What do Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, and Ed Sullivan all have in common? Their mutual link is Ottavio Canestrelli, who crossed paths with each of the aforementioned individuals. Ottavio performed with the Krone Circus in Italy and Germany from 1922-1924, on the eve of Hitler's rise to power; he witnessed a rally for Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi, India in 1931; and he appeared twice on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York City during the 1960s.
The Grand Gypsy is a memoir of life in the circus, filled with daring feats and tragic mishaps. It is the true story of a man who experienced historical events as he toured with his family through five continents and countless nations. Among these events are his harrowing experience fighting in World War I against the German Army in Italy, and the excavation of the Sphinx in Egypt.
Replete with over 150 rare, historic photographs, The Grand Gypsy is a chronicle of a circus dynasty from the late nineteenth century in Europe to the new millennium in the United States of America. Included are significant images that document an extensive tour through such exotic locations as Burma, Sumatra, New Guinea, Syria, and Mesopotamia during the early twentieth century, and numerous portraits and captured performances in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Sarasota, Florida.
"Absolutely incredible" - Conan O'Brien
"Incredibly entertaining!" - Gloria Estefan
MR. & MRS. G. a.k.a. Ottavio Gesmundo & Naomi Brenkman Gesmundo are professionals with extensive performing credits that include The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien,The Britney Spears Circus Tour (opening video segment), Spider-Man Live! At Radio City Music Hall & National Tour, Le Plus Grand Cabaret du Monde, Paris Television Show and the First International Company of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida Musical in The Netherlands.
Ottavio Gesmundo (MR. G.)
Was born into entertainment and hails from over six generations of recorded circus performers, and he is co-author of The Grand Gypsy. His vast theater experience ranges from on stage performances to creative production. Ottavio has performed as a dancer, singer, actor, and stuntman with such names as Aerosmith & The Spice Girls (Billboard Music Awards), Penn & Teller, Eric Idle, Michael Crawford, Tommy Tune and David Cassidy. He was an original cast member and fight captain for the musical Saturday Night Fever on Broadway as well as for the First International Company of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida in The Netherlands. Ottavio has directed and choreographed numerous productions that were presented at multiple casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
Ottavio is an acclaimed Stunt Director & Choreographer with a unique ability to integrate dance with stunts and was especially celebrated for his stunt direction & choreography on the National Tour of Spider-Man Live! Ottavio was also hired to integrate circus elements into the Goodspeed production and Second National Tour of the acclaimed musical Pippin, which was the first production to do so in 2006. He choreographed the aerial routines and also served as Fight Director. Together with Naomi, Ottavio Choreographed and performed in The Vampire Circus presented at the Hard Rock Hotel in Panama City, Panama.
Naomi Brenkman-Gesmundo (MRS. G.)
Was born in Utrecht Holland, where she began her Shorinjikempo Martial Arts training at the age of 4. By age 6 she focused on dance and attended the Royal Academy of Ballet in Amsterdam and then graduated from the Academy of Dance in Rotterdam with a Bachelors Degree in Classical Ballet & Folkloristic Dance with additional specialties in Contemporary, Jazz, Flamenco, Character Dance & Choreography.
Naomi has enjoyed an extensive performing career throughout Europe, Canada & the United States. She was resident choreographer, dance captain & swing for the musical Miss Saigon, as well as dance captain & swing for the First International Company of Elton John & Tim Rice's Aida in The Netherlands. Naomi was an original member of the hit recording group Alice DeeJay and was the associate fight director and swing for the National Tour of Spider-Man Live!
Naomi & Ottavio are also certified Ashtanga Yoga instructors and the founders of the Dragon Vinyasa system, which is an integration of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga with Kempo and Tai Chi Martial Arts. It was designed as a warm up to remain calm, focused and simultaneously energized in order to perform death-defying crossbow stunts.
Electrify your next event with excitement through a unique and passionate performance of dancing, martial arts, and precision crossbow marksmanship. MR. & MRS. G. thrill audiences worldwide and demonstrate the ultimate in trust, courage, and focus while shooting outrageous targets with death-defying accuracy. Always on target and ever evolving, they continuously create new material and can custom make an exciting segment for any occasion or venue; Spiegel Tent, Large Production Stage, Small Cabaret, Nightclub, Television, or Film. This is, quite literally, cutting edge entertainment.
“A remarkable contribution to circus history as much as memoir with star-studded daring acts” - Eric Hoffer Award
“The story of Ottavio Canestrelli is unique and this book, rich with history and filled with humor, is fresh and memorable.” - “readers will definitely be interested in his remarkable story.” - The Booklife Prize by Publisher’s Weekly
“The story of his travels, his acts and those of his talented family will enthrall any reader, and this is a most well-written and structured book” - Circus Report
“At 238 pages, with over 170 historical photographs, the book is a delight to read. I highly recommend it” - White Tops
“The roster of names dropped along the way, along with an expansive collection of photographs from every period covered in the book, should provide a good deal of pleasure” - Spectacle Magazine
“5 Stars - The narratives are masterfully and harmoniously blended to create a fascinating chronicle of circus history. While Canestrelli relives the exciting heyday of the Big Top, Gesmundo adds meticulous details to anchor his grandfather's account securely within its era. It is this contribution that elevates this book from memoir to valuable historical record. It reaches beyond circus life to add insightful snapshots into the first half of the 20th century” - Readers Favorite