Saturday, May 03, 2008

New Book Due Proclaims American Circus Heyday "Largest Showbiz Industry the World Has Ever Seen" --- Go, USA!


My, does that make me feel good, especially since it's coming from outsiders looking back at our three-ring extravaganzas. I kind of all along felt that without ever trying to confirm my hunches. (Okay, we'll overlook Hollywood in the forties luring into movie houses 90 million people every week.)

The book, due out in June, is so clinically titled -- The Circus: 1870-1950 -- that considering its touted sweep, I would have called it The Circus: 1871-1956, but then I quibble. It bears the work of one (only one?) editor, two authors -- outsiders named Dominique Jando (now a San Francisco resident) and Canadian Linda Granfield -- and a "contributing author," fact checker extraordinaire Fred Dahlinger,Jr., once of the Circus World Museum library.

Pages? 670. Photos? count 'em -- 900, many by the legendary shutter masters.

Price: $200.00. This looks like a monumental. In fact, like a museum. Books of this daunting visualality tend to render me weak and helpless in their presence, and for sheer survival I settle by default for the photos. And what visuals these promise to be! Hard to imagine, in the discriminating vain, 900 top-notch images, although history needs mediocre photography, too.

But, once I can get my hands on a library copy, I will be most eager to see what "they" say, looking back at "us." I wonder if they will understand how we on this side of the Atlantic took all those great acts they sent our way and cast them so innovatively in such spectacular shows ... Europe had the talent, but little presentational pizazz. We never had nearly the talent, but we had showmanship of all angles and spangles --- from Coup-Barnum-Costello to John Ringling North.

[photo above, from Taschen books website: The glory that was Ringling: On the midway, circa 1955, during the John Ringling North era. Do I see Henry Ringling North -- the man with the tie?]

5 comments:

henry edgar said...

i'd love a copy of this - but at $200.00, by the time i can afford it, i'll probably be too old to read it.

Wade G. Burck said...

Show biz,
The book should be incredible. I suggest the sequel be, WHAT HAPPENED!!!! with fact's and all.
Wade Burck

P.S. I'll go halfies with you Henry, my friend. I'll read it to you, and then keep it at my place. I assume as it only goes up to 1956, we won't waste our time debating GGW. LOL
Wade

Paul H. said...

With all due respect, this fan is NOT going to shell out a pair of C-notes, plus tax and shipping. Sheesh!

john herriott said...

My recent comment that hardly scratches the bsurface neglected the bgreatest circus bexecutive since W>C>Coup, Mr. Art Concello. I hate it when self appointed historians describe what theyb feel it was and how it should be. Thats not history, thats someones personal agenda and by all means should not be recognized. Chindahl did a great job and Sturdevants "white Tops" papers are priceless. Joe Bradbury wrote for our generation and he called it just right. Fred Dahlinger is marvelous in his incredidably researched papers. His "Bandwagon" papers are what a great historian must do. Dan Draper has researched the Equesgtrian arts and left no stone unturned. David, I wish you well. I am very concerned that it can get Disconbobulated, which it has already happened in that Feld bought Circus Williams [and its connected history] and that Feld saved the GSOE from under canvas to bldngs. Mr. Concello did that in every way, with Harry Dube and others and revolutionized the expertise in indoor circus operations and in turn kept it as the GSOE with a tight budget. Nobody in the industry could have done that.

Showbiz David said...

It will be interesting to see how this new book may touch upon the third rail of circus history: The Feld claim of moving the show indoors and "saving it." I doubt it will pass along those fictions given Fred Dahlinger's input and given its stated period of coverage. BTW: George Chindahl's book, A History of the Circus, which I have greatefully used, strikes me as a magnificent research source. There are some of us who refuse to allow Arthur M. Concello the anonymity that others have wished him.