Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The boy who escaped from the circus

Have you seen this man wandering around Uptown? If so, walk up to him, introduce yourself, and ask him about his 80 years in show business. Dudley Riggs is, of course, best known for founding his comedy theater, but he was born into a show business family, and spent most of his childhood as a circus and Vaudeville performer.

He landed in Minneapolis in the 1950s when the circus ran out of money, and he opened the first espresso cafe west of New York, in Northeast. He put up a stage in the corner, he shooed the beatnicks away (including a youthful and ever-nasal Bob Dylan), and he spent the rest of his life trying to keep the Twin Cities laughing.

Riggs is a walking museum of circus lore, Vaudeville experience, and improv theater genius--truly a local treasure.