Clown for a New Day

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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Morning Memories: I Still See the Magic, Still Hear the Music ...

Sunday Morning Looking Back: First published November 22, 2009 



Cool cool day here in Oakland. Looking over bits and pieces getting ready to brighten up (or dull down) this post, past and present march side by side in my many-crowded brain. Beatty may crack his whip. OVO from Cirque du Soleil, yet to be seen in SF, may charm -- or fool ...

On the lots and on the blogs, images of yesterday and today parade in crazy juxtapositions keeping alive a dialogue inside my dithering brain: What is circus? A photo of Otto Griebling on Margaret's Circus Anonymous blog brings me to a late breaking realization: Most lovably amusing come-in clown I’ve ever seen. So lucky to have been there. Talk about characters, which is what the best clowns are. Otto was so close to real I’m still not sure he wasn’t just a harmless bum allowed to stick around the show ....


On Balloon Man Dick Dykes midway, bright-as-sun photos of lusciously gaudy side show banner lines bring back memories of standing inside 10-in-1 tents under hot and heavy canvas over real grass. Maybe Cirque du Soleil will default to a retro side show if they fall off the stage; that's where they’re headed after trying out their latest in Chicago, something called Banana Shpeel that sounds like Kenneth Feld thought up the title. Tense present tense: Early unhappy audience reactions during Shpeel previews sound ominously similar to what Cirque’s Vegas illusion show Believe suffered when it first opened. Now, if they flop the proscenium test at the Beacon Theatre this February, what next. Rodeo? — World Wrestling? Here’s what next may be, something featuring this Indian hoop dancer, Nakota LaRance, from Flagstaff, Arizona, recently hired by CDS to appear on one of its units.


What makes a ring star? I still feel the magic, thank you Anthony Gatto, reading about your dedication to your juggling. Interviewed last March by BaltimoreGayLife.Com, revealed the hoop and club wiz, his daily training includes two plus hours of practice, a 3 mile jog, weight lifting and pre-show stretching. “I’m not saying every juggler has to go through that. There are a lot of different styles of juggling. My style is very high technical with a lot of numbers in the air. In order to keep those items aloft for so long, it does take some power [and boy do YOU have it] so I do have to do some other things besides the actual activity of juggling.” Of particular pride to this Brooklyn born dynamo? “My greatest accomplishment was winning a gold medal in 2000" [at Monte Carlo].

Upside down at Zing Zang Zoom: Yes, that's how the picture was meant to hang.

Pleasant present tense, continued, down the Covington chute: Nice critical nod for Ringling’s Zing Zang Zoom from the Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones, who enjoyed himself. All, that is, except for a few spot-on caveats with which I cheerfully concur: Jones found the disappearing tiger act, while OK, not as fulfilling as “seeing the video screen that dominated too many prior editions disappear.” He was thoroughly irked, yes irked!, by the illuminated “blackout-killing concession booth,” which he wished they would also make go away. “This seductive grotto of high-priced plastic is tolerable at intermission [agreed!]; making kids drool and parents hang on to their billfold for the entire show goes way, way to far.

Wheel of Death, take a break! ... That’s the other Ringling thing our Chicago critic said he could live without. Seen it a million too many times, and so have I come to think about it. It's grown a little too standard, except for the rare daredevil who can turn it truly breathtaking (Go see Kooza).

Last Man on the Lot: Wistfully nostalgic Bill Taggart, having recently attended the Show folks of Sarasota memorial service for Ben Williams, feeling a pang over all those with-it and for-it souls no longer with us. Bill’s penning for the Bandwagon about his days on Ringling as it stumbled towards big top oblivion in Pittsburgh. We just got ‘54. Now I anxiously await ‘55, for that’s the first and only time I ever saw Big Bertha under the big top, up the road in Richmond, CA. Now, if Bill’s diary has anything on the Richmond date (the day before they faced an ugly line of Teamsters' pickets at the Cow Palace in SF), he’s not letting on. My one day of old Ringling magic. Okay, Bill, if you have to, make something up! ... For the guy who then sold tickets in the yellow wagon, all the people he so fondly remembers working with are now gone. “I now realize that I am the last living person from the front end of the Greatest Show on Earth. Rudy Bundy, Edna Antes, Nena Evans, Theor Forrestol, Noyelles and Hilda Burkhardt, Bobby Hasson, Bob Reyholds, Walter Rairden, Bobby DeLochte all those wonderful circus veterans all gone...”

On summer days, sometimes still I imagine myself standing outside that beautiful blue spread of designer Ringling canvas on a hot August afternoon and listening to the band play on while butchers ran in and out to restock their coca cola trays inside a small side top ... That evening, I would be inside taking in the circus of a lifetime. The next year, it was gone. But in this mind of mine, it still lives vividly on ... To OVO or not to OVO? Okay, I still fall for the hype. I’m coming, with apologies for unfair expectations. I come from out of the past ...

11.22.2009

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