Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: The Strange Ringling Season of '67. Big Shots Hunker Down in San Francisco to Plan the '68 Show

Only a few months before John Ringling North would sell his circus to outside hands, the status quo appeared to be intact and operational as key members of the staff converged on San Francisco during Ringling's run at the Cow Palace, for production planning.  The show they were creating would rank high on my Top 10 list of all-time favorite circus performances.

From Don's letter to me dated September 14, 1967

"The interesting thing about the date in San Francisco was that they held meeting's for next years shows.  That is all the big shots were in the city, every day.  This included Henry North, Barstow, Dover, Antoinette, Valdo, a couple of artists, etc. Guess that Merle Evans also attends these meetings."

In retrospect, the letter sounds a bit strange, as most of these people were traveling with the show,  Barstow being the exception.

By 1967, the Big Show was again drawing healthy crowds and making big money, despite s fictional back story that would be put out by the new owners to be. And here is where the story gets really interesting.

In that year's program magazine, in the usual photo of JRN with his greeting, another photo, seen here, featured his nephew, John Ringling North II, and the nephew's son,JRN III, with a message pointing to a clear continuation of Ringling family ownership and direction. Wrote North:

"It is now time I believe to start looking towards a couple of newer generations represented in the accompanying photo."

Of course that never happened.  The more relevant photo would have been one of Irvin and Israel Feld.  But North himself, now so far away, may not  have seen so different a fate hovering in the wings.

The circus, wrote Don, drew a 3/4 quarter house on Saturday, which he guessed to be the best house.  If the show could draw a three-quarter house at the Cow Palace when it plays there this summer, we would consider that boffo biz.

How times change.

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