Thursday, May 26, 2016

MIDWAY FLASH! ... Cirque du Soleil Lays Another Bomb on Broadway---Critically Speaking ... Show Looks Like Another Spiderman On Stage, But With Superior Circus Action ...

"Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour is crashing and burning on Broadway." screams The Globe and Mail in London, "and there’s no point in calling the paramedics. No team of show doctors could cure this bafflingly bad show set in the Golden Age of Hollywood."

In Gotham, site of the carnage, early reviews just in for Cirque du Soleil's Paramour, from Wall Street Journal to New York Times, point to a big floporama, with some great acts that only make the sub-mediocre musical this thing is supposed to be seem and feel even more dreary and second rate.

That's what I glean here in front of my PC in California, surfing critical reaction.

A mixed review from AP finds similarities between Paramour and Spiderman,  the latter having opened at the same theatre, where it enjoyed early popular favor but ultimately crashed and burned, to a colossal loss.

But Cirque's visual feast may hold an edge over Spiderman's in that, as AP notes, Paramour "has the ability to astonish."

From Vulture.Com: 

"Some things just don’t belong together, and you’d think that Cirque, having failed so miserably with New York productions of Banana Shpeel and Zarkana to force this unwanted conjugation, would by now have understood that, or at least have chosen better models and hired a team familiar with the workings of real musicals. It’s an especially arrogant form of carpetbaggery to think that, with enough money, you can do anything. Paramour was capitalized at around $25 million. That’s twice the cost of Hamilton, which admittedly does not include even one drone-controlled lampshade. That must be its problem."

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Revived Cole Bros Circus Hits Road with "Last Chance" to See Elephants; Also with Camels and Horses, Flyers -- and Tumbling Finalists from America's Got Talent


UPDATE UPDATE, 5/21, am, PST:  Ho, Ho, Ha, Ha! Yes, I'm becoming addicted to this strange stumble out of the barn.  Try connecting to Cole Central via the telephone number on their website.  You will be quickly transferred through to Ma Bell suggesting you hang up and ... yes, you know the drill! 

UPDATE, 4:36 pm PSTI have learned that Branchwater Productions, which appears on the website as the operator, would probably be John and Brigitte Pugh, for they live on a street named Branchwater Bend in Deland.  A search for Brancwater brings up a tape-distribution company n Sarasota.  The currently observable fact that "Big Top Circus" has not replaced the Cole Bros. title suggests, and I stress suggests, that Johnny is still somewhat if not completely in charge.

Yes, this  has become a rather amusing guessing game that just keeps on guessing!  So beware, my  speculations below may prove to be just that.  I am close to placing a moratorium on  myself for coverage of the Cole Bros. saga for a certain period of time.

******************************************************************************

In some ways, fresh new compelling poster art seizes on the elephant act issue by promising patrons a "last chance" to see them.

Early dates look to follow traditional routing -- only, says Agent X, who raced me the news,  "just uncharacteristically late in the season!" --

It will likely stir some increased business from those wishing to have that chance, especially with kids in tow going to their first circus.  And, even more so, by the presence of the Chicago Boyz, a familiar act off  the popular television show, seen by millions.  Shrewd marketing, I'd say. 

How will it stir the dissidents?

Yet to be seen. True blue activists cheered the earlier news that Cole would NOT be going out with any wild animal acts.  Will they play nice and let circus lovers have one last season with a complete traditional big top?  Or make life even more difficult for the troupe?

Hard core protesters will claim a promise made not kept.  And, technically, they will be correct.

And so, they may intensify their harassment out of a paranoia that this circus -- especially when they get wind of the sale -- has no intention of retiring its performing pachyderms.

Considering that Dick Garden, when last I heard, was in charge, it could be a suicidal season in more ways than one. But I do think, in poster art, he's off to a blazing good start.

And, yes, you heard it from me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Friday Flip Flops: Brother, Can You Spare a Ring?


Digging for the truth over Dragonwell here at L’Amyx, let’s start out simple, and see where simple goes, okay? Rumorhazit (as Billy Barton would say), that John Ringling North II loses use of the Kelly Miller Circus title end of the season. Not anywhere near, says show manager Jim Royal. “The title came with the corporation, so we have it permanently. Like so many rumors, I have no idea why it started.” So there! Now, as for whatever became of that Feld Entertainment lawsuit against JRN II daring to flaunt his family name on show property, all I could extract from Sir Royal was this: “It was settled to the satisfaction of both parties,” and what's more, both parties agreed not to disclose the details. SO, we are free, for what it’s worth, to rumorize away. I must have been onto something, noticing “John R. North II Presents” on the program magazine cover and surmising it to be the work an intricate treaty ... And yet North’s full name appears in less conspicuous locations here and there, and I’ve heard it still graces the trucks. In tortured legalese, here's my summation: "Counseling lawyers stipulate variable truncations of contested name contingent upon contextual relationships to contractually mandated key words, henceforth pursuant to and as follows" ... All in all, looks like JRN II won some key wiggle room to flaunt away.

More bothersome are the revelations in Bandwagon about a structured short-changing operation on Big Bertha that allegedly flourished in the last canvas days. I earlier wondered what part the great late Art Concello may have played in this lucky boy racket. Turns out he wasn’t around when young William Taggart was tutored inside a bar by a light fingered pro on how to move money along ... Taggart’s commendable confession, you see, was unfortunately laid out in such a way (unintentionally so) as to make it appear that he was indoctrinated in 1953. No, the year was 1954. Mr. C. was gone. Until evidence surfaces to the contrary, I’m standing by what Phillip Hall , who worked the inside pass exchange booth, told me about Concello’s aversion to customers getting the Ben Davenport treatment ... And I’ve got much more about this sad fractured chapter to hyperventilate over up the road. Or would that be “down the road,” or — in the road?

Sure, it’s not always a sunny lot, is it. Ugly Anti-Semitism, for reasons unknown or unreported, strikes the Circus World Museum, and how terrible to see it happening in sleepy Baraboo. Fires lit late nights. Nazi symbols and slogans plastered in spray paint across the barns of history following similar vicious assaults since June, says exec director Stephen Freese to the Baraboo News Republic. “It’s just disgusting.” Not a word in the story about a motive, nor did an apparently under active reporter ask ... Subsequent reports point to white supremacy and anti-immigration movements in the area.

Let’s let some sunshine onto this murky midway. How about Big Apple Circus’s new talent spread, e-mailed to me by p/r staffer Phillip Thurston. On paper, program looks loaded to excite audiences big time. I see a tentbuster going up: Flying trapeze returns along with more gusto in the air, and riders on horseback! Now, all they need is a neat trio of cute and charming elephants. The band comes down around the ring, which sounds bandific. How I envy you who live on the east coast. Why, oh why, Paul and Michael, won’t you ever haul your sterling goods out to the west coast. We are NOT Chicago. Just stay clear of precious San Francisco — or board your star animals at the St. Francis Hotel and parade ‘em around town in special limbos.

Hard times ahead? Sorry it turned dark again so soon out here. As Wall Street jumps out skyraper windows and DC struggles to prolong America’s strange obsession with credit-diseased spending sprees (when will the entitlement madness ever end?), I reflect on the inherent goodness of hard-working circus folk, who troupe on for the love of it. Yes, as Alan Cabal reminds us. “If you’re in the circus to make money, you’re in the wrong line of work.” When did an actor ever help set or strike a set? When did a dancer lift a flat? Or a piano player move chairs around? Circus stars, when need be, will do that and more to keep the show on the road.

End Ringers: Wade Burck referencing the best opening ever for any circus book I ever read, which is how Henry Ringling North, in his great work with Alden Hatch, Circus Kings (just reprinted by the way) calls the circus “a jealous wench,” just for starters. Carson & Barnes playing Will Rogers Arena in Ft Worth for the Shriners, and Logan Jacot blogging ruefully about reports that C&B “closed today for the last time under canvas with a three ring show ... Is this true?” That’s what they say, Logan. October 5, where the 70+-year-old circus pitched its tent for the last time this year at Tucson, Arizona, could mark the end of an epochal American era which began back in 1872, when the crowds for P.T. Barnum’s tent show grew so large, they just had to add another ring. Now, they’re subtracting rings for reverse reasons.

Watching Circus Osario recently, the minimal experience reminded me of a day at John Strong, and it helped humble my future expectations. I’m ready to expect and appreciate less, ready to maybe invest in a lawn chair and prepare to sit around a topless circle marked in the grass by pins on a simple summer day, and watch young upstarts cavort as best they can. Ready to count my change and count my blessings, and wonder where it all went.

Brother, can you spare a ring?

[Big Apple Circus photos, from top: Christine Zerbini, by Maike Schulz; The Flying Cortes, by Bertrand Guay; LaSalle Brothers, by Bertrand Guay]

First posted, October 10, 2008

Sunday, May 01, 2016

What a Joke! Where are the Elephants??

Update: A few hours after the so-called live streaming yesterday, I linked onto it again, and this
time it began with the elephants coming in, and the darkness was no longer there. I am wondering
if we were purposely kept in the dark and forced to endure audio only just BEFORE the last parade of the elephants.

If so, a tacky promotion. The Felds have a way of being brilliant one moment, banal the next.

Posted on May 1:

I've been at the Ringling Facebook page, inviting me to watch the live stream.  And I've been in the dark, all the while, listening to Ringling staff members talk about elephant cancer research, about the preservation angle, millions to charity, and about the new show coming up, which sounds quite dazzling -- ice to air to cement, I suppose.

Voices IN THE DARK.

What a fiasco.  Were we being teased?

Maybe it's my PC.

I think I missed the Big Show -- or maybe the elephants escaped, too nervous or distraught or depressed to call it a day, a year, a season, a career. Fearing a loss of public attention, of kids and peanuts and fun things to do in bright colored rings.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cole on the Dole: Show Trucks and Tent Leased to Dick Garden for His Big Top Circus ... John Pugh to Manage ... Kelly Miller Grabs Vineland Date

This just in from Don Covington, linking me to the following news, reported in today's Vineland Daily Journal: 

It appears that notorious low-end circus producer Dick Garden has leased the Cole Bros Circus equipment from John Pugh, and will take it out under the title Big Top Circus.

According to the report, Pugh will manage.  Former Cole spokesman Tim Orris telling the Journal's Daniel J. Kov, "Last Friday I learned of a resurrection under a new management with the Cole Bros equipment leased to Dick Garden but managed by John Pugh, who owned Cole Bros for the last 50 years. I believe they are opening under the name Big Top Circus."

Report focuses on Kelly Miller taking over the annual Cole Vineland, NJ date in a 2-day June stand. Cole held the date for 51 years.

What to expect?  From Garden, not nearly as much as from Pugh.  But Pugh, I have to assume, was out of money and options.  Let's hope we can thank our lucky stars that Garden does not have his hands on the Cole title.  I'd hate to see that honored name dragged through the dung of a Garden style operation.

Among Mr. Garden's more noteworthy contributions to the American circus scene,  you may recall his infamous Toby Tyler Circus and its collapsing seats.  He floods the market with free kid tickets, and brings a carny-circus to town. I saw one of his shows, years ago at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.  It was so awful, that I fled the scene just as the rides were taking over the rings at intermission time.

More as the story develops -- or devolves.  No, I'm not at all thrilled.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Big Top Bits: Horror on Ringling BMX Ramps ... A Late Cole Roll, or onto the Dole? ... My Great Nephew Compares Big Apple Circus to Ringling-Barnum ... and MORE! ...

Update, 4/23/16: Cole Bros. Circus has been sold, claims Anonymous leaving a comment here.  Real or pipe dreaming?

First draft reckless: Not an easy opening, wondering what went wrong at Ringling in Fairfax VA when a BMX rider was thrown over the handlebars of his bike as it blew a tire and landed on his head  The horrifying incident was captured on film and given prime time coverage on ABC.  Show was stopped short, patrons instructed to leave.  Strangest of all is Feld VP Stephan Payne declining to give out the name of the performer.  I still can't find his name on the net.  Why?   ...  Once again, it would seem, our attention falls to a failing prop.  Ominous.

Big Show tech blunders, continued:  So a bike tire blows -- accident or negligence? This marks the third mishap in recent years at Ringling.  Last year, an aerialist suffered injuries after plunging 25 feet to the ground; the season before, you'll recall the collapse of a chandelier rigging, later found to have been ineptly and inadequately rigged, sending nine women to the floor, some seriously injured.
.
Will Cole roll, or go out on the dole?  Cole Bros. Circus website back up and in glorious color promising, come June, to present  "America's last real 3-ring circus under the big top" But try dialing the phone number listed, and see if you don't get Ma Bell’s dreary, “Please hang up and try dialing again.” Maybe when the world comes to an end, that is what we will hear, over and over again ...

What lurks inside the mind of Johnny Pugh?   All one need do is watch  the excellent Lane Talburt video visits to the show in 2011, easily findable on the website, to know that Johnny possess the heart of a do-or-die trouper. My speculations:  Johnny really wants to go back out, but is hard pressed for money.  Johnny sold the property to raise money to for some kind of a Cole roll-out.  But why does the website play up animals when Johnny supposedly removed them from a theoretical wish list for the new season yet to possibly be? ... I can see a circus fan behind the scenes struggling to fund Johnny or buy the show himself.  Don't count Pugh kaput.  He is  no stranger to producing on the brink. 

END RINGERS: My niece Lisa e-mailing me about her 10-year-old son's reaction to Circus Xtreme: “I forgot to mention that Noah said he actually liked APPLE CIRCUS better in some ways, one being the tent!” ...  Interesting  story on Douglas McPherson's blog, Circus Mania about how many if not most of the Brit elephants trainers did not use bull hooks for the most part ... The Smithsonian putting together a big circus splash, come 2017, with big top show .. Cirque du Soleil, apparently minus its founder,  about to open its 25 million dollar Broadway-or-bust baby, Paramour, this being their fourth attempt to capture Gotham for more than a season or less.  Fine story about show in Sunday’s New York Times.  Big shots from the new ownership group, (Guy Laliberte’s name no where in the story), looking in on  previews and demanding a replacement for the lead  actor plus cuts in running order, down to two hours.  Wonder if that means two bearable hours? Some noting show’s resemblance to IRIS, the CDS opus that failed to click in LA few years back. ... I’m thinking Smash Hit, I’m thinking Blundering Bomb  — Hmm, maybe I should ask my great nephew, Noah, to take a look and report back. ...

Apple Me a Convert:  Finally, I am now an Apple person!   Had to let go of my very small dumb phone,  something to do about  2G going to 4G.  So, wanting the lightest weight smart phone out there, (short of a flip job, which looks more like a medical alert device these days), I found it in Apple’s new SE, and what a beaut!   Although Steve Jobs seems to have been a son of a you know who many times over (I watched both movies on his miserable life, what a perfectly miserable genius he was)  My iPhone is, to quote C-Nets savvy review, a “small wonder.” And I am an iBeliever.  What a joy to have something that works so easily and perfectly.  And what a camera!  That's why I got it over the 5S ...  Breathtaking technology ...

Bonus Blather!   This just in from Don Convington: Ringling's new show heralding "A Cosmic Family Adventure  -- Experience a Circus Light Years Beyond the Expected!"   ...  Let's see, no elephants,. so what to replace pachyderm power?  Monster trucks in space  on a mission to save  -- what? Come back again, I might have a big iFinish.ur oxxx journey that will let imaginations run wild with unexpected surprises and thrills at every turn. Clib ab

Big Tops Tottering a Tad: Ringling's BMX Rider Suffering Accident is Liakable on TV ... A Late Cole Roll, ho ho? ... Mister McFiddle Compares Big Apple Circus to Ringling-Barnum ... and MORE! ...

First draft reckless: Not to in any way disrespect the terrible fall suffered by BMX rider during a Ringling performance, may I constructively  wonder if the accident may inflate crowd sizes ahead for the following reasons: 

!. The guy, as interviewed in the hospital is quite appealing – the sort of a chap the mid-Americans who patronize circuses warm up to.   2.  In this instance, it was not the fault of Ringling prop hands or riggers (well, not that we yet know of)  as seems to have been the case with the falling chandelier last year.  3.  It was done in the act of genuine risk-taking, but in a modern extreme sport that plays well to the younger crowd.    I’m hoping the best for whomever the rider is.  I’m hoping for his full recovery, and that his courage and stamina may be a plus, in this instance, rather than recent PR setbacks for the Felds.

Now it gets STRANGE: Why has the show not released the BMX rider’s name?  Stephan Payne mum to the press.  I did some searching on the net, and could not find it. I could swear I saw him interviewed on TV.  A likable lad.

Onward to the views of 10-year-old Mister McFiddle, of Luray VA, I being, I think the kid’s great uncle, for twas who nicknamed him. He’s really Noah Gerrity, and he went with Lisa and his dad Brian to see the Ringling’s Circus xTreme in xxx.   My niece e-mailed a little later about our young patron, “I forgot to mention that Noah said he actually liked APPLE CIRCUS better in some ways, one being the tent!”  ... The kid is smart and able to think for himself.  He, Lisa and I took in a performance of  the Big Apple Circus show I think Noah was referring to, two seasons back, and although neither Lisa nor I were persuasively thrilled, we made a point not to rain our reservations on Little Noah, but to ask him to tell us what he liked.  He liked a lot.  He had also seen the vastly superior (in my opinion) Dance On! from BAC a few seasons before that.  So there!

Johnny Pugh, you are so slyly silent, or are you striving for a way back under your imposing big top?   Harry Kingston comments about the website promising that the show will be back in some form of action come June.  The phone number, when I dialed it, brought on Ma Bell’s dreary, “Please hang up and try dialing again.” Maybe when the World comes to an end, that is what we will hear, over and over again ...

Here are my Cole Roll-or-Dole speculations, partly influenced by having watched some of the excellent Lane Talburt video visits to the show a few years back, all of them easily findable on the beautiful website tease.  To repeat, SPECULATIONS:  Johnny really wants to go back out, but is hard pressed for money.  Johnny sold the property to raise money to for some kind of a Cole roll-out.  Why does the message play up animals when Johnny supposedly removed them from a theoretical wish list for the new season yet to possibly be?   Oh, yes, that leads to my conjuring up an image of fans close to Johnny working on him for some kind of a show, be it under his tent or out around home plate in ballparks.  Those sort of fans would scream Animal Acts with every chance.  OR, some aspiring big top boss is scrambling to save the season, unrealistically promising not just animals but "America's last real 3-ring circus under the big top" ... Pugh has been down to pennies before, so he’s no stranger to producing on the brink. 

END RINGERS: From Douglas McPherson’s Circus Mania blog, a great story about how many if not most of Brit elephants trainers did not use bu;l hooks for the most part; link to McPherson's blog, listed along the right bar ...The Smithsonian putting together a big circus splash, come 2017, with big top show .. Cirque du Soleil, apparently minus its founder,  about to open their 25 million dollar Broadway baby, Paramour along the Great White Way, this being their Number FOUR attempt to capture Gotham for more than a year or two ... Fine story about show in Sunday’s New York Times. Seems some big shots from the new ownership group, (Guy Laliberte’s name no where in the story), looking in on  previews and after demanding a replacement lead and cuts in running order, down to two hours.  Wonder if that means two bearable hours? Some noting show’s resemblance to IRIS, the CDS opus that failed to click in LA few years back. ... I’m thinking Smash Hit, I’m thinking Blundering Bomb  — Hmm, maybe I should ask Mister Fiddle to take a look and report back. ...

Apple Me a Convert:  Finally, I am now an Apple person!   Had to let go of my very small dumb phone,  something to do about  2G going to 4G.  So, wanting the lightest weight smart phone out there, (short of a flip job, which looks more like a medical alert device these days), I found it in Apple’s new SE, and what a beaut!   Although Steve Jobs seems to have been a son of a you know who many times over (I watched both movies on his miserable life, what a perfectly miserable genius he was)  My iPhone is, to quote C-Nets savvy review, a “small wonder.” And I am an iBeliever.  What a joy to have something that works so easily and perfectly ...  Breathtaking technology ...

SPECIAL AFTER SHOW!   This just in from Don Convington: Ringling's new show heralding "A Cosmic Family Adventure  -- Experience a Circus Light Years Beyond the Expected!"   ...  Let's see, no elephants,. so what to replace pachyderm power?  Monster trucks on a mission to save  -- what? Come back again, I might have a big iFinish.u let imaginations run wild with unexpected surprises and thrills at every turn. Climb aboard and take the helm as a circus star seeker for an unforgettable experience!

Experience a Circus
Light Years Beyond the Expected!

Prepare to blast off on a cosmic adventure unlike any other. Join the Circus Space Fleet on a heroic quest of good versus evil in a journey that will let imaginations run wild with unexpected surprises and thrills at every turn. Climb aboard and take the helm as a circus star seeker for an unforgettable experience!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

From Luray VA: Niece Lisa Reviews Ringling's CIRCUS XTREME ... About the Elephants Retiring: "They are SO the circus for Brian and I" ...

Photos by Lisa


The last elephant act on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, only two weeks from retirement.  My niece Lisa  Gerrity and her family recently went to see Ringling's Circux Xtreme.  How I wished I had seen the show when it came to the Bay Area -- blame it partly on a confusing Ringling ad grouping three show dates together.   Here is a review of the show which Lisa sent me, and which I am happy to print, because it strikes me as a real review.  In Lisa's own words... drum rolls! ...

Brian surprised us and bought tickets to the circus! So we drove an hour and 15 minutes to Fairfax Virginia, took Noah and his little friend, and enjoyed the show.

Growing up with the circus, and an uncle (guess who?) who wrote about it, Ive always gotten butterflies in my stomach when the lights came up and the music started. I'm happy to say that this still happens for me even at the tender age of 53. Luckily my husband also loves the circus and the traditional acts that  we remember as children.

One Ring Fans

One thing that we always agree on is the three ring circus idea. Both my husband and I get overwhelmed with three rings and always felt like we were missing part of the show. We were so excited to see only one ring at the circus this year and enjoyed it so much more.

The show started with the National Anthem with an elephant draped with a sequin red white and blue cape. A woman road on its back and waved to the crowd As we all sang the patriotic song. What a great way to open the circus, God bless America!


Refreshing Ringmaster Relief 

The Act after that included two horses, dancers, cyclists, and an "around the world" boat. We really enjoyed the opener.  We loved the young ringmaster (David Shipman), who was also a great singer and rolled around on an elevated little platform that raised up really high now and then.  I must say he is one of my favorite ringmasters in recent years.  If I had to say why, it would be because of his friendly face, enthusiasm, wonderful singing voice, and lack of cheesiness that some ring masters suffer from.  We liked him!!

Good Circusy Music ... Ho Hum Camels and Clowns

Costumes were good, not amazing, and music was good, more circusy than recent years. 😊

The camels were next and failed to entertain us. The theme seemed to be a "travel around the world" theme. We had not seen camels before and although they were interesting to look at, and the ladies on them had pretty outfits on, the ladies just kind of struck different poses as the camels went around in circles for a little too long. We started to lose interest after a while.



Next, onto MT EVEREST and the brief clown act.  It was multiple clowns and quite honestly I miss having just one clown do a cute theme throughout the circus and come out with his little suitcase of tricks or something that entertained us in between setting up for the next act.

The Tight rope was exciting and amazing as was the human canon.

The skiing tap dancers act (clowns) was short and sweet to fill a few minutes.
 
 
They Missed the Trapeze

We really enjoyed the Glow in the dark swinging acrobats up high! Does this replace the flying trapeze? If so we missed the traditional act. 

Clowns with big balls were just ok.

A big Mongolian man lifted 551 lbs with his teeth, and we wondered if it was real.

The Elephants were brief but entertaining and adorable.

The Mermaids had beautiful costumes but failed to entertain us with the Middle ball with white dancers.   Pretty but not impressive at all.

The Spinning wheel is always thrilling and Spectacular.


The Ring of tigers was impressive with 16 beautiful white tigers and a Latin trainer.  One hopped like a bunny.

Poodle show... Boring

Bike Riders and Acrobats Thrill the Boys 

Bouncing acrobats and cyclists at the end were new and exciting! Our two 10-yr-olds said that was their favorite.

Overall, we'd give it an 8 and return to see Ringling Circus again!

 ****

JUST IN TIME TO SEE THE ELEPHANTS ONE LAST TIME

I e-mailed Lisa about the elephants retiring this year.  Her reply:

"We learned that they are going to the farm in 2 weeks! We are SO GLAD we got to see them one more time. They are SO the circus for Brian and I.  Thanks for raising us to love the big top!!!"

And thank you, Lisa, for sharing your feedback  I'm glad you had a good time, especially given recent depressing big setbacks on the American circus scene. The elephants are gone from Ringling, and the entire Cole Bros. Circus is gone.  A double bummer!



Our guest critic from Luray, Virginia: Lisa, left, with sister Debbie, the latter about to move with hubby to Alaska.   And me in one of my rare selfies. We joined company a few weeks ago when Lis and Deb were out touring these parts.  Had a fabulous dinner at a Chinese restaurant, Little Shin Shin on Piedmont Avenue, only a few delicious blocks from where I live.  Utter perfection.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Cole Bros. Circus is History. Say Goodbye to DeLand and Johnny Pugh (***)

UPDATE, 4/7/16: 4:40 pm, PST: Yes, what first appeared below, yesterday, and then was rebutted, turns out to have been true, thank you Barry Lipton.  Documents discovered, Covington shared and confirmed.   

First posted yesterday:

A crusher, this just in from Barry Lipton.  The show's Deland winter quarters up for sale.  The price tag: $350.000.

And my heart sank. Even I was holding out.  And you, too?  Tomorrow never dies --- until l it dies.

Go there if you wish:

 http://usedrides.com/ViewAd.aspx?Ad=27029&view=i

Know what?  I am genuinely depressed.  This marks the passing of a great and durable and classy American big top we are likely never to see again.

Remember 1956? So, too, may they one day remember 2016:  Ringling retired the elephants.  Cole retired itself.

Pray that's all there is to come this season.

And hold onto your old tapes and movies.

(***) Okay, just another hopelessly strained theory:  Maybe Johnny is putting up the winter-quarters to raise money and planning to produce without such a home base.

Yes, I know. Send for the clowns in white to usher me out.

4.6.16

Sunday, April 03, 2016

On the (Provisional) Fall of Cole Bros. Circus: Some Immediate Thoughts About the Man at the Top

UPDATE, 4/3/16, 7:52 am: For Harry and all Cole Fans, the show has put up a very nice website.  It geneally alludes to the show's history.  So, shall we say that tomorrow never dies?
 

There is an almost abstract sadness about the wordless sudden demise, or so it would appear, of Cole Bros. Circus.  Words point to a season not to be. 

It was there for years, one season after another, the solid stolid show. The one guided by Johnny Pugh, a Class Act all in himself.   Season after season, the show threw up its tents,   gave a good show, sometimes a very good show, and sustained an old tradition that is gradually dying before our disbelieving eyes.

Pugh’s management style extends back to the old Ringling-Barnum A team.   In a manner of perception, the Cole Bros. Clyde Beatty saga completes of an arc of inevitable change and decline traceable  back to Pittsburgh, 1956, when John Ringling North struck the big top for the last time and opted into the arena market.

Only a few months later, Clyde Beatty Circus hit the skids,  faced bankruptcy, and was reorganized under new ownership, key players from the old Ringling tent show regime.  Beatty-Cole kept the big top. Pugh stayed with the show and eventually purchased controlling ownership himself.

North's move indoors proved a smart one.  But today, filling up the seats in an arena has become virtually impossible. Circuses no longer attract the same size crowds.  Under our tents, which have grown smaller, circuses still struggle to fill up fewer seats.  Need I do more to explain it away than drop the word Digital?

In its early years, what I valued most about the Cole show, even though I saw it only maybe once every seven to ten years, was how it sustained, symbolically, a residual Ringling legacy.  The 1961 edition, which I was lucky to catch in Richmond, VA, sparkled in its own more modern manner with top line talent, direction and music.

When Johnny Pugh removed his elephants about 10 years ago, buckling under to the mounting demands of the animals rights movement, he was onto something.  Open to change as is any smart showman.  His patrons were not so open, not then, not yet. And so, a season or two later, he brought back the elephants. 

But You Tube and PETA and court room testimony only intensified.   And then Ringling-Barnum did what Pugh had done. By summer’s end, all of its elephants will be gone from the ring(s).

Ringling gets all the national publicity.  And Ringling will now stand for the Norm.  Look for other shows to gradually follow suit. 

Cole was rumored ready to hit the trail this year without animals.  Basically, the right move. But to go Vargas — no animals at all — is a self defeating measure that makes no sense at all. 

After the last Greatest Show on Earth under canvas sixty years ago, the nation wept.  Nobody talked down performing animals, or scary daredevil flyers, or creepy clowns.  They cried over the death of the tented city, over the grand arrival of the circus train at dawn.

In 1956, nobody went to a circus with “issues.”   Everybody went to a circus for guilt-free fun.

Today is a very different today. Today is no longer innocent or guilt-free. One by one, the circuses most powerful features have been talked out of existence by a public so very very different from America sixty years ago.  You fill in the rest — if you can spare a free moment away from your iPhone or iLife.

You might say that the soul of the old American circus followed a path into the soul of Johnny Pugh. 

One less Johnny is a big loss.

His presence on the lot will surely be missed.

4.1.16