Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mid Week Midway Mix ...Circus Vargas breaking or folding???


Most troubling tidbit to toss around at the tea shop (I’m having Dragonwell, and you?...): Circus Vargas taking a “brief summer break,” per their website, promising to show up soon in Northern California. And my doubting heart sinks, fearing another long Circus Chimera summer, the latter having yet to return ... Oakland’s new Circus Bella (pictured above) as pure of heart as once was the Pickle Family Circus. It’s leader David Hunt e-mailed me a video of the gang in first outing charming a laid back Sebastopol gathering ... They’ve got dreams, and they’ve got wry Jeni Johnson who tilts whimsically off axis, pretending to be a reluctant ringmistress actually plotting inside to declare big top mutiny ... She’s a promising grad from the S.F. Clown Conservatory ... Watch her...

Egotist Richard Barstow, who directed Ringling-Barnum for many years, meets his equal and nearly ends up on the couch. Here’s the Great One in 1954, writing a letter to his boss, John Ringling North: “I beg of you to protect me from this mad man Barbette, as I cannot function with him screaming and interfering.” I read it to Sarasota friend Robert Mitchell over the phone, and Bob’s howling laugh was worth the sharing. “Barbette could be pretentious.” BTW, Bob remembered watching the great Clyde Beatty in 1952 up in Portland. “Everybody sat straight up in their seats.” So did we down in Santa Rosa....

And while we’re back in the glorious fifties, here’s Mr. North himself, memo writer, unhappy over ragged performances opening night, 1951, and holding no sacred cow sacred (go, Mr. North!): “Throw out Lou Jacobs’ car gag. He didn’t get the idea the opening night.” ... Okay, so keep it in? ... “Tell Arthur to tell Castle that I would wish him to be as good as he was when I first discovered him.... rather than as good as he convinced Arthur he was when he wanted to engage him in place of Unus.”

Bandwagon's Lane Talburt continues his survey of lovable Norma Davenport Cristiani, and in it, I read about one of the nicest guys I ever met, this during the summer when I “clowned” on Wallace Bros, and that would be Georgie Lake. Without a cloud to swing upon, the once thriving cross-dressing aerialist fell into clown alley, and there he is on the Wallace Bros. lot, 1961. He and another joey worked in drag. I neither dressed up nor down. Lake then suffered diabetes and a fondness for coca cola .... He and his long-time partner shared overnight space in the tail end of an animal semi. "Thursday night" was their night, and how they tried, they joked. Oh, what they did for love ... Young Russian wonder juggler, Vova Galchenko, profiled in depth by The New York Times. Protests idea of glitz and showmanship. Prefers technical mastery. Fails to dazzle at a world competition, his mastery on the ground. To be great you gotta deliver...

That Bella fella up there, David Hunt, flattering my blog (okay, pr may play a part, but, heck, I’m not about to review his trick any time soon): “It’s my reality check in,” writes David to David “only because your words often resonate my own sentiments about circus in the 21st century...” Glad to know I’m in sync somewhere, somehow. “We’re a long way to go but we’ve got dreams and I thank you for your perspective in helping me to stay focused on the ring, the tricks, and the mud.”

And he’s only 36-years-young! I feel connected to tomorrow. These kids are the ones who will decide if there is or is not a tomorrow. Kudos to their dreams!

Here’s me when I was not even half his age, back in high school blowing opinions right and left off a mimeograph machine, railing against what tonight may pass for another example of the big top falling short outside its sacred live rings: “The circus must convince the public that its impact will never be captured over a television screen.”

Celebrity Circus, okay, I'll be watching. Not exactly because I want to...

P.S. I watched the bed sheets ballet and the gushing judges who acclaimed it, and went to bed. Oh, no, might I have slept through hula hoops on pointe?

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