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 early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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