Substack News Letter

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Smallest Show On Earth

Fleas, they bug our pets and they bug us. However they can also entertain us. I found an interesting web page through another podcaster's site, the site is The creator of the site is Mr. Walter Noon. I contacted him to find out more about the site and flea circuses.

Cliff T. Mr. Noon thank you for taking time out to speak to me about your site

Walt Noon: Thanks Cliff, I never miss a chance to spread this infestation. :) Thank you very much for thinking of

Cliff T.: OK I took a look at the site and on it you have as the header where the secrets of the flea are revealed, what secrets do fleas have?

Walt Noon: Fleas tend to be very honest creatures, so I can see why that title could be a little confusing. The main thing I was getting at with that title was the fact that many people do not believe that the fleas in a flea circus are real. I can honestly say that I’ve had someone offer to feed a flea, been bitten by one, and they still turned to me and said “I don’t know how you did it, but I know it can’t be real.” That’s a 100% true story. This is one of the most wonderful things about the flea circus. It really is a magical act where an audience’s perceptions can really be put to the test! All while being thoroughly entertained by the spectacle of live performing fleas jumping through hoops, carrying objects, and balancing on wires right in front of their eyes. Many flea circuses are a mixture of real flea stunts, and humbugs. It all depends on the performer (and often the fleas) as to how much of each you get! 

Cliff T.: How many flea circuses are there that you know of?

Walt Noon: I’ve built 78 circuses for performers around the world over about the last 10 years. I think the act is still pretty rare, but I would guess there are several hundred regular performers of some version of the flea circus. The only continuously operating (fixed location) circuses I know of in recent years have been the Flohzirkus in Germany. I believe the owner is Marco Assman. The last fixed location circus I know of here in the States was the famous Professor Heckler circus at Hubert’s Museum New York from 1933 to 1957. I was lucky enough to meet and Interview Bobby Reynolds who worked the flea act there! The beautiful Maria Cardosa also performed a circus in San Fransisco’s Exploritorium (at times wearing a bikini I’m told) around 1997. As interesting as that image may be, there is a historical precedent: Fleas have often performed with beautiful women!
The flea act was a popular theme in French burlesque in the 1800’s when performers would remove their cloths while pretending to search for a flea which had gotten loose! 

Cliff T.: How long have you been working with fleas for?

Walt Noon: I built my first circus at the request of the brilliant Rob D’Arc in 1997. He still performs it to this day as “Professor Humbug.”

Cliff T.: So would you say that you are a collector flea circuses or info on fleas as a whole?

Walt Noon: I started out to simply build one circus for a friend (Rob), but after many many months of research, I fell in love with the fleas. (They are very cute when you take the time to know one.) I became an early “hub” for flea information around the world. Flea societies (yes, there is such a thing), museums and schools have all sent me information, and others request information on a regular basis which I love to provide. (When I’m not sure of an answer, I have my own fleas to observe and consult.) I can build circuses for museums and insectariums and I’ve been lucky enough to create custom circuses for performers from such great groups as Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Brothers and many others. I work with a talented artist (John Norris) to create the genuine circus imagery. I have OCCASIONALLY performed the act myself on Television and movies, including one National Geographic special, and a flea race on MTV. (National geographic had such wonderful cameras, they could literally focus on the eye of a flea! I got to see my performers in a whole new light!) 

Cliff T.: Mr. Noon, why fleas, what attracted you to them?

Walt Noon: This is a surprisingly hard question! I had no idea the almost mystical appeal fleas had; until I got to know them. No one forgets seeing a circus, even if they saw it as a child. How could you ever get the image of seeing a flea juggling a ball out of your mind once you’d seen it? As a performer myself (I make “normal” my living doing a magic act), I think I just got caught up in this unexpected enthusiasm and appeal. Of course, I feel lucky to get to work with the stars of the show too!  

Cliff T.: I also notice that your a magician and inventor, do you incorporate these into the world of the flea circus?

Walt Noon: Absolutely. The engineering behind creating a collar for a flea to wear, and creating the tools to attach it around his neck (without harming him) is one of the most challenging tasks I’ve ever had as an inventor. I nearly gave up the first week. But, the first time I snapped a collar in place on a flea, and hitched him to a cart, I was overwhelmed by the feeling I could do anything! (I highly recommend it as a transcendental experience!) I have some tools that I literally had to make under a microscope, Keep in mind a whole flea is not much bigger than a printed period in size 12 font on this page! From the “magic” angle, I had to be sure there are enough “gimmicks” in a circus to assure every performance happens regardless of the flea’s mood that day. I should quickly mention that all gimmicks are “cruelty free” in my circuses. I personally can literally make the claim that I would NEVER hurt a flea!  

Cliff T.: What would you say are the most fascinating things about fleas and flea circuses?

Walt Noon: Of the circus itself, I would have to say the strange appeal! Here’s an act that has created a sensation all the way from the 1700’s. How do you explain that trained fleas literally have become a permanent part of our culture? Or perhaps even more amazing, an act so strong that a child in the audience will put down his video game for half an hour to watch with his eyes wide!!! Of the fleas themselves, there really is an endless list. This is a creature that will surprise you at every turn. Physically, he can jump 30,000 times in a row, and jump more than 300 times his own height! This is an animal that can mentally be trained to do a few simple tasks; who has a brain too small to be seen with the human eye! But over all, I think what makes both so amazing is quite simply… a mystery!

Cliff T.: Is there a certain amount of knowledge that is needed to create and maintain a flea circus?

Walt Noon: A largely “humbug” circus requires only the skills normal for a performer. (Though I don’t think I’ve ever met a flea performer who wasn’t extraordinary! Only the most imaginative performer with a taste for the off beat is likely to be a ringmaster.) Circus that make more use of real fleas require many many tricks. I’ve often said that for a creature so hard to get rid of when he’s unwanted, he is stunningly delicate and difficult to keep alive and healthy as a pet! Fleas in the wild usually live less than 30 days, which is more than enough to to reproduce. A flea who is collard and kept in a circus with regular feedings can live more than 6 months. Changes in humidity, temperature, or even feeding schedule can cause the loss of your whole troupe overnight! It is honestly an art! 

Cliff T.: Mr. Noon, what kinds of things will people find on your website with respect to fleas? 

Walt Noon: I tried to give a very honest history of the fleas (including the humbugs), the secrets of training a flea and even some video of my fleas in performance! For those interested in performing a humbug or real act, I have plans for sale (which keeps me in flea food) and even “past performers” in collars for sale. The web page is a great contact point if someone has flea information to pass on to me, or if they’d like to begin to learn the ropes of being a circus master! 

Cliff T.: Perfect, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me and for doing a Candid Conversations interview. I hope you and the fleas have fun entertaining the masses.

Walt Noon: Thanks Cliff. Isn’t it funny that such a small creature can be such a large subject! We’ve barely bitten into the surface here! I hope your interest in fleas will continue. It’s been an honor to contribute to Candid Conversations! 

Walt Noon the man behind You can find the site by clicking the link listed below and selecting Flea Circus. Mr. Noon wrote to Candid Conversations from somewhere in cyberspace. 

Here is the link to his site.


Flea Circus Research Library said...

An most excellent interview, good to see people are interested in flea circuses.



Greg Lehman said...

Can not order you DVD or email you!
Please help!

C. T. said...

Try going to the main website listed in this article and contacting them there. This should help.

Unknown said...

Dafuq did I just read???