Wisconsin State Journal
June 03, 2012
LAKE DELTON — Dieter Tasso shares his dressing room with the sound equipment located under the stage.
There is a small clothes rack to hang his white shirts, loud pants and a new $350 plaid jacket that makes blaze orange seem tame.
The windowless room is so close to the shore of Lake Delton that even small waves can easily be heard.
Tasso has no complaints.
The 78-year-old German immigrant who winters in Sarasota, Fla., is spending his 33rd summer as a juggler and comedian with the Tommy Bartlett Show.
He has performed around the world, opened for celebrities like Bob Hope and Perry Como and spent seven years as a halftime performer with the Harlem Globe Trotters. Tasso could work anywhere in need of a juggler and comedian but for him, this is home. And since the passing of his wife of 40 years in 2009, it's also a place of comfort and support.
"I'm so grateful," said Tasso, who, by the time Labor Day arrives will have done 102 shows, all of them at 8:30 p.m. "I've got my audience and I've got my act. I'll do this as long as I can. Besides, it's too hot in Florida anyway."
Tasso took more than three days to drive from his home to Wisconsin and arrived two days before the season opener on May 25. He didn't have a signed contract when he arrived but, unlike arrangements with other shows, Tasso had no worries about being stiffed by the boss.
Tom Diehl, 66, first saw Tasso perform in the 1970s at the former Hacienda Casino in Las Vegas. Tasso was on a slack wire flipping cups from his foot onto his head, stacking them up to 10 high.
"As time's gone on, Dieter has evolved into a totally different act than when we first had him here and today's act, to me, is better than any act he had through those years," Diehl said. "It's without a doubt the most requested act we have here."
Tasso retired after the 2007 season but came back in 2008 when Lake Delton drained. His act helped create a more elaborate stage show, since the skiing was on hiatus, and that helped Diehl salvage the season.
Tasso didn't perform in 2009 because of his wife's cancer but came back in 2010 after she died and he was alone in his house. He was welcomed back, even though another juggler had already been hired.
Tasso lives on the grounds with dozens of other performers. His daily commute is a 150-foot walk down the hill to the stage. He is more energized and excited about performing, since he's only doing one show per day.
"Before it was a job," Tasso said. "Now I can't wait."
Tasso is also responsible, along with Diehl, for getting one of the show's other longtime acts on stage. Michelangelo Nock was 11 when Tasso arrived.
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