Monday, December 29, 2008

Rene Gasser

The Gassers are an old Swiss circus family. When Rene was born, he inherited seven generations of circus tradition. This inheritance led him to a life’s experience in performing and showmanship. His career as a lion trainer, acrobat, gymnast, and strongman as well as horse trainer took him to Switzerland, Germany, Israel, Ireland and Japan.

Does anybody know anymore about Rene Gasser. In wondering where the art and greatness/difficulty of the circus world went, we see the doing of anything and everything, none of them well, in an effort to have a life as they know nothing else but performing, at the expense of doing one disipline brilliantly. I an not saying that is the case here, I am saying it is what I have seen happen in 30 years, and why the old timers used to say there were no longer great acts of the past in the circus today. To many who became animal trainers to have a job, or stopped being a aerialist and became a juggler for the same reason. Anything to be in front of people, in the ring.


Anonymous said...

These pitures of Rene Gasser are truly beautiful. He looks to me to a man of knowledge.

Wade G. Burck said...

Apparently he took a show to Australia a few years ago that "crapped out." I am looking for more information. Possibly Steve know something about the show.

henry edgar said...

while i can't add anything about rene gasser, i want to point out that when a performer retires from one act and moves on to another act, particularly if it is due to age or injury, my experience has been that the good performers move from one good act to another good act. for example, someone who goes the extra distance to becaome a top aerialist but has to start all over again with a less-complicated ground act due to age or an accident, will usually put forth the same effort with the new act. with the attitude if they are now going to juggle, they will have the best juggling act they can. they may lose the ability to perform in the air, but they generally retain the professional discipline, the desire to excel, the need for audience approval, the sense of styling and selling the act, and the demand for good costumes and props. the ones whose new acts after a career at another act are lousy are often people whose original acrts were not that good either. you can lose a physical ability but not a sense of professional discipline. and you can either style or not syle. these things are usually inherent in the person, not things that are learned or forgotten. (unless something happens mentally or emotionally that destroys a person) things may well be different now -- i'm not as involved as i once was -- but that was very true in the past. you were either a good performer or a bad performer, no matter what kind of act you did. an exception might be an aerialist who goes to an animal act and knows nothing about training animals. in that case, the better ones either buy a good act that is already trained or find someone to train the animals for them and then become good presenters. one example that comes to mind immediately is gerard soule, who went from a top-flight career as an aerialist to a new career with trained dogs. in that case, if i remember correctly, he bought victor julian's dog act, but performed it so well it became his act. or alberto zoppe, who once had one of the best riding acts in the world, then moved on to a riding dog act, beginning with, again, if i remember correctly, purchasing an existing act but making it his own. or phil and bonnie bonta, who had a very good perch act and switched to clowning and a dog act. phil could get a laugh just by walking into the ring, and anyone who saw bonnie's dog act was captivated. gerard, alberto, phil and bonnie were stars and would have been stars no matter what they did. as an actor friend once said, talent wins out. a good actor can do more with a small role than a bad actor can with a starring role.

Anonymous said...

Rene Gasser [aka Sonny Gasser Jr]came to this country as a boy with his parents, Ernst [Sonny] and Maddi.

In his youth he worked a variety of acts - wire, knife throwing etc but his speciality was handbalancing. He was among the strongest handbalancers that we have seen in this country.

With his family he worked for his uncle Frank [Franz] Gasser's Circus Royale and Circus Atlas.

Later he started his own circus - Circus Sonelli, which had a chequered career.

When Circus Sonelli folded the horse show came out of nowhere. Sonny's horse experience at that stage was more or less zilch but he did gain some knowledge from a Spaniard, the late Fernando Alvarez who was living in Australia.

He must have been a quick learner because his shows today are world class. He employs his sisters and brother in law, owns some of his horses and leases some others from breeders who see the market value of their horses as being increased through association with this European horse master.

He works indoor venues as well as tent shows and will probably embark on overseas tours from Australia at some stage.

He is married to a beautiful Polish girl, Barbara, and they have [I think] one child.

Wade G. Burck said...

There are always one or two examples of something in the circus, forgetting that there were thousands in the history of the industry.

Anonymous said...

Hi All,

I was a principal rider with Equestrian Entertainment for 5 years, from the beginning with Gala of the Royal Horse.

None of the shows 'crapped out', I think perhaps Dianne is speaking of an american show that came a while back.

Sonny has 2 Children, Sydney and Katarina.

He is a gifted horseman and performer.

I loved my time working with him, his family, which includes 2 of his 3 sisters and their families.

All of the horses are pure bred, even Apollo with his white sock, it is a breeding fault, but he is still a pure bred.

I try to keep in contact as much as I can, as I do miss the show and the people very much.

Going to see Sonny's shows are always money well spent, I go every time they are here, and I have never heard any negative feedback from the audience.

If you wish to know anything else, just ask, I may know, but then again, I may not!

Kind regards

Wade G. Burck said...

Welcome. We are glad you are here, and will look forward to you expertize.
I believe I was the one, that said they "crapped out", and not Dianne. No offense was intended, it is how I refer to any show closing or no longer in existence, and was in reference to an earlier show.
I also realized the white on the Friesian was a breeding flaw. The Friesian folks are quite set against any white markings or even an other color. Dianne in fact has a Red Friesian that has made quite a sensation here in the States. Type in Madame Col., Chewy, or Fire Magic in the search box at the top of the blog for a look at him.
Rene's horse's do look beautiful, and if you had some additional photos of them or the show and would like to share them, they would be appreciated. Send them to
Again, welcome and we will look forward to your knowledgable contribution's.

Anonymous said...

I worked for Circus Sonelli for a few months in 1994 when I was backpacking around Australia. Working with this incredible family and learning their craft was a highlight of my life. I will never forget the Glasser family and I hope that they are well. Bessie Oster, Brooklyn, NY.

Wade G. Burck said...

Welcome. We would like to hear more about your experiences.

Andrea Jowers said...

My experience with the Gassers was good & not so good. It was with great pleasure to be able to get up close, & work with a variety of equine breeds.
However they failed to inform me of the ins & outs of my employment & their were many unpleasant surprises. Basically i would call it slave labour & i am not afraid of hard work.
I felt that once inside the compound, the show had its own law. There was no structure, to many chiefs & not enough Indians.
I witnessed several horses practising a routine with their master, & if one, did not get it perfect, they all had to carry on & on, so much so that they all became wet with sweat dripping off their bodies. Completely unnecessary, i feel, as i am a horse trainer too & i would have done it differently.
If only he could just do it all himself & have no one work for him, as his family are terrible to work with.
No contracts, no information on your job description & not very good communication. In fact it is like they do not care about their workers. They care more about the volunteers! I will not go to any of his shows as i do not support that way of life for the horses. 23 hours a day, around about, in the portable stables that are not of adequate size in proportion to the horses size. No thank you.

Wade G. Burck said...

Welcome. Often in a small private business, of which circus/horse exhibitions are, where folks are only answerable to themselves and not a board of directors, they have their own laws, as well as the practice of hiring family members, nepotism, or friends, cronyism, something that is frowned upon in the real world, particularly politics. Often that is the only way family members can have employment which will make them very insecure of someone who may be better at the position. That's a bad down side of the business/industry and may be one of the reason's for it's current state, but again private/doing what you want is difficult to address.
Nepotism and cronyism can have short- and long-term effects on a society, depending on the extent of the take-up and social acceptability of these practices.

Areas in which, it is believed, nepotism has negative societal effects:

* the civil service
* intergovernmental relations (ambassadors, civil-service attached personnel)

Also, since a politician or movie star-producer can have more than one child, there is also the related situation of a remaining, resentful, "passed over" child. India's Karunanidhi family also illustrates this examples: Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers M.K. Azhagiri, M. Karunanidhi's second son, was passed over in favor of M. K. Stalin for the deputy chief minister role. This caused a political rift between the supporters of Azhagiri and Stalin

A sweating horse is not a bad thing at all, if it is "work" sweat, and not "scared" sweat. That is what a great trainer address's and rectifies.


Arabian said...

Honestly you people have CLEARLY NO IDEA how amazing and gifted the Gasser Family is! If you did'nt like it then why ask for a job in the first place?
Honestly, i'd like to see you ALL try to run a show with sorts of people like yourselves!

RaeBerrie said...

Hi there guys,

I have been trying to get into contact with the Gasser's because I hear that they are coming to perform near where I live and would love to work for them while they are here.

I have been riding for about 10 years with lessons pretty much every week and would love to see a different side of the horse world.

ever since they came to town with gala of the royal horses I have been captivated by their charm and brilliance!

I have emailed about 5 days ago with no reply. If someone could even just point me in the right direction that would be beyond fabulous!

Cheers HEAPS Rae x

Steve said...

Toowoomba, next weekend.

RaeBerrie said...

Thank you steve but I think that is a bit far away for now I live in coffs harbour :)

YASU said...

I also worked for Circus Sonelli for a few months in Woolongong in 1992...feel great to know this blog. YASU(Japanese)

Kirsty lyon(fountain) said...

I worked for the circus for 3 plus years and loved every moment. I saw the ups and the downs(which included the devastating death of one of their star stallions)
Yes it was hard work but totally worth it. I had the privilege at the end of my time there working solely for Rene and it was amazing. I got to ride some spectacular horses(which at the time was unheard of outside family) and also had the amazing pleasure of having several lessons with Fernando when he visited and fell in love with Apollo(who was an amazing character) and prince who if I could have taken with me when left I would have.

I have not spoken to them In along time but would love to one day catch up and once again get to be near those who I loved and looked after

Unknown said...

I to worked with the Gassers in 96 i think it was though Victoria, SA and WA. Defiantly an interesting experience. Worked us hard, and usually fair. You don't go into that game thinking your going to make a fortune. While its not something i would ever do again, the experience was worth the pain. Would be nice to see them and say hi at some stage again. Shaun T

Anonymous said...

Rene Gasser has brought his show "Gala of the Royal Horses" to the U.S.A. and you can see his upcoming 2014 performance schedule at the web site and also on Facebook.

leslie westbrook said...

I just happened on this blog...don't know if anyone's still keeping up with this post, but I just met and did a short interview with Rene about his current show The Gala of The Royal Horses. You can watch it here: