We asked you to share your favorite Pickle Family Circus memories, and you did not disappoint! Thank you to everyone who sent us moving and hilarious stories and beautiful photos. Below we're sharing some of the amazing snapshots and Pickle tales that were submitted. Add your own story to the comments section at the end of the post!
Humor Abuse has been so popular with Bay Area audiences that we've added an extra Sunday evening performance on February 5, at 7 p.m., but tickets are going fast and the show must close this weekend. Like the Pickle Family Circus, soon Humor Abuse will only exist in our fondest memories, so, as Pickle cofounder Larry Pisoni used to say, "Go call everyone you know, and then call everyone you don't know," and tell them not to miss it!
Laurel Bellon: "I took my daughter to the Mother's Day show at Rose Park in Berkeley for many years (these photos are from 1988). I always looked forward to them with great pleasure and remember them with much fondness. I never liked clowns before the Pickle Family Circus—I really miss those shows. They are an experience I will remember for a lifetime."
One of my earliest memories is of the Pickle Circus. I must have been two or three years old (my mother was surprised I remembered it at all). I vaguely remember seeing some kind of clown act, but the image that I recall vividly is that of a giant white balloon that was brought out, various shtick, then the balloon was popped and the confetti inside sparkled down all around me.
By Laurel Bellon (Berkeley, 1988)
The year our son Gabe was born, he was not quite a year old when we took him to his first Pickle holiday performance. Gabe was not much for attention span, but he amazed us by sitting rapt through the entire show. In the lobby reception after the performance, acrobatics master Lu Yi came over to greet our new circus fan. Lu Yi asked to hold our son, which we allowed. Then he shocked us by placing Gabe's feet on one of his hands and balancing Gabe up in the air. For us new parents it was a heart-stopping moment, but Gabe was having a great time. Master Lu Yi seemed to approve of Gabe's sense of balance; when he handed Gabe back to my wife, he said, "Bring him to me when he is three and I will train him."
Andrea Heilbron: "One of my favorite routines was of Geoff Hoyle's Mr. Sniff walking 'down' the stairs into a pool . . . with the wonderful Pickle Family Circus Band! Ah, those were the times! These are photos from June 1986 in Santa Cruz. We were great fans!"
My daughter was born in 1977 on the longest night of the year up in Anchorage, Alaska . . . When she was about two and a half, we got some folks to watch the store and headed off for the State Fair. We expected that the animals and rides and games would be what she would like. But she only had eyes for one person: she called him "Mitter Niff." (Maybe Mr. Sniff for the nose? I never knew.). She was completely enthralled by all these wonderful creatures of mime, but for months after she would ask, "Pleeeeeez could we go see Mr. Niff?" I'm not sure how many of you came for that long trip to Alaska, but believe me, we appreciated all the trouble—to see the happiness not only during the shows but for years after when she would talk of Mr. Niff.
Melissa Bleier: "I grew up in Ukiah, California, and was delighted every time the Pickle Family Circus came to town . . . It was almost 30 years ago, but I will never forget the magic and joy that the Pickle Family brought. I also remember thinking that they were all related to each other. Since I grew up in a family that performed magic shows for the local schools, I was amazed that their family all got to be in the circus. It was always so exciting to see kids onstage—I loved that. In the picture (from about 1985), I don't look too thrilled to have my face painted: I have no idea why! Regardless, this is one of my favorite pictures of myself. Thanks to Lorenzo for sharing his memories of the times that he made my memories."
David B. Solnit
On a sunny fall day in 1974, I was on the Yale University campus in New Haven and encountered a three-person juggling act on the lawn. It was Larry and two women [Peggy Snider and Cecil MacKinnon], and it was great. I particularly remember the bit with Larry's hat going back and forth mixed in with the clubs. I don't remember if they introduced themselves as the Pickle Family then, but that's who they were when I moved to the Bay Area a few months later. I was glad we'd all picked the same location to move to—as it seemed.
Ondine Boulter: "This was taken sometime in the summer of 1983 at Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek. My cousins and I were fortunate enough to grow up in the Bay Area in the '70s and '80s, in a family who values humor and loves a good chuckle (or three!). We'd often meet up at Pickle Family Circus performances around the Bay, where three generations of us would laugh till our stomachs ached! I remember envying the lucky boy who got to be a part of the circus and often wondered how I could join the Pickles myself. They transported us all to a place of imagination, magic, and good times and always left us wanting for more. Long live the Pickles!
When I was still living in New York, a friend and I saw a trio of jugglers in Central Park one day in 1974 (or maybe '75). They were very good, and very funny. They went by the name of the Pickle Family Jugglers and were, in fact, Larry Pisoni, Peggy Snider, and Cecil MacKinnon. They made a lasting impression, so when I saw that a group called the Pickle Family Circus was appearing in Eugene, Oregon (where I had since moved), I was eager to go. Now the jugglers were joined by acrobats, musicians, and more, and Larry was joined in inspired clowning by Bill Irwin and Geoff Hoyle. This was a time of new vaudeville and alternative circus richness in the Northwest (Flying Karamazov Brothers, Rev. Chumley et al.), but I always viewed the Pickles tour as something special. After a few years, I moved to San Francisco, where the Pickle fun continued—mostly at Glen Park Canyon. The performers started to change as some moved on and others appeared, including the kids: Gypsy and the young Lorenzo and his memorable act with his dad . . . The Pickles and their artistic offspring have entertained and enlightened me in the three places I have lived over the past more than 30 years, and the appreciation has been passed on to my daughter, who now has her own child.
Lorenzo Pickle (Larry Pisoni) with his famous trunk, by Ondine Boulter (Walnut Creek, 1983)
It was always a joyful and fun weekend when the Pickles came to our neighborhood. Kind of like our own personal show. My daughter, Moragan Lee Luckey, was born in 1974, the same year as Lorenzo. We were always thrilled with the shows, and watching Lorenzo run around in his little gorilla suit like a circus pro was an absolute delight. What a champ! . . . The beauty of the Pickles was that they entertained using gymnastic skills without involving animals, they told charming stories that everyone could understand without saying a word, and they were just plain fun! Pickle clowns took the scary out of clowns and brought back real talent for entertaining.
By Laurel Bellon (Berkeley, 1988)
Geraldine Bagot Whitman
There are so many wonderful performances of the Pickles to recall from the early 1980s. Geoff Hoyle, Bill Irwin: we all knew they were geniuses just waiting to be discovered by the rest of the world. The devotion of Peggy and Larry to the members of their circus and the community was so admirable. Wendy Parkman, the gorgeous and oh-so-fit trapeze artist—and of course cute little Lorenzo and Dan Hoyle, the mini-clowns. My husband and I were big supporters of the Pickles, and we urged my husband's family foundation to grant them some funds for new bleachers, which was accomplished. Many Pickles, including little Lorenzo, came to our wedding in 1983 at Halloween. It was a costume party wedding. Of course all the Pickles came as their Circus personas.
By Ondine Boulter (Walnut Creek, 1983)