rebor Starddust is the nom de plume of international magician, illusionist and clown, Bob Romanoff. His involvement with the world of entertainment started circa. 1946 when he saw a performance of Bertram Mills Circus’s first post war tour and, later that same year, watched an illusionist performing a full evening show at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre. He can still remember much of those shows today. Together with his friend, whose family had a theatrical background; they started to produce their own circus, put on pantomimes, present concerts and the occasional play. Local children were co-opted to play various roles and use any talents to enhance the performance but the revenue from ticket sales went on props, etc.
Bob learned to ride bareback on Dolly, one of the local greengrocer’s horses which grazed in the extensive back garden of Bob’s home. When Whilma H Wilkie bought a second-hand circus tent and seating for £1,500, and launched W. H. Wilkie’s Mammoth Circus and Zoo at New Brighton in 1949, Bob became an avid fan, occasionally being involved as a “Chinese labourer”, (circus term). The show played with top class acts until 1954, but by then Bob had discovered the Blackpool Tower Circus as well as multiple touring shows. Unusually, he was such a familiar face on circus sites that circus personnel accepted him and knew him by name.
He continued his interest in other branches of the entertainment world, performing in school productions, singing in an award-winning school choir and playing the tenor recorder in the school’s recorder band. He plays numerous instruments, (badly), from the E♭ tuba and organ downwards. Despite being unable to catch a ball as a toddler, probably due to mild undiagnosed ataxia, he taught himself to juggle and acquired a number of other circus skills. At Grammar School, he was the only first-year to have a part in the school’s production, J.B.Shaw’s play “Androcles and the Lion” which after a week’s run, played venues in Germany. He continued to be actively involved in circus during holidays and weeks off “sick," grooming horses, helping build-up and pull down. Even student days at what is now Exeter University, at the age 14 did not deter him. Over the years, he worked for most of the circuses in Britain in one guise or other, sometimes unpaid!
His professional career took off following a three-week stint working with Joe Gandy’s Circus as a clown during
the day, whilst working as an operating theatre technician at the local hospital at night. This resulted in local and national publicity, including a half page in the “Daily Mirror." The enquiries he received as a result encouraged him to go into business professionally as Bobo the Clown, initially part-time but when he left the health service to read medicine, the business took off. Within two years, he was producing his own show, The Bobo Magic Fun Show, in village and civic halls, as well as local theatres. The proceeds were invested in bigger and better illusions, new costumes, improved sound systems and stage lighting. He continued to work in circus when the opportunity arose, having been on the advance team for Chipperfields, Billy Smarts and Bertram Mills. He groomed and occasionally assisted the stable master, Aries de Witt and trainer Rudi Jurkshatt for the Billy Smart Circus and, for a short while, was assistant to polar bear trainer Alphonse Arndt on the same show. With Chipperfields Circus, he was employed to care for a vast range of animals from crocodiles to baby elephants. It was there he developed a deep love for the big cats both in and out of the cage. A personal friend of the owners of Sir Robert Fossetts Circus, he took over the role of Ringmaster when Claude Yelding died, but his contractual commitments meant this could be no longer than five or six weeks. He continued his association with other shows, small and large, as his own show expanded.
In 1974, he involved his whole family in his Big Top Magic Show, which toured theatres and other large venues, mainly in the north-west of England and Wales. Using skills learnt from his circus experiences they managed, with just a few exceptions, to fill the venues on a regular basis. Bob and his wife designed and printed the publicity material, including posters up to 20” x 30," painted 8 feet high publicity boards and printed the tickets. His wife made hundreds of costumes over the years and was also the official photographer. The policy was to completely change the show each year, and Bob studied cabinet making and graphic arts to ensure everything they built, designed or painted was of the highest quality. Their shows were never less than two hours in length plus an interval, (on one occasion 3hours and twenty eight minutes in length), and the audience went home wanting more. In 1980, the Big Top Magic Show played Blackpool Tower Circus for a short season and included a number of illusions conceived and built for that event. One of the world’s greatest illusionists in his time, Murray, then in his eighties and a personal friend, told Bob that the opening illusion at Blackpool, was one of the finest he had ever seen. Outside of the Big Top Magic show it has never been repeated by any other illusionists. The magic act devised for his daughters used effects in the round that are normally only performed on stage It was decided to perform the show “under canvas” but there problems with the Circus Proprietors’ Association and the cost of taking on such a project alone were prohibitive. The show continued to run until 1986 when family considerations meant it had to cease.
Following the show's closure, Bob spent time developing his illusion presentation having already acquired a huge collection of effects, large and small, over many years. With this act, he was in demand throughout Europe as well as at home, playing not only theatres, and occasionally circus, but top cabaret venues, luxury hotels, cruise ships and promotional events for major companies. When in Las Vegas, Channel 4 made a series of ten programmes about him, but he was a little annoyed when a twenty minute plus film of him playing with a tiger at the Tropicana Hotel, ended up on the cutting-room floor! Whist in Las Vegas, he played a guest spot at the world renowned “Circus-Circus” venue.
Bob has appeared on television not only for the BBC and every one of the English and Scottish TV Companies, but also in the United States and as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and Japan. He has won numerous awards for both his magic and his illusion. He holds two world records, one for the speed of one of his illusions and the other for balloon-modelling. He has built unique illusions, not only for his use but for other world-class illusionists. He has advised young magicians on material for their acts, one of whom is currently performing internationally. An unknown reviewer considers him one of the worlds four best magicians, and he’s the only one still alive! Some four mis-diagnoses by different doctors employed by two local hospitals have meant he has had to cease performing for a while and devote himself to writing fiction based on his factual experiences, although he is still a competent magician and plans to resume performing both his unique illusion acts and also smaller magic. He has discovered that the stimulus of performing, whether it is to a small group of people or an audience of thousand, is the strongest pain killer he knows and also a powerful anti-ageing therapy.
He is currently working on the film script version of this book plus a proposed TV series and after successfully
“pitching” the pilot script to film industry professionals, he is confident that either a feature film will be made or possibly the TV series. He has studied film script development, direction and production with the Raindance Film Institute in association with Stafford University. He is also a graduate of The Hollywood Film Institute, holding diplomas in directing, line production and producing. The second book of the Bobbie Jay series is already being written! The missing chapter 10 of this title will hopefully be written shortly and, together with some revisions, be published internationally. The second book in the series is already being written
Bobbie Jay -Circus Kid Action ⋄ Romance When his parents are assassinated, a young teenager boy joins his magician grandfather, touring with a circus where he finds romance and experiences nail-biting adventure.
Various magic and illusion awards