Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Midweek Midway Mixup: Mud & Slush, Grift and Glory and the Straw Houses They Pray For ...

“Staycations” are the new rage, and maybe (or have I already said this), tent shows taking it to the front yards of gas-pump averse Americans, will yet soar this depressed season .... But then again, they may have to compete with Maud’s Ice Cream Parlor, Sammy’s Casino for Dummies. or the local Flea Markets ... BTW: Oklahoma, full of circus savvy, is also full of oil mogul T. Boon Pickens, at 80 charging ahead on the internet to promote his reformed view of an America free of Arabian fuel, full of wind power and other novel alternatives ...

Gas, gas, gas. How can these shows afford just to move? I marvel. I marvel. I marvel. Somehow, brother, they keep at it, through mud and muck and wet and shine. Like an adolescent chasing after a second kiss from an unforgettable crush. In this case, that crush is just one more pair of packed houses, which erases out all the down days in-between. “When everything works,“ blogs mud show guy Ben Trumble, cheering a boffo Kelly-Miller day in Ohio, “the circus business is a thing of beauty.” Ah, how I recall a packed Wallace Bros. tent when the band blared full force and sassy Cosetta Cristiani high-kicked a sassy cakewalk atop a cantering horse ... And here, straycationing again, soon comes the return to Kelly-Miller of one Katherine North, daughter of show owner John Ringling North II, seen here, left, with manager James Royal. Royal hints of a Ringling conversion. “I fear her design business is taking a back seat to the circus.” She’s immersed in “a variety of projects for the show.” Please, Ms. Katherine, make one of them the overhaul of that musty moribund Kelly-Miller website.

What they do for circus. When Ms. Katherine recently guest managed for a week, she, in the words of John Moss, “made all the right decisions. It must be in the blood.” Still to be seen is John Ringling North III — yes, I said, the third... They just keep on coming, and isn’t that grand?

Kelly Miller, in truth, has had to fight mother nature at almost every gloomy turn. “Rarely a week passes when we haven’t had rain, and plenty of it, creating problems with our lots,” reports Royal. The show must go on. Must be moved every night. If you love it, you shove it, you push, you pull, and you fight ...

Those lucky circus animals! So privileged and pampered — when not pushing, shoving, or pulling — compared to the tragic plight of so many critters left to the genuine cruelly of average ordinary creeps who ought to be locked up in prison cages. Another heart-breaking
tale, they seem to spill forth almost daily, comes from a liberal enclave known as Santa Cruz (CA) county. A dog breeder’s house, finally pried open by the police, fraught with dozens of dead, starved and/or sickly dogs, at least one decapitated, skulls of others arranged in some sick Tarantino order, others still alive too traumatized to accept the touch of a human. Said a neighbor to a local TV reporter, “I can hear dogs throughout the night with vicious and crying sounds.” And he's heard those sounds for years. PETA and Lady Ingrid, what have you to say of all this?
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Band- wagon’s take on the remarkable Norma Cristiani, essayed by Lane Talburt, continues to enthral in the key of candor. You gotta respect the Pfenings for taking on what was for years a virtual cottage industry under our big tops — grift, grift, grift, which in words spoken to me once by Art Concello, “moved the show.” Norma’s dad, Ben Davenport (that's him in the photo), recently enshrined at the Ring of Fame (which seems to be gutting its credibility down to zero) was a top of the line grifter-in-chief. “The gamblers were eventually assigned to their own private car — reinforcing the importance of grift to the show’s fortunes.” I had no idea how large the Daily Bros. show was: up to 25 elephants at one time; PR man Bev Kelly serving a stint on the advance; Ex-Ringling manager George Smith being hired and allowed to shape up a messy operation. What they had to do, turning their heads away from the ugly realities, in order to draw a paycheck ...

Ringling soon comes to Oakland, offering kids a ticket for only ten bucks. And the Sawdust Kid (that would be Logan Jacot) out of touch with the world, got his keyboard back, then had to dash off to help tear down a cage ... And the Mud Show Guy no doubt dreams of more idyllic days tenting over green grass, under yellow and blue skies before a packed tent. And gifted Christian Stoinev, with Big Apple Circus, sharing with a reporter the joys of trouping. “Making people smile and feeling gratitude for what you have done. And feeling appreciated."

What they do for all those wonderful people who still give them a chance under tattered canvas peaks to keep the magic alive ...

2 comments:

john herriott said...

I am amazed that North 11, Royal and the Byrds allow an employee to print out general information for public consumption concerning daily circus operations concerning routing, ticket saales and policies, animal care and other operations. And to have an opinion, or second guess operations in general. This is unheard of and I can well imagine Hoxie Tucker, Gil Gray and others telling said person to get his Bull Durham bag and empty cigar box and "get his crap down the road". I believe its hard enough to keep a "trap" going [Art Concello term] without that kind of scrutiny. Also it seems when times get really tough the rats desert the sinking ship.

Bob Childress said...

My thoughts exactly.
Bob Childress