Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: Waiting for a poster to appear on the side of a building. Reaching for rumors. Wondering if the show might already be somewhere in the area ... Might already be, horror of horrors, gone! ...

A sunny pleasure it is, these summer days, sitting out on my balcony on Saturday afternoon, wandering through the many letters I have from Don Marcks.  Looking for something meaty (rare), or just a few words or images that fire a feeling, a memory, a thought.

From June 13, 1965:

“Had hoped that on your trip to Santa Rosa, you’d run across some information on Carson & Barnes - Haven’t heard or learned a thing myself.  Wish that I knew where they are and just hope that I haven’t missed them completely.  Boy that would sort of be tragic to say the least.”

Ah, yes, Don, it would!   The mystery of where they where that moment in June.  Before the internet, and all these modern gadgets, you waited  for big gaudy lithographs to blossom on the sides of buildings, and was that a thrill.

No posters in Santa Rosa was a sure sign that C & B hadn’t been there, yet, if, indeed, they planned to play the town at all.  For, when this show did come to town, well in advance it threw up lithographs wherever it could.

Newspaper ads, if there were any as I recall, did not tend to appear until right near show day.

Once, I came upon a dazzling, indeed, rather brazen sea of Carson and Barnes lithographs covering, it seemed, the entire temporary (construction)  wood wall that surrounded the Courthouse in the middle of  town.  It felt like an invasion of sorts.  Carson and Barnes posters screamed CIRCUS!  Screamed,WE ARE COMING! 

Carson and Barnes Circus midway, around this period

The mystery for Don and me.  Yes, were they at that moment somewhere close?  They tended to pitch their tents in smaller towns, so they could sneak through without our ever knowing.

Routes in the Billboard would often arrive too late.

My most vivid memory of coming upon a circus litho was one, medium size, posted on a wall around Fourth Street, of a man who appeared, miraculously, to be standing on one finger!  I couldn’t believe what I was watching.  Did this really happen?  The words Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey were prominently displayed across the sheet. But the image of the man was stunning.

It would forever epitomize for me the startling and superior magic of circus.

The year was 1953.  Ringling had staked out prime visual notice of its coming to San Francisco, some fifty miles south of Santa Rosa.

I was too young to take a bus ride down and see the circus.

I can’t remember if Carson and Barnes played any Bay Area dates in 1965 close to either Don or me.

Ah, the mystery of wondering, waiting, hoping, dreaming ...

And of fearing, in Don’s words, “something tragic.”

I can tell you this, had I gone all the way to Richmond, in 1955, only to find that the great Ringling Bros. Circus under the big top had skipped the date, now, that would have been tragic.


Dennis said...

Sorry, but after reading (or was it during) this article you wrote I felt you had the urge (need) to write something but knew it yourself you were grasping at straws here. A non-story really: or could have been written in one paragraph.

Douglas McPherson said...

I remember seeing the one-finger balance on a DVD of old Steve Allan shows. I'd bought it for Elvis' performance and the retro adverts for 1950s Cadillacs etc - this was before I was really into circus - but even then that one-finger man captured my imagination more than the King's rubber legs. I ogled and boggled at the sight and it all came back to me when I read your book and you exposed how he did it. Strangely, knowing the secret wasn't a disappointment. It somehow made the illusion even more impressive.