Don's model circus at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach in El Cerrito, CA, where he lived.
Passing images of the sawdust scene, from his letter to me dated April 16, 1988:
"That Circus of the Sun [Cirque du Soleil] is in San Francisco but so far I haven't gone over there at all. I really ought to go look at it and attend one show - that way I could say I did see it. But it doesn't appeal too much to me... it isn't circus as we tend to think about it ...
"Within a couple of weeks the stuff for the Japan tour of Ringling will be leaving. Most of it is going out of Los Angeles ... It seems to be having a pretty strong lineup of acts. Only thing I heard was that the Japanese promoter didn't want any motorcycle globe acts and Feld is sending one over anyway."
[There was more about the show, as it turned out, that the promoter in Japan did not like at all, resulting in a lawsuit against the Felds, alleging that they delivered an inferior Ringling product]
"Vargas is also supposed to go up north this time around and will not go into Canada.
"I don't seem to get as much news as in the past. That fellow Stoddard sees a lot of shows, which is a big help. [Billy] Barton's column is also a help these days and while several people have said they were happy to see it back, none of them expressed any complaint when it didn't appear."
About another one of Don's contributor's, he wrote, "Only thing I thought he wrote his column like he was writing a sermon for church. People did make comments at times because of his always good reports and upbeat articles."
How ambivalent Don was, sometimes skittish about relentless positive notices, but prone to print only them, thus getting what he wanted, whether he liked it or not.
Once, he complained to me in passing about all the glossy reviews one fan after another was turning in on Circus Vargas. Sometime later, to my surprise, he told me that so and so "sent me a review of Vargas, it wasn't very good, so I didn't print it."
Sigh. What I might have said, but why? That was Don. He was a good friend. I knew his limits. So I refrained from even mildly trying to suggest that a bad review now and then might juice up the paper, and would likely not result in a mass walk-out of subscribers.
Hmm. Or would it?