Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Friday, May 08, 2009

Out of the Past: Showbiz Grabbag: Pizza Pitches to Vinyl's Comeback ...


Commercial Relief:
Have you heard this on TV: “Alright, okay, so you’re saying you feel different ...” That’s the Pizza Whisperer guy, moving into The Meat Ball Marvel pitch, and what a laugh he is! I predict big things for this actor ... Why is it that sometimes the ads are better than the shows? I tried to get involved in this latest American Idol, but I keep waiting to see a contestant sing (remember the contestant???), and all they give us are the extras, like an opening Ringling spec shouting out, “We are the greatest!”

Now, over to Coney Island: How great will Ringling's summer tent-in be? Kenneth Feld is trying to make, I take it, a big splash out there where the Cyclone roller coaster cries out for passengers, and under only the second spread of canvas to host a Ringling-Barnum parade in over fifty years. So he brings out his Gold Unit, which, from reports, might be more copper than Gold. Still, it’s a start ... I hope he makes a better first impression than did Carson and Barnes on one Marcus Bethea, who left a comment here on my last year's 2-1/2 star C&B review, saying he saw the show in San Diego (recently, I assume) and felt exactly the same way I did (about last season’s opus—ooooo). Said Marcus, he and his wife “hated” the show, his kids “loved it.” It left the father more turned off than on by this big top: "I was thinking Ringling Bros. or Barnum & Bailey would be better, but now I am scared of any kind of circus." One reason might be that it ended up costing Marcus "over $200." I’m going up to Santa Rosa in June to check it out. In all fairness to the Byrds (who evidently are not donning Montreal berets in their scaled down one ringer), last year I did hear a kid chirping to parent or peer, “Let’s go again!” Those Hugo tenting tycoons, who can let me down, know their market, and it’s not me ...

Vinyl to CDs, no! Has anybody out there ever purchased an overpriced CD only to despise over half of the junk that comes with it? I recall a bloated Santana disc that delivered 3 or 4 good tunes. The latest attempt by Rodgers and Hammerstein, the "Organization" that is, to divvy up some respect for their also-ran 1947 flop, Allegro, is a 2-disc 100-minutes yawner that might have made a dandy splash on a single CD. No wonder those vulturous record companies have lost out to cybertunes. I have maybe a dozen CDs, total ... Still have all my vinyls. I played Frank Sinatra’s A Swinging Affair, simultaneously from my CD player and my turntable, and went back and forth, comparing. There IS a difference, and the future is yesterday ... And now, according to The New York Times, those wonderful old Vinyl stores for collectors are making a grand comeback ... And the young kids continue to discover the superiority of the LP album, too ...

First and still first: Two great actors who made impressive transitions back and forth between dramatic works and musicals were James Mitchell, he of my favorite movie musical, The Bandwagon, and Ricardo Mantalban (left), whom I once saw in perhaps my favorite of all musicals (and surely he was a reason), The King and I. Mitchell of late seems to be living out his last days on a soap I once watched (before it ended up mostly in hospital beds) All My Sluts (excuse me, All My Children). ... Back in the fifties, both actors met up in a recent TCM discovery, Border Incident, about the passage of illegals across the border. What a fine flick find ...

Public to private and back. Discovered a no-nonsense jazz outlet on Comcast, so much better than the local college-based FM station that seems bent on force feeding us artists of a certain obscure ilk. Comcast gives us the greats and some younger voices too without PC posturing, thank you ... The "media" up here is so into the bash Oakland crime stats agenda (as if nothing ever bad happens across the bay in precious SF, sure), that I’ve tired of talk show hosts, like the gifted intellectual whore Gene Burns playing to script, and have, in revolt, driven myself back to Terry Gross, when she isn’t interviewing somebody about medicine or Middle East. And I just learned that our local NPR radio outlet KQED is actually drawing more people than the highest rated local KGO-AM. Kudos, NPR!

Sinking into Asphalt? Why would Cirque du Soleil move two of its touring tent shows indoors? There goes Saltimbanco and Alegria, into arenas. Is CDS hurting for the loot they need to set up their designer tops, I wonder ... Saltimbanco under a hard top in Nashville and then North Charleston, NC, and then onto Florida dates. What a downer ...

Tonight in the tea tent over Jade Spring, I was showing Boyi my book Fall of the Big Top, feeling a tad high for it actually earned an Amazon review (four stars — I'll gratefully take what I can get --- I have never asked anybody to shill for me), and Boyi thumbed through the pages from photo to photo. His reactions to them were so interesting that I asked him to assign each photo of an act a score from 1 to 10. What is refreshing about student Boyi, from a China where he never saw a circus, is his ability to tell it exactly like he sees it, so we got caught up in a discussion about the performers, and I refrained from trying to color his reactions, because I love hearing what other people have to say about tanbark talents. Boyi remembered seeing Circus Chimera in Hayward some years back; he enjoyed describing to me the clown working a vacuum cleaner and the toilet paper that flew sky high out over the audience. On that very funny turn, we shared a common amusement. And, so, when next you and I meet, Boyi's photo scores will be up on the platform here on this meandering midway. You might be surprised. One of yesterday's "greats" that I have sometimes regarded as a kind of sacred cow, well, took Boyi's breath away ... Maybe Maestro Merle Evans was right.

First published 5.8.09

12 comments:

Jack Ryan said...

David,

Interested in your discussion of Ricardo Montalban and James Mitchell. The rugged movie action star Keith Andes was on Broadway once, playing Lucille Ball's love interest in the ill-fated musical, "Wildcat." (After that experience, it's no wonder he never returned.)

About the only actor who eases gracefully from drama to musicals these days is Hugh Jackman.

He, of course, is well-known as Wolverine in the wildly successful X-Men series and has also done some good work in film drama.

Jackman played Curly in the National Theatre of Great Britain's revival of "Oklahoma!" to great acclaim and of course won a Tony for "The Boy From Oz."

It's great to see acting versatility. Wish there was more.

Jack

Showbiz David said...

Jack,
I think the Jackman-London production of Oklahoma, on DVD, is superior to the 1950s movie. Part of the brilliance is Jackman's naturalistic acting approach. Another assset, the inclusion of a very important song that was left out of the film, a song that probles Jude's pathetic plight, "A Lonely Room." I might purchase a copy of the DVD.

Jack Ryan said...

David,

I own the DVD and highly recommend it.

Jack

john herriott said...

This photo is of the great Jim Wong troupe probably in their late years of performing as I see Lum. Sung and then I believe Jim's son Jackie and Carl. Jim died quite young but his brother Sung and the original troupe members always kept the name Jim Wong Troupe. Great people and performers. Lum is some 96 yrs. old living in Dallas and has a lady friend. Sincerely, John Herriott

Showbiz David said...

Thank you, John.

Pat Cashin said...

David,

The blog, and all the archives, have been restored.

Clownalley.net (at clownalley.blogspot.com) is back!

~Pat

Showbiz David said...

happy restoration!

Amy Shmamy said...

David,
I gave up on Idol years ago. Some people are saying that Adam Lambert on this years show will be the next Elvis, I beg to differ. I'll stick to my reruns of George Lopez on Nick at Night and avoid American Idol.
Amy Scott

Jack Ryan said...

I am the only living American who has never seen an episode of "American Idol."

And I plan to keep it that way.

henry edgar said...

jack -- you are one of two. i have never seen it either and like you, i have no plans to ever tune in. my idea of tv disappered with la law and hill street blues and golden girls. today, i only watch the various law and order shows and csi. if there were any more ringling specials, i would watch but those have been gone for so many years.

Alan Cabal said...

I have never seen and will never watch AMERICAN IDOL. I get my TV fix watching old episodes of QUANTUM LEAP.

Dick Dykes said...

Same for Me! I've never watched Idol and never will! Dick