Clown for a New Day

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

Monday, April 04, 2011

Saturday Scraps: Carson & Barnes Eyes Calif.; Cole Adds More Seats; Feld Pays Clowns Big Bucks; Kelly-Miller Slogs On ...

Starting, well, where to start? Rather amazing to read that, according to Big Show boss Kenneth Feld, his fun makers start out at around $40,000, and that's not per decade but per year. How times have changed; once, the new Clown College grads landing contracts to wiggle and giggle in pretty poses survived on far far less, and then still owed the paymaster for space on the train, etc. But, hey, I'm reading this latest from a London source, Market Watch, reading that, according to the Feld of Felds, "there's no limit to the salaries that can be earned in the circus." Spin it fine, Mr. F. BTW, sayz he, get out of your greasepaint and into the cannon, where you can "expect to earn a lot more."

Californians can see 'em down in Bakersfield, this side of the grapevine hump on the way to L.A. Carson and Barnes booked to spread hay and pitch peanuts at the fairgrounds on April 20. I predicted they'd scale back to single day stops. I hope they hit Bay Area markets, too -- they have a way of rampaging in and out of the Golden State in a red-light flurry ... Cole Bros Circus of the Stars, out of the barn and hitting the seaboard routes north, talking up not really much in the way of new acts to the press. Show's touting a pair of buffoons, one named Stephen Smith, a former firefighter with a dozen seasons clowning around. Here's the most impressive claim: Said the show's marketing man, Chuck Werner, to a news scribe, Cole is sporting a new tent "with better seating capacity." If better means more, I'm impressed ... Johnny Pugh, recently rumored offering to sell his trick to Barbara and Gary Byrd, apparently is doing something right. Anybody who adds more seating capacity deserves some kind of an award ..

Gotham rip-off leaves Bindlestiff's stiffed: Highly credentialed, highly recommended "Event planner" Hickey Shields, promoting a four-day Coney Island celebration that drew raves from the locals, is not drawing the same from Brooklyn's Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. Shields hired the group to perform and add color around "cheesy children's rides," but still owes them a balance of $26.000. Not a small amount for a troupe whose annual operating budget is in the $150,000 to $200, 000 range. They aired their discontent on Disgracebook: "Hickey Shields cripples Bindlestiff Family Cirkus." Other free lancers then surfaced with similar claims.

On the Steve-Ryan trail at Kelly-Miller: Modest crowds are finding plenty of spare seats to spread out in. On one recent lot, not particularly well patronized, the sponsor, as recounted by Steve, "gave a long winded guest ringmaster speech before opening" Quipped Ryan to his partner, "They can't sell a ticket, but they can talk for half an hour!" ... I say, hire Mr. Hickey Shields and bank on larger crowds, but not necessarily on larger profits ... Ah, the compensating joys of circus life! ...

4.2.11

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello David,
After reading your latest entry I feel the need to comment. Specifically on the Cole show, and let me preface my remarks by saying that I am making them as a consumer, not as a critic. I recently caught the show and there are several areas that in my opinion need improvement. The Big Top is designed to seat as many people as possible. Although the show is strong, it's basically a one ring show in a 3 ring top. More seating? Yes. Better seating? No. There is a very small rise between rows, so if a tall person sits in front of you your view will be compromised. The distance between the rows of chairs is too small. I'm 6 feet tall and my knees almost touch the chair in front of me.
The seating I can deal with. The bigger problem is the lighting and sound. The main lighting effect used is spotlights. They are positioned on the top row of seats, 2 on each side of the big top. If you are sitting on either of the long sides of the big top you are almost guaranteed to have these lights pointed directly in your eyes multiple times during the show. A huge, huge distraction that ruins a lot of the show. No colored lighting or other lighting effects are used. As I sat there I could only imagine what a good lighting designer could do with this venue.
The other weak area, is the music. This show went from great live music to mediocre, at best, recorded music, different sources, and of varying quality.
Now that I've vented the negatives let me give you the positives. The physical show looks great. The new top, tho not functional from a viewing standpoint is beautiful to look at. For this early in the season the performance was fairly tight and it flowed very well. Clown alley is up the year and the cat act is one of the best I've seen in quite a while.

Ken

Wade G. Burck said...

Showbiz,
Your assuming Mr. Feld is referring to clowns that were manufactured and produced at clown collage. But let's assume that say, David Larible and Bello are "clowns" that he is referencing, or an independent clown who has negotiated for a spot. If that's the case clowns are still getting stiffed at 40K. It is a matter of trying to figure out from what starting point a story is being spun. To save time trying to figure it out, don't even bother with the press release, or any statements from the publicity department. Just assume any marketing firm will tout and spin a good tale for whom ever is paying them, and will make sure that fact's don't get in the way of a good story.
Wade Burck

Showbiz David said...

WADE, I think you are basically right. What really peeves me is when I spot a press release parading as a review -- not the fault of the Feld flacks (their job to land as mu;ch positive coverage as they can), but of the enabling newspaper or media source.

KEN: Thanks MUCH for your valuable input, which is what circus owners need, not just continual rosy affirmation from the fans. I am 6'-2 and I would greatly resent such seating compression.

I take heart in your calling it a "strong show" and how it flows.

The lighting sounds absolutely atrocious. Encountering the distracting effect of which you speak sometimes just once at a Feld show is bad enough.

Were I to go, maybe I would seek a standing room ticket and wear a thick pair of shades. You make me want to see this circus!

Pray that Sir Pugh will take note and order corrective measures.

Wade G. Burck said...

Showbiz,
"Thanks MUCH for your valuable input, which is what circus owners need, not just continual rosy affirmation from the fans." "Sir Pugh" sounds rosy!!! Hike your britches up, your partiality is showing. LOL
Wade Burck

Showbiz David said...

OK, HIS valuable input trumped mine. Yeah, I'm under a spell that Johnny Pugh is a nice guy, but that won't get him off any hook here. I'll seek local advice on how to "hike up" my britches, as soon as I can be fitted for a pair -- as long as they won't impeded on my 'ole rocking chair snoozes ...

J. Kurt Spence said...

Hello David,

I would agree with Ken about the lighting on the Cole show. Because the spots shine right into your eyes, the persons controlling the spots on ringmaster Conners and other performers, keep the spot on their body and not their face. This avoids being blinded but you cannot see their faces. Very strange?

Seems to me that the spots need to be raised up higher and shine down, as they do at Circus Sarasota and Big Apple.

The music and sound system, run by Lee Ketchum does seem to be a little better this year but still not up to par. The sound and lighting are run from an air-conditioned trailer with video camera attached to the roof so Ketchum can view the action from inside the air-conditioned control trailer and keep the beat and sound of the taped music in sync with the action taking place in the one large ring.

Ken is also correct about the opeing tiger act presented by Judit & Juergen Nerger. Good stuff.

The new top looks wonderful! Stars and all.

Margaret said...

..Hi David..I spent the last month with the Jordan Circus when they toured the pacific northwest..They have a much stronger show than last year, even though the bears were not allowed to work in Oregon ( it's a state law that you can't have black bears on a leash in public.) They have 3 three ring displays,a trap act that does a toe hang ( without a machanic in site,she's a Zerbini) one of the best dog acts I've seen in a long time presented by Kathy Carden,a liberty act,elephants that actually move and do tricks, hand balancing, jugglers, sword balancing, rola bola,foot juggling,contortion,a wheel act, flyers ( the Campa Family)a web display,a high wire, oh and a cat act..( that I might add is very good even if he is my baby,,LOL)..The show ran smooth even battling the Oregon mud and rain..They had some bad days crowd wise, and other days when they had to seat the crowd on the floor ( a straw house so to speak)..Elaine's windshield wipers went out,not a good thing in Oregon..We ended our road trip with the show in Reno with a party celebrating Adam's birthday..They moved on to Billings and are now in ND..