Friday, June 04, 2010

The Morning Midway: The Faceless Frank McClosky Makes a Faceless Cameo in Bandwagon

I have no idea who this man was, and likely never will. Of all the figures who have owned and moved circuses, Mr. M. is a total blank to me. I see a cigar in his mouth, a man perhaps finally being able to get himself snapped into a publicity photo. A man perhaps in his own mind a big player.

Not to be critical, I recall one of the best shows I ever saw, Beatty-Cole in Richmond, VA, 1961, what a crackling straight ahead 3-ring tentbuster. It sparkled that afternoon. Although it was, they will tell you, McClosky's partner, Walter Kernan, whose passion for the art of the performance is said to have informed and helped shape the generally strong shows. That's what Ken Dodd and a few others have advanced.

McClosky? He has always been a dead figure in my mind. Bring him to life, anybody out there who may wish to inject a little blood into his flat veins. Bright pink cool aid would do. All of the other circus tycoons give off personality, be they true impresarios or borderline crooks.

This came to mind, reading part two (did I miss part one?) of a detailed account by Lane Talburt in the latest issue of Bandwagon, covering the ownership conversion of the Clyde Beatty Circus in the mid-50's away from poor Mr. Beatty, who had to accept a buy out from Jerry Collins (he has a personality!), McClosky, et all, and then, once-again, a performer only status, in the wake of the collapse of his circus during the disastrous 1956 season. That's when King Bros. ended up stranded on a highway ditch, when the mighty Ringling-Barnum big top said bye bye, world, at Pittsburgh, PA.

Name any one you want: John Strong, Otto Ringling, Ben Davenport, Louis Stern, Binder or Byrd, Vargas or Feld or Laliberte -- they all have distinctive personas, whether you like what they have or not.

Frank McClosky? Who he?


Harry Kingston said...

I am very sure that Johnny Pugh and Kenny Dodd could shead alot of light about Frank McClosky.
I to just finished reading Lane Talburts very fine article in the Bandwagon all about the Clyde Beatty circus in's and out's.
I am a great fan of Mr. Beatty and the world will never see another one like him again and he was Mr. showmanship. But I heard he was not good at running a circus and the business side.
I have already talked for over an hour with Mr. Talburt and cannot wait to read part 3.
The detail's on how they got the 1956 Beatty railroad show back on rails.
I got to see it here in Beaumont, Texas in 1956.
How much money Mr. Beatty owed all those folks is brought out.
You know Concello was going to get his part before anything moved.
But you got to give McClosky credit as he had a great crew and Kernan was one of the driving forces. Also Jerry Collins was the money man. Now I got to meet him a very nice person and sat right by him at a show performance and he signed my program etc.
I hear he just signed a note for the trucks in 1957 and that was it.
But from 1956 on McClosky had a strong crew and the Beatty Cole show made money for many years.
Frank McClosky appears in the Greatest Show on Earth, Demille movie and says a few words as he was manager of Ringling then.
Harry in Texas

Showbiz David said...

Yes, Frank McClosky surely deserves major credit for moving Beatty-Cole solidly ahead.
I agree with you that Clyde Beatty was Mr. Showmanship. What drama he brought to the big cage! I sat on the edge of my seat the first time I saw his riveting performance.

Harry Kingston said...

Yes same here seeing Clyde Beatty in action in the big cage was a real experience.
I was on the edge of my seat and asked my mother do you think he will get out of there alive.
I so wish he was still alive to show some of these so called cat trainers what a real cat act is supposed to look like.
Gone but not forgotten by us fans Mr. showmanship.
Harry in Texas