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Coupeville entertainer juggling options
Life gets so crazy for Marcus Raymond that sometimes he literally doesn’t know where he’s going.
As a traveling entertainer, Raymond is booked on cruise ships all over the world. He remembers once arriving at an airport ticket window and being asked for his destination.
So frazzled by sleep deprivation, his head spinning from so many other trips, he honestly couldn’t remember.
He thought he was going to Brazil. Instead, he was informed that he was ticketed for Uruguay.
Raymond laughs about the incident.
“I didn’t even know there was a country in Uruguay at that moment,” Raymond said.
“That’s my life,” he said.
After landing on Whidbey Island earlier this year, Raymond has wanted nothing more than to slow down and keep his act closer to his new home.
At 43, he’s been a street performer and stage entertainer for nearly half of his life, drawing laughs and applause for his comedy, escape artist and juggling acts.
But the reality is, the flights to get to those performances in locations across the globe are turning this funny man’s smile upside down.
He estimates he racks up 80,000-100,000 air miles most years.
“It’ll mess with your head,” he said.
Although it’s not in his nature to stay still for long, Raymond desires that more than ever these days.
At home in Coupeville, he has a wife and a 21-year-old stepson with special needs. He enjoys life as a family man and wants to trim the miles on the road.
His life has been on the go since he was a young man.
When he was 22, he hopped aboard a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train in his hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and traveled across the country.
He was hired on the spot as a train mechanic, but every night got a backstage look at unusual and amazing talent.
“I was fascinated,” he said. “I wanted to become part of it.”
The circus brought Raymond to the West Coast, and eventually to San Francisco, where he met some jugglers and began studying their craft on the streets. He started going to weekly juggling meetings and at age 24, got his first chance to perform before a small gathering at a talent show.
Raymond wrote a seven-minute routine that involved juggling hats.
“The second I got my first laugh, it was over,” he said. “It was done. I ran with it. The adrenaline was crazy.”
It would take years of working odd jobs, performing on the side and even living out of his van before his street performances at Pier 39 in San Francisco started drawing more attention and income and ultimately led to more lucrative opportunities with cruise lines and in theaters.
Raymond’s popularity rose and he wound up headlining performances at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, the Bakersfield Civic Center and the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.
It was during a show in 1999 at Pier 39 where he met his wife, Donna Raymond. She was called from the audience to help put him in a straight jacket as part of his escape artist routine.
He escaped the restraints but not Donna. They’ve been together ever since, providing each other comfort and support during a journey that has had its share of trying times.
“The one thing that attracted me about Marcus is he is really funny,” Donna said. “You never get bored.”
“We might not have a lot, but we have each other. He makes me laugh on a daily basis.”
The laughs flow even easier now since the Raymonds¡ moved to Whidbey Island.
The move seemed to be destined. Ever since moving to the Bay Area 16 years ago, Donna Raymond has gotten an earful from her son, Kalen George.
George was born in Coupeville and was 5 when they left for California.
He was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that involves a difficulty with social interaction, obsessive interests and repetitive routines.
For years, George expressed his desire to return to Whidbey Island. Sensing his growing unhappiness in the Bay Area, and knowing Marcus’ entertainment career wasn’t tied to San Francisco, his mother and stepfather eventually agreed to the fresh start.
“He never wavered from wanting to return here. Ever,” Donna Raymond said. “I thought that it would fade out.”
“This is my home,” George said. “This is where I wanted to be.”
George is getting a chance to live more independently in his own apartment in Coupeville. It’s a safe environment where seniors and low-income adults with disabilities live.
“He’s the only young guy here. He’s got 50 grandparents,” said his mother.
George beams about the apartment and his new independence. He knows his mom and stepdad are nearby, living just a few miles away.
“It’s a very nice place,” George said. “It’s very nostalgic. There’s good energy. People are nice.”
The Raymonds are grateful for the services on the island that assist their son as well as for the Asperger support group that meets twice a month in Freeland.
They’ve seen a big change in George. He’s met friends at support group meetings.
There are lots of reasons to be happy now — even without the prodding of a comedic stepfather.
“I think you are funny,” George said to Raymond as they sat on a couch together in George’s apartment. “I’ve wanted to change some of your jokes around a little bit.”
That response drew laughter from Marcus Raymond.
He’s used to drawing laughs himself, often at his own expense.
Raymond is looking for more of those opportunities closer to home. He began performing in festivals and fairs on Whidbey Island over the summer.
He would like to take his act to more festivals, state fairs and to private parties such as kids’ birthday parties.
Raymond loves being on stage but no longer wants to be a globetrotter. He just wants to slow down and stay nearer to family. He sees many untapped entertainment possibilities on Whidbey and is exploring as many options as he can.
“I’m tired of running, running and running,” he said.
“I want to get more involved in the community. I’d love to work more locally.”
• To learn more about Marcus Raymond and his comedy and juggling routine, go to www.marcusraymond.com