Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wolfgang Holzmair--Cirque Amar. 1960

There is currently an elephant/horse act causing a sensation in Europe.  Here is the great Wolfgang's offering in 1960.


Anonymous said...

I think Wolfgang was one of those amazing people who could do it all.
He once showed me a photo album with pictures of many of the acts he'd trained before coming to Ringling Bros. There were horses, elephants, and, of course, lions.
But to my surprise, there was also a mixed lion and tiger act. Talented. Nice. And a real gentleman.
--- ToddP

Wade G. Burck said...

Many people never realized that a lot of trainers, known for training one species, have actually trained many. When people ask me what was the most fun act I ever trained and I tell them it was the pigs at the Toronto Zoo, they respond with "WHAT!!!"


Wade G. Burck said...

Gilbert Edelstein, producer of Circus Pinder in France where Wolfgang was from, was quoted saying, "Holzmair was one of the greatest figures in circus history." That is a spot on accurate statement that no one will dispute.


Anonymous said...

It's the little things in one's life that add up and in the end spell out greatness. That was especially true of Wolfgang Holzmair.

Wolfgang told me he was born in Gelsen Kirchen, Germany --- "but not in a circus family." He joined the circus at age 14 working as a prop boy at Circus Franz Althoff.

Wolfgang said Franz Althoff always had great animal acts. So he "watched how the Althoff trainers trained." And in doing so, he taught himself to be an animal trainer.

Wolfgang said his first training experience was not with lions or tigers or leopards --- but with 6 camels.

After 9 years, assisting with elephants and horses at Circus Franz Althoff, Wolfgang left. He spent at year with Bouglione. And then joined Circus Amar where he worked for 14 years and became a star.

Amar, which billed itself as the Circus of France, was owned by the Amar brothers. And Wolfgang always spoke with the greatest respect for Mustapha Amar. "He became like a father to me," said Wolfgang. "He gave me my big chance."

At Amar, Wolfgang trained elephants, horses, tigers, lions, and even chimps.

He first entered the big cage in 1960 or 61. It was the usual story; the regular trainer quit. And twelve hours later, Wolfgang was in the big cage facing 5 tigers and 5 lions.

Wolfgang said he was named Director of Circus Amar in 1965. And in 1967, he began building the famous 20-lion act which came to America in 1970. (Wolfgang said he trained 45 lions to get the original act of 17.)

One day, in 1973, while visiting with him in his living room on the circus train, parked in St. Pete, FL --- I asked him if he could tell me the names of all 20 or so lions in his act. Without blinking an eye or looking at notes, he named every one of them --- starting with Tarzan, Blondie, Asta, Dollie, Jeanette, Suzy, Mousie, Rita....
And like all great animal trainers, he knew each lion's personality, temperament, traits, talent.

In 1973, Jeanette was the lioness who walked the plank and crossed over Wolfgang's prone body.

Suzy was the lioness who played or "wrestled" with him when he first entered the big cage.

Teru was the big 360-400 lb lion who Wolfgang lifted up on his shoulders at the end of the act.
Wolfgang called Teru "my best performer." And said, "Sometimes when I feel strong, I lift him way above my head and hold him up there."

It's the little things.

One day, in 1972, in the dressing room at Boston Garden, Wolfgang told me he was especially proud
that when all 20 of his lions first entered the big cage, all 20 went directly to their seats. Even if the arena was in darkness. There was no playing, no fighting, no milling around. No waiting for the trainer to enter the cage, and command them to get to their seats. When the lights came up and Wolfgang entered the cage, his lions were sitting in their seats --- ready to start the act. "You see this nowhere else," Wolfgang said very proudly.

It's the little things. And when you add them all up, you know why Wolfgang Holzmair was one of the greatest.

-- ToddP