Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rising and Falling: End of an Era for Quebec? ...

Latitude Laliberte: A deal made in hell? Okay, I’ve poured over articles about Guy Laliberte selling 20% of his Cirque du Soleil empire to the state of Dubai — it owns the two firms who have each acquired 10 per cent. This leaves G.L. with 70% — closer, closer to a John Ringling North-style family feud ... WHY did he do it? WHY? (Crashing Wagnerian symbols and weeping violins please — yeah, I know, I’m revealing my chronic fanship). Laliberte claims, when pressed by Canadian reporters, “I don’t know why you’re thinking I’m selling Cirque du Soleil to the world. I’m not selling Cirque du Soleil. I’m giving up 20 per cent of the company.”

Some of the more telling statements that I’ve raked up from press droppings:

“Some reporters question whether the Dubai deal would put Cirque in the same position as such companies as Alcan and Moison, which were taken over by foreign interests.”

The CDS website covers the deal as a “partnership” venture, excluding any mention of a sale.

They are talking up a CDS show in Dubai last year that pulled in “over” 100,000 people in a month. What is so remarkable about that? An average US tent show could do the same over a winning 30 days, I do believe.

Laliberte states, “We’re having better results than last year.” So, was last year not so hot; I mean, not all full houses???

“ he [Laliberte] tries to douse speculation that the Dubai government’s purchase ... is the precursor to a takeover.”

“Truth is, Cirque Outgrew Quebec,” headlines a story in the Globe and Mail.

“These things are often the first step towards toward a complete sale,” said Robert David, a management professor at McGill University. “If we were to talk in five years, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing had been sold.”

Here is what I think: Either Laliberte is hurting for money, having recklessly overextended his future projects, and has caved into a veiled foreign bail out in desperation to save himself — or he just can’t stop trying to conquer the entire world. What next, a “partnership” with NASA to land Cirque du Soleil on the moon? Oh heck, King Cirque, you just might have to settle for that two-bit space station up there — that is, unless you can create your own personal planet ...

I have a sinking feeling that we may soon be saying goodbye to Guy. I’ve been on both sides of the fence about his work — some of it brilliantly ground breaking.

Big and Little Top Bits: Dogs as literate listeners: They're listening with smiles as children in Chicago schools read to them. Those mutes, who might prefer comic strips about their own, are pretending to be attentive, and it’s helping inspire the kids to read better. Says a grateful young girl of her book partner, “She makes me smile. She’s a good listener when I read to her.” The program, Kids Reading to Dogs, is now in eight Windy City schools. I was touched... God bless you, Chicago children getting a little help from a man's best friend...

...Sad to report the passing of Lottie Brunn, about whose life in the states I knew virtually nothing. She was loved by some adoring friends, among them juggler and circus director Judy Finelli, who once presided over the Pickle Family Circus ... While surfing around for news on our lead off issue, I came across the most interesting website. Jean David is putting out a mini-history of Cirque du Soleil. There’s a link over there to your right. Some quite revealing information on how they shrewdly marketed from the outset. The late cutting edge showman who invented the three-ring revolution, William Coup, wrote that he spent up to half his money on the advance. CDS may have equaled Coup’s commitment to publicity and advertising. This website is worth a visit. [I can't seem to post the link. Google: "Jean David & Cirque du Soleil]

... When both Wade Burck and Henry Edgar show up at the same event, as they did to witness my first annual Ring of Shame Awards, now that’s a full house. Burck skipped opening night (too late), with scarf and popcorn in hand. Next season, gentlemen, VIP Ring of Shame seats for the both of you ... French high-wire extremist Philippe Petit profiled in a new movie, Man On Wire, landing four stars from the NYT... Marian Collins, having chanced upon my piece about Irvin Feld’s Florida Circus World, writes “...seems as though it was a pawn in the big game of real estate. I sure enjoyed working there though and many many of our patrons liked it better than Disney. I have to assume it was the live acts. No animatronics here, folks.”

...This ancient photo of me is placed here for the possible amusement of the folks who Pat Cashin sends my way. No other blog on the midway sends as many folks to my concession as does Pat’s popular Clown Alley. Thanks, Pat ... That’s me spoofing Nikita K, photo taken by Edward Dowling at a Sharon Hill, PA stand . They gave the show gag to me when the guy who was doing it got terminated for getting too friendly with a young girl under the seats. A three ring Johnny, he tried working his charm on me, too. No luck. Motel or nothing ...

About the lead item, even Canada is reeling from the odd ball news. And I can’t blame them. Cirque has given our neighbors to the north a tremendous source of international pride, and perhaps some tax money too. I’ll tell you this, World: The moment the impresario at the top exits is the moment the empire he built comes crumbling down.

Enough melodrama. I'm outta here. Pat, are you still open up there? I could use a good old fashioned laugh ... A walkaround, sunny side up, please!


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