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I was born in Paterson New Jersey, home of Lou Costello, Allen Ginsberg, Hurricane Carter and people like that.

My folks were broke and moved a lot. When I was ten years old the family moved to suburban Southern California but we weren't a good fit so we moved back to the Jersey ghetto. It was good to know that there were other ways to live.

I attended college in Memphis in 1967 where I had the double major of antiwar demonstrations and civil rights. That became too difficult a load to carry after Martin Luther King was shot there in Memphis. In 1969 I left school to hitchhike around and see for myself what the world was up to.

I traveled across America for a couple of years sleeping in roadside rest stops, the cabs of moving trucks, hippies crash pads, city parks.. But I was awake part of the time.

After Woodstock I came through Memphis again ... this time with rainbows and stars in my eyes and mud still on my pants. I tried to work regular jobs but, no matter how short I cut my hair or tried to conform, everyone saw the hippie in my eyes. I had to choose a goal and accomplish it. It didn't matter much which goal. I set my mind on random and picked Europe. It was among the tales that I had told, someday I would vagabond through Europe seeing the Old World through young eyes ...

I went back to Jersey, lived with my parents, took a factory job and ... set a date for quitting. Ten months, I would work all I could, overtime if they had it.

I wouldn't go out at night, just save the money for a trip to Europe.

This wasn't a promise to myself to become a responsible human from now on, only an effort to focus one time on one thing beginning to end. Anything that would help me get to Europe, I would do. Anything that wouldn't, I wouldn't.

I wouldn't go out at night and spend money ... I'd stay home. I needed to entertain myself, TV was dead boring (well, okay, Star Trek, but otherwise ...). I thought of toys; when I was a kid, some kids were good with a yo yo: loop de loop, rock the cradle, round the world. I wasn't one of those kids. But now I was 21 years old, I could figure this thing out. I was smarter, more coordinated ... I got a yo yo and played with it every night. I got good and then I got bored.

So I got one of those fly-back things (wooden paddle, elastic and red ball babbada babbada babbada babbada). I did that every night. I got good and then got bored.

Then I got some soap bubbles; I'd make a big one, then a bigger one, then bigger.

I was a smoker and I would fill them with smoke. I started seeing them do things; two bubbles in the air would bounce off of each other, or join together, or come together as one! If you ook closely at suds for a long time you will go crazy ...I know, I did it for years. I became obsessed. I played with bubbles every night for the rest of the ten months. When I went to Europe, I was good at bubbles. Now it's almost 30 years ... and I'm better.

Street performing:
I was never a great street act, a bit of wind and I was in trouble. I did meet some of the great ones and I was inspired by this form of sudden entertainment that leaps out at passersby and assumes them into being an audience.

My show was called Tom Noddy and the Travelin' Puppets. Hand puppets with social satire. I performed on street corners, in bars, in childcare centers, parks, all-night donut shops ... anywhere. I don't do much with puppets anymore but my friend Mousie still makes some trips with me.

New Vaudeville:
With the Flying Karamazov Brothers, Avner the Eccentric, Reverend Chumleigh, Artis the Spoonman, Moz Wright, Jan Luby, and several others, I worked trying to convince street performers that we are the vaudevillians ... but without vaudeville. We hoped that we could build a new form from the cold ashes of old entertainment form. We still do some wonderful big New Vaudeville events, but we could never made it make money.

After years of insisting that people come out from behind their TV sets and come to see live performance (I called New Vaudeville "Entertainment for a post-television generation") my friend Avner convinced me that I'd better go on TV before someone else copied Bubble Magic and took it to TV first. "He'll be the bubble man and you'll be doing HIS act for the rest of your life." Good point. When they called I agreed to go on That's Incredible, a popular show with a weekly audience of forty million people.They had me return to the show two other times but it never resulted in any other work for me. Then I went on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show in 1982. Fortunately, I had just then moved out of my van into a house with a telephone. The phone didn't stop ringing for years. I did the Tonight Show 3 times, other American TV shows, big variety shows in most of the countries of Europe, television in Japan, South America, a couple in Australia. Several of these shows had me return and I became well known in several countries. The camera just loves soap bubbles. For me, unlike most vaudeville performers, it really can be an artistic medium."

Science Museums:
After my first appearance on the Tonight Show I started getting calls from comedy clubs suggesting that we follow the big TV exposure with comedy club appearances. I went instead to a science museum in San Francisco and persuaded them to do a Bubble Festival ... focusing on the physics of soap bubbles and on my performance. The Bubble Festival was a big hit; NBC and CBS had it on the national news that week, all of the San Francisco media featured it, there were interviews on NPR, London Times, Christian Science Monitor ... they all told the same basic story: "The kids and physicists are gathering this week in San Francisco ... " 15,000 people showed up at the Exploratorium and soon science museums all over the country called wanting to put on Bubble Festivals. I still do many of these festivals every year. They are a delight, mixed audiences of every age with my performance followed by questions and answers.

I'm okay with the physics, I really don't understand mathematics ... but the mathematicians love what I do. My photo has been featured in text books and I often perform at math conferences. In 1998 I demonstrated at the International Congress of Mathematics in Berlin. This is where they give the Field's Medal (the math equivalent of a Nobel Prize). This has led to several other mathematics events for me.

The German version of vaudeville. This art form is alive and well in Germany. I do a lot of this these days. It shares some of the same sort of modern history as the New Vaudeville movement in America ... Some European performers were finding ways to bring audiences back to the variety arts. In Berlin this led to the Scheinbar Variete, Chamaeleon Variete and the Wintergarten Variete. The idea caught on and now there are theaters open for this kind of entertainment throughout Germany with more opening all the time.

©Tom Noddy and Bubble Magic
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