Back There ...
When I read Ben Trumble’s Mud Show blog, mostly because (like the old Billboard magazine) it reports day to day business on the Kelly-Miller lot, I almost feel like a circus owner being apprised by an employee on how (maybe) not to run my show.
Trumble, who himself aspires to own a circus, not only reveals crowd trends (so far this season, from spotty and sparse to the occasional straw house), but unstintingly shares his theories with us about what a good booking agent might do to avoid dry markets and concentrate on harvest dates. He praises the old-era advance men for savvy research. But they too erred. Tent trouping has never been easy.
Says Ben, for example: “Business continues to be off in rural small town MI. A year ago the economic data for MI pointed to a rough time of it outside the metro- Detroit suburbs. The collapse in housing values in MI rivals declines in parts of California and Florida. That creates a credit crunch arriving at the same time as a slump in MI manufacturing. Not exactly sure why so few shows actually look at localized economic and demographic data in booking.”
Aside from arguing, incorrectly I believe, that “for the last hundred years ... we put on a show to sell popcorn and elephant rides”(elephant rides the last hundred years???), Trumble’s shared musings raise timely questions. He’s a thoughtful guy.
Bloggers on the midway, ironically, tend to be, from what I can tell, the pros and not the fans. From clown Pat Cashin down to Wade Burck and Balloon Man Dick Dykes, and first-of-may kid Logan Jacot (Sawdust Nights). Even I’ve earned a few bucks under the tents. Turns out I have a tenuous professional connection to probably the most popular blogger of all, Buckles Woodcock, for in 1969 we both worked on George Matthews Great London Circus (known as James Bros. the year before). See that photo there? I had a stack of them in the back of my Ford Bronco when I drove across the country as “national press representative” for the excitingly erratic Sid Kellner.
Where are the circus fans in all this? Peepless as usual, I suspect — unlike their counterparts in all other venues from sports to pop music, who have no problem shouting out opinions — second guessing coach calls and telling big shots how to conduct a business. Here, the pros are doing it — over the internet.
New age, indeed. Ben Trumble, who actually works for Kelly Miller in “media relations,” seems to be working more for the media as a field reporter than for KM. Or is this simply a new paradigm in a new age yet to be sorted out? Once upon a time, press agents spun tales of happy crowds up and down the sawdust trails. Now, at least one of them wonders what went wrong every other day.
First posted August 25. 2008