Clown for a New Day

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shocking Vegas Murder Links Stripper to Cirque du Soleil 'Love'Artist ... On PBS, Roman Coliseum Fails Circus History, Great Circus Parade Charms ...

Last revised: 1/15, 8:10 AM pst
Trading a Stetson for an Astaire: John Ringling North II with wife Shirley at the Great Circus Parade of 2009

Circus Maximus, where are you in the Roman ruins? PBS lensing an hour spread that caught my fancy, all about the famed Roman Coliseum, but not including a trace of the clowns, acrobats and jugglers said to have once embellished those bloody athletic contests between big brawny he-man "gladiators," and chariot drivers. The program does allude to humans as fast food for hungry lions, but these humans were strictly of the criminal class, not out of any Sunday school. And, as dramatically depicted here, the doomed figures, pushed out into the arena, were spared even the tiniest scratch, credit a chorus of big cats wandering around them looking bored. Or, might it be, the candidates were just not their type? To their trainer, instead, went a spear --- straight down into and through his back, he onto the sawdust of shame. The arena exploded in cheers ...

From this, sprang the circus? I have a Big Question for Anybody out there: Does there exist anywhere out there a book, a movie, a TV show or documentary dramatizing Circus Maximus? If there's none, why has nobody ever taken on the gory that was Rome? ... (Earl Chapin May, an author I love, admire, envy, covered the Roman spectacles in passing in his tome, Circus From Rome to Ringling, so, all during the PBS program, I compared it to what May had written; May's details found to be generally in sync.)

To Vegas for blood we shall go: According to pro reports, a Cirque du Soleil performer with Love (don't you just love the tie-in?) alleged to have murdered his ex-girlfriend, a stripper (excuse me, make that "burlesque" entertainer) ... Just as I write this, trust me, a flash of a burning sensation rattled the dark side of my tickle bone: it was also in Vegas where another circus-related murder took place, that of the gifted trapeze artists turned dog trainer, Gerard Soules, knifed to death, cut up into take-out pieces (I must shake off this City Confidential syndrome in which I take respite from other more strenuous workouts at the keyboard) by a man on a street corner he hired to assist him (a full service menu, I take it) --- until the man, blame a background check made on him by skittish venue officials, was fired and took revenge into his own hands OK, Big Top Brethren, kick me off the lot ...

The Glory that once dazzled American Main streets

Baraboo Brilliantly on Parade: This has been the season of circus on PBS, and how! First, those spoiled Big Apples from New York spreading sadness; next, a huge chunk of Cirque du Soleil Vegas footage perhaps overstaying its precious welcome; then the somewhat leaden Roman Coliseum without the circus; finally, and perhaps best of all (kitty up there, a big long Puuuuur, please!) The Great Circus Parade of 2009. By sheer serendipity, thank my fickle finger on the remote, first I failed to link a pleasant-looking parade with marching bands to Milwaukee, and kept on surfing. Nothing out there, so back I wandered: Bingo! That's a circus wagon rumbling down a street! And there's the voice of somebody who knows a lot about old circus wagons. Voice turns out to be amiably informative, a guy named Fred Pfennig. Little later comes a cameo by P.T. (Steve) Freese being interviewed on the sides. Both figures I'd stay, building up positive national exposure for the parade and for themselves as color commentators. I'd never seen or heard Pfening. Think he does a bang up job, sharing his enthusiasm and scholarship for the wagons that once ruled the streets of America on Circus Day.

Agreeable parade hosts Jim Peck, left, and Fred Pfening III.

Hate to break away for this reality check, though, you circus wagon restoration obsessives: Many times, members in the crowd were asked, "what do you like the best." Answers ranged from clowns to animals to the bands and back. Not a one (I kid you not) said "the wonderful wagons." I LOVED the wagons above all else, but I gotta say, as I've already said (can you hear me praying for you, Thimble Theatre? We shall yet prevail), WHEN will you, Circus World Museum, ever deign to spend a little of your let's-save-another-wagon (or practically build one from scratch) money on other projects, such as museum restoration and library staffing? Your Chappie Fox-infatuations have produced a class of wagons so gorgeous, it's hard for me to imagine such a rolling rainbow having rumbled out of any circus barn way back when -- I felt like I were ogling superficially over the spanking fresh, out of a toy box Tibbals tents down there in Sarasota Land ...

Baraboo Boss: Steve Freese, selling Circus World to the World

Still, such a lovely tribute was the grand procession to the long-gone 3-Ring American Century. I marveled at those big box charmers sporting their big showy sunburst wheels. Pfening's informal commentary, not stuffy but just about concisely right, charmed, too. Baraboo: don't go near the Roman Coliseum. Spotted among the floats: one carrying John Ringling North II and his wife. A fanfare, please, for Mr. Freese! ...

Hugo, Wake Up! It's time to brush off the stringers and jacks, order more peanuts, splash on some paint and hit the road ...

3 comments:

Wade G. Burck said...

Showbiz,
What about the Dobrich mystery? Some suggest it was not a suicide, but rather murder. Would that count as Las Vegas/circus-related murder?

Wade Burck

Showbiz David said...

you are right.

Wade G. Burck said...

Showbiz,
Las Vegas/circus-related murder, would make for a great book, from a historical perspective of "what are the facts." You need to get started.
Wade Burck