Saturday, April 28, 2007

Big Top Bits: The White Tops Promises Criticism, Kelly-Miller, More Silence, Cirque, More Fog ...


We begin with my "death" which never happened ... Hamarstrom is not Hallberstam, thank you. Across the years I’ve been confused for the much richer, more famous and prolific writer named David Hallberstam. Tragically, this well-revered author of numerous books on politics and society died in a car crash not far from where I live ... A few people contacted me with guarded concern ... Robert Mitchell's phone message ended, "talk to you later — I hope ..." A mystically inclined e-mail correspondent invited me to "Reply the best way you can." Hmmm. Were I the other Hammarwhatever, an outreach seance back to planet earth might have been in order ...

Talk about being mistaken for someone we are not, seems the new and graphically improved White Tops magazine wants to be mistaken for a serious purveyor of critical reviews. I have in hand a comp copy, sent courtesy of Vern Mendonca (himself on track to be the CFA’s next president-elect). Inside, the usual platitudes embrace all shows big and small ...

Pardon my journalism, but a CFA reality check is in order, folks:. The Circus Fans Association, since is inception in 1927, has been a cheer-leading arm of the circus industry. New editors John and Mardi Wells promise "previews" and "reviews" ---- the latter, actual critiques of "the quality of the overall show " done by "those qualified to do them." And who would those be? Already, me thinks not ...

Raves roll forth apace, nonetheless. Ringling’s 137th opus is heralded as Feld's "best show ever." So, let's see, what if the "review"to follow disagrees? What happens, then, when somebody’s feelings get hurt and somebody (maybe like, say, a performer or owner) cools off on allowing fans coveted "jackpot" privileges in the backyard when the circus comes to town?

... In the same new and improved issue, a letter writer, claiming to have seen 100 circus performances, says this about the semi-new Ringless Bros. Blue, now in its second-year tour: "Let me go on record: this is the best show I have ever seen."

The drumbeat of acclaim never ends. And the fans seem to fall over each other in a mad dash to render their "best ever" reviews. Twas ever thus, I rue ... So many volunteer press agents. So little sobriety ... If only more reviews were thought out the morning after, if you get my drift ...

For the CFA to allow independent criticism goes totally against the organization’s DNA. Many years ago in my bristling adolescence (as opposed to my bristling decline), I managed to sneak past a notice both praiseworthy and critical of Polack Bros, and I have then-White Tops editor Walter H. Hohenadel to thank, thank you. In fact, were it not for the White Tops , believe it or not I might not now be carrying on like I am ... But don’t assume the course I staked out, for a moment codified in CFA ink, was granted many encores. Hardly. More about this remarkable chapter in my mini-career at the typewriter in a future post.

Back to "best ever" sentiments. In promising contrast to the status quo, a gingerly worded — though refreshingly insightful — White Tops review of Traces by Dominique Jando analyzes the show down to the non-circus it is. Operating, however, safely off the sawdust trail, Jando is careful to give the show high marks overall. (To read my own take on Traces, posted last December, type "Traces" in the search box above.) Will Jando and others dare to nitpick away over things they don’t like about "real" circuses? Will the CFA allow an invasion of opinionated fans? Will it dare rile the circus world it revels in celebrating and protecting? "We fight anything that fights the circus," is its still proudly-quoted motto. No, I think not....

Away from CFA hoopla, there are promising signs here and there of free-thinking under the big top, whatever the motives. Over at Circus News.Com, the Zimmers, Al and Beverly of Bradenton, complain that Ringling’s hometown edition at Robards Arena "stunk." Ouch, and don’t submit that to the White Tops. However, I’m sure their red-hot valentine to Sailor Circus in the same piece — "worthy of Madison Square Garden" — would be a front-page candidate.
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And pardon my journalism, Jim Royal and John Ringling North II, but I am still waiting for details (titles, themes, make up, anything, boys) on the "three small production numbers" you tell me you are presenting to your Kelly-Miller audiences. ... A non-practicing CFAer, I am fascinated with any clues that may tell us something about JRN II’s aesthetics ... Yes, it’s not fun pressing for details, but let me be the one to do it ... My second e-mail to Royal awaits a royal thaw ...

Future best-evers, brought to us by CircusNews.Com: Cirque Du Soleil, at work on its new tent show Koza, promises a "return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil." I hope this means the simplicity they brought to L.A. in 1987 — before Vegas called ... Moscow hosts the Third Global Circus Festival from June through August. Thirteen countries are expected to compete, and what an exciting bash that should be! .... Cirque’s Koza circuses around "a melancholy loner in search of his place in the world." ... Cirque’s other show getting prepped for Madison Square Garden in November, follows the quest of a boy named Wintuk "to find snow and adventure."... That should keep the ice machines working overtime ... Ah, yes, leave 'em gasping over the substance stuff ...

You can have all the dry ice and soul-searching you want. I’ll take the circus that center rings Matinee, the sensational 9-year old mare who has rewritten the book on dressage. She, in my opinion the best ever, is profiled right here on this blog, and it’s all free ...

And that’s a White Tops Wrap!

1 comment:

henry edgar said...

once again, you've said what no one else will say(except for the more honest contributotrs to buckles' blog) the new editors of white tops have done a far superior job to the last, and i understand the cheerleading aspect. that's what white tops is about. but there are far too many "best evers' that make you wonder if the reviewers have ever seen a circus. the days of bigger, better and grander than ever are gone forever. today's shows are pathetic in comparison with the shows of the past. the average age of a cfa member indicates they might have at least seen some of the the shows of the 60s. have they no honor? don't they realize even the show owners and performers know better?