Gaston Palmer was born on March 4, 1886 in Marseille, France. His father, George Palmer, was a British juggler advertised as “The Greatest Equestrian Juggler In The World.” His mother, Adele Blanche Emilie Rancy, was a French equestrian rider in circuses. Gaston had both British and French citizenship. As a child, he was part of a juggling act with his siblings. Around 1917, Gaston began performing as a solo Gentleman Juggler. When performing in America early in his solo career, he had a particularly bad performance with many drops that was due to being overly tired from a late night party the previous evening. When he dropped during the performance, he uncharacteristically decided to talk to the audience and to the props themselves. The result was a great deal of laughter from the audience. From that performance on, Gaston Palmer became a talking comedy juggler. Critics would often note that Gaston couldn’t fail as a juggler, for if he was successful with a trick the audience would applaud and if he failed at a trick, the audience would laugh. Palmer stated in a newspaper interview that from that point on he never practiced. “I find it is better to miss than not to miss. Now I never know when my trick is going to come off. When I changed my act, I earned ten times more money than when I never missed a trick.”
Gaston could perform his act in six languages – English, French, Spanish, Swedish, Italian, and Dutch. He quickly became a star around the world, performing all throughout Europe as well as in the USA and Australia. He was often advertised as “the Prince of International Jugglers.”
Gaston Palmer’s most famous routine was actually a running gag that was used throughout his act. This was the cups and spoons trick, or as Gaston called it, “all the spoons in all the glasses.” If you aren’t familiar with this trick, click here to learn all about it. According to juggling legend Dieter Tasso, Gaston would attempt the trick throughout his act, failing to get all the spoons every time. Then at the end of his act, he would go to walk off stage with the cups and spoons. He would purposely trip, sending the spoons into the air, which he would successfully catch in the cups, seemingly by accident.
As for the rest of his act, we are fortunate to have a series of four videos filmed between 1937 and 1943 from British Pathe showing many of Gaston’s tricks and routines. Please watch and enjoy them below.