Saturday, June 25, 2016

Getting Denied, Turned Away, Trapped in Traffic, Stood Up and Let Down and Pissed Off in the City of Angels: I Vowed Never to Return, and then --- Something Magic Happened

Have you ever made travel plans, only to see them fall apart, one by one, once you reach your destination?  Here is my story.

Okay, so it's clear I like Union Station. Always the best way to enter the ugly sprawl that is the Los Angeles so hated by so many people.  I understand their disdain.  For me, though, it's what you'll find amidst all of the mind-numbing vastness that draws me down there time and time again.

Is there a more beautiful train station in the country?  In the world? 

The tunnel to the trains, once a barren walk through, has been greatly upgraded with with uplifting  panoramas.

Charmer on a bus:  There's Peppy, whom I sat next to on the 780 out to Glendale.  I touched the frosty top of his nose, and he smiled back.

First big let down: Had the streets not been so clogged with traffic, I would have arrived at my first destination of choice, Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale. Rink owner Dominic, above, is one of the best dance music organists ever, having put out dozens of tunes set to regulated metronome dance tempos (fox trot,tango, waltz, etc.)  We are friends, and I wanted to to say hello  

Had I arrived in good time, I would have spent an hour or so simply listening to Dominc's pulsing music, which takes me back to my boyhood in roller rinks.  You may recognize Dominic's rink in movies and TV shows, many filmed there   

BUT, my bus into Glendale was so late, to have walked the rest of the way, as I planed, would have not given me enough time to make an early exit. A bummer.

Next morning, on foot to another let down ...

Setting out for the new Broad Art Museum downtown, I took a familiar walk down a dreary stretch of Vermont.  Full disclosure: Urban decay fascinates me.

Once upon a time, so vital.  Now, they hang around like abandoned skeletons.
Biggest dream buster of all:  I went the stunning new Broad Modern Art Museum, hoping not to find a long line. Last time, the waiting line, just for a chance to maybe get in, was so long that I gave up.  Yes, I hate waiting.  You can book a free ticket on-line, but two or three months ahead. And, still, I assumed that with the museum now open for nearly a year, there would no longer be a line.

How wrong I was.  That damn long line was still there. I am now officially suspicious of a sly promotional stunt by Mr. Broad, going Barnum on us, to create the illusion of  his venue being still (and maybe forever, if enough people will put up with his cynical charade) the HOTTEST ticket in town.  After a half hour, I walked to the front to ask a staff member what were my chances. She said quite good, but once I got a ticket, I would be waiting in another line for around one or two hours!    XX*!!xx+|{"{{##@!!!!!

I refuse to be a pawn for Mr. Broad, who, I'll bet, loves the image of perpetual lines clamoring to get into his spectacular galleries. I walked off.  Never again. The Getty on the Hill?  Free, too, and I've always walked up, only waiting a few minutes for the next train up the hill.

Glorious Restoration:  Curtain up on the reopening of the famed Clifton's Cafeteria on Broadway. A must-see item on my list.   I took a dash down there.  Love those dashing little buses that feel like private drawing rooms on wheels.

Thus multi-storied architectural extravaganza, bathed in moody lighting, offers a dazzling variety of settings, including cozy little alcoves.   You keep climbing up stairs to yet more options.  I wondered if in its early days, a higher floor offered adult pleasures. Well, study the decor!

People sit in all kinds of places.

But, I did  not dine at Clifton's.  My heart that day belonged to Traxx at Union Station, where I usually entertain one meal during each visit.   I enjoy sitting at a table out in the lobby.  This time, all were taken, so I opted for the restful courtyard.

Not stood up, simply left a little wanting. I would like to have raved about mt seared wild Salmon  Trouble was, the skin was too stiff to cut into, so I easily pushed it away, as if it were detachable.  Do salmon wear topees? 

Another big let down:  Since they've been talking up a glorious renaissance underway for a number of grand old  movies palaces on Broadway, I wanted to check out the scene.  Not what I expected.  The theaters seem fairly lost in a very pedestrian street, far more Tijuana than Hollywood.  Who would want to come down here?  Totally unsold on the idea.

Redeeming serenity:  Next goal, I took a long bus ride out West Adams to the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens.   You need to reserve a free ticket on line to be admitted.  Even for the same day.  They put you through some hurdles.

Surprisingly confined to a rather small space, there is s section of descending walking paths through  lush exotic vegetation, and one can find a comforting respite from the humdrum city. 

Here on the circle of something to do with working out one's problems, you are suppose to follow an intricate circular path while working out your issue, in stages. The path pulls you deeper into the middle, and then it takes you out in a  less arduous walk. Can't remember what my "problem" or "issue" was.  The heat that afternoon wilted my inner Plato. I dispensed with the challenge as if it were an "E" ticket in the original Disneyland. (Please don't tell them; they are lovely people.)

Sorry to report, a semi-let down:  Website photos lend the appearance of a vast and deep landscape, the very opposite of  what I found.  But I did enjoy walking the intimate paths, and sitting on chairs.

Back to being let down:  I had to take a ride on the heralded new new Expo Blue Line. And it made me blue.  Far too many stops make the journey an ordeal.  Whatever scenic elements are worth taking in (hardly any)  they are fairly obscured by  the stern utilitarian barriers, which make the ride feel like being shuttled through a high security zone. 

From what I heard, I expected a lot more. This is nothing like the rather entrancing Gold line from Union Station  to Pasadena and points beyond, the latter, I think, over track running parallel to one of LA's ever delightful freeways.  Get OFF at Pasadena.  

Crap!  Even the Santa Monica beach scene stood me up! Can you find any sun in this picture?

Bus ride into Hollywood Hell

Onto one last chance: My spirits down to near zero, I was wondering, why do I come to this city?  I had little desire to return.

I had wanted to save the trip by catching a performance of a new musical, I Only Have Eyes For You, playing that night at the Montalban in Hollywood.  More than enough time to get there.  At 5:40, I boarded a Number 4 in Santa Monica for Hollywood.

Moved at a good clip, then slowed down to a  crawl. In  Hollywood near Fairfax, traffic came to a near halt, and the bus had to follow a bypass.  All around were automobiles stalled in a sea of vehicular hell.  The end of the world, it looked to me.  I hate this city.  I'm never coming back!  But then, back on Hollywood Boulevard, traffic thinned out, and then a rush of wheels beneath me!

We might make it!   Two hours had passed.  Still had ten minutes to get there.  The bus coasted like a breeze, and put me off at Vine, eight minutes before curtain.

I ran down to the theatre on wings of joy -- my last night in LA might not be the last.  Settled on one of two lines, At the  window, with my billfold out, I asked the lady on the other side of the glass for an inexpensive seat.

She looked at me, then she inquired:  Does it matter where you sit?

No, anywhere, I answered.

She picked up a ticket and raised it in her hand.  "I am giving this to you"

Front row, orchestra.  I was stunned.  "Free?" I said.


Well thank you!

I could not believe myself.  NEVER have I ever been given a ticket from a theater ticket window seller.

Had Fate sent her a message: We have one last chance not to lose that guy. It's up to you.

The show's songs and production numbers engaged me passionately.  My review of the show can be found here under the subject category "musicals." 

Next morning, shunning the underground like a death sentence, I took the Sunset #2 downtown, and transferred to a Dash for Union Station.

Back to the starting point.  Okay, LA, you got me again.  How could I ever desert you after the ride that got me to the theatre on time, and  the free ticket handed me by the lady on the other side of the glass?

It may be an urban nightmare, but I gotta tell you, this town has a heart, and it can even feel like a city of angels.

Photos not by Showbiz David:  Those of Moonlight Rollerway and the of the musical, I Only Have Eyes for You, at the Montalban.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Big Tops on the Brink: Ringling Puts Circus on Ice ... Big Apple Passes the Hat ... Cole on a Slow Roll to the Bitter End?

UPDATE, 6/18/16, 7:24 am:  Latest on the Cole opera:  Show to go out as King Cole in July, opening in Jacksonville NC and offering more rides, food and pre-show activities in a "fun zone."  About the latter, you heard it first here from Agent X, on the posting below.

Revolutionary Rambles: iRingling down in Florida putting the cast on ice in rehearsals for its new post-pachyderm gamble, says AP story advanced my way by Ken Dickinson.   The Felds, struggling to recapture iPhone junkies, plan to lure them into the show with apps allowing for broadcast of selfie sharing during the performance and interactivity between patrons and performers.  Ice skaters and motor sports into the mix. It’s a new world, says Alana Feld to the press, promising what looks to be a radical departure from all other amusements; I mean, would you prefer attending a musical, play, or movie while others around you are fiddling with and jabbering over their  the gadgets in hand? ...  It’s the over ice part that gives me grave pause.  Then again, that misty white sheet does open one’s imagination to the outer space theme.  Show heads for the cosmos down in LA, mid July.  I’m tempted to be there for the launch.
Johnny Pugh’s Cole Bros Circus, now owned by Dick Garden, is holding firm on common ground.  The status quo stubbornly on parade, what with wild animals returning.  The Garden free ticket blitz may improve on crowd size.  Question may be, how weaker might the actual performance be?  Poster art promises more Pugh than Garden.  Maybe between the two disparate souls, there may be a decent middle ground.  Affordable mediocrity is not such a bad thing, not that is, to the eyes of a toddler tickling to a circus show for the first time. And, yes, the writing of this feels totally hollow, given counter currents pointing to a Dead End, as witness what follows ...

Facing the Truth on Facebook? Here's what you will find on Facebook's Clyde Beatty and Cole Bros. Tribute Page: "A historic page that pays homage to an iconic show that no longer exists.  Please mo messages that are negative and no more questions about a route.  This show is gone but not forgotten.  It still lives in our hearts for those who lived it and loved it...Thank you..The Management!" ... Now this touched me.  You'll find plenty of photos that will bring back favored memories of your days at the show.  Here's one of Johnny Pugh in 1971.  Oh, we were all young once! 

The last Grand Tour for Big Apple Circus? New York's own begging for 2 million bucks from private donations in order to keep its date at Lincoln Center, the rental tab alone a  harsh half million.  New York Times bleeding bias in advocacy reporting, story pushing BAC charity angles and art purity — show favoring “artistry over vulgarity.” (Guess whose – read on).  Reporter Ginia Bellafanote failing to come clean on actual attendance figures, fewer bodies in the seats?  That’s another issue too unpleasant perhaps to report. But what gives away blatant NYT bias is Bellafante’s implicit pitting of Big Apple's nobler artistic standards  against “the mayhem of Ringling,” the latter show owned and operated by, in case you do not know –  “billionaire Kenneth Feld.”  Mayhem?  Really?  Ringling and Big Apple go for the same world class acts , but Ringling manages to pull in thousands more customers for a typical show.  Does that make Ringling “vulgar”?    I’ve yet to hear of Ringling begging for public donations or working Wall Street’s greedy TICS (Thieves-in-Chief--yes, you heard it here first) for funding bail-outs.

 Will the man in red have a job next season?

Pardon me for feeling okay about the free Market.  I’m all for BAC going on — I’ve gone on record as a fan of the show, but two of the last shows that I saw left a lot to be desired.  The very idea that BAC needs “another $11.5 million to produce the circus each year" is  ludicrous.  How many people did it take, couple of years back, to put on a show that was going to be live-streamed into hundreds of movie houses, nationwide, and fail to have bodies in more than maybe a third of the seats?  How many? All of which promoted my brother Dick, who watched the show in a Utah movie house, with one other person – his wife — to declare, “You’re watching a loser.”   A key issue the Times story failed to address: Why can’t this show attract larger crowds as once it did?  Maybe it’s the public’s declining taste for circus? Or maybe a bloated and bumbling Big Apple Circus organization, itself perhaps the biggest of all charity cases.  Maybe the Times will fork over a nice clean $1 mil.  So far, show has raised half a million, and that's not bad.  When it comes to soliciting,
they are pros.

END RINGERS: Boffo early biz for Cirque du Soleil’s  Paramour down a bit since bum reviews hit the streets. Another new CDS property, Tourk – The First Flight, pulling in tepid notices ...  Historical relief may be on the way!  From Don Covington comes  news that Circus 1903 is promising to "recreate a turn of the twentieth century circus" in a nationally touring theater show.  Premiere set for LA in February. Another reason to go down there again ... Carson & Barnes, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to fork up a $16, 000 fine for putting its elephants in dangerous proximity to  customers ...  Lastly, on the passing of Pete Cristiani, I once worked for the man  (and for the lovely Norma), but only for six weeks on Wallace Bros., too thin-skinned to be truly “with it and for it.” I would forever after think of Pete as the Robert Mitchum of the big Top.  Once, while passing me on the midway during set up with a sledgehammer in my hand (if you can believe that), he called me Snow Cone.  Okay, maybe a job description upgrade from Hot Dog?

I feel very sad posting this. In my boyhood, when the Clyde Beatty Circus came to town, I got to climb up into one of the bed reg wagons, to help hoist seating parts over the edge and down onto the ground.  And to help raise the sidewall.  I was given a ticket that got me into the sideshow, and into both performances of the big show that day.  Sat on hard planks and thrilled to the wonder of it all.  Gone are those days we once so easily enjoyed. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday Morning, Waiting for Agent X with the Inside on Cole. Bros, Pugh and Garden ...

Chilly down here by the old ice house, a shell without ice, a haven for  homeless weeds and people like me who like to wander around in the shadows of ancient boyhood memories.

Agent X, always in a hurry — staged, I suppose —  promised to drive by around now. Early as the first section in   Train tracks still.  I’m thinking days of Foley & Burk rattling onto a spur with old carny wagons ready to be tugged and coddled down the runs for a haul to the fairgrounds.

Got a question about Johnny Pugh and the man he sold Cole to.  Improbable.  Impossible!  Agent X can explain if anybody.

Is that him?  Beat up old Cadillac out there breaking through dirty mist. 

Slowing down.  Could be.  I’m waving my hand.

Cad screeches, bounces like a stubborn horse across the rails, snorts to a stop.  Spots me.  Down comes the window. That’s him in there, I think ...

Okay, kid, what was it?  Hurry up!

I have to shout: Hey, Pugh and the man he sold Cole to?  Doesn’t make sense!

You mean Johnny Pugh’s new Garden?   He grinned like a barker.

That Garden?  Dick Garden?

That’s the one!   Dickie!

I take my stand:  I don’t believe it!

Oh, hell, kid!  Where were you born?   How about Pugh and Frisco?  Pugh and Davenport?   

I make a face, wanting to irk more out of Agent X. You gotta make faces and act gosh-oh stupid. So I blurted out,  But doesn't Garden  burn up towns?

He fell for the irking, and laughed:  You mean those toothpick bleachers?  Long as Johnny keeps his own seats.  What do you know about circus biz, kid?”

I know Pugh puts out a better show than Garden, I positioned.

Agent X pushed back:  But Garden puts up a better crowd.  Storms of free tickets. 

Know anything about the acts? I asked

Agent X grinned.  Mexicana-o-rama!   The Family plan, ours to yours.  He was warming up.

I warned back:  You don’t think Pugh is stooping low?

He thought a bit, barked:  The show you mean?   No, should be better.  He’s getting better rides —  kiddie merry go round, fresh ponies, bigger bungee bounce. Maybe a small coaster.  Intermission’s now the big show.

Playing dumb, I said, what did you mean about Pugh keeping his seats?

He looked at me skeptically.  Are you kidding?  Ever heard Toby Tyler?  In a Garden layout. the seating capacity is unlimited.

Unlimited? How can that be?

Agent X grinned:  Garden knows he can always make more room in the blues, if necessary.

And with that, he lighted up, laughing at his own joke, waved me off.  Up went the glass, and the Cadillac made an abrupt U-turn and then suddenly stopped short.   Down came the glass again.  Agent X shouted:

Take a lawn chair and stay safe in the Johnny’s new garden!

The Cadillac bolted off in a blaze, vanishing into the dirty mist from whence it came.

Okay, just you and me now. And, yeah, I know, you’re gonna leave.  So am I – after lingering around the ice house, a boyhood favorite.

They don’t sell ice here anymore.

And the circus no longer rails into town.

That would be Clyde Beatty.  Oh, what a show that was!

And they didn’t even have an intermissions back then.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Midway Flash! Showbiz David in Contact with Agent X Over Cole Bros. Circus Turmoil ...

Sketchy voice claiming to be in contact with Agent X directing me to be at the ice house in Santa Rosa early tomorrow morning. Agent X may drive by with inside info.

I'm on my way now.

Have Some (Imagined) Laffs in the Dark on Showbiz David's New Ride ...

This Way to a Mini-Midway Preview!

The signage is based on the old dark ride at San Francisco's long gone Playland-at-the-Beach.

Scale is quarter inch.

On You Tube:

Saturday, June 04, 2016

New Musical About 42nd Street Songwriters Rides Sky-High on Socko Songs -- Plods Along in Fairy Tale Scripting

 Jared Gertner and Constantine Rousouli as Dubin and Warren.

New Musical Review: I Only Have Eyes For You
at the Montalban, Hollywood
through June 12

Bottom Line:  The singing and dancing is so exhilarating, it's a must-see.

Out of Warner Bros. during the great depression came a hot slate of Busby Berkeley musicals with songs by probably the greatest song-writing team ever created in Hollywood: composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin.  Best known for their contributions to Forty Second Street, their toe-taping tunes include Shuffle Off to Buffalo, Lullaby of Broadway, You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me.

A new musical about the life of Dubin. I Only Have Eyes for You, opened recently in tryout at the The Montlaban theatre on Vine Street. The smartly crafted production soars with an emphatic sure-footed sizzle across the stage, if only its shallow book was less afraid to face the real life of its subject.  Writers Jerry Leichtling and Arlen Sarner push a superimposed theme of ever-lasting love onto Dubin and his stay-at-home wife, a former showgirl.   Dubin agreed to convert from Jew to Catholic if she would give up showbiz (hard to believe) to raise a family.

The Dubin marriage on this snap-happy stage is a one dimensional affair of break ups and make ups, so many I couldn’t keep track of them all. The jokes are not very funny.  Dubin becomes ever more erratic, gone for days on binges and womanizing, exasperating both his more grounded collaborator,  Warren, and his dutifully bland wife.

Between the powerhouse singing and dancing — the entire cast, a fair sensation, is spot on perfect — a plodding book charts Dubin’s gradual fall into alcoholism and professional failure  Towards what feels like the inevitable end point for the musical, we see him collapsing onto a New York street in lonely disarray.  This scene gives the treatment a suddenly gripping gravitas, and I could feel a final curtain about to fall.   In deed, this did happen to Dubin in his real life; three days later, only in his mid-fifties and estranged from his wife, he was dead. But not here. Not on this stage.  No, comes yet another embracing reconciliation for the two inseparable  Dubins.  Pure fairy tale.

Darkness is something this musical has a hard time facing.  We see a homeless man wandering across the stage at intervals, and his presence can send shivers of reality down the spine. Dubin is sympathetic with money, and, so,  how can we not logically expect the arrival of the team’s great song, The Forgotten Man?  Incredible, that song never arrives, even when Dubin, stumbling down into a shell on the street of his doom, becomes the song himself. 

Director-choreographer  Kay Cole does a terrific job in shaping the dances, pacing the show fluidly.   Orchestrations by Doug Walter and Steven Scott Smalley are heavenly fine, especially the reprisals of melodies just sung, now instrumentally floating below the surface.

Warren and Dubin produced very few ballads of note;  September in the Rain, a notable exception, gives the tuner some depth.  But, Don’t Give Up The Ship, an obscure number, falls flat.

The team’s greatest movie musical, Forty Second Street, is a true rags to riches story.  Here, in I Only Have Eyes for You, is the making of a more dramatic riches to rags tale.

I loved this musical despite its flaws.  Tuner could easily shed 30 minutes and come out ahead.  Some of the production numbers, trading on old movie musical imagery, are supernatural to behold.  Surreal scenic effects by the gifted John Iacovelli, with lighting by Brandon Baruch,  create a misty cinematic sheen.   Al Jolson and Carmen Miranda both have cameos so real, it is almost like watching them springing back to life from the dead. And to sit with an audience composed, I had to, wanted to believe, of old-line Hollywood pros, knowing that they who helped create such film legends as these were watching them come back to life -- now that perception alone was electrifying to contemplate.

The stars were out that night -- only in Hollywood.

See it if you can.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Big Apple Circus Desperately on the Edge: Seeking Public Donations to Stave Off Going Under

Yes, sadly, that's what I'm reading, and it's reported in NYT.

More about this ahead.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ringling Minus Elephants, Feld Plus Daughters = New Day for the Greatest Show on Earth -- Or One Season Closer to Oblivion?

Can it be the Greatest Show on Earth without elephants?

At 66 and still firmly in charge of Ringling-Barnum, Kenneth Feld would have us believe that, without them, the circus faces its greatest challenge yet: How to sustain its grandiose stature long symbolized by the towering pachyderms on parade? Might Feld's genius for survival be on the line as never before?

Interviewed by the New York Times last November, Feld spoke passionately of the need to keep changing the format, and he conceded that the circus no longer marks his “most popular business.”  The ice shows and the monster truck division evidently turn bigger profits.  But they do not come loaded with controversial baggage linked in the public’s mind to elements of circus that no longer feel nearly as welcome or entertaining as once they did — not to the average ticket buyer.

And so Feld & daughters, robustly determined to reinvent, reinvent. 

That Big a Deal, Really?

Times writer Taffy Brodesse-Akner wrote of Kenneth and daughters engaged  “in meeting after meeting, trying to figure out how to create a circus so good that we won’t notice the absence of the elephants.”

Should it really be all that difficult?  Indeed, the Felds may now be able to recompose the circus into a less problematic form, able to recapture a larger section of its potential audience base.  Americans may return in droves, simply because a long-festering controversy has been put to rest.

Feld with daughters Juliet, left, Alana and Nicole

But the reinvention will not come trouble-free.  However admirable may be Feld's resolve to continue featuring other wild animals -- yet the presence of big cage acts may seriously hamper his efforts to redefine and re-brand the Ringling  product in the public’s mind.  Big Cage acts are sure to leave  many customers with a nagging impression that this circus has not really changed that much.
Like Father, Maybe Not Like Son

Kenneth Feld, surely one of the most successful circus managers in American big top history — deserving a place with James Bailey and the like —  has survived on his own for over thirty years, no small feat considering the magnitude of his rail-intense operation.  Two long circus trains alone represent a staggering expense. How they manage to turn a profit, given the apparently paltry crowds, I do not know.  I could never figure it out, defaulting to a theory that the ice shows were some seasons perhaps subsidizing the circus.

Kenneth’s father, Irvin, entered the picture some ten years after the show had made its boldest historical move ever,  by shucking the big top for hard tops. Irvin favored the three-ring format he inherited.  Kenneth seemed much more adaptable to change.  He was in charge when the show imported Chinese acrobatics into its rings and produced one of its best shows ever; when they dared to not feature a single flying trapeze act on the program; when three rings were reduced to one – and then none; and now, when the show will tour without its lumbering symbols of the great American three-ring circus, itself a thing of the past.
A New Show to Come, or Another Feld Smorgasbord?

Kenneth deserves just credit for showcasing some of the best acts in the world. And credit for creating dazzling special-effects spectacle virtually unmatched by any other ring show in the world, save for, of course, Cirque du Soleil.

On the downside, less impressive is the man's penchant for filling out a bill  one moment with brilliance, the next with banality.  I have often felt that the element most lacking in the uneven Feld touch is theatrical unity.  (His one-ring circus that played Coney Island two years in a year was a superior exception).  Does this matter to the public?  Does the typical audience out there want less a smorgasbord, more a finely wrought performance of consistent quality in tone. scoring, and pacing?   Hard to say.

The Story Line Returns

The new edition now being promoted is said to break new ground in that it will involve, for the first time, a story line —  the claim is rather lame. In fact, the Felds have tried narrative circus in recent years.  Whatever they may have achieved with it, there is no evidence of its luring in larger crowds.  But now, with ice composing a part of the surface, who knows.  Perhaps that creaky rolling platform will become a skating platform. I'd vote for its being retired to Baraboo sooner than later.

But even if they can bring off an excitingly new kind of circus to ballyhoo, they may still face an even more daunting challenge — the seeming obsolescence of circus itself to a growing sector of a public saturated as never before with more amusing distractions, real to virtual.   Let’s hope that all of the empty seats so often glaringly visible in photos and videos are once again filled.

Once considered far less emotionally connected to the circus than his father, Kenneth Feld's fluid flexibility remains an intriguing work in progress. 

Can he turn the next corner that he believes need be turned?  He understands profoundly well the ever-changing nature of this most raw and real of all entertainments.

The Showmanship of Change, Beginning with Astley

Ballet of the Elephants, Ringling Bros. Circus, 1942

At the dawn of circus – London, 1772 — elephants were not there.  Neither the flying trapeze.  What was there were life-affirming feats of astonishing acrobatic agility and daring-do, on horseback, on and over the sawdust. And many other things. And so must they still be there today, if circus has a fighting chance to endure.  I am afraid it will only get harder.  The man at the top expounded on this eloquently to the Times, giving them the most impressive quote of his that I have ever come across. To Ms.Brodesse-Akner, the Feld of Felds explained:

“The circus has changed over the years.  There’s no entertainment that’s been around for this long that you could name.  We’re older than baseball.  We’re older than Coca Cola.  I don’t know how many times it’s been re-imagined, reinvented, but I know we’ve probably done it six, eight times.  We’re going to do it again without the elephants in a whole different way.  Then we’re going to do it again and we’re going to do it again and we’re going to do it again."

Amen to that.

 One Last Headstand for the History Books

Thursday, May 26, 2016

MIDWAY FLASH! ... Cirque du Soleil Lands 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.