Comedian Jack Carter Dies at 93

Jack Carter was among that happy crew of jesters blessed

with a wildness inborn and an insatiable zest.

He heard the notes of Pan that leave society aghast

and make the clown who follows it an enviable outcast.

He shared his mischievous bent with the raucous crowd,

now he quips with worms and angels around his shroud. 

jack carter

 

My Obituary

 

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I want my wishes known beyond the grave; posterity

Should get a piece of my mind (for my own hilarity).

My obit will instruct that all memorials should go

To Ringling Brothers Circus or another big top show.

 

Family and friends who mourn my passing are instructed

A tomb of Lego blocks for me should quickly be constructed.

And whoever is the President when I should pass away

Should be sent, on my behalf, instructions for croquet.

 

Do not list accomplishments or working history;

Instead give to the waiting world my lefse recipe.

And any money found by miracle in my estate

Should go for whoopee cushions when our Congress holds debate.

from a story by Chris Dyches 

To Tyler Honrud.

sunrise

(From an article by Chris Murphy

There are no ghosts or graveyard haunts to entertain our fears

When parents or a sibling pass beyond the care of years.

The dirt is cast, the hearse departs, the mourners walk away;

And we are left as best we can to live another day.

 

No answer lies within our grasp when death sweeps hard and fast.

We only know that we are as a bubble that won’t last.

The young may run, the old endure, while breath goes in and out.

The sand runs through the hourglass, a monument to doubt.

 

Yet gloom is not our nature; tis a habit that’s acquired

From the world around us – we are born to be inspired!

Death is never final, and the score will always tell

That the game is won because with God all things are well. 

Gary Dahl — Inventor of the Pet Rock — is Dead.

petrock

from an obituary in the New York Times

The world we had when pet rocks ruled the roost for one brief flash

Inclines me to the thought that we were innocent and rash.

With the hula hoop and silly putty (or the slinky)

We reveled in our baubles as we munched upon a Twinkie.

 

Who now recalls the Charlie Weaver doll that puffed out smoke

From its ears when drinking gin – a mechanical bar joke.

TV dinners were so bad that only someone fetching

Like the Flying Nun could keep us from profoundly retching.

 

Gary Dahl invented pet rocks as a drunken jest.

He had but to announce them and . . . I guess you know the rest.

Those days, those blowzy, frowzy days, are gone like Mork & Mindy;

Today we’re sending drones to bomb the children of Rawalpindi.  

 

Andreas Lubitz of Germanwings; a Poetic Post Mortem.

andrealubitz

My mother raised me to respect the rules and regulations

Of all the many branches of the sciences and nations.

The pattern and the symmetry of rote and standards thrilled me.

(But in the end this fetish is what finally did kill me.)

 

I had my girlfriend beat me when I breached our staid decorum,

Or whip me with a leather thong that I had tipped with aurum.

Correlating ev’ry aspect of my time and leisure

Was to me a scintillating, enervating pleasure.

 

But when I reached my 27th year I noted with acuity

That my life was nothing more than existential vacuity.

Using winged technology to end my null existence

Required nothing more than pilot’s license and persistence.

 

 

Robert Durst and the New Jinx.

durst

The River Styx was calm as I was rowed up to the shore

Where souls await eternity as just another chore.

I tipped old Charon with the last of my ill-gotten gains

From a lifetime of hard work and penny-pinching pains.

 

I sighed as I trudged up the bank to take my solemn place

With all the dead from all the nations of the human race.

When suddenly a spotlight on me shone, as for a show,

And someone hollered I was going to be on HBO.

 

“Robert Durst is finished, and we need a brand-new face”

Said this bold producer, “So just let me hear your case!”

I thought as how my life was o’er, with all its turns and tricks,

Then told him “Nothing doing – I am going with Netflix!”

 

From a story on Buzz Feed.

Provo poet lives to make people laugh

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For more than 20 years, reporters around the world have been receiving poems from a Provo man who reads their work and has something to say.

“It’s an obsession for me,” Tim Torkildson said. “Whenever I read something interesting I just have to respond to it in verse.”

Sometimes sent electronically, other times in the mail, poems range in length but are always witty and always rhyme.

He subscribes to at least seven papers — ranging from The New York Times to his hometown paper the Minneapolis Star Tribune — and responds to anything that “tickles” or “outrages” him.

The first poem he remembers sending was back in 1993, a serious poem about the Waco, Texas siege.

Since then the 61-year-old has written thousands.

provopoet2

During an average week, he’ll write and send five poems to various reporters and news outlets. About 90 percent of the time he doesn’t hear back, but the few times he does is what keeps him going.

In January, Rachel Abrams from The New York Times wrote about the curiosity and persistence that eventually led her to interview Torkildson and publish three poems he sent her.

More recently, Torkildson said he received feedback from a reporter in Europe who called him a “genius” and told him she would “treasure” what he had done with her stories.

To hear feedback like that from a professional writer is gratifying, Torkildson said, especially as a college dropout. He likes the friendships it forms, and hopes someday his hobby could lead to a full-time poetry-writing career.

“I miss doing something that makes people happy,” he said.

provopoet3

For a good chunk of his life, Torkildson worked as a clown for the Ringling Brothers. His poetry writing started years ago when he was a young father traveling with the circus. Since his kids were home in Provo, he’d write them poems as a way to stay in touch and let them know he was thinking of them.

After arthritis forced him to leave circus life, Torkildson spent 15 years teaching English in Thailand before finding his way back to Utah Valley.

In July 2014, Torkildson received some press from multiple national news outlets after being let go from his part-time job in Provo for supposedly promoting a “gay agenda” through teaching about homophones.

In between jobs, he’s searching for something that makes him and others happy.

“I’m not made to cause people unhappiness,” he said. “If I’m not entertaining people I’m not happy.”

(From an article by Keri Lunt Stevens in the Provo Daily Herald, Wednesday, March 4. 2015)

Kevin Bickford: A Clown for All Seasons.

kevin

It is time to write of Kevin Bickford, a.k.a. Rufus T. Goofus.

I will pass over his many kindnesses to old friends and complete strangers during his tenure at Bozo Row in Los Angeles.  He took in more strays than the SPCA.

I want to recall him as I first met him and worked with him on the Ringling Brothers Blue Unit in 1971.

He and I were both as blind as bats without our glasses, and so were constantly tripping over guy wires and smashing into other big top paraphernalia during walk arounds and ring gags.

During that first season we played Madison Square Garden for over two months, and had several evenings off when we were preempted by hockey games.  Those were glorious rambles through the bowels of New York; one night we went to Radio City Music Hall for the movie.   It was the first time either one of us had ever been inside that Taj Mahal of the cinema.  When Kevin saw the sweeping staircase leading up to the balcony, the carpet a plush red, his slapstick instincts took over.

“Tork” he called, as he clambered up the stairway.  “Watch this!”

At the top he threw himself down, to roll boisterously all the way to the bottom.  Then got up and laughed like an idiot child.  Nearby patrons were extremely startled at his antics; an usher, dressed like a South American chief-of-staff, anxiously asked him if he needed a doctor.  He was about to repeat his performance, until Tim Holst and I grabbed him and forcibly steered him into the darkened theater before he could concoct anymore mayhem.

For my birthday that season he went out and bought me a cake.  We lived right across from each other on the clown train car (nicknamed “The Iron Lung), and so he simply knocked on my door that night after the last show so we could share the treat.  Even though both of us were mighty trenchermen, there was still cake left over, which he gave to me.  But I didn’t want it cluttering up my tiny roomette, so, while he went down the hall to the donniker, I simply shoved it under the upholstered seat of his roomette.  And didn’t think to ever mention it to him.

He didn’t discover this until a few months later, when the cockroaches became even more unendurable than usual.  As he was cleaning out his room preparatory to spraying it he came across the remnant of my birthday cake, slowly decomposing into a feast for bugs.

He chased me through the King Charles Troupe car, through the Bulgarian acrobats car, and then cornered me in the pie car, where I lamely offered to buy him the pie car special – a ham sandwich and a bowl of chili.  That pacified him.

A few seasons later he celebrated my natal day in a much different manner . . .

During the evening performance, while I was doing a gag with Terry Parsons, he snuck up behind me and gave me a shaving cream pie in the kisser.  While I was wiping it out of my eyes he and Terry hustled me into a smelly gunnysack and dragged me off into a corner, where I spent the rest of the show trying to extricate myself from the bag.

I stopped reminding people about my birthday after that.

In Chicago we played the old arena that was next to the stockyards.  Over one hundred years of bloody and poopy cattle had imbued the ground with a unique and unsettling aroma.  It took us several days to become used to it and stop gagging sporadically.  Around the arena were hundreds of bentwood chairs for the front row audience.

Kevin immediately became enchanted with their comic possibilities, and spent come-in wandering among them, getting first an arm and then a leg encumbered in them . . . until he looked like a human porcupine with chair legs sticking out from him at all angles. It was such a funny gag that I tried to steal it from him; but I couldn’t carry it off with the same panache.

My favorite Roofus T. Goofus walk-around had him dressed as a candy butcher, with the pink cotton candy plastered all over his face, arms, midriff and legs.  His look of bemused concern as he staggered around the track engulfed in his own product made even a hardened old veteran like Swede Johnson chuckle.

On Halloween that first season he and I decided to exchange makeups and costumes for the evening show.  We knew that if the performance director, the redoubtable Charlie Baumann, caught us we’d get a taste of his tiger whip – so we stayed out of his sight.  I did Kevin’s gags and he did mine.

It just so happened that payday was that day as well, so when the word went out that the Ghost was walking we didn’t stop to think but scrambled over to the deal table where Schwartzie was handing out the pay envelopes.  Schwartzie was a former clown, as cross-eyed as Ben Turpin, who now handled the payroll.  After a cursory glance he gave me Kevin’s pay envelope and gave Kevin my pay envelope.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I peeked inside Kevin’s envelope – and immediately regretted it.  Kevin was making fifty dollars more than me!  We silently exchanged envelopes a few minutes later.  I doubt that Kevin looked inside my envelope – he wasn’t that kind of a guy.

I lost touch with Roofus when I moved to Thailand to teach English many years ago, and when I moved back to the States there were only occasional and vague echoes of him from other old circus friends.

But I want to think of him now, still swathed in cotton candy and still tottering down the track somewhere to the crows of delighted laughter from children and adults – still a clown for all seasons . . .

The Grave Digger of Ovid, New York.

cemetery

Carving loam precisely was his chief delight on days

When a client was delivered from this mortal maze.

Sweating as the Bible says all men must do for bread,

He made a final home not for himself but for the dead.

 

The dead were numbered, filed, forgot; their names a cipher dim.

The graveyard slowly lost to view behind a weedy scrim.

Still the digger carried on; his labors only ceased

When in cold repose himself was buried by a priest.

 

Do the dead care anything if their names are neglected?

Should strangers try to have their identity resurrected?

Ask the digger of the graves in Ovid, New York state.

His answer will not come too soon – nor carry any weight.