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Friday 22 May 2009

Dick Chipperfield Jnr – The Last Man to Work the Bouncing Lions?

This is another post dictated by my father on the subject of the Bouncing Lions. This time it features my uncle, Dicki Chipperfield both when he first presented the act, at only age 15, and when he last presented it, when Chipperfield's Circus famously toured South Africa. - Jamie Clubb

The first picture shows Dick “Dicki” Chipperfield Jnr in 1958 presenting three lionesses in the wagon cage. Dicki would have only been barely 15 years old. This was for a television show. He was stopped working by the authorities after this performance. His uncle, John Chipperfield, took the act over. Dick Snr told me they took one lioness out because the act was too slow. This shows a similar pyramid to Tommy Kayes’ act. You will notice this was in the real wagon with the correct measurements – 16’ long x 6’6” wide x 6’6” tall. The height varied from trainer to trainer, some preferred 7’ tall inside. These measurements were crucial for the “bounce” to be achieved correctly. That is the measurements of the length and the width. The height didn’t matter and, in fact, as in the case with Tommy Kayes’ this was an advantage and made a better show. These three animals didn’t bounce very much, in fact, hardly at all. When John Chipperfield took over and later Terry Duggan they really went up the side of the cage.

The second picture shows Dicki in South Africa in 1965 with a very simply built cage. These lions really did bounce up the side and in the same fashion as Kayes and Dicki’s father, Dick Chipperfield Snr. Unfortunately I have no photographs of Dicki’s father in his early days working the bouncing act, only entering the cage with “Old Vic”, Tommy Purchase’s lioness. I have one of him when he originally trained the act for his son, but it only shows the two lionesses sat in the corner and Dicki’s father knelt down. I will post it when I find it. - Jim Clubb

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DEAR Mr Clubb, enjoy your Blog very much, If I could be so bold as to comment on your "Bouncing Lion" attractions. We over here in the Colonies used to have a similar setup in the early tent show days, later on carnivals and tent circus sideshows up into the 1950's. Called the "untameable lion" usually entailed a semi trailer or beast wagon size enclosure on wheels were the "trainer' usually a man would "bounce" a lion off the walls of the cage for a few min.and beat a hasty exit out the door. Lots of men hurt doing this stunt. Now some of us with deliusions of granduer during our pre gray hair days used "bouncing cats, usually lions for the classic "door bounce" made famous by Clyde Beatty, Pat Anthony, Daring Dick Clemens, Chet Jusyck .I did it for a short time on Hoxie Bros. as I had some big, fast, triple tough male lions that liked to bounce, and I had a bared aluminum arena that I had a dozen block and tackle guylines and a saftey cage,so the arena stood up well. Now I did see bouncing done on a big scale when I was a boy, my early mentor Belgian born Guy Gossing had several big hot male tigers who would come right after him and each other.We had a real old time steel bar arena also guyed out with pullies. Fast foward to fall 1979, I left Hoxie and joined the Legendary JUNGLE LARRY Tetzlaff family at their African Safari Parks in Naples, Florida and Cedar Point Park in Ohio. The Florida park had a huge rectagular steel and airplane cable arena with concrete floor and solid concrete wall with permanent seats mounted along the back. They had two solid steel doors and a couple solid chute dooors to let big cats in. We worked everything in there, big cats, bears, chimps (big chimps!), even teenaged African Elephants. That concrete wall was the greatest teacher you could hope for. You could enter through the back, but once the cats were seated, the only way in or out was the side saftey cage, which still on the other side of big adult lions and tigers. There was a small grid screen that someone on the ball could throw you a stick, but there was NO Cat Pushing from the outside. You just had to become a self contained trainer. Plus we had several older acts,(later we broke several young acts, lionessses,tigers leopards riding elephants and David Tetzlaff huge leopard act) big adult black maned male lions that Pat WHITE had broken years before.And I inhereted three huge economy sized 9 year old Male tigers, two bengals around 550lb each and a whopper 750 lb Siberian/bengal/sabertooth tiger named "Bahacti" that I loved all originally broke by the great Roy Wells. You name it, these tigers did it, barrel rol, fire hoop, pyramid one foward hind leg walk, one backward hind leg walk, and our daily rubarb, triple rollover into floor situp, goood for at least one fur flying fight weekly. (Once they did it while my late sainted mother was visiting with a carload of widowed aunts from the old country. Needless to say my mother refused to attend any further performaces the rest of the years I had big cats. ) Around there we had top people, Ralph and Ken Williams on the ground crew top people to watch you, my dear friends and collegues, Tim Von Tetzlaff, Jungle Larry Von Tetzlaff The great David Von Tetzlaff and his students including our gift from the colonies to merry ole England John Von Illig.( Please send my regards onto John Von Illig, good to see his tremendous sucess along with you folks over in JAPAN WITH THE WHITE Lions.)We had heard of Captain Tommy Kayes over here from old books from England. Good Work! MIKE CECERE

Philip Astley said...

Hello Mike, Nice to see you on here. Dad knows of you through the Tetzlaafs and Captain Illig! If you would love to talk to you. Please send me your email address. Thank you for the insight into America's possible equivalent to the "Bounce". It adds another dimension to the story.