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Monday, April 23, 2012

Circus patriarch, performer Coronas nears 100



Coronas family
Charles Coronas, pictured third from right with his siblings, is part of a family of circus performers with roots in Czechoslovakia. He rode unicycles and motorcycles on high wires about 50 feet in the air, among other feats, beginning at age 8.
By KEITH MORELLI 
The Tampa Tribune 
April 23, 2012
TAMPA -- 
Charles Coronas was born 100 years ago this year in Czechoslovakia, part of a proud circus family whose Eastern European roots go two generations beyond Coronas, to an ancestor who threw away the riches of a marble mine to run off with a circus girl.


That was the beginning of a family so involved in the circus world that now it is impossible to tell how many Coronas are and have been involved in the traveling lifestyle.


There are a dozen or so just among Coronas' children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


Coronas now calls New Port Richey home, but he has lived in various places in Czechoslovakia, served in the army there during World War II, suffered under the oppressive Soviet occupation before escaping to France and then on to the United States in the 1950s.


The common thread through the past century of his life is the tightrope and his family, which clings to it.


His circus life, which started when he was 8, included riding unicycles and motorcycles on high wires about 50 feet up in the air. Coronas spent his life unapologetically doing what he loved: performing death-defying acts in front of gasping crowds. And his memory is as taut as that high wire he made a living on. He talks of decades-old dates as though they were yesterday and fondly reminisces about people long dead.


And though he is retired and only gets to a circus once in a while, Coronas is showing no signs of slowing down.


"He still has a driver's license," said his chuckling grandson, Serge Coronas Jr., 35, who sets up the traveling Circus Hollywood with other members of the family. "And it's good until 2018."


Charles Coronas, who turns 100 in November, is believed to be the oldest living circus performer and is up for induction this year into the Circus Ring of Fame in Sarasota and the International Circus Hall of Fame in Indiana.



 
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Charles Coronas is up for induction in the Circus Ring of Fame and the International Circus Hall of Fame.
The secret to the long life? Coronas shrugs. It may be the variety of experiences. There certainly have been those. Maybe it's joining the circus at a young age or choosing a trade that endangers your life every day.


The Coronas family is still involved in circuses. Coronas' son Serge, his son Serge Jr. and a few of Serge Jr.'s teenage children run Circus Hollywood, based in Bradenton, which performed for the Circus Fans Association of America over the weekend at Raymond James Stadium. Serge Jr. invited his grandfather to come down for a visit Saturday.


Outside the big top next to Raymond James Stadium this weekend, Charles Coronas spent time going through old photos: grainy black-and-whites of him and his family doing high wire acts in 1920s and 1930s Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland and later in France, the United States and Mexico.


Among the first photos: Coronas when he was 18, atop the sway pole, a tall wooden pole that, well, sways back and forth. You can almost hear the gasps of the crowd in the background.


"We would go into the woods and pick out a nice tree," he says. "We would polish it nice and use it for one or two years. Then, it would dry out. We would go out and get another one."


Being born to parents who performed a high-wire act, there was a natural desire for Coronas to perform at high levels. So, when he was young, he began studying with an uncle. It was not without risk. Accidents have severely injured brothers on two occasions, once in the 1930s and once in the 1970s, but Coronas has never been hurt.
READ MORE AT:
http://www2.tbo.com/entertainment/breaking-news/2012/apr/23/namaino1-century-in-the-circus-ar-395497/



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