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Have you ever heard of Dan Rice? Probably not. But if you were alive around the middle of the nineteenth century chances are you would know his name. That's when Dan Rice made his mark in "the show business." In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, the life and times of Dan Rice. And the controversy over the use of animals in circuses.
Todd Robbins, "The Coney Island Wonder Worker," talks with Anne Strainchamps about how he learned how to safely swallow swords and walk on hot coals. And to prove his skill, he munches on a lightbulb while they chat. Robbins emphasizes that although his feats are not tricks, they do involve learned techniques and that no one should try this at home. Robbins is the Dean of Coney Island's Sideshow School. You can find out more about him at http://www.toddrobbins.com. Also, Benjamin Reiss is the author of "The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum's America." He tells Steve Paulson how P.T. Barnum got his start: exhibiting an elderly Black woman who claimed to be 161 years old and George Washington's nanny.
Janet Davis tells Steve Paulson that controversy has surrounded the use of animals in the American circus since the 1890s. She thinks the animal rights camp has had an effect given the popularity of animal free circuses like Cirque du Soleil, which may point to the circus of the future. Davis' book is "The Circus Age: Culture and Society under the American Big Top."
Cassette copies are available at 1-800-747-7444. Ask for program number 02-06-02-A.
David Carlyon is a former clown for Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the author of "Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You've Never Heard Of." He tells Jim Fleming that Rice was once considered America's greatest humorist. He was a talking clown, doing satiric commentary on current events. He got his start touring with Sybil, the Learned Pig and ultimately died a drunk.
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