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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » All tied up! » » Johnny Eagle. (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Kondini
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Johnny Eagle has proved to be an enigma.
For the last couple of years I have been trying to get info on this escapologist but all end in dead leads.
Johnny was proberly the best known ea in the UK with his work in escapes and outdoor pitch opposite the Tower of London which he held for twenty years or more. Every visitor took the trip to see johnny at his pitch with Strong man feats,Fire and Whip routines with the climax sack and chain release his bottle up closer. But no one new the man.

Traced to Irish ancestry with strong Romany ties (He worked the Gypsy Appleby Fair up to five years ago)Was he Romany?
His name cropped up again last week in Weston Super Mare, Gypsy Price (Romany)Quizzed me after the show,,,did I meet Johnny!

I first saw him at his pitch back in 1953 (Coronation year) The crowds around him were huge, he remained wrapped in sackcloth and chains for at least half an hour while his partner bottled from the rear of the crowd inward, the sight of so much money collected in a huge Tophat styled hat full to overflowing was a sight never seen by me as a boy during the years after the war, we were all skint back then,and here was this monster of a man cleaning up on the streets of London!!!!

Were there any decendants, any ties, any home for this well known but unknown entertainer. My investigations have drawn very little. Everyone new of him but no one seemed to know him.

I believe that he was captured on video at one of the Appleby gatherings but no outlet for these video`s has yet been located (They are sold between the Gypsy community).

Such a story could be told, his performances took him all over the UK over a period of half a century,he must have made more escapes and more money from escapes than any other UK ea, but nothing seems to have been left as testomy to his works.

Maybe someone out there can fill in the void?

Ken.
Red Von
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Branson, MO
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You can purchase a cassette of an interview with Johnny Eagle telling the story of his varied and colorful life/career, from Ingham and Fallon. You can also download a pic of Johnny Eagle.

http://www.gypsy-wagons.com/shop.php
Harry Murphy
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That is a killer website. I love the wagons! Back in the late 60’s I had an old sheepherder’s wagon that was built along similar styles (it used a old Model “A” axel and wheels). Bowed canvas roof and coal stove. I got it in Wyoming and sold it 10 or so years later to a guy with a travel trailer museum.

Now to buy the tape about Mr. Eagle! Thanks again for the link!
The artist formally known as Mumblepeas!
Red Von
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Your very welcome Harry.

The moment I saw the name Johnny Eagle, I knew right where you could find something on him. He has an interesting story to tell.

I would check back every now and then, because other Johnny Eagle items of interest pop up from time to time.
FLIM-FLAM
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This is what the magic community is all about. Magicians helping magicians! I have never heard of this Mr. Eagle, but I will be getting myself a copy of his story as well, to learn more about him. I concur with Mr. Murphy, killer website.

Jim
Riley
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Darlington UK
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Saw Johnny at Ladbroke Grove c.1974. Only caught the end of his act - sack and looooong chain - but it was fabulous and he got a good bottle - he wouldn't move until the bottle reached a certain point - great technique and showmanship!
...but . . . I've seen better audience handling ie., KONDINI - I've seen 'em both and Ken has it just right!!!

Riley

(Ken - same address for the cheque!) Smile
Kondini
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Where were you today????
Wycombe Show saw performance 30 of the Baker Belt (Televised and covered by free press)Also had a lifesize skeleton (Named!!!!!) Set up ready for you.

On the Eagle info,,,,the audio tapes (6) have been around a while (From Betty Allan,,,god knows where she is now?) There are a number of videos taken at Appleby which show the lot,,,the Romany Folk offer me hedgehog but hide the vids!! This is what Im after.

Hey Riley, nice compliments,,, cheque on the way!!!

Ken.
Riley
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Ken - couldn't make Wycombe this time - was working for a change!

Lifesize skeleton?? Anyone I know ?????? Smile

So come on guys - anyone got any video of Johnny Eagle in action ?

Riley

Apologies to those of you who are waiting for things from me. Broke my little finger badly - kept me out of the workshop, but slowly catching up.
Kondini
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Sorry to hear you broke your finger!!!

Were you "picking" your nose or a lock at the time!!!

Sorry,,,,couldnt resist it!

Ken.
The Donster
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Whatever Riley Picked I hope it was a Winner.
Kondini
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Update on the Eagle Fable,,,at the Great Dorset in a couple of weeks time I have set up a meet with Gypsy Price who has three videos of the Eagle Show,,only have to pry them from his hands!!!
They were filmed at the Appleby Fairs by Gypsy for Gypsy so could take a bit of Silver palm crossing to get a result.

This guy`s act was pure in every way,,,all could be supplied by the booker or picked up at any Town or City in the world,,, what a great way to travel your show,,,no props, just yourself and off you go with a forty minuet act which made huge hats over half a century of work.

Talking again this weekend with someone in the know resulted in the conclusion that Johnny Eagle averaged out around seventy escapes a week!!!

Here I am with an average of eight weekly, April through to December each year and thinking that I work hard enough!!!

Quote from Billy McComb regarding show biz.

When you are young and starting out you have no fear and get away with being bad,,,the end of your life in Showbiz results in no fear cos you know what works and it all becomes easy,,,,, its the ******** years in between that give you hell!!!

Passed on to me this weekend by Tony James P&J outside showman at Sussex Show.

Oh so very true.
Kondini
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Well the enigma has been located via the Dorset Steam Fair last weekend.
For two video`s with shots of Johnny Eagle in action available for all, ring 01677423346(UK) or contact The Appleby Fair Company,The Grange,Bedale Rd,Leeming Bar,Northallerton,North Yorks.DL79AZ

I was most lucky in aquireing a full 8mm reel of his complete show with paperwork detailing his methods and performance,,,a little more for the collection.

Everyone I spoke with remembered his chain escapes and whip cracking with a forty foot chain.
This guy kept escapology vibrant in the somewhat secret lives of the Gypsy nation,,
Well done Johnny, I salute you.
A rarity, an ea who proved himself through deed rather than BS.

Ken.
Banjo Billy
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Obituary
Johnny Eagle, the gypsy strongman, (Born Circa 1916 – Died 2001)was buried today at Witton Cemetery near Birmingham. Born in Belfast about 84 years ago, Eagle spent most of his life at the very top of his various trades. As a street entertainer on Tower Hill in London, performing extraordinary feats with a minimum of trickery, he was unsurpassed in his time. He drew the crowd by swinging a 20 foot chain like a whip, making it crack like a rifle shot, then wrap it round his neck and have 6 strong men pull at each end so that his feet were lifted from the ground. He would then bend an iron bar by beating it over his biceps, swallow a watch and chain before your very eyes, or correctly guess the amount of money in your pocket. He claimed to have pulled a bow top wagon from Scotland to Appleby Fair, by hand, and he once pulled a wagon onto Appleby drawn by a donkey and a goat. I personally saw him pass an eight inch hatpin through both cheeks, with no blood and no apparent pain, and then laugh as people fainted. In his later years he revealed that his parents had pierced both his cheeks as a child to enable him to earn a living with this trick.

He spoke four languages: Romani, Sheltie (The Irish travellers' form of Gaelic) North Country Tinkers' Cant, and English. His street performances were delivered with a highly distinctive, penetrating, rhythmic, falsetto voice, calculated to be heard above the street noise and entice curious passers-by into the circle of astonished punters. He had an extraordinary memory, and so became a shrewd dealer, for whom buying and selling in order to turn enough profit for the day's food and drink was as natural as sleeping. Once he had settled into his tiny ground-floor flat in his last years, people came from all over Britain to see him, to trade gold rings or talking birds, horses and harness, or just for the craic. Hardly any of them came to ask him to teach them his trade, and so it mostly died with him. There were few like him, and they are all dead.

He seldom missed one of the Northern Horse Fairs – Appleby, Lee Gap, Yarm, and the rest - not just to pitch his gypsy strongman act, but to meet up with friends, to buy and sell, and to let everyone know that the Eagle was still alive.

He admitted to six children, (three sons, three daughters,) and there was a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the funeral. The cortege left St. Peter's Church in Bloxwich and travelled for and hour or more to a piece of waste ground near Witton, where the coffin was transferred from the smooth stretch-limousine hearse and into a magnificent horse drawn carriage, drawn by as fine a pair of black Friesian stallions as you could wish to see.

The procession from there to the graveside took another half an hour: the immaculate liveries of the horsemen set off by the tall black plumes on the heads of the snorting stallions, and a long train of mourners. Black leather jackets and blue cashmere suits walked beside divine looking women and girls, dressed in everything from Spice Girls clubwear to ancient widow’s weeds. Heavy gold chains hung from male and female necks and wrists, hardly an ear or finger but was weighted with gold rings, and real tears dripped from the cheeks of serious fighting men.

At the grave, when the priest had performed his final acts of devotion and then sensibly retired, a portable music centre was produced and wedged into the mound of earth at the head of the coffin. There was hardly a movement for ten minutes as it played Eagle's favourite songs. No one was in any hurry. Roses dropped into the grave. Another five minutes passed. Half a truckload of flowers was carried from the road, carefully unwrapped from their plastic covers, savoured and laid gently onto the coffin. More time passed. Then a shout from behind the crowd: Hey boys! Six spades were handed through to brothers, sons and grandsons. Cashmere jackets were removed, and shiny shoes set to work, strong and steady. In a few minutes there was just a grave mound, and the other half of the truckload of flowers was laid out - hearts and flowers, horses and songbirds. There was a definite but understated sense of pride in having cut through the ritualised, impersonalfuneral gestures, and into something so personal and final as burying the Man with their own hands. The idea of having anyone else bury Johnny Eagle was simply unacceptable – Romani pride and Romani dignity did the job in style, and in person.
Kondini
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That post is one to treasure.
What a testimony for an entertainer.

Thankyou

Ken.
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