NEW YORK (AP) — Asked to describe the length of his hair, Bello Nock whips out a rubber foot, holds it next to the red mane rising from his scalp like a skyscraper and says, "About a foot tall."
The joke is old, but all the material is new in the 42-year-old comic daredevil's first independent production, "Bello Mania," currently playing at The New Victory Theater in New York.
Nock, who headlined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus for eight years, is never offstage during the 90-minute performance, which combines slapstick clowning with death-defying aerial stunts.
"Studies have shown that people's greatest fears are performing in front of an audience, of being laughed at, and of heights — and my life is all three," Nock said in his dressing room at the New Victory. "It's a dream come true, and I'm loving every minute of it."
Nock's wife of 25 years, Jenny, wrote and directs "Bello Mania," while daughter Amariah, 19, is stage manager, daughter Annalise, 18, and son Zebulon Freicke, 22, join him on the high wire. Son Alexander, 23, opted out to pursue a psychology degree at the University of Wisconsin, but father Bello quips that "he's the real star of this show, because it's putting him through college."
Nock is a seventh-generation circus performer. "Bello Mania" includes a slideshow paying tribute to his mother and father, an Italian acrobat and Swiss tightrope artist who met while touring with Ringling Bros. during the 1950s.