Clown for a New Day

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saturday Slide Bys: Laliberte Lands Hollywood Star ... Shrine Evansville Exits Roberts Stadium ... Media Critics Tackle Listless PBS Circus


Guy Laliberte, right, with James L. Cameron at the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. Photo by Todd Duffey/PR Photos.
First Draft Reckless: Cirque du Soleil's creative-marketing genius Guy Laliberte landing his own Walk of Fame Star along famed Hollywood Boulevard last Monday, his enshrined sparkle marking the 2,424th time a celeb from some avenue in showbiz has been honored. Event neatly combined with (possibly inspired by) local ceremony in front of Kodak Theatre, near Highland Boulevard, where Cirque's Iris show is slated to begin courting audiences (it better appeal to the Japanese) next July 21 ... Appearing with the Cirque King was Oscar-winning director James Cameron ... Iris being billed "a lyrical, fanciful, kinetic foray into cinema, combing dance, acrobatics, live video, filmed sequences and animation." Now if they can make it a living version of That's Entertainment (the blockbuster MGM film), they might have a huge hit on their hands rather than a long embarrassing banana shpeel slide off ... This one I'm watching, so easy to get to L.A. from here. My precocious prediction? In their favor, virtually no live entertainment competition in the neighborhood save for the Pantages Theatre, constant tourist traffic in and around the Kodak. It feels like they've got a cornered market all to themselves,. Now, all they need is the right show. Since they are not dropping the word "clowns" in their advance teasers, and wisely so, they already are looking up. I'm predicting a Big Yes on this one ...

A Little No: As I've moaned and equivoacted here, it was hard even feeling a clear reaction to the recent semi-sleeper on PBS, Circus, that Big Apple Circus saga that went on and on, yet had its moments. Many okay to very good reviews, and a couple from big respected newspapers that were anything but. So, here, count this a post mortem. Briefly excerpted, from The Boston Globe: "There's just not much in the way of drama here ... When there's sadness when an act gets fired, it's quickly hugged away ... Maybe in the age of '30 Rock' and TMA.com and 'Celebreity Rehab,' we're conditioned to demand more high-volumne drama from our backstage tales. Or maybe the filmmakers just didn't get lucky. But for all its well-meaing, diligent focus, 'Circus' seems unlikely to inspire the roar of the crowd." Still not convinced? Here's the Washington Post (overall score, 60): "One keeps looking for an overall theme -- what are we saying here, in this documentary, about any of life's essentials? Is there some deeper comment on community, diversity, our need to perform? ... Sometimes, 'Circus,' for all its mesmerizing imagery, feels likes it grasping too." Let's grasp onto a different topic ...

From out of the past, still in the present: Crews get the show ready for the 77th annual Hadi Shrine Circus at Roberts Stadium. JASON CLARK / Courier & Press

The Shriners of Evansville say farewell to Roberts Stadium. They've been putting on circues there since 1957 (trivia question: What huge historical event in American circus history occured the same year??? my answer near the end, so you gotta keep reading). Last Shrine Circus at Roberts fanfares out this very weekend. Story in Evansville Press notes that nearly 3 million patrons have sat around rings at Roberts when the Shriners produced. Next year, they move into arena downtown, size not given, but with, "yes, still plenty of head and trunk room to march a parade of ponderous pachyderms through a tunnel into the Big Top." ... Story's also lots of fun, posing more trivia questions, to which I shamelessly provide the answers up front: Evansville's first Shrine circus, what year? 1934. Where? the Coliseum at Fourth and Court Streets. Admission? 20 cents. From where came most of the acts? The Chicago World's Fair, stupid! What year, their top attendance? (oh, those good old days, fading fading, maybe this is when it all began): 1969. 77,000 people turned out, and what big name celebrity added as a "special attraction" from another avenue of showbiz helped fill the seats? OK, hint, this group bore a name similar to that of a famous circus that recently flopped big time in NY. STOP ... Think, think! Yes, a group from a Saturday morning TV show, "The Banana Splits," beginning with Drooper, which I've never heard of and am already bored typing about. BTW, thank you, Don Covington, for routing this yarn my way, it's fun. OK, final question: What did the Shriners of Evansville do years ago to boost atendance? A: Staged Perfect Baby, Clown-for-a-Day and Best Baton Twiler contests. B: Hinted the hugely popular Michael Landon was coming back. C: Had a bakeoff between Julia Child and a chimpanzee. I'm laughing! Are you? Are you still there? Okay, DON'T ANSWER OR LOOK AHEAD YET!!! how to hint, here. I Hate to admit, but answer is all too obvious: Child and Chimp! ... JUST KIDDING. Yes, A is correct. ...

Know what? Those Shriners of Evansville sound like crack promoters to me. I can think of a few shows they might rent themselves out to. Back in 1956, had they worked the front end for Ringling-Barnum, that next year (answer to my question above), 1957, when the Big Show first played indoor arenas coast to coast, might not have happened. Maybe they might have signed Julia Child and Chimp for a center ring bake out ...

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