Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bandwagon’s Incessant Spell ...

Out of the past: From September 19, 2007


Showbiz David from out of the past

A rush of memories
down the track whenever I read a new Bandwagon... Circus Kirk —- the lead off story — I know a little about, having “interviewed” (my first with a tape recorder, I think) back in Clymer PA on 8/7/75 a few of the kids. A couple are quoted in my forthcoming Fall of the Big Top ... So many rings ago, and memory stirs them back onto muddy and grassy lots ... Clyde Beatty’s cage boy, Manuel “Junior” Ruffin, neatly profiled too, joined the show the same year I saw it in Santa Rosa, 1952 ... "Hoxie" Tucker, for whom Ruffin later worked (and whose nasty moods he suffered), once insulted me big time, and why? I took a break from press agenting for Sid Kellner’s James Bros. in 1969 to take in a Hoxie performance. The little big top boss, learning of my employer, glared at me, “What the hell are you doing chasing circuses when you are supposed to be a press agent?” That’s a paraphrase of his uncouth reprimand. ... Later he saw me standing in line with a bought ticket in hand and said nothing ...

Another acid tongue? Sid Kellner, who veered from charming to vile... Another year (1972), I sold Mr. K. on hiring me to work some Chicago area dates for his George Matthew's Great London, for money and an all-America bus ticket in hand I could use — in case we parted ways. .. The moment I stepped off the greyhound in the windy city, I went into the depot and from a pay phone called the local ABC outlet and right there booked prime TV time.... Later that afternoon, on the lot, big crowds showed up, which I was told were unusual — like rain upon a famine.. Kellner made it clear, to me, “Hey, you had nothing to do with this!” .... This after my venturing into the empty top yet to be opened and discovering my boss brawling verbally after a stunned sponsor, spitting out ugly profanities ... Few days later, I came down with a horrible cold, and from my Chicago hotel room called Kellner, and appealed to nice guy Chester Cable — might they have somebody drop off my first week’s pay to the hotel when next in the city? I was put off and off, and treated terribly ... With overdue check finally in hand and the Greyhound my way out, I declared my “temporary” gig over and continued eastward ...

... Circus Kirk was a lovely little student tenter, full of energy that almost made up for the amateur performers, with a nifty big band ... The kids, nice, the Doc ever so congenial. ... Buckles Woodcock’s Bandwagon photos feature Steve Fanning, who worked a dozen elephants for King Bros. in 1950 ... Oh yes, King Bros. -— it crawled that season into my hometown of Santa Rosa minus the seats. My Mom, with discount coupons in hand, took me and my sister to the lot. We stood on the midway for what seemed hours. I’d glance up at side show banner lines that seemed to stretch clear up to heaven. Inside the tent at last, seated on make-do chairs from a local church, the first circus I ever saw under canvas enthralled me, though I was not yet self-consciously a circus fan. In another few fateful Santa Rosa months came Polack Bros. to the fairgrounds pavilion with a killer lineup. My addiction was born ....

Lastly, there’s a letter in Bandwagon from Barnum as in P.T. — whose handwriting calls to mind the similarly flairful sprawl of another tanbark titan: John Ringling North.... They enter and exit at lucky intervals. How we need them ... Even the Sid Kellners on good- mood days... That ultra-charismatic man -- when he chose to be -- had so much promise, but the phone rooms were his tragic flaw ...

So many rings ago. So many rings still ringing in the midways of my mind... Once you’ve fallen under the sawdust spell ...

9.19.07

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