Three Ring Laugh Maker: Paul Jung

Three Ring Laugh Maker: Paul Jung
Ringling's producing clown of many seasons. Sverre Braathen photo/The Milner ISU

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Out of the Past: Copeland & Combs Leave Kelly-Miller: Steve Talks About Their Days on the Show, From Pay Scales to Coloring Books.

Showbiz David Interviews Steve Copeland

When two young clowns named Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs,  who teamed up while working on the Ringling show, were hired by John Ringling North II in 2009 to produce the laughs for his Kelly-Miller Circus, they joined on with a degree of skepticism,  not knowing exactly what to expect.  But Steve was reminded by a Ringling clown of having once cracked, “I’d never work on a mud show!”

He’s not sure he ever said that, but he and Ryan faced a whole different set of circumstances in the great outdoors, much of it in the mud -- a totally different experience from appearing  in city arenas with the Big Show  The boys, you might say, had fallen from the Fields of Feld to the House of Ringling/JRN II version.

Who pays the most?

The bargain offered a tempting pay off: “We were making substantially more on Kelly-Miller than we were on Ringling.”

It helped them adapt to under-canvas life, playing to hundreds rather than thousands.  “A month into our fist year,” recalls Steve, “we had already decided that we enjoyed being on the show, and we definitely wanted to stay for a second year.”

He began blogging about the day-to-day details of trouping, and quickly drew an appreciative group of followers. He did not hold back on unflattering matters, such as bored or snotty audiences (cell phonies came in for put downs, from funny to scathing), or depressing days when the customers didn't come. But, when he told us about surging crowds, about straw houses and rousing tent-wide laughter that  greeted  their work, we, too, could savor the happy moment. Could feel his joy.  It was not spin.  It was real.  This gave Steve’s blog a raw vitality. Came a second year, and a third, and then a fourth and fifth, and they were still with Kelly-Miller. The blog evolved away from realism, from its early tell-it-all grit to a more upbeat  focus on their work in the ring and their personal lives.  House size estimates vanished. Management feared its bottom feeder rivals taking note of lush little markets.   Management conveyed these concerns to Steve and Ryan.

Precarious beginning

“If I can be honest, I thought the show was very weak our fist year,”says Steve, in reply to one of the questions I sent him, all of which he answered.  “I definitely think the quality of the show has improved since 2009.  Ryan and I tried our best to add to that quality over the years with our material, props, costumes, and talent.”

If the boss seemed to favor a static turnover in talent, bringing back the same faces year after year, this did not bother the more artistically ambitious Steve, a soul driven to innovate, albeit it, one might advance, sometimes mired in a surfeit of knockabout slapstick.  Some of their brutal attacks on each other, Three Stooges style, can be gloriously indulgent, bringing to mind the Fumagalli brothers. Others, like their big teeth gag, can seem mechanically executed, more clever than amusing, failing to deliver the big payoff one might expect from these inventive funmakers.   But, back to North's arguably static showmanship;  says Steve:

 “I don’t think that’s particularly strange in the circus business.  I can think of other shows that have almost the exact same program year after year, save for maybe a different clown.”

Color me unhappy

In the beginning when Steve’s blog let it all hang out, there were stressful moments that he did not shy away from recounting . For my money, the worst of all were those nagging coloring books that the guys were expected to sell.  It was clear that Steve did not relish the task, and when relived of it a season or so later, you could feel his elation.  

So why, last year, did the boys take back the concession they had so despised?  “Going into our fifth year, Mr. North and Jim Royal asked us to sell coloring books during intermission.  I didn’t feel like a negative answer would have dampened our chances of renewing our contract, but after how good K-M has been to us, we felt it would have been rude to say no.”

Insulting Intermissions
The funny fellows were all along, it would appear, coming to grips with  the realities of American circus trouping –  away from the few exceptions, be they Ringling or Big Apple. In fact, it was Big Apple Circus’s  current ringmaster, John Kennedy Kane, who helped persuade Copeland and Combs to embrace the advantages of pitching the crayon-ready books.  Kane, says Steve, is “one of the biggest advocates for clowns selling coloring books, and he actually sold us on doing the job while he was  filling in for John Moss as ringmaster.”

The task could be fun, and it could be “the pits,” concedes Steve. From his encounter with fans, he did harvest  “tons of funny quotes for my blog.”  What he didn’t relish was having to deal with  “rude or angry” customers.

Enter accidental agent John Ringling North II

Came Circo Vazquez “with an offer we couldn’t refuse.”  It might not have happened at all without the curiously unorthodox assistance of their own employer -- yes, John Ringling North II.  Earlier in the season, North told the fellows that Vazquez was interested in them. The gesture marked, in Steve’s words, “an excellent example of what a stand up gentleman he is of, if not the nicest men I have ever worked for.”

There were awkward laughs to share when Mr. North approached them after learning that they had signed with the Mexican show.  ‘Now, I’m not trying to get rid of you guys!  You can stay on Kelly Miller as long as you want!”

Maybe one day they will return.

Circo Varques will compensate them with “a substantial raise,” and they will do a post-show photo concession, a gig they themselves solicited.   “We had seen other clowns doing the same thing after the show.”

“We had a good run on K-M, but after 5 years we felt it was time to make the next stop in our career.”

“The creative freedom that Mr. North and Jim Royal gave us can not be overlooked.”

Triumphal Texas premiere

His warmest memory?

“I fondly look back on our first two shows with Kelly Miller in Brownsville, Texas.  We had two packed houses full of cheering people, and we absolutely brought the house down with our sink repair gag. That was when we knew that we had a shot at making it in the business”

His digital diary has marked a new kind of living circus history, to be sure,  more-so in its early years.

Will he continue blogging over at Vazquez?

“Indeed, I will!”

Long term dreams?  “my ultimate goals are Big Apple Circus, and major circuses in Europe.”

“My greatest dream in circus .. is for me and Ryan to continue making people laugh using physical comedy.  I’d like to go farther in my career than I ever imagined when I left Ringling and I want to keep the forward momentum going.  Onward and upward!”


[The following does not apply to this posting of 7/5/15] On Wednesday or Thursday, I will be posting a print-out of the complete e-mail interview. It will  not be placed at the top of the blog, so you may have to scroll down a little to find it.  I will post a note to this effect, however, at the top of the blog

First posted November 18, 2013

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Showbiz David's Carny Classics Play YouTube

Happy July Fourth!
This Way to My Century of Thrills Amusement Park! 

Ride the Big Dipper roller coaster ... The Whip ... Tilt-a-Whirl ... Ferris Wheel ... the Swings and the Thimble Theatre fun house!

The first image you will see is of my Uncle Smity atop a Merry-Go-Round horse

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Showbiz David Goes YouTube! And He's Laffing in the Dark

A momentous thing just happened.  I was able to upload a simple video made during an early construction phase of my scale model Laff-in-the-Dark Ride

I"m out there in You Tube Land!

Here is a link to my first humble offering:

This was a trial run.  I have a DVD of my entire Century of Thrills amusement park, which includes five classic rides in operation.  Among them, the Big Dipper roller coaster, The Whip and the Tilt-A-Whirl.  Yes, they ALL move as in real life.   This may take some time to figure out how to convert it some file that You Tube recognizes.

Then, too, I will make one of the front end of Laff-in-the-Dark.

BTW: the drive belt, which I said came out of a model airplane kit. No, it came from a motor in an inkjet.

I feel like a kid with the smartest new toy under the tree.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Out of the Past: A Midway of Boyhood Ghosts ...

Carnies enjoy early morning coffee and donuts.

A peek at my favorite ride, The Whip. Watching it being laid out and assembled was a production. I loved the harsh heavy industrial music of its moving parts, the sudden jerking thrust of the cars rumbling around corners.

The old Ferris wheel turned with an almost graceful lilt.

My favorite attraction was the quaint Thimble Theatre fun house. The spooky dark walk-through labyrinth on the top floor. The grinding shuffle boards below. The air blast under skirts, and the collapsing floor section just before exit.

The classic Tilt-A-Whirl, about as perfectly designed a thrill ride as ever hit the midway, justly survives into the modern era. Its genius to me is shared by very few rides -- it delivers unpredictable action.

Instant fan: Thunderbolt of surprise for my friend Boyi, who knew virtually nothing of my model building and had never seen this when he's visited me, because the rides have been packed away for over three years. After work last Sunday he dropped by, having only been told "I think you will be surprised." I turned a switch and Century of Thrills came to life, five rides simultaneously. Boyi was ecstatic. "A triple triple plus!!!!!" he exclaimed, overcome with my scratch-built quarter-inch spectacle. What a pleasure when somebody so joyfully overwhelmed appreciates what you've achieved. And what a bummer: I had his immediate reaction on a video, I thought. But I hadn't clicked my camera onto the film icon!

Four rides -- The Whip, Tilt-A-Whirl, Ferris Wheel and Swings operate perfectly. 100% More than I could ever say for my Big Dipper roller coaster, a grand champ of derailments. Once upon a time, it might circle the track nine out of ten times. Not lately. I've accepted its chronic imperfections, but still soldier on, fixing this over here only to be vexed by that over there. BTW: Among others, Paul Horseman was of immense help to me on the Whip and the Wheel when I built the park (1990-2003). I'd like to add a boat ride, if I could bring off a little big splash when it hits the water. And figure out a way to get the tubs back around and connected to the lift chain.

I'm keeping Century of Thrills open up until my niece Lisa and her little boy Noah visit in August. Then down it goes so that I can lay out the roller coaster, section by section, and embark yet on a new set of prospective solutions to make the track and the train that travels it more compatible partners. Finally, I've accepted the coaster as being a permanent "work in progress." The impossible dream lives on ...

Originally posted on July 21, 2010 

Below: My New Laff in the Dark, completed in May, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Growing up in the Shadows of Playland at the Beach: The Ocean Roared ... The Big Dipper Clattered ... And Through the Fog We Romped

I was raised across the street from the Big Dipper.  So many photos and videos about Playland have surfaced in recent years.  And what wonderful memories they stir!

Proudly he stands, top of the photo, my Uncle Smity (William Smit), directly above park owner George K. Whintey, with Whitney's son, George, Jr. to Uncle Smitty's left.  This revelatory photo, new to my eyes, appeared in a great new book by James. R. Smith about the history of the park, Playland at the Beach: The Early Years (and a second volume, The Golden Years).  And it shows me how important a figure was my uncle to the Whitney brothers, who owned  and operated Playland as one of the classiest amusement parks in the nation.  

Up goes the Big Dipper, 1922.  It only took them a few weeks.  Uncle Smitty, who at the time was managing the Merry-Go-Round, took on management of the Big Dipper as well, a position he held for the ride's entire career.  It came down in 1956. 

A great coaster it was.  It's most thrilling drop was the second one, seen below, which traversed the entire length of the ride.  I took this shot when Uncle Smitty invited me, one day before the ride opened,  to go inside and walk around.

This horrendous second dive gave you a feeling that you were crashing down into and through a forest of white lumber!  Nothing in any other coaster I have sampled could quite compare.  

Dangerous Walk:  My Uncle Jack, one day while working on the track before the Big Dipper was  about to open, did not hear the first train coming down the first dip, and was struck by the first car, resulting in his left leg having to be amputated.   Uncle Smitty once told me that, during the lifetime of the Dipper, some ten or eleven people were killed (or injured), if I heard him right.  Almost always from some reckless punk standing up in a car to show off.

1949: Playland thrived weekends and holidays, the park and beach drawing up to 50,000 people a day.  Its best years were the war years.  Sometimes the sun actually came out!  To the far left, above, you can see Skateland-at-the-Beach.  A great roller rink.  After heating up our bodies rolling round and round for a couple of hours, we exulted, upon exit, in the fresh salt air!  Walked down the street to the pie shop for a sit down, to eat and gossip and laugh.

You can see the Dutch Windmill in the distance, beyond the Big Dipper.  And beyond the Dutch, there's the Murphy.

It's all gone today, replaced by architecturally sterile condos and a large Safeway. How insultingly drab for a world class city of rare charms.

On many days, the chronically pervasive fog made Playland a grey land

A fun house like NONE OTHER:  Was there ever one to match Playland's?  You think that's the slide?  No, that's the little slide.  Look below.  We ran up over rambling boards to reach the top of the Great Slide, hustled our bodies onto gunny sacks and careened down like giddy birds in low flight.  I've been to Coney, and to the others.  I've looked at photos and You Tubes,  and have never found a fun house so generously endowed with so many amusing things to do. 

When it opened, the failed to slide right.  Too George Whitney went my Uncle Smitty, thinking he could fix the problem.  Please, go ahead, said George.  In short order, the slides worked.

The Laff in the Dark did not circle around inside a single dark room or expanded carny truck, but followed a long snake-like tunnel, so that you had a true feeling of actually moving through a spooky tunnel.  My father, an electrician, installed many of the scare devices -- skeletons that popped out,  the sound of crashing dishes as the car pushed through a door.

Playland offered many standard rides, like the old Tumble Bug, the classic Tilt-A-Whirl and the Octopus, the Roll-O-Plane and the Caterpillar.  

Such a dreary midway it was under the ocean fog.  But that did not stop us from going.  Open every day, noon to midnight, they advertised. On cold damp nights, the crowd(s) retreated, I assume, under cover at the games, and inside the fun house, where you could stay as long as you wished.  We ran up wobbly stairs, gazed at our distorted figures in crazy mirrors, rode rocking horses and dared walking through the barrel of fun.

If you are interested in the history of Playland, I can't recommended Mr. Smith's books enough. I once harbored half a desire to write a history myself;  I could never have brought off what Smith has so magnificently achieved -- his two books are deliciously rich and thorough in photos, coverage, design drawings and more.

Many in my father' side of the family worked at Playland.  The woman, below, in the overcoat is my Aunt Olga, who married Uncle Smitty. For a time, the two lived over the Merry-Go-Round.  They ended up owning their own home only two blocks away.

And here, below, is another photo of Uncle Smitty, during Playland's declining years.  Such a true gentleman whenever I paid him and Aunt Olga a visit.  Best of all, just as I was about to leave, he would always rise from his chair, walk over to a closet in the hall, reach up and take down a strip of free tickets to all the rides!   Among his many talents, he kept the mechanical organs and instruments on the Merry-Go-Round tuned up and going.  From Holland, he was a quiet-spoken and even tempered man, far closer to an engineer than to a midway barker. 

Many great cities have retained their amusement parks.  Sadly, not San Francisco.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More Pin Pricks in Space: A Sci-Fi Thriller that Fails Its Tragic Potential

Last night, while riveted to a film of mounting suspense, Europa Report, I had not felt this enthralled with science fiction in space since, as a kid, watching Destination Moon.  And I started imagining a great tragic story of human folly in the making: Space ship destined for Jupiter's moon ends up stranded in a hostile environment while coming upon evidence that there is, indeed, life out there — at least a blobby form of it lurking under ice.  And the entire crew, consumed by alien forces or its own misadventures, never returns.

The only evidence of the doomed mission would be visuals transmitted back to earth of a creepy creature bearing light bulb eyes and the physique of an octopus.

That would have been a powerful end.  But, no, it had to be another example of American — or should I merely say scientific? —  triumphalism. Look, see!  There are signs of life!  Frozen water!  We must keep probing!   Surely, we will ultimately find half-way hospitable landscapes to develop!  Ice Condos!  Even living things amenable to cross-planetary communication!  So, bring back NASA! 

Yes, bring back NASA and make a few more futile pin pricks in space. And bankrupt what's left of the U.S. economy.

Here on earth, the brainy brigades still dream of conquering a corner of the outer worlds, of laying claim to barren real estate and luring to it earthlings seeking escape from the mounting hells of war-torn Planet Earth.  And the same thing won't happen out there?

First of all, we would have to get out there. Please feel free to laugh -- or scream -- along with me as I ponder all the billions, if not trillions of dollars, it would cost to even bring off Stage One of such  a ridiculously esoteric adventure.

Pin pricks in space.

When real astronauts landed on the Moon in 1969, yes, I was as thrilled as everybody else.  But that was yesterday.   Today and tomorrow, have we not yet learned, should look much different, should they not?

All the tiny years later, I am no longer a space age dreamer.  Where will it get us?  How much will it cost?   How many infinities will it take to stake out claims, tame the land and build the protective bubbles to contain the doomed dreamers?

Pin heads in space.

Could have been a great movie.  Although, I’m not sure how it would have played on Jupiter's moon.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Joy in Oakland -- Almost! The Hoop Circus Knocks Another Win for the Hometown Boys ... I'm Feeling Giddy and Glorious

And I don't even watch the games!!! 

But sometime after they are over, I hear about it on the news.  Just now, this AM, learned about it on TV.  Three games down, one to go!

Yes, right here in my own backyard.  Exciting to anticipate positive coverage, for a change.  Don't know how it's gone, at all.  You might have been shown views of lovely Lake Merritt, around which I have walked probably hundreds of times.

If you see an old three-story Victorian, edge of the lake, with three turrets on the roof, I once lived in a third floor studio just under one, and there I wrote my first book, Behind the Big Top.

If you happen to see the old Oakland Auditorium, on the south end of the lake,  that was the best place to see, indoors, the Ringling show.  It sat around six or seven thousand at the most; perfect size; would be ever better today than watching the show in the oppressively huge and dark arena, where the NBA finals will begin.  So dark and night cluby in there, I hate the place.

Doubt I'll be watching the hoop-diving stuff. Not a fan. 

But what a high, getting the kind of coverage this town deserves -- if, in fact, that happens.

It took East Coast Eyes  -- The New York Times, a few years back, to come out here and be very impressed and call Oakland the "Brooklyn" of the Bay Area.

I'll take that.

Even over in "The City" (San Francisco), we are getting a little respect.  SF seems to live in fear of its lofty status being knocked down a peg or two.  Not likely.

Did I show a snide lack of respect up there?  Gradually, it is nesting in my noggin that these basketball players, whomever they are, are one terrific tribe.  Maybe they will decide to remain in Oaktown, as the local boys call it, rather than defect to a new arena promised them by a much  bigger city -- Yes, the one incessantly in love with itself, where to live there, you have to be either very rich or very poor -- across the bay.

I took this picture several years ago.  The one above is not mine.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Peanuts to Paranoia! On PBS, Science Sanctions Dread and Fear ... At the Circus, Alienation Acrobatics on the Rise


It’s a digital hell we are headed for if I, hopelessly unscientific, understand the very scientific PBS darling, NOVA.
Other night, NOVA’s teeth-rattling Rise of the Hackers swept me into provisional hysteria, going deep into the ever-expanding world of Hacking and the Hacks who make it happen.  Worst case scenario: Our enemies out there might hack into our nuclear software, ordering our missiles to self-launch in REVERSE COURSE, thus turning on -- US!

Okay, calm down.   It’s a “PARANOID FUTURE,” I learned watching this shock doc.  Well thank you, Nova.  So, I have time to prepare for my paranoid date with backfiring bombs?    Let your darkest fears take flight, Kids.    We are at the brink, quoting NOVA here, of  “ULTRA PARANOID COMPUTING.” 

Do you get my digital drift?  Let me spell it out, while Nova has me in its grips: Big Picture from yours unruly, sneer if you wish: Every time one of us flexes the latest electronic gizmo, joins another mad Apple line to stay stupidly in the cool, that person contributes to a digital doomsday, saith I.  So, then, are you ready for a little old-fashioned danger?

Back in the land of human flesh: China goes high wire crazy, one of its own making headlines treading the steel thread over city streets ... Clyde Beatty Collection, gathered over decades by Dave and Mary Jane Price, headed for The Milner at ISU ... Aerial legend Elvin Bale, breaking a leg in his bus, recently, back on the Cole Circus lot and recovering, confined to the bus ... Chicago’s Contemporary Circus Festival, back for a second season, June 17-21, this offering said to be framing 13 shows featuring “world class” action from several European cities and the U.S.  The aim being to foster “a deeper artistic process.”  All of it aimed to help performers  “compete in the global marketplace,” on a more “intellectual and visceral level.”  The drive to cerebralize continues apace, to wit ...

Acrobat Aliens:    Another circus from Down Under going – down under?  From the land of extreme innovation that gave us Circus Oz, another ensemble troupe, Circa, seems bent on bleeding that thread to death.  None too impressed with the group’s latest, What Will Have Been, is one Douglas McPherson, reviewing what hadn't been much in London’s venerable The Stage.  Enduring an evening of what sounds like stilted pretentiousness punctuated with heavy primal pauses, McPherson wraps up tartly: “Alas, this show is so safely aimed at the arts brigade that it dares not do anything as shamelessly populist as amuse.”

Danger in a Globe of Death: What I have long feared could happen with this daredevil stunt does happen, though rarely.  Fate knocked a globe into perilous mayhem when two riders collided at Uncle Sam's Great American Circus, a Brit show sporting an American slant.  Both riders suffered broken bones, and were stitched back up.  Ah, just like a pair of invincible robots ...

Strike up your all-human band, Circus Bella!  Oakland’s own now prepping for its annual summer dates in Bay Area parks.   Lineup looks promisingly diversified, what with, among a radiant wave of fresh faces, a clown bearing a Chinese name.  Yes, a Chinese clown?   Now, that alone should be cutting edge.  Show’s divinely delightful big little band, five pieces including and led by ebullient composer Rob Reich, returning.  Ah, I can’t wait.  The music sometimes alone is worth a visit.   Juggling director Judy Finelli  has a career arc spinning back through directing some of the old Pickle Family Circus shows, before that, performing on the Circus Vargas of Mr. V. 

Back to Dread and Fear:  Millions of Chinese workers being replacde by robots. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak granting that, yes, in time, robots WILL take over the World.  Let me not be around when that day arrives.

It may not be too late to stave off Hacker Hell.   The promising young --- Watch them!!! -- are open to the old, having rediscovered VINYL records with a vengeance, sparking a niche-market return of the LP record album. Turntables appearing in store windows.   Perhaps, we will one day be forced to default, away from the dangers of the Now, to the relative safety of the Before.  Bring back, before it’s too late, rotary telephones, Maytag washers, fly swatters and wind up clocks, post-it notes, push mowers, fountain pens and stick shift covered wagons – for starters.

 And may the iForce Not be with you.

[all hacked photos from Nova website]

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Huffington Post Hails Hopelessly Hollywood

From The Huffington Post

“A genuine Tinsel Town tragedy ... Lewis is a prose stylist with a voice that sizzles on the page ... If you’ve ever dared to dream, you’ll be with him all the way. "

 From Kirkus Reviews
"The dreamy Hollywood magic of it all ... An entertaining, insightful, and tragic memoir about trying to make it in show business."

Journey into the shadows of Tinsel Town, where little people with big dreams appear on small stages every night in plays and musicals, desperate to grab the eye of a producer, an agent, a talent scout, desperate for the Big Break.  Journey into it all with Broadway dreamers David and Mike, the two believing  that their musical about the Ringling Brothers is ready to be discovered. But soon cured of their heady illusions, the City of Angels sends each down a separate road.  David writes a new version of his musical with a different composer, and the show, Those Ringlings, achieves fleeting overnight success, for a moment in time headed for Broadway.  Here is another Hollywood laid bare, its humbling realities evoked with amusing candor. 

 Now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Friday, May 15, 2015

Big Top Bashing in High Season: Right Wing Blasts “Wimpy” Ringling for Elephant Fold; Bloomberg Blasts Cirque for China Infatuation; Mother Nature Bashes Carson & Barnes into Its Finest Hour ...

They have a big heart in a storm, the folks at Carson and Barnes.  Back a week or so ago, down in the Longhorn state, windy rain came lashing down on the tent, the show in motion before a hefty good crowd, a gal on a trapeze working her act, coolly unphased by Mother Nature’s stormy knock at the door.  Eerie to see!  Made the evening news.

Everybody told, it will be okay! The show will go on! -- until they were told, please, leave the tent peacefully!  So close to collapse as everybody got out, some screaming as they ran, before the tent could fall.  But it didn't fall.  A close call, lots of happy C&B fans, nonetheless,  feeling well treated.  The next day in a new town, returning customers were offered upgrades on their tickets for a dry show.  Also given free "CB bucks," to spend as they pleased, by none other than the Byrd of Byrds herself, Lady Barbara of Hugo, daughter of the late great Dory.  And how like a Brit Masterpiece Theatre family does that sound?

Super C&B fan Audrey Wallace, one of the returnees, being handed the mike by the ringmaster to thank C&B people for their “professionalism" and for getting everyone out of the tent safely the night before.  And then, a big hug from the ringmaster.  A touching moment.  You gotta respect these hard working troupers of our tent shows, facing capricious elements day in and out, specially in these weird and wacky weather times.  

Did I get that right?  Looking at sketchy notes, a lazy draft, okay.  Watching coverage on TV, I marveled at how they kept the show going until they hastily emptied the tent, ever so close to breaking stakes and falling.  High drama!  ... On the plus side, two things I happily noticed in the coverage:  1.  The newer ringmaster, a young Hispanic fellow, gives off a warm polite air, so much more human compared to the previous bombast.  2.  A good crowd in the seats, winning!  The tent layout inside looked spaciously terrific. Looks like a true New Day for Carson and Barnes.

"Greatest Pushover on Earth" Here's the Right Wing mouthing off in haste -- anything to bash the Other Wing, blasting Kenneth Feld & Company for his "cave in" to the animal rights crowd.  Sean and Rush, et all, blaming Feld for the exit of the elephants to be.  Okay, so how would they manage the show given diminishing crowds? It's a business, stupids!  And you on the right should respect the "free market." From the New York post, mad as hell Steve Cuozzo, predicting  that "the bozos at circus parent Feld Entertainment" will make the circus "extinct before the elephants."

End of the Greatest Show on Earth!  Good grief, I've not heard such dire blather since the Big Show gave up it's big top in Pittsburgh, PA, 1956 ...  Cuozzo was so upset that he lashed out at Feld showmanship:  “Who wants two hours of expensive 'family' tedium full of unfunny clowns and aerial acts that can end in catastrophe, like the human chandelier that sent nine acrobats to the hospital last year?"  Hey, Steve, while you're at it, and what did you think of the designer snow cones?

The Feld cave in, predicts Cuozzo, echoing his colleagues on the right, “will only embolden zealots to agitate for eliminating of all circus animals.”  And, know what?  He could be right.  Or more likely wrong.  I mean, do you really see horse and dog acts getting the boot?  Just stay clear of Frisco.  S.F. pols already wanting to ban all "wild" animal acts.  What next, fleas?  (Is anybody laughing? I am.)
Bloomberg Bashes the Montreal Monster in a story titled "Why Cirque du Soleil Has No Chance in China."  And a good many reasons given to guy-out their thesis, among them, oh how obvious, many of the greatest acts are already in China.  In previous Cirque shows, those same acts, and others, fell flat when CDS first courted Chinese audiences back in around 2007. 'Twas not a heavenly takeover.

So, what next, Cirque?  Oh, that's right, a return to the Great White Way that rebuffed you when you slipped on your banana shpeel.  But this time, it just might work ... Cirque's Theatrical Division said to be mounting a Broadway-bound revival of The Wiz, first to be aired for the next NBC Live, this December 3.  Hmmmm.  With a proven script to work with, along with circus acts thrown into the mix (think Pippin), they might get it right this time.  Then, a Mandarin version for China?

END RINGERS:  Twas in Circus Report that I read about Cirque's Broadway bound The Wiz; that I read about the day after the storm at Carson & Barnes.  And that, also, once again Chuck Burns tried luring me into his kinky side show.  This time, he's talking about the famed 1932, flick, The Freaks. Available on Netflix.  My thumbs are up. Think I saw one of the characters in a sideshow on the old Foley & Burk midway ... Let's close this one out with a cracking good cartoon, also from CR, called That's Show Biz, by Billy Earl. Frame to frame, it goes like this. "How does your truck get such great mileage? .... That's easy! .... Most of the time they have to tow it."  I did laugh.  And it made me think of Steve Copeland's clown car --- no, not the one in the show. The other one.  More, please, from the Duke of Earl!