Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bandwagon Tackles Shyster Phonemen and Dying Shrine Circuses; John Ringling North II on Employee Bloggers

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


Casey McCoy Cainan said...

I don't feel it is nearly as much of an issue as one might think. Bloggers are not going to have an effect on the business angle of the show, as some might suggest. You can go on a blog and see where a show has been, and, maybe, where they will be the next few days. The route more then two weeks advanced is proprietary information, and not given out without that being mentioned, so no other show will find out early enough to "jump ahead" of a show. If the concern is mentioning how good business was and another show "stealing" that town, I will just say, the shows that have used that tactic, could find all that out long before the internet was created. I worked for a guy, whose name is synonymous with that kind of chicanery, and I doubt he can even turn on a computer. But I would guarantee he knows every town we turned away crowds this year.

The soap opera nonsense that goes on, on every show, is just that. Soap opera nonsense. It goes on every where, in every walk of life. People enjoy reading it, much as they read Circus Report, White Tops, and even the occasional internet circus review. It makes people feel they are "in the know" of what is going on with a show. Nothing new really, it is all the same horse $h&^ as any other show, just different names for the people. That definitely is not stopping anyone from seeing the show. If someone takes the time to read one of our blogs daily, do you think they would pass up a chance to see it live in the flesh?
Well, I doubt many. You did, which puzzles me. All that "speculation" but no meat and potato to go with it? The day you opted not to visit the show we were visited by a RBBB exec who had just left Coney Island. But I do hope someday you do see the show, and I hope it is anonymously, so we can hear just what Showbiz thought of it.

When you do visit, Peterson Peanuts, and coloring books are on me! Just raise your hand high during the pitch, and if you are lucky you could win one of those colorful balloons. Don't forget to have Steve and Ryan sign your book at intermission, someday the autygraff may be worth something!!!

Wade G. Burck said...

Keep it up, and your "Lion King" picture is going to disappear out of the right hand column replaced with a genuine Dion Younger. No more free paper for you!!!!!!
Wade Burck

henry edgar said...

i think the current issue of bandwagon is great and deserves credit for tackling problems others ignore. since i was handling circus press during part of the era of the phone rooms, i found the story interesting and informative but it failed to point out how important the phones were at that time; the income they generated might well have been income needed to provide the performances we remember so well, and there were some phone promoters who were true assets to the show. i personally worked on the same show as me van dorsten and i always found him to be a classy representative of the show. his towns were always money-makers and sponsors loved him. during the time i knew him, he was one of the few promoters who never left heat and it was a joy to visit with van and grace whenever possible. van and grace were always with it and for it and he had a great reputation as a top promoter. i am still proud of our friendship.

Showbiz David said...

Ah, the nuances, Henry. Nothing, well nearly nothing, is ever blsck or white, is it.
Wade, who is Dion Younger????

Showbiz David said...


make that "black," spell checker!

Alan Cabal said...

Dickie Garden pretty much burned down the phone room concept, didn't he?

Showbiz David said...

Interesting. do you mean Garden was himself a phone promoter who helped destroy the boiler room?, or his free kid tickets angle was an idea that replaced phone rooms? Whatever, he brought a circus from hell into San Francisco's Cow Palace about 10 shabby years ago.

henry edgar said...

garden pretty much burned everything he touched. years ago, his entire operation could kill a town for circuses for years. everything about the show left heat, from phone room tactics to the show itself. the public is still reeling from the toby tyler debacle despite a number of strong points in the show. and he did it all without the intriguing color of some others who also burned towns but were ineteresting nonetheless.

Wade G. Burck said...

Show Biz,
Sorry typed to fast. It is Young not Younger. None the less, nobody else know's either.

Henry Edgar,
A lot of what the show world is dealing with today, was instigated by some "fine, respected folks from the past." Most industries would have crucified them, but the circus put them on pedestals and revered them as examples of brilliance of "moving a show down the road." Down the road, and right into the donniker.
Wade Burck

Anonymous said...

WB, actually it is Younger. As in Dennis Younger. Dion Young is a "stage name", how about that.

Wade G. Burck said...

"Stage name????" Did they have a stage on Carson and Barnes?
Wade Burck