Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NBC to Me: Do You Want to Judge “Celebrity Circus?”

Out of the past: From April 16, 2008
Showbiz David hit the rails today to follow some arrows

Monte Carlo is one thing. A bunch of Hollywood actors trying to look like circus artists, quite another. (BTW: whatever became of David Nelson on the flying trapeze?)

Still, ego is ego, and so when somebody calls me (as they do every two or three years), my own inflated sense of superiority goes for a wild ride. Usually, to nowhere.

This time, it was an e-mail from one Ashton Ramsey, his name right above “NBC’s Celebrity Circus.” He wanted to talk to me “about maybe being a judge” (Yes, I know, that headline above that got you in here was a shameless tease.). I called back.

“So, you’re the only real circus critic there is,” he began. Immediately impressed, and hardly feeling vain, I told him, yes you are correct. After all, who else is there out there? White Tops? One of the blogs that selectively picks on Ringless Bros? ***

Ashton had been background checking me, digging around in this here blog, and he seemed somewhat intrigued to have discovered my murky existence. We talked about that critic thing for a while. “Yeah, I’m your Simon Cowell of the big top.” I told him I’ve been mouthing off since I was 14-years old, when I was first published (of all places, in the White Tops).

We talked about who the other judges might be. He ran some names past me. One is a retired and much loved aerialist. Another is a well paid star with a very large U.S. show, whose work I recently reviewed not exactly falling for all the show-generated hype. (I’m purposely not mentioning names because, believe it or not, I still have a shred of ethics and I don’t wish to derail the prospects for any potential non-circus judge.)

But as for me, the next thing they needed — and fast — was a mock “interview.” Said Ashton, they would call me up in the next few days and while I answered the questions, I would record it and then send the recording to them to review.

There was a problem. I don’t own a video recorder.

“You must know somebody who has one,” said Ashton, expecting me to administer a screen test to myself!

So much for that thing about my being the only true living circus critic. In the eyes of Hollywood (aka: Ramsey Casting), I guess I’m ranked somewhere between Pretentious Novelty from the lost big top to Game Show Contestant .

“And be sure it’s a DV, not a DVD”

Oh, I see.

Every three or four years, something like this happens. PBS has called a couple of times — independent film maker wanting me as talking head for some project on spec. Please send resume. Resume sent. Silence thereafter from the other end.

I was about to be mock interviewed on camera for The Learning Channel — until I learned that Feld Entertainment was partly funding a circus documentary that would be sold on its midways. No thanks, Jose, said I to Jose. I don’t flack for veiled Feld promos. I was sorry to reject because I liked Jose.

Back to NBC. To the savvy Ashton, whom I enjoyed talking to, I e-mailed my ambivalence. Such as not feeling to good about sitting next to a performer whose work I have refused to acclaim as do some of the fans. Such as wondering if Celebrity Circus might be scripted — as I’ve heard some so called reality shows are. I offered to do an audition interview up here if they could send somebody. (That’s what TLC would have done)

In hasty reply, he wrote — “ Yeah, let’s just work on the camera and not get ahead of yourself. No, we are not going to script you. No, xxxx [star] isn’t signed on. And yes this show would help you sell a lot of copies of your books! So baby steps.”

So goo goo and da da. I have yet to see or hear of a camera at my door. Know what I think? When an Ashton calls, most people chase the chance to get their mugs on a TV show.

But I leaped ahead and took a few daring adult steps. And reigned in my ego and mellowed out to refit myself into a bigger saner picture. And I had an idea. Since I would be coming to Los Angeles in three weeks to board a train, I e-mailed Ashton an offer to meet him Union Station for a test interview. And I waited for his reply. Which never came. Not another world.

I started out many years ago with a big ego. Believe it or not, over time, it’s gotten a lot smaller. If Ashton calls you, remember, baby steps first....and have your personal film crew standing by.

*** Update, 5/21/12: Belated apologies for unintentionally slighting Ernest Albrecht and his Spectacle magazine. He puts out thoughtful circus reviews; blame my omission on temporary megalomania. Celebrity Circus, a hopelessly humdrum drag, was a short-lived six week flop. End of story.



henry edgar said...

david - if they call back, go for it! you really COULD be the simon of the circus! seriously, it's hard to find someone as honest no matter what as you!

Logan Jacot said...

I agree with Henry. I think the circus industry really does need a Simon.


Showbiz David said...

Gosh, you guys are playing to my ego, and I almost feel 14 years old again. Okay, I'll tell 'em you two gave it a thumbs up --- if they call. -:) or -):

Raffaele De Ritis said...

few notes about living circus critics. I think that, according your experience, your knowledge of history and present, your honesty and your writings, you are surely a very important reference circus critic in the true sense of term. It is also true that, fortunately, others deserves the same status so you are not alone in your hard role.
For example, Mr. Ernest Albrecht is a very competent critic, with a solid theatre background too, editing the only real circus critic magazine in the Usa, and constantly travelling personally Europe in the major festivals and circuses.
And, even if not born in America, you have in the country Dominique Jando. By his long and unique experience, I consider him the greatest living critic and historian in the world, for circus past and present. I don't think that in America ther are today circus scholar with his knowledge of the subject. Crossing the ocean, there are many other circus critics. Pascal Jacob, in France, is known worldwide in the business and is the most prolific circus writer today, having signed dozens of book for prestigious publishers in his country. Christian Hamel, in France president of Club du Cirque, is a very competent critic, widely recognized in the continent. Don Stacey in Great Britain is the world veteran of the circus critic, and David Jamieson (King Pole editor) is not les competent in his country. Artur Hofmeester in Holland signed in decades hundreds of honest critcs about the most important circuses in the world.
Frederic Bollman in Switzerland is by 30 years one of the most respected circus critics in the world. Jordi Jane, in Spain, is at my knowledge the only circus critic in the world having a weekly circus column on a national daily newspaper. In Italy, Alessandro Serena teaches circus at the university of Milano and regularly debates and reviews about circus in many papers. And I permit to add myself, having signed hundreds of articles for all the majors circus magazines in the world, and of specific books . The same can be said for Julio Revolledo Cardenas in Mexico, or Mark St.Leon in Australia.

If you ever was at the Monte Carlo Circus Festival, the press office hosts yearly at least 50 circus writing specialist from all over the world.
And I think is a good thing for the circus.