Gnadt has participated in the International Juggling Association championships. He was fifth in 1969, fourth in '70 and third in '71, using conventional juggling items, which are not his forte. But he scoffs at the competition, contending not only that nobody else does what he does with heavy tools, but also that the judging, based as it is on choreography and costuming, is biased against him. On the day of the finals of the '89 world juggling contest in Baltimore, Gnadt was lying on his bed in the basement of his Salt Lake City home, reading a book on the blitzkrieg, having just finished one on mind reading and crystal-ball gazing. He never considered what he was missing in Baltimore. Dr. Nick Vidalakis, a real estate developer and a friend of Gnadt's, says, "I guess one might appropriately describe Bill as eccentric."
And so there he is, surrounded by his juggling equipment and his books. "Maybe I'll read The Films of Errol Flynn next," he says in the semigloom of his bedroom. "Or maybe Mysteries of the Unknown. Man, that sounds interesting." After 3,000 books, it's hard to pick a favorite, but he is sure it is Inside the Third Reich, by Albert Speer. A book on ghosts comes next, and then a biography of Houdini, five pathology textbooks (his favorite among them is Human Pathology, by Robert P. Morehead, 1,676 pages, heavily underlined and with notations everywhere, indicating Gnadt didn't read it, he devoured it), and Compton's Encyclopedia. His favorite authors are Raymond Chandler, Eric Ambler and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And there goes his shooting-star mind again: "The whole bloody Empire of the Sun was evil, really evil." He broods over that thought for a moment before asking, "Do you like astronomy?" Which logically leads into a discussion of the erratic playoff shooting of the Los Angeles Lakers' Michael Cooper, then to Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, then to John Elway.
And right back to juggling. "There is no such thing as a juggler with bad coordination. And I got mine from the same place Michael Jordan got his," he says. For a man as complex as Gnadt—never married because no woman ever passed through his door who felt she could position herself in Gnadt's affection somewhere between a machete and a sledgehammer—juggling is easy. "I tell myself to keep my head still and don't get hit in the face," he says. "Really, all I do is just try to get everything up in the air and then make the catch. With audiences, I've found it's hard to hate a juggler." He reaches over and turns out the light. He won't be needing it. He'll be reading.