Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sunday Scramble: Another Circus Museum, Anybody? So Long, Sandra Bezic Watchers ...

Lots of talk about circus museums, some lost to history, some in trouble, some about to open and others maybe about to close ... Let’s start with the greatest flop of them all: Here’s comment guy Jeff Swanson remembering not favorably Irvin Feld’s grandiose Circus World, a spectacular vision born of ego only partly realized that left Jeff feeling stood up: “What I couldn’t dismiss was what wasn’t there. I paid my money and within an hour I was pulling out of the parking lot having seen all there was — not the day I had hoped for. I remember spending a good deal of time reading the display showing what Irvin was planning and wanted the pace to be.” In sync with Ben Trumble’s take on the subject, agreed patron Jeff, “too little too soon.”

Over to Baraboo, still a precarious operation, its fate seeming to be, from year to year, kind of sorta up in the air. Proud as fresh popped popcorn, circus aficionado Harry Kingston recalling long ago floating a revenue-making idea to former CWM exec director Greg Parkinson: copy valued film footage onto DVDs and sell them “Just think of all the money you would make for the museum,” remarked Harry to Greg, only to live through subsequent silence. “Greg said we will see and nothing has ever been done and there they sit, all those donated films that we will never get to see. I told him that would be a gold mine.” Proposed payload left untapped. No, No, Baraboo, keep on getting more old beat up wagons onto the grounds and into rehab for ersatz restoration no matter how many, no matter how lost ... Excuse me, Wisconsin, for venting. I recall the late Don Marcks telling me about tons of donated documents that ended up in corner stacks. You got an extra rare early Ringling Brothers circus magazine, Circus World? Id pay premium bucks.

A more real gold mine Disney might mine when it opens its new three ring under the big top "interactive" circus, now under active construction in the Florida park’s Fantasyland. The Walt Disney empire has the money, it has the marketing know-how, and its has the built-in customer base, which is what our publicly funded museums tend to lack, save for the Sarasota adventure on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. They’ve got an interloper's nerve, and they’ve got Mr. Tibbals (oh, why do I keep dropping his name? I guess on behalf of all of us who are jealous of his bank account not being spread around other rings in need ...)

Venice, anybody? If Tito Gaona has his way, and we’re talking fast-fading long shot, he’d turn Venice into some sort of another kind of circus museum. Yes, you read what I just wrote. But the city wants to tear down the old post-tent era Ringling buildings. What’s a “land mark” to Tito is valuable real estate waiting to be developed for profit by unsentimental city officials. Tito envisions a circus bridge spanning the Intracoastal, a mural along the Tamiami Trial (no, make that Trail, though to the pedestrian me, it seemed more like the former), and the great loved flyer Tito Tito can see streets renamed for circus icons ... Why can’t I feel any magic about this minor venue? I recall the building Art Concello built for rehearsals and premiere performances, so Concello clinical. Worse still, the one spooky night I spent in a cheap skate hotel, me the only customer, and how it kept me on the edge of my bed awake through creeping sounds, not a seasoned cockroach host.

I like Harry’s idea. I’d be up for ordering some film footage if I don’t already have. Sorry, Tito, Venice just doesn’t move my imagination.

Now, Disney, that sounds interesting ... Dumbo to the rescue? Heck, maybe I’ll start my own museum, ... And I had so much more down the Convington chute to blog. There’s that kid out there still wanting a shot at the big time, thinking I’m a talent agency, ha! Gotta bring him out here soon before producers who walk this way. And, oh yea, I gotta Kelly Miller Circus customer alert concerning how to properly watch a clown act without it becoming interactive in your face. Genuine kelly-miller thriller ... All on the inside ... Wait for Showbiz David’s Museum of Madness in Mudness! (Sorry, Sandra Bezic lovers or haters, it was a lot of fun having you all in here during the Olympics. What say we meet again? Maybe at worlds?)

That’s a wacky wrap, I know, but wait for my next pratfall ...


Bill said...

Tito's idea has the flavor of someone saying "look at us, we used to be SOMEBODY" in this town" while the folks who lived in Venice during the winterquarters days are slipping away and Ringling becomes just a distant memory.
Yes, David, I remember all the little mom and pop cockroach motels up and down the Trail. I haven't been there for eons, so they're probably all gone too.
I wonder if the Venice McDonalds still has a circus theme with rope bound center poles, wagon wheels and posters, or has that been redone in the new bistro style decor that has been adopted in most of the McDonalds now.

Showbiz David said...

Bill, I was there as I recall early season, and this motel had not even technically opened, and I think I, so much younger and on a budget, talked the guy into letting me have a room for peanuts. Boy did I pay in roach terror. Spookiest night I've ever spent anywhere. I might have fled the place early!

Anonymous said...

i spent a number of winters in Venice at quarters in the 1970s (though stayed at the Holiday Inn or in an apartment). my regret is that we didn't photographically document the comings and goings of rehearsals in any depth and wonder what photographic record exists? a local guy Jack Briggs and his wife helped out on local publicity and took photos in those years--wonder what happened to them? all may be lost! don't see any way of saving the place--it would take very deep pockets that just aren't there. jerry digney

p. white said...

How well I remember the old Circus Hall of Fame and Circus World as a young tourist in the mid-70's as I got my feet wet in the arena at Jungle Larry's in Naples. Both places sparked my imagination; my days off were spent on adventures exploring one place or the other. I truly don't know where my life would have led had I not had the opportunity to work at the park in Naples, and fine tune my daydreams at the other attractions.

It saddens me to think circus history is to be relegated to dusty bookshelves and videos in a trunk in the attic. With enough resources it can be experienced live- not CGI- for generations to come.
Money. I hate that it's about the money.

Should the Prize Patrol grace me with their presence, I will personally see to it that a sizable donation is made to the museum in Baraboo to insure the phenomenal history of this great business is preserved for posterity.

I'm expecting them shortly...