Saturday, June 11, 2011

Frisco and Feld Make Up: Big Show Returns to Cow Palace; Other Bay Area Bound Big Tops Include Circus Bella and Cirque's "Totem"

Ringling-Barnum at the Cow Palace, 1948.

The End of the Snub: Here in my mail box, a bright flashy flyer from Ringling-Barnum, touting a date at the Cow Palace over the Labor Day weekend. So, the two parties are talking again. Back to the city that once "knew how" goes the Big Show's Fully Charged edition, its advance ad copy favoring animals and clowns. Might that alone mean that American audiences who flock -- or trickle out -- to see the latest Ringling still favor, in fact demand the roar of a tiger, the trunk of a pachyderm? And I'm tempted to make the long humdrum transit haul over there; something about that old barn that brings back sacred memories; over there, I saw the '55 show for the second wonderful time, having first seen it under canvas the very day before in Richmond. Already, I feel faintly charged. But, all fanship aside, I still don't see great crowds storming the turnstiles. S.F. narcissists, a tad emboldened by old Pickle Family Circus no-animals-here elitism -- prolonged by the chronic snobbery of the S.F. Circus Center -- have conditioned themselves to snub anything that performs on four legs, that is, all except for the human variety under strobe lights at a late-night garage S&M party.

Other Frisco visitors: The slightly less little Circus Bella, kicking up comedy and juggling gusto across several Bay Area locations this summer. Nice to know they are still out there. Once they get a little name, other dates are sure to follow, and then all they need is their very own tent.

Then comes, October time, Cirque du Soleil's Totem, a unit I am looking forward to seeing. Show plays in a parking lot near the Giants baseball park in S.F. Lovely location.

So, given the parade of circuses heading west, why not Kelly-Miller? Seems biz is way down over there, per a pouting Steve Copeland. Might a reason be that the show is much too similar to last years? In fact, this show seems almost frozen in time, unable to turn itself over from one season to the next. Just what was John Ringling North II thinking when he decided, or defaulted to keeping intact the same company? Too nice a guy to give anybody pink slips? Too dependent on the possible kindness of his current performers to work for, how to put this, highly agreeable wages? Heck, out here they'd be playing to all-new audiences, so their show would look just as fresh as it did -- two or three seasons ago.

Trouble might be, could a certain clown car (or truck) operated, on some days, by joey Steve, even make it all the way out to the Golden State? Heck, they might advertise Steve's perilous early-morning put puts onto the lot. I'd love to be up early enough to see him fearlessly at the wheel, coaxing his little 1/2 cylinder make-do aggravation into view. Oh, why am I thinking this: a rainy morning would make the event picture perfect!

The Wallendas do Karl's Death Walk: Down there in Puerto Rico, where Karl's life came to an end in 1978 at the age of 73, 100 hundred feet above the ground during a long walk between two seaside towers, his great grandson Nik Wallenda, recreated the stunt. Joining Nik was his mother, Delilah, in her late 50s. No safety net. Starting at opposite ends, the two met in the middle. Delilah sat down on the wire so that her son could walk over her. They both reached salvation on the other side.

These demonstrations of human courage are becoming less and less a part of the show. When even today's younger generation of performers defend the use of mechanics, in effect, wondering if those -- like me -- actually favor tragic outcomes, there you have pretty stunning evidence of how the circus world itself is turning away from the spectacle of the true daredevil. But don't count the beleaguered daredevil out just yet. You'll see him/her in other forums if not under the big top, thrilling a public still wishing to be truly thrilled. Call it the human condition. To me, it symbolizes the daring-do of astronauts shooting off into space, of mountain climbers, of ...


Casey McCoy Cainan said...

Oh Showbiz...even if everything in the air wears a can still root for the tigers in my act. You might get to see, what you think, I think, you want to see...

J. Kurt Spence said...

David, I recently saw Totem on a new installed parking lot by the bay in Baltimore. The seats were packed, souvenier tent was packed and the show was spectacular. The best circus I have seen this year and I have been to about a dozen. Feats were performed that seemed humanly impossible and not once was there a miss! Just fabulous! Definitely go see it.

Showbiz David said...

I can't wait, Kurt.

You saw about a dozen circuses. Depending upon how you feel, I would be most interested to hear your impressions of the various shows, if you wish to share, no matter how different they may be from my own. That would be most welcome, too.