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Sunday, January 13, 2008

See Ya Down the Road, Faye.

Faye Reynolds, a good friend, frequent employer, and mother of an entire circus passed away this past Tuesday. She was 85.

Faye was the matriarch of the Reynolds Family Circus, a show & family I worked on & with many times over the years. They owned the first circus I'd ever worked on and wanted to hire me before I'd ever gone to Ringling Bros. More surprising to me was that they still wanted to hire me after I'd been to Ringling bros.

See, Ringling clowns do not have the best reputations outside of the Ringling world. They're all good professionals in the biz, but virtually every other circus on the planet requires much more from their clowns than Ringling does. Longer gags, the ability to do more time to cover up the set-up of rigging, a quicker "on-your-feet" wit and a few other traits are what most other shows look for when hiring clowns or other performers.

Since I'd had a relationship with them before I went to Ringling they took me on after I'd returned. That meant a lot to me. More than just a paycheck. of course, that didn't mean I'd go through the 16 weeks on the road without a fair share of "lousy Ringling clowns" remarks.

My first "mud show" (tented show) was theirs and my first touring show( soon afterwards) was theirs. Even though I was already a good performer with a professional work ethic I had a lot of proving and learning to do along the way. Faye was often one of the ones most eager to let me know these truths. In fact, she rarely spoke to me at all that first season unless if it was to bust my stones about something.

One day, the guy who was doing the plate spinning act and several other bits on the show broke his foot about two hours prior to show time. In a pinch they asked if I could learn the act on the spot or at least fill in some extra time. I was already doing two spots on the show, a brief appearance in the opening act gag, as well as selling balloons during intermission, but I had other acts and was willing to give the plate act a try.

What ended up happening was yours truly doing the main part of the opening gag, 3 of my own acts, the plate-spinning act, and selling balloons. I also did my normal set -up and tear-down along with the rest of the gang. In all I was on stage 5 separate times and working other duties for the rest of my time. This went on for quite a few weeks.

The end result was not only a lot more cash in my pay envelope and a new act for my repertoire, but "the new guy" was not given any more grief for the green around the gills mistakes anymore. "The new guy" had more than earned some respect from the seasoned folks, including Faye.

On the last day of the tour she insisted upon being the one to hand me my pay envelope. Upon handing me my well-earned cash she paid me one of the highest compliments you can get in the circus.

"Andy, you're a REAL trouper."

In the years since we worked together countless times, ate many a meal at many a Chinese buffet, and shared a lot of memories together. While I will never be able to say I'll miss her loud and often out of tempo organ music, I can certainly say that I'll miss her sense of humor, her personality, and certainly her friendship.

Thanks to Bob Kelmer for alerting me of her passing. I'd spoken with the family prior, but the news of the actual event came to me only recently. Here's a write-up about Faye, who had some considerable historic notoriety within the circus business.

Famed circus teacher dies

Educator helped kids of all ages

Courier & Press correspondent (618) 842-2159 or
Saturday, January 12, 2008

Leona Faye Reynolds Founded the firsteducation program for circus
employees' kids.

Leona Faye Reynolds Founded the firsteducation program for circus
employees' kids.

MOUNT VERNON, Ill. —For years, Leona Faye Reynolds and her husband,
Wayne, toured with the Carson Barnes Circus throughout the United States
and Canada as musicians. Leona was an organist, and her husband played
the trombone.

While both made their mark as circus band performers, it was Leona —
who died Tuesday at age 85 at her home in Mount Vernon — who made history
with a special school she established on the circus trail.

It all started when the owners of the Carson Barnes Circus asked Leona
if she would tutor their children, and later, their grandchildren. The
assignment evolved into a full-time job as she established the
first-ever primary education program for children of circus employees.

"She took their curriculum on the road, teaching throughout the circus
season of March through November," said Patsy Reynolds, Leona's daughter.

"She taught children from kindergarten through college prep," she said.

"She made sure they all kept up with school, and when they got back to
their hometowns, they would surpass the other students in school."

For older children, Leona made sure their curriculum was of a practical nature.

"She taught them typing, how to fill out forms and complete insurance
papers," her daughter said. "This was all in addition to teaching the
basics of history, math and English."

Leona's unique traveling school attracted the attention of circus owners and
educators alike. In the mid 1980s the
Smithsonian Institution
produced a documentary about her work with circus children. She even
made an appearance on NBC's Today Show.

The Reynoldses toured with the Carson Barnes Circus until 1985 when
they formed their own circus, the Reynoldses Family Circus, and began
touring throughout the Midwest.

Their children, Bill and Dan Reynolds performed with the circus, along
with daughter, Patsy. Another daughter, Kathleen Taylor and her
husband, Gary, of Fairfield, Ill., worked in the front office, booking
appearances and handling advertising. Leona's husband Wayne died in
1997, and the family circus made its last run in 2002.

In her later years, Leona remained active as a musician, playing the
organ and piano at a number of Mount Vernon, Ill., churches including
the Logan Street and Park Avenue Baptist churches.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a nice tribute. -- Joe Reynolds

10:22 AM


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