Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Out of the Past: Rare Kenneth Feld Sightings: Big Show Boss Spotted in Action on Coney Lot
Through a bizarre chain of flukes as preciously disclosed, fate delivered me onto the Coney Island lot of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, opening night of their summer long show under a tent, Illuscination.
Sunny evening. Early arriving, I wandered into the outdoor food and rest area, past a special VIP tent. Little did I know how close I was to the Feld of Felds. When I discovered him hobnobbing with a gaggle of upscales around a stand–up fast food table, shamelessly I fell into the reluctant mode of a virtual peeping paparazzi, albeit with camera in pocket. I moved this way and that, stealing weaselly glances from afar in an effort to view the goings of a true big top tycoon.
Mr Feld was primly attired in a rather drab suit. Conservatively groomed. We are not talking metro sexual. He struck me as stout-hearted, strong on his feet and vigorously engaged. His animated manner that of a carnie pitchman, similar, as I recall, to my one fleeting Irvin Feld sighting years ago. Bear with me here, World, if I seem to be “obsessing,” but my only aim is to journalistically bear witness. Now, at this point, there was not much I could do, so I circled the power zone like an invading mosquito of slim prospects, keeping my stalking wings as under control as possible. I wondered what my subject might say that could be discretely overheard. But I failed miserably to zoom in, as they say; That sort of observational space crashing — “Well, there he is, the man himself! A fun question, Mr. Feld? Any exciting new productions planned with ex-CIA operatives?” — does not suit my shy nature. Camera stayed in pocket.
But then something substantial happened; He turned about and walked away, alone, without lackey or Pinkerton, toward the concession tent. I was struck by how remarkably short he is. I’d only seen him once before, back in the 1970s standing quietly at the edge of the performance area at a Florida venue monitoring the spec as it circled the track. The show was then, New York bound, still a work in progress. He struck me that evening as the essence of calm.
Compared to my distant mental snapshot, I had not imagined Kenneth Feld being so short, nor so animated either. Actually, one might say that this lack of height adds an overcompensating flair to his persona. The youthfully invigorated circus king ambled with the slightly swaggering air of an innocent kid maximizing an overstepped gait to project power and confidence. His glib saunter brought to mind Charlie Chaplin's Everyman character.
Through the maze of patrons and circusy things for sale I followed sheepishly after, seeking additional insights that did not rise above the level of vapid. (I report; you deride.). He slipped into the tent, and I lost contact.
He resurfaced to lead a pre-show appearance by the Family Feld, scripted and staged for the entire house. Out strode, with a statuesque air of authority and privilege, Mr. Feld and stately daughters -- counting three if I am correct, each as I recall looming taller than her dad, a rather charming irony, and neither wearing drab. Feld's appreciative address to the crowd, great to be back at Coney, etc., was strong and steady, clear and to the point. And with that, I concluded that I was done with him.
But, as fate would have it, I was not. The Gods of petty power worshiping rituals had invaded my chronic indifference, at last.
As previously sworn to my faithful four followers, in seeking relief from my crummy $10 seat only one row off the floor (too many late arrivers blocking my view), and with the sympathetic reluctance of one young usher, I stole into a better section of empties. At intermission, I discovered Mr. Feld once more (his now familiar backside, that is), standing right there in the aisle on my row conversing with an entourage of corporate and/or religious associates. Then, once more on his own, he made his way down the steps in a carefree manner. Moments later, I noticed him sauntering happily around the ring on his way out, and holding hands with a woman whom I assumed to be his wife. Together, they lent the impression of young marital bliss.
Now, we are close to the target moment. The piece de resistance! The second half is about to begin. I notice that our subject under surveillance has returned and is now sitting on the aisle directly across from the person in the chair next to mine. (For those logistically challenged, I am sitting two seats off the aisle.)
Alright, journalism is about to ascend the heights of its sacred calling. Comes now, at last, my most revealing sighting. Are you ready for the revelation of revelations? Count this your right of passage, this bright shining insight your day and your night. Your holy grail, your wind, your sail, your morning coffee and snail. Drum rolls! Trumpets! A full hallelujah fanfare, Maestro Evans, if you please!...
I happened to glance once (and only once) to my right: Exactly this I observed: Kenneth Feld was seated, well composed in his chair, eagerly watching the show.
(photos, from the top: my original seating area; the section I crashed]
First published July 28, 2010