Is that desolate enough? As close as I could find to an ideal image for here-- rings in the dust after a circus has left town. I'm still looking ...
Count me among the walking wounded on an ominously circus-unfriendly horizon, waiting for the trouping wounded to find the magic, to rekindle what was there and to thrill us once again with shows coming and going. Midways teeming with happy healthy crowds. Tents filling up with happy healthy half houses. People in the seats!
That too much to ask for?
Daringly aware of the shaky situation out there, I set out periodically, as I did this weekend, to take a roll call of the shows still clinging to a semblance of precarious prosperity. You see, I suffer from FOACC— Fear of another circus closing.
And you, too?
At the still-operational Zoppe Family Cricus
From Giovanni Zoppé to Nathan Hunt at Road and Kingdomes:
“If I have one or two weeks bad, I’m done, I’m bankrupt.”
My latest roll call finds the following:
CARSON & BARNES. Website unchanged, no indication yet of the fall dates projected by management when they shuttered early to cancel summer dates, look for fresh funding and regroup.
UNIVERSOUL CIRCUS: By far the most appealing website, if only for its video of show clips, most impressive of them all. How I wished the show still came west. They once had two units, no longer. Current dates ahead include big Midwest cities and Detroit.
KELLY MILLER: Linking onto "upcoming dates," the last one I found was for the day I was looking, on Saturday! FOACC attack! No, No, please don’t do a C&B on me! Calm down, I told myself, get a grip and check out the KM Facebook page. Yes, good, idea. So I hurried over there, and scrolled up and down, furiously looking for signs of future life. RELIEF: I found a few postings listing October dates just signed.
Happily I returned to rejoin the walking wounded. But I must concede here and now: From what I have seen and heard, John Ringling North II will have to import a fresh roster of talent, top to bottom if he is to have a fighting chance at recapturing a shrinking customer base. His best first move would be to bring back clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs. Oh, yes!
A new reality offers the basics in friendlier settingsSuddenly, the littler tops are taking on greater appeal to me as they become my default option. And my appreciation is growing. It must. Of course, I am having to lower the bar on my expectations, knowing I will not be spoiled by what Ringling and Big Apple usually gave me.
Had I seen the show, I would have asked for my free admission back. So, I had to contact Circus Bella about this. Came a nice reply from Hunt’s co-founder aerialist Abigail Munn, curing me of my premature FOACC. “David is still near and dear.” He was too busy teaching circus skills to a summer class to appear with the show, wrote Abigail, who vowed to try "luring him back into the ring" next season. How grand that would be!
And where does this leave me and my rattled blog? I once reported on circuses and reviewed them. Now, it seems as if I am turning out one obit after another, and I don’t like it.
Circus Vargas will be playing in a very unflattering place, where I have seen it two times before, at the Southland Mall in Hayward. How lyrically bleak a location, so in tune with today’s battered big tops. Tent goes up next to a freeway, over the asphalt parking of a mall that, itself, like so many other malls, may be dying a slow death. To walk it is to feel the ghostly presence a dying American institution. How unfortunately odd that this circus and malls should end up sharing the same space. PLEASE, Vargas, a little fake grass? Dirt? Elephant dung?
To get out there, I end up on a bus which I reach on BART, and facing another phobia: getting mugged or beaten up by local hoodlums who these days are storming BART cars, robbing and knocking down innocent passengers.
So, is this the way the world will end -- not with that T. S.Elliot whimper, but with the last show of the last circus on the last mall in America?
The first Bella show, in 2009.
Thanks to fearless cyber courier Don Covington for facing the music and sharing it with others.