Thursday, August 21, 2008
Midweek Madness Check-In ... Remember Vaudeville? Remember the Circus?
Okay, in a rush, here we go down the flats and off the runs. See the stranded wagon in the weeds marked Max’s Vaudeville? Been there since the thirties. Not even do I remember vaudeville, but its elements live on — singers, dancers, comics, strip teasers. So, I fear, the circus. Already here are the contorted spin offs, some on stages, some without rings. Theatre heavy, circus light. A table under the trapeze for you, sir? ... Ken Dodd wistfully asked me, “what happened to vaudeville, David?” and said nothing more. In denial he was not.
So, too on the midway: Acrobats to Save-The-Planet here, jugglers and joeys addressing existential gloom over there. Daredevils without mechanics? Check out the BMX bike competions. Under our shriking circus tents,the basics are more and more missing in action. If Circus Oz doesn’t kill the circus, nothing will. Cirque du Soleil, in a fit of brilliance, somehow foresaw the changes coming and leaped by decades ahead over night.
To review or not to review? Two Big epiphanies this season left me wondering why. First one, Circus Osorio, a nice outfit, minimally talented, pleasing families who can’t afford high prices on a low budget. Why review what is not reviewable? So I didn’t. And why, at the other end, review the Ringling high tech concession pit for consumer mad moppets? The marvel of Walt Disney was that he turned out great cinema that appealed to all ages. Those movies were worth reviewing. I do not see that same genius coming out of Vienna, Virginia.
Reading Steve Winn’s scathing put down of Over the Top!, I saw myself in him, and considered us both irrelevant under that tent. Which makes me feel more pretentious than ever. (Blame it on the CFA, who published me at age 14) Better leave the judgments to the younger set. Don Marcks would bristle whenever I told him, "I refuse to go see a circus at a ballpark”. No setting. No context. No-rings may be next. Now on that last count, Don might have held his bristle. Another friend (we exchanged our views of Ringling every year) nearly had a nervous breakdown when I once I told him I was going to skip Ringling that year -- I just couldn't sit through another David Larible show. There should be a song, “When the Audience Came To Town.”
Around the lots ... Hey, watch out — that’s the pole wagon coming down! ... Glance back in awe to a display of circus dazzle in the year 1932. Captured on a You Tube video of Ringling flapper Tiny Kline. She iron jaws across Times Square, spinning stylistically with elegant abandon as she goes. And best of all, you will hear this glamorous diva speaking with the self assurance of a Gabor. A thousand pictures can’t match one priceless video. To the waiting cops, says Kline, “At last, I found a safe way to cross Times Square!. I’m saying ‘ hello’ to Broadway!” ...A memoir by Kline, edited by author Janet Davis, now out. Sounds like a juicy read.
Here’s Ringling production manager Georgia Stephenson telling the San Jose Mercury News that Over the Top! is “wooing audiences with a shorter running time.” Nice try. Two and a half hours won’t cut it. ... Ringmaster Chuck Wagner missed his calling by three rings and three years. Might have reached Ronkian stature in the older bolder set up. ...Thanks to Don Covington for correcting my error about the principal clown in the red hat duel. Should be Tom Dougherty, to whom I apologize. Ringling’s program magazines become more vague with each passing year. Putting out a libretto would help, along with a diagram for dummies of the metaphors (Mr. Winn spotted a few fumbled metaphors).
“The curtain descends, everything ends too soon, too soon,” penned Ogden Nash for the song “Speak Low."
Too soon. Always too soon. Wagons all off the flats, waiting for tractors to pull em out to the lot. Pickets lined up. PETA with banners. I know this, the circus we remember, it ain’t coming back... If I can just adjust to these ingenious story lines, the trenchant themes, the lazy synthetic pachyderms whom for all I know, were cloned, and the ever-engaging power clowns.
Swing that pole wagon over, guy! Line up those metaphors!
[photo: Circus Oz]