I met Bob Yerkes at my High
School gym; Cleveland High School in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles
County; right about 1973. I was on the girls’ gymnastic team and tumbling when
Bob walked in with a troupe of teeterboard artists.
Bob was watching me tumble and
approached me and asked if I would like to try some circus stunts, and of
course, I said, yes.
Bob proceeded to have me stand on
his shoulders and then wrapped a belt around me so I could get shot off the
teeterboard and not get hurt.
I was so enamored with the
thought of trying to learn circus performing I was invited to train in Bob’s
backyard on his flying trapeze, low wire, trampoline, high falls, Russian
swing, single trapeze, as well as sword fighting, and performing stunts with
Hollywood stuntman. There was an array of circus performers of all types that
were willing to teach, and I was more than willing to learn. Fortunately, I
lived only a mile from this amazing yard full of rigging and very talented
Bob’s wife at the time, Dorothy
took me under her wing and taught me aerial ballet on the soft cotton rope,
(not silk) it had not been invented yet. I think she told me to climb it at
least 20 times per day to gain strength, and my ballet training certainly paid
off when it came to having form.
Bob encouraged me to learn to fly
trapeze, so I did and was fortunate enough to have Tony Steele as my first
trainer, he was an amazing comedy trapeze artist that was unafraid of anything.
I was quite the opposite and was so scared the first time, even though I was in
I continued to train in Bob’s
backyard and became proficient at aerial ballet, single trapeze, and walking on
a low wire. I also met a troupe that was seeking a performer for their
motorcycle act, and slide for life, (hanging in a neck loop), from very steep
My first performance as an aerial
ballet artist was at a local fairground, and I believe I was also a stand-in
for the trapeze act. It was one of Bob’s local bookings.
In 1974 I joined the Winn family
performing with their family for Shrine Circus, I started out in Texas,
performing the daring slide for life, and riding a static trapeze under a
motorcycle as it drove up a high wire. From there I tried out for Ringling
Bros. Circus and became a showgirl in 1975-1977, the Bicentennial edition, with
Gunther Gable Williams. The audition for showgirl was on the aerial ballet rope
and I had already had so much experience, I was hired on the spot. I owe that
to meeting Bobby, and his wife taking the time to teach me aerial ballet. I
soon joined the flying Farfans in their motorcycle act, (I was asked to do so
because of my experience with the Winns and their motorcycle act), and this
gave me performer status in the circus world as a truly recognized performer.
After I left Ringling Bros. I
went back to Bobby’s yard and kept practicing acrobatic feats and learning more
about trapeze flying, and static single trapeze. About 1978 I was asked to
travel overseas to Taiwan with a combination show of Circus, Rodeo, and Ice
Skating. Bob oversaw this show, and I had my first trip to a foreign
destination. I was asked to perform a single trapeze act with one other
performer, and aerial ballet with several other aerial artists. This was a
large show and very exciting to work with rodeo and ice skaters.
I am not sure what year I started
helping to train the Hollywood Stars for, Circus of the Stars but I believe it
was 1977-1979 with Lee Meriwether, (Aerial Ballet) Tony Fonda, (Motorcycle
Act), Jamie Curtis, (Aerial Ballet), and Richard Hatch (Flying Trapeze). This
was a very special experience watching these stars find out what type of
athletics it really took to perform amazing feats in the air. I owe that all to
Bobby asking me to help train these stars.
When I returned from Taiwan, I
still practiced at Bob’s but decided to go to Las Vegas and see if I could join
an act there so I could be close to California and my family.
I met an agent named Billy Woods
and he was informed that I had some training on the flying trapeze. Billy asked
if I wanted to join the Flying Ramos at the new Circus Circus opening in Reno
Nevada in 1979. I will forever be grateful for the ongoing training Bob
supplied me with, I never would have found Circus life without him.
I stayed in Reno with the Ramos
for 2, 1/2 years until their daughter Angela was old enough to join the act. I
had a wonderful experience learning how to fly and never really performed any
harder tricks than a 1 and ½ somersault, and a double to the net. I had a very
healthy fear of never going beyond my abilities. I also joined another motorcycle
act, performed some comedy juggling, worked as an MC part-time, and rode some
carousel horses as an aerial ballet artist. I was also asked to model for
Circus Circus Hotel by the CEO of the new hotel.
It was because of Bob Yerkes that
I was able to keep adding circus skills and joining various acts over the
years. Bob always believed in me!
After I retired from the Flying
Ramos, I left Reno and tried to figure out what I was going to do next when I
was asked to fly trapeze in Japan with the Flying Redpaths, for the Paul Kaye
Circus, this was about 1981-or 1982. I also joined a dog act there and
performed aerial ballet as well.
After meeting Paul Kaye, I got it
into my head to ask him about Tinker Bell because his X-wife Judy Kaye
performed this for many years at Disneyland Anaheim California. I met her one
day while performing at the Anaheim Convention Center at Ringling Bros. Circus.
When I returned home from Japan,
I made a mad dash to Disneyland and inquired about Tinker Bell and found out
they had put the flying Tinker Bell on hiatus for seven years while they were
building New Fantasyland. I secured an audition with Stan Freese the talent
resource director and acquired the job as Tinker Bell in 1983-2005, now known
as the longest-flying Tinker Bell in Disneyland history at
(Reverting back to the 1980s).
Now there is more to this story because, around 1986, I asked Bob about how to
achieve a license as a talent agent because I had an affinity for spotting
great talents. I soon opened my own agency and started booking variety artists
and hired them as independent contractors for my talent agency, World Wide
Acts. Disneyland asked me if I wanted to book talent for them for corporate,
and media events from 1989-2000. It was so wonderful to perform as Tinker Bell
and also book talent at various times with all types of variety performers. You
can read about this on my website.
I also ran a circus school as the
director at L.A. Gymnastics in Los Angeles in 2008, and Bob hung all the
rigging at the age of 76, much to my surprise. This is when I presented Bob
with the plaque dedication of me flying as Tinker Bell, and thanking him for my
wonderful circus career, I owed Bob a lifetime of thank you’ s for bringing me
such exciting career sets. Please see the photos of me with him on my website,
When I received this call about
Bob being nominated for Coach of The Year at the Circus Ring of Fame, I was
more than willing to dedicate my entire career to Bob. I happen to be writing
my memoir and this dedication to Bob is a large part of my book. I want to
thank Bobby for introducing me to a world I would have never known, much like a
quantum leap into time. I proudly nominate him for this amazing award.
Here is the article about Bob Yerkes as Boba Fett in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
If you would like to learn more about Gina Rock and her time in the circus, her time as Tinker Bell in Disneyland, listen to interviews, or get a signed autograph, please visit her website.