Clown for a New Day

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Fireworks: Tigers, Tigers Burning Bright ... Olympics Versus Circus ...”Baraboo Revisited” Revisited ..

Snarling circus, come back! Clyde Beatty, can you hear us up here? Or, excuse me, down there? ... Mable Stark, come out of the dark. Alfred Court, to center ring report! Big Top Johnnies bringing back the Big Cage, right and left, evidently sensing a certain hunger from the crowds for old fashioned sawdust grit ...

One Johnny who never left the lot, Johnny Pugh, is pulling out the jungle stops, bringing back tigers into the show. Might the free market be speaking? Pugh's Cole Bros. Circus, about to hit the mud in DeLand, also to offer something called a daredevils ATV show. Also, a Thunder Dome, and of course, the cannon. I smell gusto over the Cole tent. Down on the ground, the one finger stand makes a return. Been gone long enough to maybe amaze a new generation ... To Lana I say, do the Big Stunt at the end not the start of the act. That was a structural flaw about the Unus showcase I refuse to overlook. Figure out a way to kill time while installing the hand gimmick, so you can reach climax on your pinkie ...

There’s a tie-in here to the Olympics, so let’s recall the dread thrill (pardon me for seeming insensitive ) over that ridiculously suicidal event called the luge. It tragically threw one of the riders into the hereafter, and that was by TV narrated over and over. So, when those same viewers turn to big tops, how are they gonna feel about a circus show retreating into lifeline (mechanics) security? Circuses taking this new safer route risk looking even more passe against Olympic skiers turning somersaults over snowy peaks, in essence rekindling the public’s appetite for risk taking ...

Compare the following two photos, and ask yourself, which image best illustrates the true spirit of circus. Study the images carefully. This one ...

Or this one?

Now with Carson and Barnes touring Dallas and Ft. Worth, it looks like most of the perennials are all out there once again, going if not for gold, for bankable copper.

Did ‘ya know about radical circus deconstructor named Pierrot Bidon, who just passed away at 56. Produced some take-note perverse variations on big top action, according to a London Times obit. They are remembered as “mesmerizing, pyrotechnic spectaculars “ that “popularized an outmoded form with a new audience.” A big draw in places like the fringe Edinburgh Festivals. One of Bidon's later darling deviants was called “Circus of Horrors.” There's a show like this in L.A. I'm hoping to check out. Now, reading that all of this modern mayhem cleared the way for today’s fresh troupes like Cirque du Soleil (right), I beg to differ, World. CDS is not and was never “anarchical.” It was clearly, despite numerous co-founders claiming genuine French ancestry, rooted in the Russian school of circus. Anybody who wants can make comedy hay out of trashing circus, but don’t think that’ll chill the public’s yen for great acrobats, flyers, and animal trainers. Anymore than somebody can trash Olympic achievers ... Just had to get that out on this meandering post ..

Baraboo, we hear you, do you hear us? Flattered that Doc Bob Dewel, devoted to restoration of the Al Ringling Theatre, on whose exalted organ keyboard his fingers still dance, turned out a piece for the Baraboo Republic News on my recent posting about, as I see it, things about Circus World Museum that perplex. They obviously do not see themselves as we/I see them. Here’s another comment, relayed to me by a Baraboo resident who for many years volunteered, and was inspired by Harry Kingston’s recalling trying to push a good idea onto Greg Parkinson and getting no where. This guy, who asked for anonymity, remembers so many volunteers who came and went with so many active ideas, none of them ever getting adopted. And feeling futile. Same old imperial indifference par for the course, says my trusted source, ruefully remembering a management block that blocked all volunteer offers even to help get good suggestions into working order, which is one reason why a lot of ex-enthusiasts who gave freely of their time are ex ... Meanwhile, the great classic Thimble Theatre fun house rots away in out-of-sight exile while, no doubt, yet more old circus wagons await doting front-of-the-line restoration. THAT fun house could by now have been on magnificent permanent protected display in one of the modern buildings.

I feel like restating one of my Baraboo convictions: About the vastly rich Ringling-Barnum Archives that were kept away from all but a few privileged insiders for decades, during work on my book Big Top Boss: John Ringling North and the Circus, I was told, oh, just wait a few more months and maybe they’ll open up, and I nearly begged Bob Parkinson, "Might you tell me, are there many letters by John Ringling North that might impact my research significantly?" Parkinson refused any answer of any sort. Had I waited, my book would never have been published. Parkinson of course was one of the good old boys who could play with the toys; I could not. Now who got Kenneth Feld to grant ownership of the archives to Circus World Museum? If Robert Parkinson even tried, he did not. If Fred Dahlinger even tried, he did not. Here is who made it happen, not one of the good old boys but a thorough professional from outside, archivist Erin Foley, who was recently let go in more cut backs. And even if all it took was picking up a telephone and calling Vienna, Virgina, it was Erin Foley who picked up a telephone and called Vienna, Virgina.

Please don't forget that, Circus World Museum.


Alan Cabal said...

ARCHAOS was way ahead of its time. Pierrot Bidon was sui generis.

Showbiz David said...

Alan, ahead of his time with respect to what -- new theatre, new circus? or something other?

I am curious.