’s painful to some, that’s when it becomes even more hilarious to others.

I just love the Others. I used to hate the Others–now I’m their leader.

Just kidding–I don’t lead anybody.

But just like the rest of my street performing family and friends, I don’t follow anybody either.

John Howard Payne – Quoted

Where in the world am I today?: New Delhi, India.

“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

John Howard Payne , US actor & dramatist (1791 – 1852)


“Striking a happy balance between loving life on the road and the simple pleasures of home and family is one of the greatest challenges I’m never sure I get right.”

–David ‘checkerhead’ Aiken

I think the first weeks of 2010 have been a bit out of whack… On the road way more than I’ve been home, but I’m heading home tonight and am very much looking forward to sleeping in my bed for a few weeks while I plug away at a contract during the Olympics.

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