Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tito Gaona, Like a Kid, Says Goodbye to a Red Ring in Venice

Strange to note that its exposed frame looks so Art Concello, so aeronautic and really not of the big top at all.  So much like the sleek structure for a seat wagon ingeniously designed by Concello back in 1948.

 Tito's great dream failed to fly

Sorry to say as the curtain comes down, that the Venice Ringling arena never struck me as glamorous or "circusy."  No atmosphere. Too much Concello.  The setting holds greater meaning, me thinks, to performers like Tito Gaona than to fans like me.  Ringling would put together a new show there, whip it into shape and try it out on a new test audience, before hitting the road north for Madison Square Garden.

They dreamed, too, but how many museums can a small circus community support?

But all of that is gone, leaving Tito, who waged a valiant campaign to save the arena, now felling like a kid having just watched a circus throw down the canvas, pack the wagons and rumble off into darkness.  "There was a red ring out there where they trained bears and different acts from Europe," he says.  He envisioned the arena being turned into a museum.

After the Clyde Beatty Circus left the town of my boyhood, Santa Rosa, back in the early 1950s, there were three circles traced in the dirt.  I know the feeling of loss, Tito.  If you're lucky,  you might find a few ticket stubs amidst the Venice ruins.

Art Concello designed it to be functional, period

The great flyer did everything he could to save the architecturally sterile arena.  "It was a sentimental thing that I thought everybody would stand up and help,” he told Josh Taylor of ABC's Mysuncoast.com  “Save this landmark. This landmark was Venice."

Some things just aren't worth saving.  Other things more than worth saving are callously ignored. Hell, and I do say Hell, we haven't even ONE Concello seat wagon to walk around, stare at in retrospective wonder, dream over and under and around. Not ONE, damn it!   Who let that happen? 

I hereby challenge the millionaire land grabbers at the Ringling Art Museum, fighting to trump paintings with peanuts,  to build from scratch a full scale Art Concello seat wagon.   I know of a rich model builder there who could easily make it happen.  For him, chump change.  Or maybe down in Baraboo, where they  have experience building full scale model circus wagons

In spirit, I agree with Tito Tito, who, in many sawdust quarters, is everybody's favorite trap star.  He flew like a well controlled fireball. Sizzled, from swing to catcher’s grip, turning three and flashing his sky-wide smile out of another aerial orbit. 

"To save something historical is very important,” told the circus fireball to Josh Taylor “That's why Europe is so famous."

The spirit of Gunther Gebel Williams may remain, it alone, in the form of a little barn in which the great German animal trainer paced his cats through practice. 

“At the same meeting where Venice City Council members approved the demolition of the large arena,” reported Taylor, "a majority said to hold off on destroying a small octagonal building commonly referred to as the Gunter Gebel-Williams building."

"It just gives me chills to walk in here,” says Tito. “A tribute to Gunther Gebel-Williams. A great man.  A great performer."

Well, Tito, when Bob Mitchell once drove me down a Florida highway, stopped along an open field,  pointed to an object half burred in the distance, I got out and crunched through rattle snake-laced grass to reach the thing, to climb up into a small back section, and for a magical moment stand inside a piece of hallowed history, where once, big top icons dressed and rested between performances: A Concello seat wagon.

I know the feeling, Tito.  It gave me chills.

Thanks to Don Covington for linking me to this report, filed yesterday

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