Shame on Me! Should have never taken up the pretentious art of “circus reviewing.” Fact is, were I not the only one out there doing this (yes, I know, I’m not the only one, but still), I would not strike others as nearly so odd or eccentric or strange or extreme. Or, what, so stupidly critical ... When 4-letter hate mail arrives, as it did today, aiming profanity at my 2-star review last year of Circus Chimera, I shudder, wondering how much of this I should allow before civilized eyes ... Must mull it over ... In my precocious youth, as opposed to my precocious now, I once irked a Circus Review reader, who had had enough of my lip. Poor editor John Swan, who spent many a page on my out-of-control teenage prose, must have wondered what sort of a monster he’d unleashed ...
Complained the letter writer, regarding something I’d written in a state of anti-John Ringling North who killed the big top discontent, “if you can’t say anything good about somebody, don’t say anything at all.” Lately, I’ve even heard another strain of reader saying, “If you can’t say anything bad about somebody, don’t say anything at all.” Heck, World of Wonders, they once wanted cotton candy. Now they want blood. Brrr ...
Boyi, a “tea tender” here at L’Amyx, noticing a program magazine next to my Dell, mentioned having seen a circus out in Hayward when he was in high school. Boyi is from China, though he never saw any of its famed acrobats. Got as far as a zoo. Wasn’t too high on the tent show he saw, so I asked him (always interested in cold public opinion) to grade it from A to F. He answered, D-plus. Ouch, am I infecting others? Boyi knows nothing of my subversive background (I might soon have to hire protection when I enter big tops with pencil and pad). He said if the circus had “more flips flops, and more animals” (he recalled a single dog), he would have given it a C-+. Boyi, and people think I’m tough.
When I think of the quibbling though favorable notice I turned out at age 14 of a Polack Bros. performance, I am still amazed at how that one publishing breakthrough may have addicted me. Blame it on Walter Hohenadel and the White Tops, if not the CFA. Never could quite figure out the latter. But then again, who can figure me out. Not even me. Next year, I’ve made this resolution: Of any circus I see that I gave less than three stars to this year, if it doesn’t rank in my virtuous view a half a star more, I simply won’t review it. Call it kindness & Tact. Really, I don’t like being so, well — me.
How did we get here? Promise you, I did not bring this up. It was that program magazine, about which I am about to comment. It’s from Kelly Miller, and from John Ringling North the Sequel, and what a touch of rare class! I’ve grown to expect so little, I had no idea K-M puts out one (to be fair, I’m told this they’ve done regularly, so kudos to you, too, David Rawls). Over the last few years, none of the following shows even offered a one-page handout: UniverSoul, Moscow Circus of Stars from Sarasota, Chimera (during its last year), New Cole (recently) Vargas, Carson & Barnes. Simply inexplicable. I mean, when does one, even entering a puppet show, not receive something?
Royally reporting in, Jim Royal tells me of their pleasure with September biz, which he terms “very good.” Just now, back from tea, here’s his latest: “On the good news front, we had a terrific day yesterday, and excellent business again today.” That’s sure to please the House of Ringling, now traveling with the troupe. Well, if the performance is as classy as the magazine, what a calling card. K-M actually lists the acts as they appear. How novel. Ringling no longer does. CDS does not. This heroic action alone demonstrates to yours unruly rare artistic resolve.
I started out with so much to blab about, and I’m using up my hot air fast. Blame it on the Chinese guy who got intrigued with the K-M magazine. BTW, my one quibble: Why “John R. North II presents” on the front cover? That’s what John Ringling North (the original) was called by his relatives when they threw him out. Why not "John Ringling North II" front and center -- or is North's nephew barred by the Felds from using his full name in such conspicuous places? At the end of the listed acts, JRN II does revive a classy salutation known to circus fans of a certain age, "Thank you and Au Revoir ... John Ringling North II." Nice touch!
And so, taking my turn, may I say thank you and au revoir ... So much more out there to chat up when next we meet: Big top books that weigh tons, the new rage, I guess ... Ben Davenport and stark revelations in Bandwagon about Ringling ticket sellers in the last fast canvas days. I must ask Boyi what he would think if he walked away with not all his pennies.
Call this a profanity-proof wrap, I think, while it lasts ...
First published on September 26, 2008