By Dominique Jando
A popular figure in the European circus ring for twenty years, the clown and ropedancer Walter Galetti (1931-2020) was born January 21, 1931 in Thayngen, in the canton of Schaffhausen in Switzerland. He was originally trained as a brick mason, but that was not the life he really wanted: At age twenty-one, he “ran away and joined the circus”—in his case, Switzerland’s premier circus, Circus Knie, where he found a job as an animal keeper.
His ambition, however, was to perform in the ring, and during his spare time, he trained on the bouncing ropeAn rope placed between two supports or pedestals, and fastened at one or both ends to a spring or bungee, so that the ropedancer can use the rope as a propelling device.. It was perhaps a little late for Walter to become a strong acrobat, but he had a cheerful nature, and he began to work as a clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes. '''Specific:''' In Europe, the elegant, whiteface character who plays the role of the straight man to the Auguste in a clown team.. The very colorful costume and makeup he eventually developed would become as iconic as those of Lou Jacobs or Paul Jung, and the face of Galetti, the clownGeneric term for all clowns and augustes. '''Specific:''' In Europe, the elegant, whiteface character who plays the role of the straight man to the Auguste in a clown team., would eventually grace anonymously many a circus poster!
In 1966, together with his wife Mary (who, like him, didn’t come from a circus family), Galetti developed a charming act, The Clown And The Ballerina, which was soon noticed by circus directors and agents. Thus Galetti (as he was billed, without first name) started a brilliant career that lasted two decades. He went on to work in practically every major European circus, and appeared many times on television shows. In time, Mary would be replaced in the act by their daughters, Carmen and Maria.
Galetti retired from the circus ring in 1986, but his performing career was not over. He settled in his wife’s hometown, Rankweil, in Austria, and developed a puppet show for children. In 2005, he published his autobiography, Ein Clown geht um die Welt ("A Clown Goes Around The World"). Walter Galetti passed away on November 20, 2020. He and Mary had three children, Carmen, Maria, and Marco.
- Video: Galetti, bouncing rope act, at the Cirque d'Hiver in Paris (1973)
Walter Galetti, Ein Clown geht um die Welt (Stuttgart, Rimon-Verlag, 2005) — ISBN 3-937620-05-2