Steroids in Spangles? You may have heard of a certain baseball player named Bonds, a big deal across the bay in ironically provincial San Francisco. His final at-bats at the ballpark were mourned like nothing I can recall since Big Bertha herself (aka: Ringling-Barnum – are you with us, Craig?) gave up the canvas ghost in Pittsburgh, PA back in 1956 ... Never mind that Mr. Bonds is likely a steroid cheat, which is a long run-in to my wondering aloud: Do Great Circus Stars juice up too? .... Let’s see, the majestic marvel in motion Miguel Vazquez, a rail thin flyer. Juggler Alex Chimal, quite compact ... Sylvia Zerbini, lithe and taut. I’d rue the day when we see hideously bulked up ring stars. Not Codona. Not Bello. Not the hoop divers from Asia aplenty ... Circus, stay fit!
Tricks, that’s what we pay to see, Mr. Big Top Boss.. Having been stood up at Circus Vargas by its headliner owners -- the Tabares Flyers who landed Monte Carlo gold and hype it to the heavens (they delivered a few modest tricks and then headed for the net in haste) I can suddenly appreciate the tyrannical demands of circus owners like John Ringling and Cliff Vargas, both variously known for throwing fits when their imperial darlings failed to deliver the goods... Heck, they will tell you that Mr V. hid out under the seats to secretly monitor the performance and fumed in the aftermath when facing lazy leapers and errant elephants ... As for Mr. John, he is said to have thrown cigar ashes in anger over the deletion of a single trick –- and we are talking circus tricks, thank you.... Which gives me grateful respect for both Ringling and Vargas. Crispy creme breaks may be okay for lawyers and dish washers on parole. NOT okay for acclaimed aerialists ...
The animals, juiced up? What an unkind and insulting thought. My apologies, dogie kingdom and kitty green room. These days, the mutes and the puffers (and disappearing lions and pachyderms) are pouring their hearts out to entertain us as once the entire show did. Hint, hint, Tabares — take a look at your own menagerie and recall when you might have dedicated each and every program to wowing the crowds, however small. ... The animal stars remind us of circus essential. They hold their own without makeup, mist or video replay.
Meanwhile, while a nation of pit bulls keeps the populace in a state of terror and bloody sadistic dog fights continue apace, well-cared-for circus animals continue to drive the animals rights crowd nuts. Up in Minneapolis, where the council came close to outlawing animal acts, Ned Kronberg (CFA’s Minnesota State Chairman) recounts how one overbearing PETA fanatic, in this case a lone city councilman, can steal the debate, in effect shutting down the other side. Listen here! “He dominated most of the discussions and when any one tried to present an opposite side, tried to end their discussion with lots of questions but would not let them really answer, but tried answering for them.” ..... That is exactly what John Pugh often faces, he told me during an interview. All it takes is one noisy apple; and your whole crate is near damned....
Big Apple Basics: What Washington Post critic Celia Wren most liked about this year’s new Big Apple Circus, on its way soon to Gotham, was a certain lack of mystic pretense. “What makes Celebrate! particularly refreshing is that the artists routines have not been tethered to some smart-alecky concept.” Go, Apple, go! Will “concepts” run their course. If audiences see more of them and less real circus action, I’d say YES.
And from Baraboo Barb, gliding down a golden trail on Ringling’s Gold unit, comes a shared regret. Scanning my grudging review of Circus Vargas left her a tad down: ”I feel sad as well that the Tabares weren’t up to their usual spectacular selves. They can be magnificent. Sigh.” Insider Barb references show-disrupting Stork calls. Yasmin, who works the roman rings, is due to have a baby “any time soon.” So is, if I understand Barb correctly, Yasmin’s fill-in on the rings, Katya. Barb offers a softer matronly perspective: “Try it again next season ... babies will be born, mom’s will be back in shape hopefully.” And, hopefully, not juiced up, as in Bonds.
By the way, Barb is enshrined in the Baraboo Hall of Circus Fame, notes Bob Dewel, the town's all-purpose docent. Back there at Ringlingville, things are not yet as Brigadoon-sleepy as I've previously hinted. “We haven’t rolled up the sidewalks yet,” says Bob.
And we trust that Doc Bob is not, in his ever-active retirement, hawking steroids to wire walkers or bow-wow acrobats. Stick to crowns for clowns, okay, Doc?
In a Covington Flash: Irish foot juggling "sensations" The Huesca Bros., with Big Apple Circus, will perform on the Regis and Kelly Show, October 17.