The Ringlings are back! John Ringling North II makes his first appearance in the ring since marching in the last parade under the big top, in Pittsburgh, PA, 1956. (photo by Valerie Berta Torales from her blog The Mudshow Diaries)
The House of Ringling returns to the trenches: Feeling at home over sawdust, John Ringling North II booked himself onto his own show, Kelly Miller Circus, to fill in for a departing whip spinner. Whether he will claim the gig on a day to day is yet to be known. Here he is participating in this year's western themed spec. A couple of years ago, he was caught by a camera standing among a clatch of tigers in the Big Cage. Hes' jammed with the band. What next? A rendezvous on the high wire? A workout with five clubs? Clog dancing? Hula Hooping?
He's a Work in Progress: This Ringling of Ringlings, new kid on the lot, showed traces of edgy pluck and coolness in his youth when he traveled with Big Bertha. For a time, he trouped under the assumption that he'd be trained to take over one day for his uncle John. Never happened when the Felds came along with an offer Uncle John could not resist. JRN II was told after he married that "the circus life is not for a married man." He's now disproving that lame theory. This marks his fifth season managing Kelly-Miller, and anybody who can keep a big top in the air that long already earns passing marks. Question is: How far will he take it? I don't see as much artistic ambition as I had hoped for. But this more laid-back Dude Showman may need more time get his Ringling rhythm ...
He's his own man, revealing yet another another wry side to an easy-going personality. A stark reversal to the aloof persona worn by his famous uncle, John Ringling North the Original. North II is reportedly liked by all (as was his dad, Henry Ringling North), socializes now and then with members of the company at local eateries, sometimes picking up the tab, and enjoys sitting out in the audience monitoring his show. Father and son keep alive the spirit of the most liked of the original five brothers -- Charles Ringling.
How is Kelly-Miller doing? I'm in a quandary, mainly because, as I see it, the show carries virtually the same set of performers as last season, although some are said to be doing new or different routines. Judging from Steve Copeland's blog, business appears to be generally strong.
So, I'd say, enjoy the moment and wait for next season. This branch of the House of Ringling may have more and bigger surprises in the works. The man at the top seems to be in no particular hurry. And maybe that's the best road to take.