In The Spotlight
With his bushy sideburns, his Stetson hat, and his jolly personality, Arne Arnardo (1912-1995) was a legendary figure in his native Norway—where he was known as The Circus King—and in the European circus community. He had created Cirkus Arnardo in 1949; it became Norway’s largest and best-known circus, and remained so until the late 1970s, when Knut Dahl’s new Cirkus Merano slowly rose to a dominant position in that country, before folding its tents in 2015. Yet Cirkus Arnardo never lost its reputation and is still recognized today as Norway’s premier circus.
Arne Arnardo was born Arne Otto Lorang Andersen on October 12, 1912 in Sarpsborg, on the southeastern tip of Norway, the son of Einar (1888-1967) and Elna (1895-1920) Andersen. His father was a lumberjack. At a very early age, Arne showed an interest in show business; he is said to have given his first performance at age six—a puppet show that he presented in his parents’ home.
He was fourteen when, in 1926, he "ran away and joined the circus": He found a job as a stable boy with Hartvig "Leonardi" Berg’s Cirkus Empress, which had just visited Frederikshald (today Halden), not far from Sarpsborg. Although Arne was now in an environment that suited him better than the world of lumberjacks, he was not yet satisfied: His primary ambition was to perform. He trained as a contortionist and wirewalker, and made his debut in the ring in 1929 under the name of Armido. Soon he changed it to Arnardo, which he thought sounded better.
On April 29, 1937, Arnardo made the headlines (and, most importantly, the newsreels) when he did a chair-balancing act atop of the Odd Fellow-Gården building in Oslo, which had been recently completed and housed the brand-new Scala variety theater, where Arne had been contracted. Arne, who had an innate talent for public relations, made the most of this publicity stunt for his personal promotion. This talent for advertising eventually led him to a different path: In 1939, he became Business and Advertising Manager of Cirkus Berny, a well-known Norwegian circus.... (more...)
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New Oral Histories
- Vladimir Durov Documentary on Russian Television (c.2000)
- Dolly Jacobs Interview at The Ringling (2018)
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A Message from the Editor
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- Dominique Jando
- Founder and Curator