Carson and Barnes Circus, in the 1960s

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday Night Showbiz Take-Outs: Fighting Over the Fat Lady; A Dog and His Man; A Funeral for Laughs; A Backyard Lady Tells All ...

While we hover on the edge of ringless lots hoping not to see more tents tumble, let’s recall those five fabulous brothers from Baraboo who started out so united, and as time went on, splintered off into a million fractions that somehow miraculously held together. Here, for example, is a curve that could have felled weaker partners: The incredible nerve of John Ringling voiding a fat lady contract signed by Al for her to appear with Ringling, which Al and Charles ran —— so that greedy John could ink the same dame for Barnum & Bailey, which he and Otto ran. This juicy disclosure amazed me in Jerry Apps’ excellent tome, Ringlingville. The author, though, makes little dramatic uproar over such disturbing incidents, preferring I guess to hold up the glossy image of the Big Five forever in collegial lockstep. As we have long known, it turned uglier by the year as one by one the boys passed onto the Big Lot, leaving only John and Charles to battle it out in a sad escalating rivalry. And what a farce that turned into. A must read for all Ringlingphiles

Imperfectly in tandem, a man and his sweet dog. You’ve heard it said how a mute can resemble the man who feeds it. Here is one for the books, made in tinsel town. Seated outdoors At Fred 62 on Vermont, a man dining across from me had a cute little dog, sitting up nervously at his feet in a limping manner “He really is devoted to you,” I commented. “No, he wants some food,”said the man. Sure thing, once favored, the mute turned his gaze upon me. And a little later when the man got up to walk away, the little dog limped off. So, too, in a more pronounced manner, did his keeper. So utterly touching. A sight I will never forget. Only in L.A.

Rating the Circus Web sites: This time around and to my great delight, I’ll be joined on a three-judge panel by my own sister, Kathy, who will bring an outsider’s point of view. Then there is Ron “Sazzie,” like I, a long-running circus nut. Each of the sites will be graded in six categories: first impression; routing information; visuals of the show; ticketing; press or customer feedback; and last impression. The three of us will score individually (without consulting or comparing notes), and the sites will be ranked in order by simple adding up of our numbers. The most points any circus can receive, if they get a perfect “5" in each of the six categories, is a victorious 30. Three critics times 30 equals 90 points max. A few peeks reveal to me that some shows have made changes, warranting a second look by Showbiz David, Consumer Courts Division.

Death at a Funeral: A fabulous new flick ... Is this the funniest-cleverest movie I have ever seen? Call it a comedy gusher full of brilliant surprises from those witty Brits. It has quirky suspense, revealing insights into the precarious social customs that sometimes keep fragile human beings together long enough — maybe, almost – to honor the passing of one of their own. It is nearly perfect in script development, I can’t say enough. Unless you are put off by the ever-changing sexual landscape, Go see it!

Let’s end this with a cozy little visit to Baraboo Barb, who reports having struck occupational gold working a day & nite job at concessions on Ringling’s homey Gold unit; That’s how contented Barb makes it sound, in her own words: “I actually truly love what I do. The public is a hoot, when it’s crazy (2500 people trying to buy in just one hour) I have fun. The downside is a show’s tour ending and a new one being reborn ... people scattering isn’t something I’ve ever been comfortable with...I enjoy the ease of knocking on a trailer door to see what someone’s cooking. I’m flattered when a kid comes knocking on my door.”

Ah, the simple joys of trouperhood. I’m envious, Barb!

And that's a wrap, this one for Billy. Hey, luv, can you hear us up there? What are you cooking up just now?

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