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The Thuranos ... Star Club Varieté, Kassel, Germany ... Autumn 2006

This trip got a lot more interesting when the theater decided to hold over an act from the previous show, The Thuranos. I had seen them before playing the German Varieté theaters but I'd never really met them.


I'm spending my days and nights now with this 97 year old man, Konrad Thurano, who is performing comedy and one-finger pull ups and other astounding feats five nights a week in the show with me. Actually, he spends most of the day in his room resting up for the night time shows. And in the theater he spends most of the evening in the dressing room until the intermission when he comes out to sit backstage listening to the acts that precede him and his son on stage. Since I share the apartment and the dressing room with him and his son, I see him more than most.

Everyone backstage and in the audience is, naturally, in awe of his physical prowess but it's the open sentiment that has captured my attention now. We all find his smallest comments to be adorable and he cannily uses that fact to make them with a timing that has been honed on stage since 1924 (and offstage since his birth in 1909). People in the audience laugh before they quite hear what he has to say (and then laugh double because he really IS funny). There are tears being wiped away as they watch this comedy act and the cynical backstage crowd still crowds around the small curtain peep hole to watch him and to watch the crowd reaction to him when the Thuranos' act is on. We're all ready to take his words as jewels when he offers them just as the audience is. And, of course, you don't hear a fraction of the physical complaints from the performers backstage that one normally hears from artists whose work puts such a strain on their bodies (bubble-blowing acts excepted). One glance around at Konrad sitting singing and the groan of a stiff back or tired juggling arm is left un-vocalized.

He doesn't see well at all. On stage the bright lights help but even there if a prop is left out of place it poses a danger to him. His muscles still work well but his skin is paper thin and his occasional falls cause bleeding and bad bruising.

Everyone goes out of their way for him. Last night, after the show, we were in the dressing room chatting (he speaks Danish, German, English, and a smattering of other languages) when one of the waiters delivered a glass of cherry juice that he had ordered but left forgotten in the backstage area. He thanked him and gave him a memorial pin from his hometown (he is something of a good-will ambassador for that town).

He talked about how, in the old days, there were so many theaters and how they use to rig the wire back then and how everyone knew at least some steps of soft shoe in addition to their act and how great England was to work in "before the war" and how his son should have checked the rigging the other night when the stage hands had gotten it turned around and how ... Actually, it isn't that he's chatty, he has to be encouraged to tell these tales and he's otherwise content to sit quietly singing to himself the tones that one hears a crowd sing at football (soccer) matches in Europe (Oh LAY ... Ah La, Oh Lay ... though I haven't noticed that he's ever turned on a game at home).

His memory is strong, his interest in the past and present are strong (the future, not so much ... I'm reminded of the old liberal-left congressman from Florida, Claude Pepper who was, in his late 80s, offered an investment opportunity that would "double the investment in 4 years!" Claude said "At my age, I don't invest in green bananas"). Konrad does, however, enjoy shaking his head and proclaiming his disinterest in "com-poot-ers".

He names acts and theaters and bits that acts did. He was telling something of the sort as he walked over to the sink a couple of nights ago and he hacked up a loogie (sp?) and spit into the sink between tales. He then stopped talking and tried to focus his unwilling eyes into that basin ... he turned in my direction and his face went blank. I asked if there was a problem and he asked me to come over and "look at this." As I did, he asked "is that blood?" I looked down and it was pinkish around that darker glop. I said "a little" and it was remarkable to watch his face contemplate the meaning and then to face it and shuffle back to his chair. I came over to him and watched to make sure that his plop into the chair was safe, he can't see all of the objects on the table there ... I was especially concerned about the glass with the liquid ... and then I saw it ...

"No Konrad, it's not blood, " I said, "it's kirsch Saft, cherry juice!" He lit up! And laughed the strongest laugh I've heard from him since I've been here. There was humor in that that really tickled him. Kirsch Saft!

Read about "The Origin of New Vaudeville" by clicking here...

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