Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Morning with Agent A: Dunning's Disastrous Rock & Roll Circus Dirties Big Apple Tent

Our eyes are upon Gary Dunning, executive director of the Big Apple Circus, thought by many to have assumed full power now that founder Paul Binder has "retired" from the picture.

A Board of Directors numbering, astonishingly, 35 individuals (how many know-it-alls does it take to dismantle a legacy?), ultimately controls the destiny, shaky as it now appears, of this circus, whose well-built reputation possibly exceeds to a dangerous degree its actual ability on the ground to "make nut."

All of which is a precarious prelude, here outside the ice house on a bleak early-winter chill, to a late night fly-by rendezvous with Agent A, whose travels intersect the myriad avenues of the show world. My hunches are that he locates somewhere in or around Gotham, although he remains mum on the subject. He presents himself as a figure who penetrates deep into what is left of the American circus scene -- or village, or flea market ... or garage sale.

About that short-lived Rock & Roll Circus co-produced by Dunning and Big Apple under Big Apple's tent in NY: In the wake of anxious or stoned or sexually crazed groupies just out of the pen storming the stage, setting off a mini-riot to which Mayor Bloomy's crime busters swiftly responded, show has suffered acute perverse publicity. Agent A calls it (and here, per an oath I am sworn to, I am paraphrasing his every utterance) a debacle. Lincoln Center left aghast. Rape rap at Lincoln Center?

Seems clear, Agent A confirming, that Dunning, at least since Binder's escape, has held "the yes and the no," the holding of which may be gravely in peril. And then, what? A midnight call to Paul -- please come back and blow the whistle! To Grandma -- you can direct the whole damn thing yourself! The Board, furiously beside itself, is blaming the rock and roll fiasco on their man Dunning and are, possibly for the first time, daring to face him down on his recent moves.

A wry (sad?) side note: The dumped LaSalle juggling partner (not the one who callously betrayed a nearly bankrupt big top for a career in the medical-dental-pharmaceutical industrial complex -- Ssssssss!), the good juggler named Marty helped engineer the doomed Dunning concert. Keep in mind, kids, this is the same family-pandering circus that wrapped its arms and legs around America's sweetheart of marital contortions and intriguing infidelities, rehab diva Britney Spears.

I asked Agent A as he restlessly allowed me a few questions through the dark --- taking them from a half-open window in his burgundy limousine, "Was Grandma involved in the concert, too?" He issued a gruff half-laugh on the run. Jackpot!

"Hey, Hey, Agent A!" I shouted: "the business last year, circuses, remember? You promised!" The exiting limo skidded to a Chicago pause. Shouted my liaison with the brevity of a midway man striking his junk for a quick run off the lot, Feld's Coney off from last year! Doubtful he's coming back unless New York coddles him with better terms on a shorter run! Other tenters did so-so to no-so! Big top biz? Still sliding south!

And that's the way it is. OK, forget everything I said. A new season is soon upon us, right?

P.S., Only the facts in black and white: Back home, wondering why the tent was not on tour instead of hosting the rock concert, I confess to feeling a little shocked, having just pulled up BAC's website. Evidently, the show is currently off the road for 2-1/2 months. Next date, not until April 2, in Boston, then to Queens and Stamford, CT, through July 4, possibly the last stand of the Dance On! tour. How dry and dire this shrunken route looks. Yes, Peggy, that's all there is -- or was.

First posted January 16, 2011

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