There are certain people that you share things in life with. There is no one that has shared as much with me as Kevin Gene Holman. We have shared tens of thousands of road miles, hundreds of thousands of nautical miles, and over 1.5 million sky miles. Thousands of stages and over a million audience members. Six domiciles and countless cabins. A similar sense of humor, and far more catch phrases than I can remember. And perhaps, the most important, a passion to make people laugh and enjoy themselves.
In all of that time, he has taught me so much. But first, let us go back. You might ask, “How did I meet Kevin the Great?” I was about 14 years old and had been juggling and riding unicycles for about a year, when one day before school, I saw Kevin and his troupe “Darn, Good, and Funny” on the local morning TV show. I had just received a six foot unicycle for a Christmas or a birthday present, and there I saw Kevin, run across the television studio, jump into the air, and mount himself upon the seat. I spent weeks in my driveway learning that mount. I still have scars on my back and ankles from it. Later on, I saw “Darn, Good, and Funny” perform at an arts festival in OKC. My dad decided to take me to the festival because he knew about my fascination with the variety arts. So, we all stood, watched, and laughed together. I was in awe at the giant circle of people in the middle of a street that they had managed to assemble, and they had managed to “Wow!” them all.
Kevin was the type of juggler I wanted to be. He could do it all. Not only balls, or clubs or numbers or Diablo or cigar boxes or devil sticks. And FIRE! HE COULD DO ALL OF IT! And he was so damn good and funny.
So let us skip forward a couple of years.
I was hired by an amusement park one summer to juggle, unicycle, and perform magic tricks. I was working all season, 6 hours a day on minimum wage, and loving it! One week they had a kids festival and hired Kevin’s troupe to perform. I had the privilege of watching almost every one of their shows. I felt like a groupie with front row seats. One day, Kevin came over to me and said, “You smoke?” And I sheepishly said “Yes.”
I suddenly didn’t feel cool about it anymore. Then he replied, “Where do you go to hide?”
I showed him. We spent all of my breaks in our secret hidden spot. He was so funny and supportive. He didn’t treat me like a dumb kid. At the time, I was, but he didn’t treat me like one. He always saw the passion in people and helped flame it.
He showed me a few tricks and told me to keep juggling.
When I was 19, I saw him perform a solo show at the Renaissance Fair in Norman, OK by happenstance. I had never seen him work alone before. I watched him enter with a duffle bag of props and a 6 foot unicycle. Soon enough, a huge circle had begun to form around him, and he rocked that crowd!
By now, his troupe had toured Europe and Japan. To me, he was a rock star. They had even won a gold medal in the International Jugglers Competition. What a rock star!
We bumped into each other at a private event when I was 20. It turns out that we were both hired to juggle for this event. We hung out and shared a few laughs. I felt like a big shot.
Soon after we started bumping into each other at parties more frequently. At that point, I was old enough to be invited to the adult’s parties. It was then that I finally stopped acting like a star struck kid. We became friends.
It was around this time that the big talent agent in town hired us to do the birthday party for the son of the owner of Sonic’s Drive-In. We had never worked together. Although by this point he had seen me work, and of course I had seen him and admired him. We talked on the phone and created our show. We showed up to the mansion and were ready to rock!
But it was a nightmare. I won’t go in to the details, but it was out of control! I walked away mad as all hell. Kevin, who was right beside me, began to crack jokes about it. We then got in my car and smoked cigarette. Suddenly I felt cool again. He said to me “We should start working together and be the Penn and Teller of the juggling world!”
I felt like I had just been kissed by the pope. After that gig, he flew away to Japan for a contract with his troupe. I felt like it was a fun pipe dream. For the first time, I felt Kevin had shown me admiration, instead just kindness and support.
A juggler friend of ours lived about half way between Kevin and I, and that became our home base. We’d all get together and juggle, laugh, and have a few beers. I suppose most guys would watch the game. But we played it. It was all fun times. We even did a few street festivals as a trio. I couldn’t believe I was able to work with him. That starstruck kid came back several times while on stage, nay, the street. But then he would fly off to Japan. Lots of things happen sometimes to make anything happen. This was one of those things. Showbiz is full of those things.
After his troupe disbanded, he returned back to Oklahoma. At the time I had just begun to learn stand up comedy. Being on stage without any props. Kevin saw more of my local comedy shows than anyone else I know. Afterwards, he would spend time cheering me on. He would often tell me how big of balls that I had. No matter If I rocked it, or if I died, he would be there to support, and never saying a disparaging word.
We started working together as a trio more frequently. Working gigs at libraries and schools. It was then that “Wally” was born. We named Craig “Woody Speak.” He was the mime of the group. I was “Professor Wow.” Kevin had been working on a character that was always nervous, now I look back and wonder if he really was. Somehow we came up with Wally Mitty. I think it was Kevin’s idea. But the premise would be that every show was his first. He’d been practicing and dreaming of being a performer but had never performed before a live audience. (Based on Walter Mitty) Funny thing is, he could juggle circles around Woody and I. And it worked. The crowd loved and connected with him.
Fast forward just a little. I was asked to assemble a quartet juggling show for Six Flags in St. Louis and we called ourselves “The Village Idiots.” I hired my friend and co-star at Fox Kids Club, a clown, Wilber T. Bottoms, to be the fourth member. We all already knew and loved him. So off we went. That was back in 2000.
Here is the weird part. Woody, Wally and Prof. Wow had a little show dilly. We added Wilbur but he had been using that name for many years. Lot’s of little things. I changed my name to Will Tell as we were performing on a Medieval-themed stage, and I was doing a juggling routine to the “William Tell Overture. Because I was just that unoriginal. I really don’t remember how the “W” thing started. But we decided (I don’t know who), that Kevin was to be the arrogant diva. I would be the voice of reason. Wilbur was the lovable dote, and Woody was the silent mischief. Kevin decided his name should be Wallace De Bo Moche. I have no idea why. But hey, it worked.
At the end of that season the park asked me if I could put together a Side Show for their Halloween event. I had always dreamed of having a Side Show but it was just my hobby and passion. Kevin agreed to stick around and build the show with me. That is when the “Rotten Brothers” was formed.
By 2002 it was just Kevin and me. Lots of many things happen to make anything happen.
We started with Carnival Cruise Lines in 2002. That’s when things got serious. As much as we travelled, performed, and even lived together, I really don’t know how he never killed me. I am not easy to live with. I’m difficult. Yet I don’t remember Kevin raising his voice to me even once. I knew when he got mad, and when he scolded me, I deserved it. I could tell when I spoke too much and upset him. It was when he walked away all bowlegged with fists for hands. It looked like a cartoon. I would always feel bad after I laughed about his walk of anger. Often he asked me, “When are you going to grow up?”
I would tell him, “The same time as you do.” We shared so many laughs together. We shared thousands of standing ovations and compliments together. Our show was manic yet bulletproof. Consistent yet chaotic. We trusted each other on stage completely. Well maybe him more than I, but he was holding the whip targets and I was holding the whip. He always encouraged me to cut the target closer. I hit him numerous times. He never complained. He always said “It only hurts for a few seconds.” Kevin never met a crowd he didn’t love. He’d say “The best thing about a crowd is people always show up to one.”
Here are just a few of the catch phrases we shared that I can remember at this time.
“Ah, that glamour of show biz!” – We said while sharing a mop closet for a dressing room, riding in the back of a pick up truck to board a ship, etc.
“People say the damnedest things!” – multifaceted about most comments by strangers and friends.
“Put your shoes on. You don’t want to run through fire barefoot.” – 15 minutes till landing he’d wake me up and say this. If I was awake I’d say it to him.
“It’s like admiring nature in the forest.” – When I felt like a dirty old man for admiring a younger lady.
“Three Cheers, Hip Hip Hooray” – While landing in Puerto Rico. Repeated three times unless we felt stupid. Then only twice.
“Spaghetti!! Our favorite!!” – or what ever the meal of the day was. We lied a lot.
He taught me many wonderful wisdoms, such as:
“Don’t apologize unless you meant to do it.”
“We are all on our own personal journey”
“Before walking onstage always check your fly.”
If I said something negative about myself, he would yell “Cancel THAT!”
And he always kept in check. He was my barometer.
He was always there for me. He never let me down. He would help anyone that needed help. He just wanted everyone to be comfortable. He was a true gentleman.
As I read back over this it sounds like I’ve written it all about me. This is my loss and my own personal journey. But I hope you can see what an incredible man Kevin was, and what an impact he made upon me. Not just for a moment but for an entire lifetime. I will always miss him. I feel the force is just a little weaker.
He cured me of my germaphobia by licking the hand rail on the Orlando airport tram rail. He was tired of my silliness and said, “I’m going to lick this pole, and if I don’t get sick you have got to get over it.” I exclaimed “Dear god man! Those are lucky to be cleaned once a day and hundreds if not thousands of people touch it!” (That was the only writers liberty I have taken but he knew that was my stance on those poles) He licked about 8 inches of it. I gagged, cringed, then curled into a standing ball. He didn’t get sick. Now I can hold onto hand rails, and am much safer for it. He was a giver and a lunatic. He loved my family because he that knew I loved them. I loved his family because they let me take him away. My deepest sympathies go to his loving wife, his three boys, and his dear mother and brothers.
Fly with the Spaghetti Monsters my dear friend.