A charming, if gently flawed, account of a performer’s intriguing journey.



A debut memoir recounts the life of an entertainer who became known as Charles the Clown.

Kraus began learning magic when he was just 10 years old, taking the train to Manhattan from whichever borough his family lived in to buy material for tricks at a specialty shop. He studied TV performers, honed his comedy chops, and started playing paid shows as a teenager. Life tugged him around the map, from attending boarding school in Massachusetts and Connecticut to serving a four-year stint in the Navy and finally landing in Los Angeles. Along the way, Kraus performed magic and comedy, sometimes opening for comedian Jay Jason while employed as his personal assistant. The author even presented magic for kids in Vietnam during his military service. In one of his best stories, he recalls answering an ad looking for variety acts for a movie called John Hoffman’s World of Talent. According to the author, he knew the film was a charade, but, being underage at the time, he forged his father’s signature to participate. While the project delivered a cautionary tale about show business, it was still a fun experience and allowed Kraus to brag he was in a movie. He was soon convinced he was not meant to be an actor after watching talented troupers at the Barn Playhouse in New Hampshire. But he could amuse adults and children. Told by a Los Angeles agent that there were too many magicians, the author accidentally found his calling as a clown. The book offers some illuminating anecdotes about performing. For example, one of Kraus’ signature bits, transforming himself into a clown in front of an audience of kids, developed because he was late to a gig and didn’t have time to dress up. So he improvised. There is true love of the craft in much of this memoir, which features black-and-white photographs, though it is long in spots and broken up awkwardly into one-paragraph chapters in others. In an early chapter, the author devotes only one paragraph to an engagement after which he had an epiphany that he didn’t need a lot of props to entertain. The scene could have been an emotional high point if given more space. Still, his passion for show business shines through brightly, and that makes this a worthy read for anyone similarly inclined.

A charming, if gently flawed, account of a performer’s intriguing journey.

Pub Date: May 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-947778-37-5

Page Count: 471

Publisher: BookPatch LLC

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2018

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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