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 Count Nicholas

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Count Nicholas

  • Birth 31 Aug 1910 Greece
  • Death 20 Jun 2001 Sarasota County, Florida, USA
  • Burial Sarasota, Sarasota County, Florida, USA
  • Plot Count Nicholas
  • Memorial ID 82975083

COUNT NICHOLAS, who has died aged 90, was one of America's most prominent ringmasters, and remembered by many as "America's most famous Ringmaster".

Angelo Nicholas was born at Varos, Greece, on August 31 1910. After emigrating to America he joined the Ringling Brothers' Circus when he was 16 years old.

He started out as an usher, but soon the ringmaster Fred Bradna took an interest in him, and under Bradna's direction Nicholas learned the skills needed to become a ringmaster and equestrian director. The ringmaster's role was a crucial one. He was expected to know about the rigging for the aerial acts, and to be able to dovetail acts to ensure that there were no gaps in the program. He also had to prepare for accident or mishap by always having two acts waiting in the wings.

Nicholas became adept at cueing the band and the acts, creating such a professional and smooth-running performance that he was chosen as Bradna's assistant. It was Bradna who nicknamed him "Count" because he thought Nicholas looked aristocratic. He later changed his name legally to Count Nicholas.

The circus eventually recovered from the disaster at Hartford, and Count Nicholas took over as ringmaster in 1951, donning the black top hat and red tails that Bradna had once worn.

During his time as ringmaster, Cecil B DeMille made the award-winning film The Greatest Show on Earth. An actor played Count Nicholas's part, but it was still Nicholas who cued each act with a blast of his whistle. At the film's premiere DeMille presented Count Nicholas with a specially designed gold ringmaster's whistle inscribed to "The Greatest Ringmaster".

Nicholas went on to work for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers' Circus, the largest tented circus in America, and for other shows, including the Emmett Kelly Jnr All-Star Circus, but returned to the Ringling management briefly in 1964 to direct the Continental one-ring circus at the New York World Fair.

He also worked in nightclubs and made guest appearances on television with stars such as Johnny Carson.

When Count Nicholas married a polar bear trainer the ceremony was held in the center ring. They brought up their children traveling with the circus.

He is survived by his two daughters and a son.

Family Members


  • Created by: Michael Float
  • Added: 4 Jan 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 82975083
  • Michael Float
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Count Nicholas (31 Aug 1910–20 Jun 2001), Find A Grave Memorial no. 82975083, citing Sarasota Memorial Park, Sarasota, Sarasota County, Florida, USA ; Maintained by Michael Float (contributor 47552125) .