Clown for a New Day

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

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dreaming Season 7 for Oft "Misquoted" John Ringling North II: Will Ringling Numerology Deliver a Really Big Show Next Year?

Updated: 6/12/12 5:30 PST *

Perpetually misquoted,
it seems, is he -- John Ringling North II, now in his sixth season at the helm of Kelly Miller Circus. Just received a letter from John II, thanking me for a copy of my book inscribed to him and James Royal, and taking the time to correct me on my misquoting him in my book. "I never said I was bringing Ringling magic [to the show]," something many of us thought he said upon taking over. "A reporter, Shalivia Ramirez used it in an article in 2007. "

Okay, so he never said it, In a greater sense, he has lived it, at least half way, reviving a mini-portion semblance of the North Starlets (in aerial ballets), crafting a multi-act production number just before intermission, even using a song or two composed by his uncle, John Ringling North, when the latter produced high and gloriously some true Greatest Shows on Earth ...

* Here is what bothers me, and it took a while to puzzle it out of my mind: If JRN II really did not promise anything like "a little Ringling magic," and moreover, if he wants it to be clear that he did not, is he basically revealing a kind of indifference to the challenges that most circus producers feel if not address? Is he merely covering himself for what might be called static showmanship? Or, is there yet another possibility, Dr. Watson, the possibility of discomfort he may feel in seeing his own words repeated back in print? Read on! ...

Other quotes, other qualms: Now wait a minute, I thought, wasn't there another time when Mr. North took me to task for passing along, if not creating, things he never said? There was. Back around 2009, I quoted a reporter quoting John II, stating, it appeared, that business had been double what it was the previous two season. Not so! Came a correction from the House of Ringling, granting that, yes he had in fact been quoted making such a remark, but that it was a misquote. "What I said was business to date was ahead of the previous 2 seasons."

And ... Misquote number three! In the same corrective e-mail, John II pointed yet another something he had never said, something I did not pass along, for it struck me as fairly bogus. And here it is: "I also did not say I had spent many years clowning." I never believed it, in fact, I was rather puzzled by what seemed to be a lot of dubious assertions composing a background in the circus for John II, including his having been the side show's assistant manager. At the age of around 15 years old??? I don't know how a reporter got hold of such ... Okay, enough of that. Here on out, I am NOT quoting anything he said. If you will grant, let me quote myself:


Enter the number 7, due to come into play next year. In Ringling mythology, no number holds more power than SEVEN. Here's why -- 1937: John Ringling North (the original) returns management of Ringling-Barnum back into the family hands, setting off an ugly family battle for ultimate control of the show; 1947: JRN captures a controlling 51% interest in the circus, realizing a life-long dream of entitlement; 1957: JRN moves the show indoors; 1967: JRN sells out to Irvin and Israel Feld and to the Texas Judge (whose name I will not dare try spelling here); 2007, John Ringling North II enters the tent show field, belatedly, by purchasing Kelly Miller Circus from David Rawls. Boy, did that take time to reach my Big Theme ...

Next year will be Season Seven for John II. Might we expect momentous things? Might John II be able to let go of favored performers brought back year after year, hire a fresh new cast and break away from same old-same old? I suppose it depends on the bottom line. Are they making any money? Skimming across the bloggery of Steve Copeland, the closest thing we have to a sense of how things are going, business does not seem to have been anything much to blog about this tour. Rarely do I see "full house" or "near full." My impression, and yes, this will cause some to become unhinged, is of a show on the passive side, albeit it with lots of high energy clowning from Copeland and Combs. Even if North wishes to stay a more conservative course, can he get sponsors to sign on year after year, the crowds in regular towns to return, if they harbor nagging reasons to anticipate a show simply not new and exciting enough to lure them away from everything else Out There?

Oh, come on now, Mr. John the Sequel, you owe it to Ringling mythology, to make Season 7 your Best Show to date, most of all, a totally New show -- like the one your famed Uncle John produced in -- oh here we go again! -- 1947. Do it even if you have to take some kind of a second mortgage on your cows (or is it cattle?), if you have to petition the Fed for a modest bailout. Tell them you are too small to fail! ... I'm placing my two dollars on Season Seven in the seventh --- to show.

1 comment:

Circus Photos said...

David,
I feel the same way about this season show. I feel there are some acts that need to be change. They are the samething year after year.I feel Copeland and Combs are holding their own.