I’ve spent the past two weeks working at a circus camp in my area. It’s my first year working with this group so I spent some time before the camp started going through their inventory or props and whatnot. I also went through their collection of dusty old VHS tapes. For the most part, I didn’t find anything that I didn’t already have on DVD. But I did find a treasure - an old forgotten copy of Caught Clean, a mini legend in the world of juggling films and I’m sure skateboard films. Filmed in 1996 by Invisible Films and directed by Laban Pheidias, it is a video that I have longed to stumble upon for at least five years. Not only does it feature some of yesterday’s and today’s most well-known jugglers - it also features killer skateboarding demos by stars like Andy MacDonald and Willy Santos. It’s been twelve years since it was released and as far as I know is only available in VHS form or in short clips online. Here is my retro review - decide for yourself if it’s worth your time to hunt down a copy…
Since this is a juggling blog, I’m going to spend most of my time talking about the juggling in the film. The skating is fantastic but as I’m really just a layman in that area, it’s hard to form educated sentences about most of the tricks contained therein.
First of all, the video starts with an editing trick that I can’t even do now, twelve years later. We see a well-dressed juggler showering the eleven letters of “caught clean” in a shower pattern before showering them into their positions for the video’s opening title. Anyone care to suggest what editing programs were available in 1996 for VHS films?
Right from the start, we have the man, the myth, Sean McKinney, a juggler who pretty much is the missing link between juggling and skateboarding. Pretty much the birth of extreme juggling. He busts out some crazy three ball tricks while a skateboarder hops over and around him. A few clips later, we see an amazing five ball trick that I have only seen Sean do. He does his famous triangle-shaped triplex out of five, catches the top of the triangle on his neck and then reverse neck flips it back into the five ball pattern - sweet! Next, we see a shot of Penn Jillette passing clubs - a celebrity appearance always impresses non-jugglers. I imagine I’d be equally excited if Tony Hawk had been in Caught Clean.
Next we see some juggler doing five tennis racquets solid while doing gorgeous Toby Walker style over-the-top flats which just look brilliant. I think if I ever learn another five club trick besides the cascade it will be a half shower with flats. Gilligan only makes a short appearance on CC - he lands his signature one-up somersault into three club overheads.
The video also has various skits. The first is called “Radio” and involves two jugglers getting mad at their props and going from torch juggling to flaming boombox juggling. Although I am rarely impressed by so-called “dangerous juggling”, the final two torches and one flaming boombox between two jugglers was ridiculously tense, especially because we know that they probably only have one boombox to burn and there are so many miffed throws and catches.
After some nice basketball juggling, we see some staples of the IJA that are now all middle-aged. Dan Menendez does a trick that I’ve only ever seen Erik Aberg do - while juggling three balls, he does headrolls with the fourth. Dan Holzman does some juggling while balancing a golf club. Steve Mills surprisingly pulls out some really burly tricks - “new school” for 1996. Among them include a 441 MM, some non-cheating BBB, and a cool trick where he juggles two balls and a dove. The dove hops from hand to hand - my friend wondered if he has to make it dizzy for the trick to work.
Okay, so has anyone ever heard of Mark Wyndham? No, me neither, but he had a really impressive three ball section of CC that reminded me of the 3 ball juggling that I used to do - very pattern-based, flowy, and fun. If anyone knows anything about what he’s done in the past decade, I’d be curious to hear. I really liked his juggling.
Another skit, “The Race”, is another perfect combination of juggling and skateboarding - it involves a race where both competitors will stop at nothing to prevent the other from getting across the finish line on a skateboard while juggling three clubs. It’s pretty funny…and bloody. Willy Santos is one of the few skateboarding sections that bears mentioning, even to jugglers. His skill with manuals (the “wheelie” of skateboarding) is just incredible and I really enjoyed his long trick sequences. Just like in juggling, it’s even more impressive to see a long “run” of tricks without dropping AKA falling off/bailing.
McKinney’s section is like a jolt of electricity. He starts off with can-and-ball (thanks Rhys Thomas) juggling as well as tricks where he slams bouncy balls at the ceiling. He does two four club 2-up somersaults in a row (what!!?) and then busts out 5 torch backcrosses. Everything is clean and controlled but his frantic body language keeps you on the edge of your seat. Of course he blends the two disciplines of skateboarding and juggling better than anybody in his final reel where he freestyle walks all over the neighborhood, treating a suburban sidewalk like a skate park.
Keep watching until after the credits! You get a glimpse of the Passing Zone’s chainsaw ballet as well as a cool but potentially gross three club trick involving an often unused body part of a juggler - the mouth. Reminds me of technique I saw back in April in Rochester - except more germy. Sean McKinney ends it all with an amazing 7 ball routine, including the rarely seen 4-up, 3-up multiplex.
Whether you’re a hardcore juggler or skateboarder, or just looking for a piece of juggling video history, I think every serious artistic/extreme juggler owes it to themselves to see Caught Clean. Many jugglers list it as a huge inspiration and now I see why. It’s one of those videos that leaves you unable to do anything but go outside and juggle until you’re dehydrated.
I really enjoyed doing this retro review. With so many instant jugglers posting practice sessions on YouTube these days, it’s nice to go back a decade and see a video containing so many passionate jugglers’ blood, sweat, and tears.
Now I just need to get my hands on Caught Clean II.