By Dominique Jando
Fumagalli was born Natalino Giovanni (Gianni) Huesca on Christmas day, 1956, in Genoa, Italy. His father didn't come from a circus background: an Austrian of Jewish descent, he had left his hometown of Gratz when the Nazi came to power, and took refuge in Italy. There he worked as a clown under the name of Enrico ("Enrichetto") Fumagalli with Circo Liana, Nando e Rinaldo Orfei, which was until the 1970s one of the major postwar Italian circuses (the siblings later ended their association and ran separate circuses), and other circuses. Like many Italian clowns, Enrico Fumagalli appeared in Federico Fellini's movie, I Clowns (1970), and then he retired from performing. Gianni's mother, Daisy Huesca (b. 1920), on the other hand, was born into the circus, to a family of Spanish descent that had settled in Italy, and was related to two other famous Italian circus families, Canestrelli and Larible. Gianni's uncle, Francesco "Nené" Huesca, was himself a renowned clown in Italy.
Gianni and his brother, Daris (b. May 15, 1952 in Morbegno, Italy), were trained in all acrobatic disciplines by their brother-in-law, Hans Bruckson. They performed with him in a remarkable tight-wire act, the Feller Boys, which combined all sorts of balancing feats with teeterboard on the wire. For many years, the Feller Boys enjoyed a brilliant international career. Gianni, however, had a knack for comedy and performed clown reprises and comic acrobatic routines from time to time with Daris.
From Gianni Huesca To Fumagalli
In 1994, Bernhard Paul, the director of the famous German circus Roncalli, (and also its resident star auguste, under the name of Zippo), hired Gianni Huesca to replace his former clowning partner, Angelo Muñoz. It is at Circus Roncalli that Gianni took his father's name, Fumagalli, and learned the arcane of classic clowning with a master, the legendary Italian whiteface clown, Francesco Caroli. Fumagalli's silhouette, with its signature three-pointed hairdo, was suggested to Bernhard Paul by Frédy Knie. Fumagalli also replaced Tino Fratellini (who had fallen ill and passed away that same year) in other comedy acts such as a parody of old-time circus acrobats that would become the Fuma Boys. Then and there, Fumagalli became an overnight sensation. (Bernhard Paul, a great "discoverer" of clown talent, also launched at Circus Roncalli the careers of Pic, Jean-Paul, David Shiner and Peter Schub, among other famous clowns.)
Fumagalli remained at Circus Roncalli until 2000. In January 2001, he was invited to the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo, where he won the prestigious Silver Clown award. That same year, he toured in Germany with the short-lived Circus Fumagalli, which he ran with his brother for one season. After that, Daris Huesca and Fumagalli limited their activities to clowning and starred in some of the world's most prestigious circuses, including Cirkus Benneweis; Circus Knie; the Cirque d'Hiver-Bouglione in Paris; Circus Carré in Amsterdam; and the Big Apple Circus, as well as in several variety shows. Fumagalli is married to Angela Fossett, a member of the great Irish circus dynasty. Their two sons, Giovanni and Nikolai, perform a risley act as the Huesca Brothers.
- Video: Fumagalli Interview with Dominique Jando, 2007
- Video: Fumagalli and Davis, "Little Bee" entrée, in the Big Apple Circus production of Celebrate (2007)
- Video: Fumagalli and Davis, Table Act, in the Big Apple Circus production of Celebrate (2007)