Peter Panov by Valentin Balev
Born in 1950, in Sofia, Bulgaria, into the famous Panovi circus family, Peter Panov has had an eventful life working as an entertainer – and occasional entrepreneur – but now prefers to live in Stockholm, Sweden, to paint, to write his most recent novel called ‘The Mime,’ and of course, to remember.
Peter Panov the Artist
The Panovi family were famous Bulgarian circus clowns, and mime artists, who performed all over Europe. Peter has many brothers, all entertainers, but his father Koko, was the family inspiration.
The Panovi Family Entertainers
Following the family tradition, Peter Panov entered The Variety School in Moscow, and after graduating in 1968, in 1970 we find him appearing as an acrobat in the Russian State Circus in Moscow, and Tbilisi in Georgia.
In 1973 he is touring as an artist, now with the well known Scandinavian ‘Scott Circus.’ Established in 1937, it is one of Europe’s most popular and traditional circus’s, and was where Peter experienced, at first hand, the ‘Roar of The Greasepaint, and The Smell of The Crowd.‘
Peter has always loved Bulgaria, and it wasn’t long before he returned from his travels, this time in straight comedy, where during the 70s, he appeared at ‘Bar Variety,’ on Sunny Beach. Then, returning to Sweden, we find him appearing at Grona Lunds ‘Tivoli,’ in Stockholm. It was then – between 1978 and 1984 – that Peter Panov, the rising star, made his international debut.
Touring, to great acclaim – variously in Italy, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Japan and the USA – he returned for the next four years to the ‘Tivoli’ in Stockholm. After this, his ambition partially satisfied, he turned his attention to the movies, and between 1990 and 1995 , he appeared in five films. But in 1996, he turned his attention to producing and managing a song group.
Songs 4 Ever, started in Sofia, and over the years they have appeared on TV shows in Sweden, Norway, Italy and , of course Bulgaria. Peter is fluent in a number of languages, including English, Swedish, Italian, Russian and Polish, and has performed in all these languages.
It was during this time, that Peter Panov and friends started the Opera Club in Sofia. Established in the basement of the Sofia Opera House, it offered Sofia a look at how the rest of Europe dined and entertained. It became truly the best venue in town, and I was not the only one to agree.
Peter with Franco Nero at The Opera Club
In my novel Judas Goat: The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery, I feature the Opera Club, with some surprising vignettes one including Peter Panov himself.
“It was like walking into an Art Nouveau time capsule in Old Vienna, and a world that had been long forgotten by anyone in Sofia. The Maitre D’, turned out to be an Englishman who later told Lambert that he was originally from Essex but was married to a Bulgarian girl from Sofia. He showed the couple to a table by the small stage at the rear of the restaurant and told them to ask for Richard if they needed anything. He also told them he was the manager of the restaurant, which had been open for only a year and that most of his customers were wealthy businessmen or foreign tourists.
The menu was not enormous, unlike the Nicky Hotel restaurant which seemed to go on forever, and with the usual choice of grilled meat or fish, it came with a choice of interesting sauces, salads and side dishes. They could see the American influence, one which the restaurant was obviously geared for. There were a lot of suits there, but unlike the thirsty habitués of Flanagan’s these customers were obviously quite different and were from Brussels London or Washington. It seemed to Lambert that they were all taking themselves very seriously and not simply out for a good time, unlike like Vera and himself. That is, until the waiters began to sing!
He’d noticed when he sat down that the waiters had a microphone set attached to their collar, but what he did not know was that all these microphones were connected to the intricate sound system in the club restaurant. Before they could order their meal, the band struck up, the music began and they were all suddenly transformed into the audience of the Andrew Lloyd Webbers musical Jesus Christ Superstar. First they sang the theme song from the show, and this was followed by a girl singing ‘I don’t know how to love him,’ from the stage. What was amazing was how this did not stop the waiter’s from waiting, or the customers asking for the usual things one asks for in restaurants. The whole event just seemed to fit together, and transformed the whole eating experience into an almost surreal occasion.
The food was great, although the service was understandably slow, the event suddenly interrupted by what appeared to be a drunk carrying a stepladder, who seemed determined to change a light bulb over the stage. He could hardly climb the step ladder he was so drunk, and it rocked from side to side, looking as though he would crash to the ground at any moment. After changing the bulb, he finally slid down the ladder, fell over, got up, bowed and then carried the ladder out of the restaurant. ‘Who is that man Richard,’ Lambert asked?
The restaurant manager laughed at the innocent question. ‘That’s the boss Sir, he used to be a Circus Clown many years ago, and he is always doing stuff like that for fun. You wouldn’t know it, but he hardly ever drinks!’”
By Patrick Brigham