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Yokoi, Lilly, Born 1929



  • Existence: Born 1929


Lilly Yokoi was an American bicycle acrobat of Japanese descent. Her early training started with her family, as her parents were themselves bicycle acrobats, who emigrated to America from Japan in the 1920s. Lilly and her three sisters went on to achieve a remarkable technical level in bicycle acrobatics, doing tricks rarely or never seen before.

Lilly’s career set off as part of the family troupe, performing with her siblings, until 1956 when she appeared as a solo act on the popular ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in the USA. This breakthrough in television helped launch her early career. She later appearanced n major TV shows around the world, including shows hosted by Joan Crawford and Paul Daniels, and a long running TV circus show in France called ‘La Piste aux Etoiles’. She also toured on various occasions with the Harlem Globe Trotters.

By the 1960s and 1970s, Lilly was considered the world's greatest acrobat on bicycle and was in high demand in the circus and variety scene around the world. The technical skill of her performance was matched by her elegance, grace and charisma in stage, which made her very popular with the audience. She became one of the highest paid solo performers in the world and a much sought after act in any quality variety and circus show.

Lilly appeared in some of the greatest stages in the world including Bertram Mills Circus at Olympia, Billy Smart’s Circus, the London Palladium, Cirkus Berny in Norway, Cirkus Schumann in Denmark and Sweden, Circus Knie in Switzerland and the Lido in Paris.

Lilly Yokoi made her last public appearance at Blackpool Tower Circus in 1982. Through her career she became a circus legend and she is still regarded by many as the greatest solo bicycle act that ever existed.

Found in 10 Collections and/or Records:

Blackpool Tower Circus Fantastic Programme, 1978

Reference code: 178K41.22
Scope and Contents

Charlie Cairoli and his company clowns, Lilly Yokoi trick cyclist, Yong Brothers balancing act, Mary Chipperfield and her magnificent animals, Norman Barrett ringmaster, The Salvadors ball balancing, Kludsky Troupe tumblers, Miss Wendy and her birds, Burger Sisters, El Gran Rober. Contains illustration on cover with photos, 12p.p.

Dates: 1978

Blackpool Tower Circus Posters, c1930 - 1990

Reference code: 178R47.141-212
Scope and Contents

Posters for Blackpool Tower Circus including shows by Knie's Circus, Circus Krone, Circus Schumann, Bertram Mills Circus, Robert Brothers Circus and performances by Charlie Cairoli, Doddles, Coco the Clown, The Rosaires, Lilly Yokoi, Alfred Court, Vojtek Trubka, The Great Wallendas and Mary Chipperfield among others.

Dates: c1930 - 1990

Christopher Palmer Collection

Reference code: NFA0105
Scope and Contents

Circus programmes and VHS tapes from Billy Smart’s Circus and Chipperfields’s Circus collected during the 1970s and early 1980s by the TV producer, Christopher John Palmer. There are also a number of promotional photographs of artistes and other ephemera related to the circus.

Dates: 1973 - 1983

Circus Friends Association Collection

Reference code: NFA0122
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of a large library of books and journals, as well as archival material including posters, programmes, photographs, films, handbills, research material, scrapbooks, original artwork and many other items of ephemera relating to British, Irish and European circuses

Dates: 1795 - 2020

Circus Knie Advertising Material, 1953 - 1987

Reference code: 178I22.36
Scope and Contents

Advertising material for Circus Knie including their newspaper, containing extensive information on international performers and acts including Lilly Yokoi, Trubka, The Fratellis and the Flying Marilees, touring schedules and various souvenir brouchures for their zoo and menagerie, contain black and white and colour photographs with text and commercial advertising.

Dates: 1953 - 1987

Circus Schumann Programmes, 1934 - 1968

Reference code: 178K43.635
Scope and Contents

Circus Schumann programmes containing colour illustrations on the front covers, inside black and white photographs of perfomers and acts, introduction, programme and commercial advertising, feature Lilly Yokoi, Mazeppa and Charlie Rivel.

Dates: 1934 - 1968

Posters, c1800 - 2011

Reference code: 178R47
Scope and Contents

A wide range of British and international circus and menagerie posters ranging from the 19th to the 21st century including Astley's Amphitheatre, Pablo Fanque, Polito, Bostock and Wombwell, Ducrow, Cooke, Hengler, Sanger, Smart, Gerry Cottle, Bertram Mills, Chipperfield's, Robert Brothers, Fossett, Blackpool Tower, Billy Russell, Belle Vue, Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, Austen Brothers and many more.

Dates: c1800 - 2011

Programmes, 1970 - 1981

Reference code: 178K41
Scope and Contents

Programmes for various British and international circuses including Billy Russell's, Blackpool Tower, Fossett's, Chipperfield's and the Toni Boltini's Circus.

Dates: 1970 - 1981

Programmes, c1800 - 2019

Reference code: 178K43
Scope and Contents

A collection of mainly British and international circus programmes and some variety and music hall programmes containing circus acts.

Dates: c1800 - 2019

Trade and Advertising Material, c1900 - 1999

Reference code: 178I22
Scope and Contents

A range of items of promotion and advertising from a range of circus companies and performers, including artistes' photographs with act descriptions used for seeking employment in circuses and pamphlets advertising independent performances and circus companies' literature and souvenirs for public distribution and promotion including Gerry Cottle's Circus, Belle Vue, Blackpool Tower, Bertram Mills Circus, Gandey's, Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey, Knie and many more.

Dates: c1900 - 1999

Additional filters:

Archival Object 8
Collection 2
Acrobats 6
Aerialists 7
Animal trainers 7
Animals 8
Art 1