Toronto Star: Lord of the Fleas
by Emily Howell, age 10.
Everyone I've talked to is curious to know if in a flea circus the trainer uses real fleas. So when I told them that I was assigned to visit a flea circus that was coming to Toronto, they told me to figure out the mystery.
Do they use real fleas in a flea circus?
Before I went into the flea circus, I thought that the trainer, whose name is Prof. A.G. Gertsacov from Rhode Island in the United States, actually didn't use fleas, although he claims he does.
He calls his fleas Midge and Madge, and you can't see them. He says they're there, and they can do tricks like racing in cars and swinging on a trapeze in a very colourful but very small Big Top.
Prof. Gertsacov, who is a big happy guy with a moustache, beard and a top hat, asked everybody in the audience to cheer for either Midge or Madge. I was sitting on the Madge side and cheered as long as I could.
The show was at the Artwords Theatre on Portland St. It was the first time Prof. Gertsacov had come to Toronto, although he has been in Canada before. He also said he has been to 37 states of America and he's also brought his fleas to Brazil and Chile.
When I was interviewing him, I picked up some flea facts.
Did you know that if a flea were the size of a woman, it would be able to jump over one of the great pyramids of Egypt? You didn't? It's true!
Another fact is that a flea usually lives for only about two years. Prof. Gertsacov said Midge and Madge were 16 months old, so they don't have much longer to be performing in his circus.
I asked him if his fleas ever get sick.
"Occasionally, they don't like to perform," he said. "And the flea union is very tough."
I also asked him if his fleas ever have temper tantrums, like my brother Jake used to have.
"They can be little divas," he said. "But they're also quite talented."
Prof. Gertsacov uses 12 fleas at a time when he travels. So if Midge and Madge get tired, there are 10 other fleas who can take their place.
He's been doing his flea circus since 1996. He really likes it, but he also likes doing other things, such as acting like a clown. He also does what he calls "a crazy puppet show."
He calls himself a "psycho entymologist" because he understands the psychology of fleas.
He's hoping to one day star in a movie playing the role of P.T. Barnum, the famous circus entertainer.
You'd really enjoy going to a flea circus. I had lots of fun, and Prof. Gertsacov said he hopes to come back to Toronto soon to do more shows.
I'm sorry that I can't tell you if he uses real fleas or not. But the whole fun of the flea circus is the mystery. So you will have a good time even if you don't see any fleas.
Emily Howell, 10, is in Grade 5.
Under the Tiny Top with insect daredevils Midge and Madge