Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Morning Midway: The Strange Case of Alfredo Codona's Afterlife on the Big Apple Circus

Through the roaring twenties he flew, circus star of the universe. Then, the triple somersault on the return trapeze was a phenomenal rarity. Then, a rarity that he alone ruled. Then, his bird-like flights under waving canvas peaks thrilled the thousands lured to three-ring spectacles.

Grounded by an injury during the Great Depression, he retired to the sidelines, a Great Sebastian in his own day accepting less spectacular jobs -- to blow a whistle or crack a whip or count ticket stubs. Now, he was merely a mortal. Grief stricken on earth, he opted for an early exit to the big lot above.

But this transcendent angel of the air was destined to soar again. Yes, again! It's a story you may have never heard. Only a precious few attended the epochal event. I must now tell you about it.

This mystical happening appears to have been blessed by the "bible of showbiz" Variety, as the entertainment weekly was once known. Such a bible, indeed, that its scribes could evidently see visions, could, in fact, conjure up living miracles when driven to the outer limits of critical worship.

Or was the atonement to be not really the revelation of Variety at all, but of the passion for "virtuosity" that drove big top impresario Paul Binder? Did, in fact, our legendary flyer hear the call of the Binder bird and experience a profound out-of-grave awakening?

Or, might that ethereal eruption have been decreed by a colossally clever press agent working magic on a vulnerable first night reviewer? Perhaps the moment of wonder was birthed in a common press kit handed out to novice believers.

Advance to the year 1986, to Damrosch Park in New York City. Advance to opening night of The Big Apple Circus, an opening night to end all opening nights. Oh, to have been there! To have known such glory in the flesh! To have beheld the resurrection and the light, as did Variety's anointed witness, one "Roy," covering the historic evening for the bible of show business, never so divinely inspired as it was that night: Thus saith Roy:

"The Flying Gaonas trapeze troupe is uniformly strong, and performers use every inch of the tent's space for their aerial work, which includes a spectacular triple somersault by Alfred Codona."

Can you imagine the cheers! The tears! The rush of sleeping emotions for all of the greatest years! So many mortals flew high that night, not just the great Alfredo, but a possessed critic, a profoundly proud producer, and, we can only imagine, a few knowing aficionados ravingly re-connected to a big top god from out of the past ...

No comments: