If you ever met Royal Sorell, CBA, I seriously doubt you would have ever forgotten him. Royal was the ultimate entertainer; he was a classically trained mime, a slight of hand magician and one of the greatest balloon artists of all time. Ask any twister anywhere if they were to pick their favorite or most influential artists and there’s little doubt in my mind that Royal would appear on nearly every single one of their lists.
I was fortunate enough to meet Royal very early in my career. I was attending my very first convention, IBAC 13 if memory serves, in Rosemont, IL, and he and his wife, Patty, were responsible for teaching only the second class I had ever been exposed to. They were co-teaching a class on adding non-round balloons into classic decor, which at the time was pretty new territory. But being brand new to the business, I had no idea (or care for that matter) that decorators weren’t “supposed” to work with 260s, 350s and the like.
The very next year, IBAC introduced the entertainer series of competitions. I actually entered the non-round sculpture competition accidentally; the year before it was the medium sculpture and I thought that’s what I was entering. But hey, it’s still a lot of the same elements and it uses these twisting balloons that I liked so much, so why not, right?
Within moments of beginning the competition, low and behold, who’s standing next to me? Royal Sorell. I was thrilled….until I realized why he was standing there….he was competing as well.
Dang…..well maybe I can place…..
Sure enough, Royal went on that year to not only win that competition but ALL of the entertainer based events at IBAC. He won the first ever Entertainer of the Year Award ever presented by the event, and to my knowledge remained the only person to ever sweep all of the competitions.
From that point, Royal and I developed a friendship of sorts. I wouldn’t say it was perfect by any means; after all, Royal could be stubborn and adversarial to say the least. And when you put a person like that up against someone also thoroughly bull-headed and strong willed….well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to help you get the point.
But despite the occasional bump in the road, Royal’s brilliance could not be denied. His innovations in the world of balloon entertainment were as ground-breaking as they were plentiful. Some of his designs and techniques have become so commonplace that you were probably influenced by him without you even knowing it.
But what cannot be measured was the human impact he had on the people around him. This past Twist and Shout Convention was literally FILLED with stories from artists who knew Royal, reminiscing about the incredibly caring and generous person he really was. Twister after twister would share stories of how Royal was there for them at a particular time in their lives to be just the person they needed at that given moment. I had one of those moments myself with Royal, and whether he knew it or not, it made a huge impact on where I am today.
My only regret is that my last conversation with Royal involved a heated and ultimately stubborn discussion which in the end went nowhere. I only wish he was here now to give him the last word…