Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: Finding the Biggerstaffs

Rarely did Don Marcks, a life-long circus fan and model builder, show ego, vanity, and hardly ever disdain, but I saw these all on precious few occasions. Some circus troupers, among them Ken Dodd, would remember how "shy" he was around the show, in the backyard.

Disdain?  While once visiting Don in the basement (really the ground floor) of his house, where he would invariably show me the latest circus magazines - not infrequently carping over their contents -  and letters, he pulled out a letter from a guy who was then connected with the Pickle Family Circus out of San Francisco.  I can't recall the guy's act.  Acrobat perhaps. A nice guy who wrote Don offering to come over on a volunteer basis and learn the ropes of Circus Report, the spirit of his offer being that, were Don to at some point need help, he would be prepared to step in. 

To me, the offer seemed above board; after all, Don's many illnesses were well known to his subscribers, of which, at a high point, I would guess there were around 2,400.  On a few occasions, he had to postpone issues while he was in the hospital undergoing a procedure or operation.  I remember visiting him at least once at Doctor's Hospital, not far from where he lived, when he was in ICU. He gazed at me with a hopeful, grateful sigh - as if he had nearly died, stating that he would go on with the paper for certain.  He was very sentimental about it all that day. Almost to tears.  I'd never seen as much soft emotion from Don Marcks.

Back to the letter.  Don looked at it skeptically.  I told him, the fellow seemed sincere, the offer a constructive gesture. I can't remember much else, except that Don became more agitated over the note, to the point of angry distrust.  He lived in fear of another circus periodical coming out against which he would have to compete. It never happened. His paranoia was most unbecoming that day. He may have even distrusted my reaction.

He crunched the letter in his wrist, making a face of inexplicable anger -- as if somebody had insulted him beyond repair -- twisted it nearly to pieces, and tossed it into a wast basket.  I was astonished at such monumental ingratitude.  Perhaps there were things about the man making the offer that I did not know.

Now onto a more viable option; not sure whom contacted whom first.  Here from Don's letter to me dated October 4, 1986:

"By the way, had a call the other day, from those folks in Vegas (Bill Biggeerstaff) he wanted to know when I was going to move there. They've been after me for some time to move up there and say that I could handle the business and make up of CR and they would do the rest for me.  We've never discussed what that would cost me and it might be more than I can afford to think about.

"Even so, I'm not all that sure I would want to live up there - really hot in the summer, cold in the winter and the town might be too wild for me. Would be nice to go there sometime for a visit just the same.:

Bill and Jan Biggerstaff, of course, assumed control of Circus Report following Don's death.

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