Sunday, May 25, 2008
Circus in Games, Gossip and Teenage Rage...
BigTopolis Rocks the Rails. Youngest person, so far, to play my new board game. Name’s Ryan. Top of his class, he told me. Child prodigy I’d say. Sauntered up my way on the train, looked at my pc and told me I should spell check. Kept leaving and coming back. Saw my game board (I was working on changes after playing BigTopolis over the rails three times between CA and NY), and ended up nearly begging me to play him a game. No table around, I said. So, we can play it right here, he protested. And we played ... BTW: when you “invent” a game, try it out on as many people as you can. That’s how you learn. That’s how the game is changed and gets better.... Asked this crafty Ryan, “Can you steal a city from another circus owner?” Well, there is now a fortune card that kind of allows you to be that ruthless... Oh, his age? "I've only been alive for eight years," he told me. Exact quote.
Carson & Barnes Trouping into Trouble? From a solid inside source passing along “rumors,” Carson and Barnes down in the Florida area where alligators dare to tread is a “train wreck.” Ooops, and gosh, and I hope not. “As of midweek, the show hadn’t had a good day the entire month.” Might be routing or ticket prices or chasing after New Cole. Or weakness on the advance ... Pray I, they gotta get out to California so I can see ‘em first before they careen off the tracks. Please, Barbara Byrd, while you’re out here, pitch your big tents at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds where Clyde Beatty once pitched his. I’d even book a hotel room up there so I could rise at the crack of dawn ... Kid willing to seat up seats for a ticket...
This a strangely happy season -- maybe. According to my source out there, some of the smaller tops are holding their own despite gas pump rapes and labor shortage blues....How I miss the old Billboard that each week headlined big top biz, i.e, “Straw houses follow King Bros. Big Bertha spotty in Chicago...”
New voices commenting in: Sam Graff agrees with my ecstatic assessment of Anthony Gatto: “Gatto is pretty much unanimously considered to be the best juggler in the world ... and I say that being a sport juggler myself. I personally know many of the world’s greatest jugglers, and Gatto by far exceeds everyone else. Period.” Yeah, Sam, after watching Gatto at Kooza, I was left dumbfounded. Woman next to me expressed similar elation. “He’s the best.” Those miraculous moments of discovery only come around a few times in a lifetime ... Which is why I do not read programs or bios until after I have forced myself to take a stand on each and every act. That’s my kind of a high wire walk.... And Ryan (not the 8-year-old BigTopolis player) syncs in with my argument about circus story telling: “When will someone return from an evening at the circus and say, ‘What a great story! You gotta see it!”?? Yeah, Ryan, when.
Narcissistically yours: Reading myself, (new feature, before I’m shouted off this lot) ONLY because, I’m going back to the year 1957 when I was in high school, when less than a year earlier John Ringling North had struck the tents for good in Pittsburgh and I was still hating him for doing it. I lost all perspective, yet somehow a rant I self published off a high school mimeograph machine, called 1957 Sawdust, found its way into the Billy Rose collection at the NY Public Library. So, it’s on their exalted authority that I shamelessly self-quote (spelling abominations and all), rereading what I wrote in my mid-teens for the first time since probably I typed it out on long stencil sheets and felt such a heady thrill.
Mr. North: “Glamourized Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey to the point where the channel #5 on the chorus girls and the tint job on the elephants could no longer mix ... It has been drizzling Mr. North ever since that fateful day in July [1956, Pittsburgh].
The outdoor-indoor Ringling 1957 tour: “Performers will engage in this cross-country tango overland in a fleet of house trailers, between “jumps” - and when they are not jumping, they will be “halting.”
“The last half of the show, dressed up in a handsome aerial turn, plus some excellent comedy and aerial acts, is a sigh of relief to the sluggishness that haunts the first half.”
“The show has again been directed and designed by Barbette, the greatest creator of circus specs alive. Barbette has contrived a number of weirdly exciting rapurizations, among them: 'Carnival in Spangleland,' 'Beauty on the Wing.'”
The Wallendas on TV:
"A circus act must be seen in its entirety. Watching the Wallendas or any other thriller perform only part of their act is like catching a fish without casting for it.”
Trying to imagine the Wallendas under a Ringling big top in the 1920s: “I can see the masses of tightly set eyes all focused upon one object — the Wallendas. I can even imagine the vendors utterly speechless as they never are, silent, oh so silent under the fallout of this electrifying, never-wracking shocktacular.”
Some people used to say I couldn’t spell. I said no, I just made up another word...
In praise of Pinito: "Miss Galla Schwan has been slotted to replace the extremely gifted Pinito Del Oro [whom by the way, the showman I was trashing, JRN, imported, along with scores of the best acts in the world]
Loved the baby Besalou bulls: “Featured somewhat this season with the act, is a ambitious poodle that strutters and romps atop the backs of elephants, staying mainly on the plain.”
Riding a Bandwagon High. What a grown-up thrill, feeling like a high school kid discovering in the latest issue of the Bandwagon that editor Fred Pfening, in his roundup of the tanbark season just completed, reprinted my entire reviews of both Circus Vargas and Cirque du Soleil's Kooza. Thanx Fred, for the high high honor. Maybe I have matriculated since my messy 1957 Sawdust days...
Next time we meet: the Real Richard Barstow...