Q&A with Rarecas Bonds, 

Founder of the Beale Street Flippers

click to enlarge fly_by2-1.jpg

After the Beale Street Flippers' August 11th performance on NBC's America's Got Talent, judge David Hasselhoff called the foursome "the best flippers I've ever seen." But judges Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan thought the group should have added more variety to their stage routine.

And viewers must have agreed, because the Memphis natives were voted off the talent show the following night. Home in Memphis now, the Flippers are back performing death-defying acrobatics for tips on their namesake street, as well as daily shows inside B.B. King's Blues Club. The group also routinely performs during NBA games.

Founding member Rarecas Bonds took a break to talk to the Flyer about the group's talent show experience.

Flyer: How did you feel about the Flippers' last performance on America's Got Talent?

Rarecas Bonds: We had to take [our performance] from the street to the main stage, so we had to change it up and do it professionally. The choreographers did a great job of putting us on that level. We're not used to doing this for competition. We do this to laugh and have fun.

Host Nick Cannon left you guys waiting for several minutes before revealing the results on the night you were voted off. What was that like?

It was one of the greatest moments of my life. A minute felt like an hour, and my legs were shaking. My arms were shaking. My heart was beating so fast. It was like being in front of the pope.

How did the Flippers get started?

Twenty-two years ago, I came from a [downtown] street called Pontotoc. Every weekend, all the grown people would get together and take their kids walking through the city — to a local park or the McDonald's. One day, we ended up on Beale Street, and there was a band playing.

I started flipping, and people tipped me. Ever since then, I've been coming to Beale Street every day. People started to know me on the street. People started feeding me. Now, that's what I teach the kids. I've trained more than 100 kids to flip over the years.

Have people been tipping better since the appearance on America's Got Talent?

No. People think we're rich now. It's hard on the Flippers right now. Some nights, we may only get $40 or $50 to split. For some of us, this is our job. This is how we take care of our families and pay our car notes. This is how we do everything. We can't even have days off.

If you could have done one thing differently with the America's Got Talent performance, what would that have been?

I would have done more sit-ups at the Fogelman YMCA [laughs]. No, I think we could have gotten new outfits, because what you wear affects how well you do.

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