Gerard Soules - Obituary
From Helene Weaver - Originally published in 1991
This article was originally published in the November 1995 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
GERARD SOULES who has been murdered at Las Vegas, Nevada, aged 56, was one of America's leading circus performers, first as a trapeze artiste and later with his celebrated dog troupe, “Poodles de Paree”
His heel‑catching work as an aerialist was sensational, and together with his cool arrogance and electrifying personality more than justified his billing as the “Star of Stars on the High Trapeze”.
Privately, however, Soules was by no means as assured as he was in performance. He lived on his nerves, in constant fear of an accident, and his religious rituals before each performance could be embarrassing to visitors to his dressing room.
He had a number of fails, always in rehearsal, but in Belgium, early in 1964, a near fatal accident in front of a paying audience tore his composure to shreds and he resolved to retire from the air.
While appearing with Billy Smart's Circus in London, Soules visited Hamley's and returned with suitcases full of string puppets and the idea for a new act. But it never materialised, and he was next seen in the Clyde‑Beatty‑Colex Brothers' Circus in America with a humble plate‑spinning act.
He was soon back in the limelight, however, with the dog act which brought hint a second career under the Big Top. An admirer of the ageing British dog trainer Victor Julian, Soules decided to emulate his act which he did with great success.
Soules had always made his own heavily stoned and encrusted aerialist's capes, and now set to making elaborate and gorgeous costumes for his troupe of 18 or so “Poodles de Paree”, billed as a charming cavalcade of canine capers.
For many years he also worked the circuit of the leading ice spectaculars in America, Holiday on Ice, Ice Follies and Ice Capades, and made visits to Europe with the Holiday on Ice show.
Soules recently left the World of Ice shows to return to the ring, with a long‑term contract at the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas. His battered body was discovered after he failed to arrive for work there last week.
The circumstances bring to mind the baffling murder in 1965 of Paul Jung, a clown who had worked with Soules in America and Europe and whose bound and battered body was discovered in his hotel room after a similarly savage attack.
Gerard Soules was born in Canada in 1935 but lived most of his life in Detroit. From the age of 12 he had a passion for the circus and dreamed of a career as an aerialist. He went on to become the epitome of the "daring young man on the flying trapeze”.
During a career spanning nearly four decades, Soules worked in everything from small “mud shows" to Barnum & Bailey's Circus, “the Greatest Show on Earth”.
By 1956 he was a centre‑ring attraction with Clyde Beatty's big tenting circus, and four years later joined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, in which he was a featured attraction until 1963, when he was sent to Moscow to appear in an American circus.
The same Year he joined the new European unit of the Ringling show at Lille in France. The
show played for a time in Paris, six days a week.
Unknown to the management, Soules signed a contract with Billy Smart's Circus for a television recording on the seventh day.
After his last performance in Paris he took down his apparatus and went to London, where he recorded a show which was transmitted by the BBC on Christmas Day 1963. Soules gave a spellbinding performance, and Ronnie Smart, the circus director, rebooked him for the following Christmas.
Soules then returned to Europe, where he suffered his crise de nerfs. He immediately left the show, and returned to America, his trapeze career apparently finished.
But a few months later he was back in England, playing a winter season at Blackheath with Billy Smart's and recording the second BBC programme. He also appeared before Princess Margaret in a Royal Gala performance in aid of the NSPCC.
It was his swansong as an aerialist, and the rest of his career was devoted to his “precious poodles”.
Soules was unmarried.
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