Saturday, March 15, 2014

Big Top Bits: Nik Wallenda to Walk Where Karl Once Walked ... Trouper John Pugh's Cole Bros. Circus Opens Today ... And More!

 Cole Bros. Star Vincenta Pages and her white tigers return for the 2014 season
Feeling the truth of his dauntless trooping spirit: Johnny Pugh, the indomitable showman who cut his circus chops over British sawdust, who has performed, four times,  for Queen Elizabeth, who appeared with his sister on Cole Bros. Circus in the 1940s, working along side such legends as clown Otto Griebling, and who  has owned on operated, hands on every day,  Cole Bros Circus for decades — he is still on the road.  To a Deland reporter, said John “My saddest day is the last day on the road at season’s end.  I can’t wait to go again."

Eerie showmanship, I’d say: Nik Wallenda's latest exploit aloft will put him on the same path that his famed grandfather, Karl walked 45 years ago -- across the 1,000-foot-deep Tallulah gorge over the northeast Georgia mountains ... Projected date is July 18, official permission in the works.   An estimated 35,000 spectators watched Karl Wallenda  traverse the gorge in 1969.  Nine years later, while walking a cable between two buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a sudden windstorm pushed Karl to his death.  No, Nik, please don't go there.

They never give up.   Let's take a provisional peak into the House of Ringling.  John Ringling North II, who may now have the bug, was last season heard to say, “I want something exotic.” Well, he may or may not have said it, for he is known for later recanting.  But, per a teasing e-mail received here from James Royal, it looks like the show might be a tad more exotic -- if all the acts contracted for actually show up – one comes from Ethiopia.  Indeed, and with a new clown alley of one (or maybe two), Kelly Miller may actually be different enough this season too look like a different circus, compared to the last few arguably static years of recycled showmanship.

End Ringers: “Outraged and insulted” are a few of the photographers, here to Germany, who entered work in the last World Circus Federation photo contest.  I’m onto this, and because it may go clear up to the desk of Princess Stephanie, we might be better off, instead of following the money, following the dates, HoHo.  From Circus Report's latest issue, I was struck and amused by: Herb Ueckert reviewing, thumbs up,  Ringling's latest, stating however that we might not be “overwhelmed,” but never in his notice giving a hint why; Peter Pepke offering kudos to ringmasters who refrain from multiple "I can't hear you!" pitches to the audience for fake signs of life, noting "audience groans are clearly audible;" and Chuck Burnes, having read that Johnny Depp suffers from coultrphobia (fear of clowns). Says the famed actor,who himself sometimes works behind creepy makeup,  "There always seems to be a darkness lurking under the surface."

More, for fun, on Johnny the tenting tycoon: Sir Pugh (I've just knighted him for effect) worked elephants for the movie Cleopatra, exchanging smiles and pleasantries with Liz Taylor (“she was the cutest thing”) and Richard Burton, cavorted across zippy London stages in variety revues, once chauffeured a white tiger cub from Rome to Monte Carlo, gifting Prince Rainier and Princess Stephanie for their private zoo. ... And omigosh, I am going to declare TODAY the official start of the 2014 American Circus Season. For, here's why:  Johnny Pugh’s Cole Bros. Circus opens today in Deland.  Break a trunk, Johnny!  Have another boffo season!  Save a show for me in Jersey, I hope, when I’m back that way in late May.  Let's let Johnny, the nicest showman on earth, have the last word.  Once again -- drum rolls!  Trumpet blasts!

“I can’t wait to go again.”

1 comment:

Harry Kingston said...

Hi David,
Looks like the tent season is off to a big bang.
You can bet Johnny Pugh is giving the folks a big bang for there buck.
Johnny and Elvin, always try to give the public a well rounded circus.
I just had a email from a friend that saw the opening and they had full houses and many new acts this year.
Johnny Pugh, is with it and for it and eats, sleeps and breaths circus and his brain is figuring out what new he will do next.
His tent is 3 years old and looks brand new.
John Ringling North II and Jim Royal will give the folks along the KM route a good show with production numbers and exotic animals plus new acts and you still got to make the nut.
I just talked to Mr. North on the phone and they had a rough opening due to help shortage but in true circus style they all pitched in and the show went on as usual.
I just got back from seeing the new addition of Carson and Barnes and a great visit with Barbara Byrd and her great family.
They fought 40 plus mile and hour winds but the show went on.
They have a new performance with the globe of death, new opening spec,new dog act, a large juggling act,new perch pole act and a quick change act and a lot more.
A new ringmaster that you can understand every word he says in the tent. I am glad to see that fat mush mouth pony tail old ringmaster is gone.
Carson and Barnes has done great business and some towns had to add extra shows.
We are going to see them again along the route and especially in San Leon,Tx where there is a great seafood restaurant by the water and the circus jackpots will flow.
Harry in Texas