By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A Stillwater High School graduate has been documenting the intriguing life of a Tulsa man whose life has taken him through many facets of life and occupations before he became a circus trapeze artist.
Randy Mace graduated from Stillwater High School in 1983 and went on to attend and graduate with a radio, television and film degree from Oklahoma State University in 1988. For the past six years, his focus has been on a documentary concerning a Tulsa man’s unique life.
“My business partner and I, Robert Howell, were just intrigued with this idea of biographical documentaries and we had talked about several things,” he said. “This was about 10 years ago.”
Both Mace and Howell were looking for an interesting subject to feature. Howell’s younger brother, Jay, suggested Tony Perigo, a friend whom the brothers had known since their childhood.
Perigo had become a trapeze artist traveling the world with a circus troupe. Mace and Howell communicate with Perigo, who was in England, through email. He agreed to the idea.
“Our first set of interviews were in Tulsa with his friends and his brother to try and get a little background,” Mace said. “That was in 2007. I still hadn’t met him.”
They knew they had a great subject after those interviews. Mace and Howell met Perigo in August 2007.
“We met him on the road as he was traveling with this traveling circus,” Mace said. “My first time to meet him was on the circus lot. I didn’t know what to expect. I had my own preconceived notions of what I had heard but I didn’t really know much about him other than these crazy stories.”
Perigo, also known as Anton VonOstendorf, stumbled upon the idea of being a trapeze artist when his girlfriend at the time had told him to check out a trapeze rig she knew about in a nearby town in Florida, where he lived at the time.
“He drove down to this place, pulls up on the lot and sees this trapeze rig and he’s like, ‘Oh my God. This is my calling,’ Mace said, relaying Perigo’s account. “And he starts practicing on this thing and learning tricks and the guy who owned it said, ‘I staff people for a living at the Club Meds and you’re better than most of the people I staff.’ So, he literally signed him to a contract that day and said, ‘The next time I have an opening come up, I’m going to hire you if you want it.’”
Perigo, approximately 23 or 24 at the time, received a call within a month and accepted.
“He said, ‘I threw everything out that I couldn’t give away, I put it out on the curb and the next day left town,’” Mace said.
He spent more than a year working on the craft.
Mace and Howell’s story follows Perigo’s life before his current occupation. It is littered with interesting jobs and stories including fronting a neo-classical metal band, joining the Navy, becoming an assistant taxidermist and riding a moped halfway across the United States. In high school, he attended cosmetology school to learn makeup because he wanted to become a horror makeup artist in Hollywood.
“He had so many crazy backstories and stories about his life before he ever saw a trapeze,” Mace said. “He was a kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do. He was very aimless his first four or five years out of high school.”
Perigo, a Tulsa native, was the son of a lawyer and French teacher.
“And they were into the arts, so he wasn’t raised as an athlete,” Mace said. “He was raised as a performer.”
Howell said he learned more about Perigo through the documentary filming.
“Even your best friend, if you did a documentary on him, I’m sure that you would find lots of things that you wouldn’t have thought to ask,” Howell said. “It’s just a different way of examining somebody’s life.”
Howell said the most interesting part to him was the journey Perigo took in determining what the circus meant to him from the beginning, middle and end. He said it was a full circle journey for an idea that many people may have, but never realize.
“You get to see him so drunk with this idea that he pulled this off and put this streak together and going out on the road and making it happen and then seriously in the middle of this thing, people start saying, ‘You’re one of the best trapeze artists ever,’” Howell said.
Mace said Perigo is not an over-the-top character as one might expect.
“He’s just a guy,” he said. “He’s just a guy who has followed his dream. He’s an intriguing character because he hasn’t lived a normal life.”
Mace and Howell shot more than 100 hours of footage over the span of five trips to Tulsa, one trip to Miami, two trips to Paris and three trips to the United Kingdom.
The co-directors are hoping to finance their documentary through indiegogo, a crowd-sourcing financial campaign site for projects. They hope to raise $75,000. Mace said the goal is to raise enough money to finish the film by the summer and either have it purchased for distribution or to take it to the film festival circuit.
“We really tried to make a documentary that’s going to breathe, be very truthful,” Howell said. “It’s not fast paced in that it’s kind of more a traditional documentary. I think people, hopefully, will see that as a breath of fresh air. And the story is fantastic.”
For more information and to see the documentary trailer, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/circus-orphan.