Wed10222014

News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Circus with a smile

For John Gilkey of Los Altos, Cirque du Soleil success is classic 'revenge of the nerds'

No one expected a few awkward dance steps to catapult John Gilkey to the big top after he dropped out of college to pursue his childhood passion and run away with the circus.

But using his shortcomings to achieve the extraordinary is something Gilkey has done most of his life.

Being a "dork" has paid off, Gilkey said.

Disguised by a white-powdered face, upswept eyebrows and a single tuft of spiked hair atop his head, the Los Altos native has been entertaining audiences nationwide with his animated gestures and circus tricks for the past 18 months as ringmaster of Cirque du Soleil's latest production, "Quidam," which opened in San Jose July 31.

"I got lumped in with a whole bunch of dancers (at the 1994 audition) which was scary because I'm not a dancer," Gilkey said.

"So I took my little place in the back and tried to keep from getting kicked in the face, and they liked that. They liked the goofy guy who kept trying to keep up with all of the dancers."

Gilkey and the 50-member circus troupe from "Quidam" will have performed 1,000 shows, in front of more than 2.5 million people in 13 cities by 1998 - the end of the production's three-year run in North America.

The renowned French-Canadian company is known for reinventing the three-ringed circus by combining the traditional circus arts, such as flying acrobats, with cabaret-style acts, outrageous costumes and live music in its all-human productions.

Cirque du Soleil has thrilled more than 15 million spectators in 123 countries around the world and has won numerous awards including an Emmy, since it began in 1984.

Gilkey said Cirque du Soleil celebrates the "human person doing superhuman activities."

For Gilkey, circus tricks provided him a way to be accepted by his peers in junior high school.

"You want to be good at something when you're a kid," Gilkey said. "Well when you're dorky, skinny, have glasses and braces, football ain't the best choice. I chose juggling."

Gilkey began performing in school shows, company parties, and by age 18 had even won first place at the International Jugglers Association annual convention.

After graduating from Homestead High School in Sunnyvale in 1985, Gilkey enrolled at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he expected to graduate and become some kind of scientist, he said.

Gilkey said dividing his time between studying and performing was too difficult and college "just wasn't doing it" for him.

He dropped out of school after his first year and gave himself an ultimatum. "If I wasn't performing in two years, I would go back to school," he said.

With a lot of hard work and some luck, Gilkey was touring with the Pickle Family Circus within a year. This led him to study acrobats which later earned him stints with the Tandy Beal Dance Company and other performance groups.

Gilkey was first introduced to Cirque du Soleil in 1987 when the show came to Los Angeles as part of the city's theater festival.

"I was taken aback, overwhelmed and wowed," Gilkey said. "It was clear to me that (Cirque du Soleil) was something I wanted to do eventually."

Gilkey said after performing 10 shows a week, six days a week since 1996, staying fresh has become the most difficult aspect of circus life.

"I work to find something new to surprise myself as well as the audience," Gilkey said. "The audience sees when you've done something a billion times before and you're not into it. It makes a difference between a pretty darn good show and an amazing experience."

Gilkey said he warms up several hours before each show by studying video tapes of his last performance and preparing himself mentally.

Gilkey said no matter how much he prepares for a show, his act always involves some improvisation.

"After 500 shows, things do go wrong," Gilkey said while reminiscing about the tour. He said the sound died out during a show in Oakland, requiring his otherwise silent character to sing. Gilkey said one time he almost drove his scooter into the audience. And another time, he caught a dart in the back of the head by mistake.

In Quidam, Gilkey guides the audience through the show which centers around a young girl who embarks on a series of adventures with a headless giant.

Between the clown stunts and the aerial, high-flying, balancing and manipulation acts, audiences are entertained by Gilkey's comical vignettes. He throws darts, twirls hoops, taunts the audience and mimics Fred Astaire's dance with a coat rack in Royal Wedding.

Gilkey said he didn't learn any of his stunts at a "circus school." He said performing simply takes practice and imagination. Gilkey said he used to lock himself in his room, stand in front of a mirror and practice several hours a day.

As ringmaster, Gilkey said he is responsible for keeping the show down-to-earth.

"I provide a bit of a wink," Gilkey said. "It would be very easy for the show to become pretentious if we didn't have someone winking at the audience and telling them we know we're taking ourselves a little too seriously."

Gilkey said every city responds to the show differently. So far he has had a warm homecoming in San Jose..

"Coming back is great but scary," Gilkey said. "All of my friends are coming to the shows. I have to do good every show, It's hard not screwing up.

"Quidam" will play at the San Jose Water Company at 374 West Santa Clara St. through Sept. 14. Performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays; 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Fridays; 4:30 p.m.. and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information call (800) 678-5440.

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