Originally posted February 10, 2006 in MBD2
Perhaps best known as a juggler, he is now 71 and has been entertaining since he was 18. “I juggle,” Bachman said, “and I do some magic and balloon twisting.” He added, “I’m not a world acclaimed juggler, but I’ve done a decent job.” Way back at his 50th birthday party he recalls local entertainers, Ken Schultz and Mike Vondruska, being there. Schultz presented Bachman with three champagne bottles designed to look like juggling clubs and the inscription “World’s Greatest Juggler”. “I’ll bet Ken doesn’t know I saved that!” Bachman exclaimed.
Years ago, while he was working a regular full-time job to provide for his wife and five children, he also entertained on the side performing about 150 times a year. Bachman has entertained on the same stage or opened for the likes of Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Michael Jackson, Bob Hope, and even burlesque fan dancer Sally Rand, to name a few. He appeared about 68 times on Chicago’s Bozo Circus Show, and appeared on “To Tell the Truth“. He has written books and made videos about juggling, and about a specific style, bounce juggling. He has also collected juggling stuff.
In fact, his collection includes 40,000 (yes, that is forty-thousand!) photos and 3,000 movies, as well as juggling paraphernalia. His archives have quite the reputation as many others have borrowed photos from it.Some of the folks that have borrowed from his collection have been his house guests. It almost seems like Bachman’s home has had a revolving door of colorful guests reading like the international who’s who in the juggling/circus arts world including Vietnamese entertainer Tuan Le, Russian juggler Gena Shvartsman, Ukrainian performer Vicktor Kee, Russian entertainer Gregory Popovich, and American performer Dick Franco.
So with his love of juggling history and jugglers it was only natural for Bachman’s next ongoing project to be a book about 20th century jugglers. “This will include folks like Penn Jillette who many don’t know started out as a juggler,” Bachman said. “There are so many famous and great jugglers…tons of them, that I asked [some of] them if they’d write a bio page for me and they were all tickled to be involved.”Bachman noted that there are many different types of juggling including circus, comic, close-up and even sport juggling. “I used to think I had seen all the tricks, but every year I see tricks I’ve never seen,“ he said. However, no matter how difficult certain tricks are, the gimmicks can eventually be copied by somebody, but the unique personality of the performer can not.Difficult tricks, showmanship and personality are a few factors to consider when starting out as a juggler, but there are other more important factors. “It’s just a love and desire for what you do,” he said.
Mostly retired, Bachman will still do a show on occasion. “I still get calls from agents,” he said, sounding surprised that after all these years people still want to see him perform. Between houseguests, writing projects, and performing engagements, he is a member of the International Juggling Association, the Society of American Magicians and Magic Masters. As a dedicated family man he enjoys spending time with his wife Madelyn (aka Chickie) and they are preparing to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with a cruise. They are also getting ready to become great-grandparents.
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