Any circus producer out there suffering low or dwindling attendance should get his/her hand on the current issue of Bandwagon. It features a sober account by Shrine Circus author John H. McConnell, detailing why and how Shriners have been committing circus suicide. Statistical information solidly supports a perception held by many of us about drastically declining business and how Shrine programs have bloated up on all the junk and filler against which I have long railed. Among the leading Shrine customer complaints: Long intermissions, concession pitches, poorly produced and overlong programs, Shrine clowns.
Having this year endured much of the same on Carson & Barnes and Circus Vargas, it's obvious the owners aren't listening to me, and are pigheadedly pursuing same old same old. I wonder if they ever look into their near-empty tents? Maybe they will pay more attention to McConnel's excellent research tracking the demise of what was once a vibrant circus organization.
Bandwagon -- what an issue! -- also offers a gritty insider account by Mike Straka of many scam tactics used in the most notorious phone rooms in past years to relieve business owners of yet more money for bogus charity set ups.
I am not at all surprised. I recall, pitching press for Sid Kellner's James Bros Circus in 1969, going into St. Louis and being told to hold off on charming city editors and placing any newspaper adds. The boiler room was boiling over on a lush advance extraction of money, and Kellner actually feared if even a small percentage of the tickets showed up, he could not seat everybody. Kudos to your candor, Bandwagon!
Finally, as of this moment, John Ringling North II, in an e-mail message to Showbiz David, states his policy on employees who blog (his show has three bloggers; most other circuses have none):
“Our constitution guarantees freedom of speech, so Steve and Ryan are entitlted to whatever they like.”
This is a big issue which I intend to address more in depth in the off season