Confessions of a Showman: My Life in the Circus by Gerry Cottle, Helen Batten

By Gerry Cottle, Helen Batten

Gerry Cottle, a stockbroker's son, ran away to affix the circus while he was once simply 15 and shortly married into Britain's oldest circus dynasty. In time he used to be the landlord of the largest circus on the planet till his turning out to be cocaine habit resulted in his arrest and financial ruin. He recovered, and, ever the showman, went directly to make thousands with the 1st ever non-animal circus, the Moscow and chinese language country circuses, and the Circus of Horrors.

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Pauline drew back and narrowed her eyes at me. ’ I thought it best to change the subject, but I was completely distracted. Maybe it was what they call love at first sight. Certainly I was all weak at the knees and butterflies in the stomach. You see, this young girl was the embodiment of all my adolescent fantasies about circus girls. She was tiny yet curvy with very dark beautiful long hair, 27 Cottle Book 3rds 28/7/06 11:38 am Page 28 Confessions of a Showman stunning in her sequins and feathers.

7 In Britain the ringmaster is traditionally dressed in top hat, red tails and white gloves. George Lockhart started the tradition of the ringmaster wearing a red tailcoat during Bertram Mills’ Olympia Christmas circus in 1922. 8 The most famous ringmaster in Britain is Norman Barrett, now in his 70s and still working with Zippos. As a boy Norman always wanted to be a lion trainer but his father told him to be a ringmaster because they live longer – it certainly worked for him. 9 In the last few years ring mistresses have been very fashionable in either hot pants or cut-away leotards.

I don’t know definitely that her husband knew what she was up to, but I think he did. Sex outside marriage was seen differently in those days. It was not unusual for a wife to accept and turn a blind eye to a husband’s sexual infidelities, but this way round 24 Cottle Book 3rds 28/7/06 11:38 am Page 25 What Will the Neighbours Think? was much more unusual. Very sophisticated and classy. She wore very trim expensive suits and black stockings. I was totally in awe of her and she taught me a thing or two.

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