Circus Ring of Fame Wheel Plaque

Con Colleano

Inducted into the Ring of Fame: 1992

Circus Profession: Low Tight Wire Artist

Born: 1899

Died: 1973

Con Colleano Circus Ring Of Fame Foundation inductee plaque

He was born Cornelius Sullivan in Lismore, New South Wales , the son of an Irish
man and a woman of indigenous descent whose father was of African heritage
from St Thomas in the West Indies . Colleano was the third of 10 children.
His father (reportedly a freed convict ) made a precarious living from
sideshow “take-on-all-comers” boxing and gambling . Around 1907,
when Colleano was seven years old, the family settled in Lightning Ridge, New
South Wales , then a newly established opal mining field and a fertile ground
for the father’s talents. Here Colleano received a rudimentary education and
learned circus skills from the sideshows present in the town. Career By 1910
those of the family of sufficient age had formed a small circus troupe,
calling themselves the “Collinos” (apparently as an
Italian-sounding name befitting the ” sable ” complexion of the
children, in order to cover the “native blood” in their veins).
They traveled through New South Wales and supplemented their income by
working for the major traveling circuses of the time. By 1918 the now
“Colleano’s All-Star Circus” (with more of Con’s siblings) was
sufficiently established to travel through Queensland on their own hired
train. The children became known as “The Royal Hawaiian Troupe”
(again to cover for their dark complexions). In 1919 Con managed to achieve
the foot-to-foot forward somersault he had been attempting for some time and
which was destined to secure his subsequent career. In 1922 he was engaged by
the popular Tivoli circuit , the major outlet for vaudeville in Australia, on
a salary of £60 a week. His siblings also appeared at The Tiv’ as
“Eight Akbar Arabs”. Fame Having learnt dance moves from his
fiancée, soubrette Winnie Trevail (Winifred Constance Stanley
Trevail) [1] which he translated to the wire, Con was ready to move overseas
to further his career. At his first performances in South Africa he was
billed as Australian, but in April 1924 he adopted the Spanish toreador
persona he was to employ for the greatest part of his subsequent career. In
September 1924 he appeared at the New York Hippodrome Theatre and was soon
noticed and engaged by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ,
the largest in the country. His act now involved well-executed bullfighting
movements in the ring, Spanish dance moves on the wire, and in conclusion,
the dangerous forward somersault. Thenceforth, through the 1930s until the
outbreak of World War II in 1939, Con was the principal star of Ringling
Bros. with a salary of US$1000 per week. At this time the Big Tent could seat
up to 16,000 people. In the winter he performed on the vaudeville circuit in
Europe to great acclaim, among his greatest admirers being Adolf Hitler . In
1937 he returned to Sydney, Australia for a series of performances at the
Tivoli (“the Tiv”). Into the 1940s Colleano continued performing in
the U.S. and appeared on television on the Texaco Star Theater in 1952. His
farm in Pennsylvania became a retreat for his siblings and their offspring
between performances and, so established, he adopted United States
citizenship together with now wife Winnie in 1950. Personal life In 1956 Con
and Winnie returned to Australia where they purchased the Albion Hotel at
Forbes, New South Wales . When the venture failed, they returned to America
and he resumed his career on the wire to no great acclaim, ending at Honolulu
in 1960. Con and Winnie had no children; Con was the uncle of American actor
Bonar Colleano and the great-uncle of American actor Jack Stehlin . Death He
died at his home in Miami in 1973 survived by Winnie who later returned to
Australia. Winifred died in 1986 in Sydney. [1]