Carson and Barnes Circus, in the 1960s

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday Nite L’Amyx: An Obit Made in Feld Heaven? ... Kelly Miler’s Asphalt-Averse Flyers? ... Cirque’s Insects in Spandex ... By the Byrds Blessed ...

Where do we start after all this time away? Let’s salute Barbara Byrd’s routing inspirations. Last year she pitched the last American three ring tented circus in the city of my dubious birth, San Francisco, out there at the Cow Palace. Now Lady Byrd is bringing her new one-ring Carson and Barnes compact to another of my boyhood settings, fifty miles north in Santa Rosa.. At the fairgrounds come June, and maybe on sacred sawdust: the very spot, I hope, where Clyde Beatty threw up bannerlines when I was oh-so-young. What symmetry!

What is it about John Ringling North II’s lack of an advance sense that gives me pause? Take a look at Kelly-Miller's revamped blog and you’ll see a mishmash of photos both old and new, and a pull down window to check upcoming cities that turn out to be yesterday’s towns. From Steve Copeland’s breezy diary in blog form, seems this show feasts on muddy lots. And that’s the only place where you’ll see the flyers fly, for over asphalt they haven’t the rigging they need. The show can‘t plant stakes into cement, so instead of a flying return, customers get a flat trampoline workout. Now, is this anyway to run a circus that supposedly prides itself on offering a full-course program? I’d say it isn’t ... I’ve expressed high hopes for the return of the house of Ringling, but I am starting to feel like this one may be half empty. Pray for Milwaukee mud ...

UPDATE CLARIFICATION from Kelly-Miller's manager Jim Royal: "Our flying act, the Fernandes Family, can work on asphalt. It is when (perhaps twice a season) when we are on concrete and the owner of said concrete, won't allow us to drive stakes that we have problems." What can I say; evidently, I got the wrong impression from several references that Copeland has made to the issue.

Bad times for circus biz? Not so for Cirque du Soleil or Ringling-Barnum, both claiming to be doing just fine despite a depressionary climate. Cirque's Daniel Lamarre states "Crowds are still coming out to be entertained." As for the financial crisis, "it's certainly not hurting us." Over to Kenneth Feld, who told the Atlanta Business Journal, "it's the biggest year we've ever had." ... These entertainment giants are, to be sure, offering steeply discounted tickets here and there. ... And what to make of the three-month Ringling run under canvas at Coney Island? Says I, there is more to this than meets the midway, so I’m taking it to center ring a town or two up the road ...

Cirque Du Soleil insects, starring in the new OVO, can be seen in video snippets on Sawdust Nights. So perfectly skilled as disguised acrobats, and yet, in their insect spandex, somehow they look strangely sterile and so lifeless as to make it feel like Cirque is disappearing into an abstract void. I hope not, for I admire the show’s courage to take big artistic chances ...

Default to the Feld Press Kit, Continued ...About the unfortunate recent passing of Tim Holst, at only 61, I know little about the man, except that his Mormon background seems to have given him the humanity that was obviously loved by many on the Ringling payrolls. I only know he was an outstanding ringmaster, whose red hat I wished he had never turned in for a desk job. Now, about the obituary in The New York Times, why do I sense the omnipotent hand of the Felds at work pulling strings in the background? We learn through a direct quote attributed to William B. Hall III, who should if anybody know better, that Mr. Holst was the man who first recruited soviet bloc artists into the rings of Ringling. Pardon me for once again bringing out John Ringling North, who in prolific concert with one Trolle Rhodin, began importing acts in 1965. Those gave the show a massive jolt of fresh blood, and the critics from NY to LA were wowed, and the show did great at the box office. This strikes me as a ploy to add another fake feather to the Feld scrapbook of fictions ... Am I the only one who cares?

Touched by a little concern, a little praise: Some e-mailed me, wondering what was going on since I haven’t been posting for weeks. One visitor to this blog reminded me of how I felt when I likewise wrote a while back to the missing-in-action Sawdust Kid (aka Logan Jacot), asking him if he was okay. In fact, I am gratefully, humbly, even, truth be told, fearfully blessed with pill-free health; Got caught up digging out the first draft of a new book. This blog was and will always be a hobby, to which I must now and then practice not being a slave ... Oddly enough, the stats haven’t dropped much. Well, when you’ve got the loyal 7 visitors that I have, what a loyal seven they are, even when I ignore them!

And that’s a late Friday night wrap from the tea tent where Boyi and Will, showering me with friendly attention during an empty house, suddenly were bombarded with teaaholics and swung back into tea tender mode ... Which is a good thing, because the place doesn't stock Peterson Peanuts or Ringling designer snow cones ...

5 comments:

Jack Ryan said...

No, you aren't the only one who cares about accuracy.

Buckles Woodcock posted the NY Times obit of Tim Holst several days ago.

My comment:

The quote in the obit from Mr. Hall is a bit misleading.

With all due respect to Tim's amazing globe-trotting and the superb acts he discovered, he was not the first Ringling scout to make deals with former Iron Curtain performers.

That would be the late Trolle Rhodin.

Don said...

Three cheers for circus history fact checkers! (and for blogs that bring them all together)

Don Covington

Showbiz David said...

Thanks, Don, and THANKS for keeping me informed on some many subjects via your generous e-mailing links!

Logan Jacot said...

Cirque maybe claiming publicly that they are doing well but internal newsletters say other wise.

henry edgar said...

welcome back, david -- we've missed you. and to repeat, no, you aren't the only one who cares about accuracy, though it seems those of us who do are diminishing in numbers. several people wrote buckles, issuing corrections to mr. hall's quote. i well remember the way the first block of iron curtain acts boosted the show. the mecners were one of the all-time best acts ringling has ever featured.

this mistake might have been understandable if the times had made the mistake based on a release from ringling. but this was a quote from a well-known circus fan who was an active fan at the time these acts were imported. this is how history becomes fantasy.
and it's also how well-known fans lose credibility.
just as mr feld left a powerful legacy that didn't need to be "expanded," as it has been, tim left a legacy that gives him a special place in circus history based on his accomplishments and his integrity. his memory needs no embellishments, and i think tim would have been the first to correct the facts in our national "paper of record."