Elvin Bale

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Elvin Bale, born in London, England, was a world-famous daredevil with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, among many other international circuses. He was known especially for his single trapeze act, which finished with a heel catch, as well as his “wheel of death,” “human space shuttle,” “mechanical monster,” and “motorcycle on the high wire” acts.

Early life

Elvin Trevor Bale was born to Irene and Edwin Trevor (Tommy) Bale. Elvin was among the fourth generation of Bales in the circus industry. After an early childhood touring with European circuses, Elvin and his family moved to the United States in the 1950s when his father took a job as a tiger trainer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. As a youngster, Elvin worked as a clown, a dancing boy, a cage boy for his father's tiger act, and an acrobat in the family’s bicycle act. His twin sister, Dawnita; older sister, Gloria; and younger sister, Bonnie, also worked in a variety of family acts in various shows. In the 1960s Elvin began working on what would become his signature act, the single trapeze with a “heel catch” finish.

Life as a daredevil

In The American Circus, John Culhane calls Elvin Bale “the greatest circus daredevil of the second half of the twentieth century.” After working with Art Concello’s American Circus in Russia in 1968, Elvin joined the Blue Unit of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1969. He would headline the Blue...
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