ROBOT SHERLOCK – and other oddities. by Bo Gerard


In an article I recently posted – OH, THE GIGS WE HAVE DONE – I mentioned that I performed as a “Robot Sherlock Holmes” at some trade shows in Las Vegas, in the early 90’s. (I have also previously written about Mannequin Posing in an older blog.) My new friend-in magic, Robert Baxt, commented that I could write a whole article just about this Robot Sherlock thing. So, here it is!


So, the big question is, “How does a performer find himself in such a position?” Well, it all starts with my training. In NYC, I trained in Dance (Jazz, Modern & Tap), Circus Skills (with the famed Nina & Gregori Fedin of the Moscow Circus), and Mime (with a student of the great Grotowski, and with Daniel Stein, a celebrated Le Coq performer). All this studying was meant to prepare me for a life in physical and musical theater.

But then a surprising new opportunity presented itself – combining these skills to portray a mannequin or animatron. It was a brand-new thing in NYC, and agents were scrambling to find trained performers who could do this work in Department Stores, Fashion Shows and at Trade Shows. Even after Gretchen and I moved to Dallas, agents were calling to ask if we could match a party theme, corporate campaign or promotional character, using our Mannequin/Robot skills. It was crazy!!!


There were only a handful of us doing it, for the first few years, and the work was plentiful and financially rewarding. I even incorporated some magic effects as Robot Sherlock, like hiding a Fism Flash in the palm of my glove, so I could “take a photo” of my audience with an invisible camera. The work was hell on your knees and other joints, but we suffer for our art, yes? (and for the rent money) After a while it was everywhere, and less rigorously trained and lower paid performers were being hired, so it got a little schlocky. And so, it went from Sherlock to schlock.


But in its heyday, the audiences ate it up. Today’s distracted, hurried & jaded audiences would most likely not be as interested. And not many of today’s performers would put the time into the training or endure the bone-numbing hours on a pedestal. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

And now I must go and ice my knee!

OH, THE GIGS WE HAVE DONE! – Bo in the trenches by Bo Gerard


We all have gigs that stick out in our memory for one reason or another – whether it was a great audience, a cool venue, or a maybe a unique and totally weird situation. After performing around 12,000 shows during the last 40 years, it is safe to say that I have done my share of unusual gigs. The show I did at the International Tattoo Expo comes to mind, and it was a doozy. I’ll get back to that one later.


I once performed in a 7-11 at 7am, to the astonishment of the morning coffee and donut crowd. Then there was the time I did an outdoor show at an upscale shopping center, for their Christmas Tree lighting, and the temperature was 29 degrees. At one gig years ago, at the Infomart, I was placed on a pedestal, and lasers where projected on to my unItard-clad body. (Really!)


At various trade shows, over the years, I have been a human puppet, a robotic Sherlock homes, a mad scientist, the Statue of Liberty, Albert Einstein, and other strange characters too numerous to mention. I have performed in the window of the New York Macy’s store at Christmas time. I have ridden on a float, going up 5th Avenue, impersonating a certain, once-famous, burger company clown.


And then there was the International Tattoo Expo. My show was to take place right after the tattoo competitions, where contestants strutted their stuff to win accolades and prizes. There was some amazing ink out there on that stage, but one gentleman stole the show. The category was “best full body tattooing”. After the other contestants had come and gone, a man who was standing quietly off stage, dressed in a robe, suddenly removed the robe and walked onto the stage. He was wearing what might best be described as a “sock”. But t wasn’t on his foot. He was covered in tattoos, from head to foot. It looked like he had an easy win, but he had one more surprise for the four judges, sitting on the stage. He walked over and whispered something to the judges and they motioned him to continue. He then turned his back to the judges and, bending over, showed them his “ace in the hole”, so to speak. The look of surprise and delight on the judges faces said it all. He was declared the winner of the ‘Full Body’ category, and left the stage with a trophy and a hearty round of applause. It was a hard act to follow.


Now tell me about YOUR most interesting gigs!