The founder of the Wonderbolt Circus answers some tricky questions.
Beni about Wonderbolt Circus’ 30-year history:
“It’s been a lot of hard work. Lots of times an act of faith. But we’ve somehow managed to keep it all going, and it amazes me too, but I think we’re at a place where we’re actually going to be able to make it all work well now… Who would imagine having a circus with this sort of quality come out of St. John’s?
“You see what Cirque du Soleil did in Quebec—Quebec latched onto it. They realized this would be a great ambassador for them. I’m hoping we can do the same thing here.”
What is your current obsession?
My current obsession is Cab Calloway, a jazz musician from the thirties who I modeled my ringmaster character around. I love his music. He was kind of a clown character. Just an exhuberant guy. I modeled my makeup on him, and I have a zoot suit like him. I love his music. It’s upbeat.
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
I have lots, but being on a beach or near the water in the summer, when it’s warm and there’s that sound of kids laughing and fooling around in the water. You know, the shrieks and giggles? That would be one of my earthly happinesses.
What super-power do you secretly possess?
I have one super power I probably can bring out the best in people a lot of times. That’s the one super power I think I have.
…Like in performance, or to get a creative idea going. A lot of circuses are the same, and the performers aren’t used to having that much creative input. I try to work with what performers bring, and put it on stage.
What is your principal defect?
Probably that I clown around a lot…
What sound or noise do you love?
That sound or noise I love is that summer sound I told you about. I hate to repeat myself on that one, but that’s actually what I meant. It was that sound of kids having fun in the water and shrieking.
What sound or noise do you despise?
Oh god! Any sharp metal-on-metal or metal-on-glass sound, or any of that kind of stuff. Any kind of white noise.
What job other that your own would you like to attempt?
Firefighting. I often wondered what firefighting would be like and what training they do. People think I’m crazy, but, you know, clowing and circus is very physical and [firefighting] is very physical but with a different focus. I’m fascinated by what they do.
What job would you not like to do?
Anything repetitive in a room with no windows would be my first thing that I wouldn’t like to do. Or calculating and working with figures which is not my strong point.
Where (other than Newfoundland and Labrador) would you like to live?
Anywhere sunny and warm. I’ll tell you, I went to two places: I went to an island of Spain called Majorca. It was fascinating and fabulous and very self-sufficient, which is something I loved about it. They grew their own things, produced their own things, and that was fantastic. The other place I loved was Venice. It felt like going back in time.
And of course it was also the home of Goldoni, the Commedia dell’arte guy. With all the masks and stuff I was right in my element.
…There were no cars, they go all by boat and by the Grand Canal. I could have floated up and down the Grand Canal for a month. It really did affect me.
How would you like to die?
[laugh] I’d like to die after living a really good, good old age surrounded by good people… Surrounded by people who love me… Maybe just floating off with a drink in my hand and everyone wishing me well.
…Down the canal in Venice?
Floating down the gondola in Venice. [laugh]
(Photo: Beni Malone with his aerialist daughter Anahareo White-Malone)