Entries tagged with “duncan”.

From my perspective as a professional yo-yo man, it sure seems as if yo-yos are recession proof.  As the economy tanked almost everyone suffered, and I am no exception. However, for the last two years I have seen an interesting trend in my business. While it has gotten increasingly difficult to book shows, when I can actually get my foot in the door and get in front of an audience, they are buying yo-yos like crazy.


I make my living as an entertainer.  In general the way it works is that people hire me to come and perform my show at an event. I get hired for a wide variety of gatherings: it could be anything from a local library show, a school, a company picnic or holiday party to an international festival in Shanghai China or a trade show in Australia.  I have been around the world with a yo-yo in my pocket, but I mostly work in the Midwest of the United States.  While my main product is my show, I always have yo-yos for sale afterward if I can.  It’s a nice way to let people take a piece of the show home with them, enjoy a part of our national cultural heritage, and have fun with a new toy. For me of course, yo-yo sales allow me to have a little extra money in my pocket, and until the recession hit, “little” was usually the operative word.


So why are yo-yos selling so well now? I think that there are several reasons:

  • Yo-yos are cheap.  You can get a lot of fun out of a $5 or $10 yo-yo, and it’s a lot easier on a strained budget to spend even $50 on a really nice yo-yo than to drop hundreds of dollars on a new videogame system.
  • Yo-yos are fun. You get an immediate shot of fun injected directly into your brain.
  • Yo-yos are easy. Almost anyone can learn a few cool tricks with only minimal instruction, and if you have access to a professional or the internet, you can learn even more.
  • Exercise. While yo-yoing is nothing like doing the decathlon, it is physical activity, and a lot of people are looking for any way to keep kids (or adults for that matter) active.
  • Boost hand-eye coordination. There is no doubt that yo-yos are good for this.
  • Yo-yos are social. Especially in a school environment, yo-yos lead to more social interaction. One person knows how to do a specific trick, so other people come to them for pointers. I had one Principal who was thrilled with the massive inter-grade socialization that happened at her school after I had performed and taught workshops there.
  • People are simplifying. Yo-yos are a classic part of American culture, and remind us of simpler times. They let you feel like you are getting back to basics, and taking part in our traditional culture.

I should point out that I am certainly not getting rich off yo-yo sales, especially since getting in the door to do a show in the first place is still difficult, but yo-yo sales have helped me get through this slow economy. I think it’s fascinating how our behavior changes in hard times. I’ve always known that yo-yos were incredibly cool, and as a professional yo-yo man it’s extremely gratifying that when times get tough, and we as a nation look for entertainment, yo-yos are the comfort food of the toy world.



Mark Hayward is a full-time professional yo-yo man, and he also runs howtoyoyo.com where you can buy your own yo-yo, and learn how to use it. For  more on Mark’s show, and booking information check out www.markhayward.net



I have reached a new plateau in my semi-fame. This is even better than when a kid put my photo on his birthday cake.  I got a facebook message and a photo text telling me about it last night.  My buddies Takeshi, Jack Ringca, and Drew Tetz are on the road right now with the Duncan Heritage Tour and yesterday a kid showed up to their demo in Brookfield WI in his Halloween costume, dressed as me.  Fake glasses, cool-guy shirt, hat, and a markered-in soul-patch beard to boot.  Just to make sure everyone knew who he was, he was wearing my current trading card like a name tag.  Awesome.  I am so honored.

He saw me at the Wisconsin State Fair this summer, and has gotten really into yo-yos lately.  Apparently I gave him a trading card at the fair.  Here is the photo he was working from:

The back of my new trading card:

and here is the front:

That’s right!  Not only is my new trading card out, but it has a SUPER-AWESOME photo on the front taken by the world famous yo-yo master Raphael Matsunaga, aka: Red.  This photo was taken in Takeshi’s living room while Duncan was shooting some new instructional video with Raphael and Takeshi as well as Jack Ringca, Brandon Jackson, Drew Tetz, and Hank Freeman.  It was fun.  I love pictures of me.

For the celebration of 80 years of Duncan Yo-yos a massive set of demonstrator trading cards came out, and one card has been included in each entry-level yo-yo. My Duncan pals and I have been looking for our own cards in the stores, and I just found mine this weekend! It was pretty cool.

Here’s what the card looks like:

I managed to get myself on National TV once again! Check it out:

It was great fun hanging out with Bob Rule and getting the stories from the old days of yo-yo demonstrations. Of course it’s fun hanging with the other guys in the tour van, but they’re no Bob Rule. You can see Bob’s website at www.mryoyo.com

Today was another Toys R Us demo with the Duncan Tour, but this one was back down in Virginia. Afterwards we got to stop in at good ol’ Dick Stohr’s house and see his yo-yo collection. It’s always fun to see a yo-yo collection, and it’s nice to spend time with a yo-yo pal when we’re not at a contest for a change.

Dick Stohr and his collection
Dick Stohr with part of his yo-yo collection at his home in Virginia.

Today started with a news spot at the very reasonable hour of 8am. That beats previous spots we’ve had that involved getting to the station at 5:30am. Seth Peterson and I were on CBS 3 in Philly with a really great and enthusiastic anchor who just happened to be named Yuuki. He was jazzed to hear that there was a world-famous yo-yo champion (Yuuki Spencer) with the same name. At lunch time the whole gang went out for food and an oil change in the tour van and we met Scotti Lee. Not only is he the owner of the oil change joint, but he’s also the inventor of Clacker-Balls! You heard me correctly. He invented Clacker-Balls. That is so cool.

Me w/the inventor of the Clacker-ball
Me with Scotti Lee Ph.D, the inventor of Claker-Balls!

Scotti told me that he was trying to make himself a set of bolos (that use 3 balls) but he lost a ball, so he just made a set with two balls. He owned a bar at the time and so he had time to start messing around with his new toy. People in the bar kept asking him to make a set for their kids, and one thing led to another, he got a little news coverage, and suddenly he had a big hit on his hands.

Our demo tonight was at our buddy Yo-yo Joe’s.

Yo-yo Joe's

We knew in advance that this would be a great demo, and we were not disappointed. Lots of people showed up and they had skills! Perhaps the most exciting part (for me anyway) was that Joe let us do the testing to get up on the Wall Of Fame. He has an extensive list of tricks, about 20 or so, and you have to do them all successfully or you don’t get on The Wall. It took some serious work since I had never done several of the tricks before. I knew that I had the skills required, but I still had to do them right. With some encouragement from Joe and a lot of help from a couple of the yo-yo kids I successfully hit every trick. Brandon made it to The Wall as well, and Seth has been on there for a while already.

Wall of Fame Certificate
My awesome new certificate of awesomeness.

Me on the Wall of Fame!
Me in front of the Wall of Fame! I signed the certificate, “I’m the BEST!”

I just realized that part of why this is so cool for me is that this is the first time that I’ve gotten my signed photo up on the wall of a business. It makes me feel like a movie star. That’s not something that happens just every day you know.

Duncan Tour 2009. All Giggles & Sunshine

It’s day 3 of my East Coast leg of the Duncan Tour. This morning Brandon Jackson, Seth Peterson and I are sitting in the parking lot of Toy R Us in Baltimore, waiting for our 3rd early morning TV spot. We got here at 5:30am and will be rolling out at about 8:15 to go back to the hotel and try to get a little sleep. This afternoon we’ll be back here at 2:00 for our demo, and then it’s off to Wilmington Delaware. There is a strong yo-yo scene in Delaware so it should be a really good time.

October 5th 2009. On tour with the Duncan Crew.

We had just finished up a nice demo at Old City Kites in Sacramento and it was time to get in the van and be off to our next gig. Emil Lamprecht, Paul Escolar and I piled in and Emil turned the key in the ignition… nothing. In addition to our music for the demo, we had accidentally left too many accessories running in the van for the last 2 1/2 hours. The battery was completely dead.

We asked Anwar, our host, if he had jumper cables. He didn’t but suggested that the workers who owned the trucks next to us might. I talked to the first guy to come out to the truck, and after I explained to him what jumper cables were, he told me he didn’t have any, but his buddy might. The three workers were all Hispanic so the next part of the conversation took place in Spanish. What surprised all of us was that the second guy didn’t say either yes or no, there was a pretty involved discussion and then the first guy turned to me and said, “Yes, we have them.”

The worker guys started digging around in the second truck and pulled out a big coil of electrical wire. This is the kind of wire that contractors use to put in an outlet or run electrical lines through your walls. I thought maybe the jumper cables were under the coil of wire, but no, they were going to use that wire to jump us.

It never would have occurred to me that their method might work, but they were very confident, we only had 35 minutes until our next gig, and I was happy to roll with it, so I got the hood open as fast as I could. Emil on the other hand was pretty nervous about it and asked, “Are you sure that’s safe?” The guy with the wire looked at him with an expression that said, “Of course this is safe, don’t be ridiculous.” Paul was apparently pretty nervous too, but he hid it well.

The worker guys got the big coil of wire out, cut it to the right length and started whittling off the insulation with their pocket knives. It was a surprisingly quick operation, and it was clear that at least one of the guys had done this before. With both hoods open, the worker guys put the wire in place. There was some coordination that had to be done of course: “Negra positivo?” “No blanco.” I suggested to Paul and Emil that they stand far enough back that they couldn’t get hit by any spraying acid from an exploding battery… just in case.

Getting a jump for the Duncan Crew tour van
The Duncan Crew tour van about to get a good jolt.

Getting a jump for the Duncan Crew tour van
The electricity donor.

The thing that was worrying me the most was that the guys were just holding the wire onto the terminals of the batteries with their bare hands. I know how batteries work, and I have heard horror stories about what happens when you accidentally touch a wrench or something to both terminals of a car battery, so I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that their beating hearts were right smack dab in the middle of those two battery terminals. I didn’t think anyone was going to grab on to the terminals with their bare hands, but sometimes you can’t help imagining the worst-case scenario.

Emil got in the van, and after a little more discussion the worker guys gave him the signal and he turned the key. The van started right up as if there had never been a problem.

The three of us Duncan guys cheered and threw our hands in the air, and the three worker guys looked at us like we were idiots. Throughout the entire jumping process there was a wonderful disparity between how freaked out Emil, Paul & I were versus how nonchalant the three worker guys were.

Emil hooked the guys up with yo-yos to say thank you and we were off to the next gig. We made it with 5 minutes to spare.

Almost as funny as the story itself is that whenever Emil is telling it he can never remember the word “jump” and keeps saying that the worker guys “rebooted” our van. Kids these days huh?

On tour with the Duncan Crew
Emil Lamprecht, Me, and Paul Escolar in Sacramento CA

I’m on my first tour with Duncan and having a great time! The first day was Emil Lamprecht, Paul Escolar, Nate Sutter and me, but Nate had to leave on the morning of day two. It’s actually harder work than I expected. The main thing that is tough is the schedule. We’re up early every day for a dawn tv spot, then off to a couple of demos, and then a drive to a new city. I had thought that I would be able to get my own work done in the evenings, but we’re all just too tired, and we have to be up early the next morning anyway. Despite all that though, it is great to be a part of a tour after all these years, and I’m going to see if I can hook up with the tour again when it gets to the East Coast. Check out the schedule here.

The Duncan Crew tour van
Paul Escolar in front of the tour van looking poised & confident as usual.