Friday, April 18, 2008

Into the Last Sawdust Night ... With a Fanfare or a USDA Escort?

(correction, 4/19: I erroneously reported animal problems with Circus Vargas; The show is Circus Vazquez)

Update 4/21: Read Ben Trumble's comment at the end of this post, stressing that local Los Angeles County officials, not the USDA, banned the animals.

“Not with a bang, but a whimper,” this is how the world ends, wrote poet T.S. Elliot. And the circus? With a Merle Evans Crescendo? --- or the last episode of the last reality show making fools of actors pretending to be ring stars?

Some say it will vanish like vaudeville. Others, like barely 20-something Logan Jacot, say not at all. Read on: “I have great respect for the circus industry,” writes he on his new blog, Sawdust Nights. “They have conquered all odds and somehow the circus is still alive and well in the twenty first century though it was pronounced dead over fifty years ago.” Sawdust Nights. Love those two words rhapsodically linked, Logan ...

So let us of the aging class take hope and raise our Dragonwell tea — or, well, whatever it is you raise — to a thousand more sawdust nights. Link in a blink to Logan’s log — you’ll find it right here to your right. It merits serious attention.

Logan tells us he is now training a complete rabbit act! He speaks promisingly for the younger generation, defending big tops against their PETA-centric foes. This smart kid smartly advocates more websites and blogs pushing to get out the circus side of the story: “We need to really start focusing our efforts to stop the propaganda and lies about the circus industry and I really believe everybody that supports the circus needs to start focusing more on the internet.” Amen and a crashing fanfare to that, Logan!

Specifics? Urges, he, “Upload more pro animals videos to YouTube and other video hosting sites.” Okay, you’ve got your marching orders, people. Know what? It’s about time I see how and if I can load videos onto this here midway....

And how our battered big tops need more vocal and visual on-line defense. Simply awful is the news out of L.A. (by way of media watchdog Don Covington) about the eviction from Circus Vazquez of five tigers who nearly decapitated, earlier this spring, a female tiger when all shared the same cage overnight. Tiger died. And that’s not all: Banned, too, are three Vazquez elephants from Panorama City, whose keeper, Will Davenport, was cited for “having recently violated federal animal welfare laws,” according the L.A. Daily News. I don’t know how much in violation of the rules Vazquez actually was (the show did not return phone calls for comment from ABC news), but it doesn’t look good. And for it to happen in a town where three is a news camera on nearly every corner. My heart grieves for all circus owners who do everything they can to right the wrongs of the past and present animals under ideal conditions.

Not with a bang but a USDA eviction. Let’s go somewhere else, okay? Here’s chirpy Marilyn Hardy, fondly recalling the high she got back at Madison Square Garden in 1957 when ringmaster Harold Ronk sang “Open the window wide and let the sun in!” In her own words: "High hat and arms raising a cape like great black wings, he captivated my young spirit with the dynamic energy of that song." The tune was composed by John Ringling North projecting a new day sans big top. Ms. Hardy is doing a film about songs of the sun, and she wants to include North's contribution. I hated to tell her it wasn't a favorite of mine. And it struck me a few days ago, so much of the North music that I loved from the under canvas years was played by Merle Evans. All of the songs for the indoor years were conducted by the very different Izzy Cervone. Could that be why? I know, Cervone has his fans who make solid arguments in his favor. But, somehow either he or North failed in the asphalt mode.

Not with a bang but a reality show blowout? Noting the premature demise of ABC's Circus of the Stars, Don Covington asks me, “David, your new career may be in jeopardy? Do you think NBC will follow suit?" Not quite yet, Don. Ashton Ramsey just called. So my tenuous hold on tanbark celebrity is still tenuously holding. Maybe not with a bang, but half a whimper from a full wimp.


DanTheBooker said...

david, my name is Dan, I have begun a new blog of recent circus pictures i have gathered, I would be both grateful and honored if you could spread the word.

many thanks

B.E.Trumble said...

Let's be clear about this. There were no USDA APHIS non-compliance issues cited in LA, nor was USDA in any way involved. This was strictly an LA County matter, where local officials have decided to judge USDA licensed exhibitors not according to their present behavior, but rather according to their past record over five years. Using the same metric activists will almost certainly call for evicting Ringling the next time they visit LA County too. Ironically rather than promoting animal welfare this cation will only encourage legalistic deception. A licensed exhibitor with even minor non-compliance notations on an inspection report...trailer problems for example... may decide that to work in LA it's easier to create a new "clean" USDA license/permit for a spouse or relative. Same animals, same caretakers, different outcome.

Ben Trumble

Showbiz David said...

Ben, it's the horrible imagery -- a tiger mauled to death; elephants also evicted, all from the same show -- that gives me grave pause. I wish a high-end source like the LA Times would do an in-depth on how this all developed. The following post, I hope and trust, sheds further light.

Wade G. Burck said...

Is that USDA license swap deal not the biggest crock ever conceived. It's like the government seizing your off shore accounts and letting you put them in you sons name to make them legal.
Wade Burck