From Showbiz David, Shock Therapy Division
Our field compliance monitors, led by Sage and Sarah, will be out on the lots to monitor voluntary adherence to these directives, addressed but not limited to the following producers:
Barbara Byrd (Carson & Barnes): About that greying midway of yours that has a kind of Twilight Zone Craft Shows look to it (update clarification, to be fair: I am not referring to the trucks but to the various rides and fencing apparatus), it needs paint and it needs paint now. As for your under canvas carnival addictions, OK, I accept. I give. Your way not mine. And as a new Carney convert to the C&B let’s-take-a-ride! intermission, please expand the spread to include the following rides: The Whip, Tilt A Whirl, Giggle In, Fun on The Farm fun house (aka.Thimble Theatre on the old Foley & Burk lot). Give me the quaint classics and I will jump for joy. Heck, skip the last half of the show so I can have plenty of time to ride and reride them, and maybe feel born again. I’ll bet for a small donation (or say, a million free kids tickets) you could borrow the Thimble Theatre from the Circus World Museum, where it rots away in a back barn. What a coup. Get those shuffle boards rolling again and I’ll shuffle off to wherever you are, and kneel down and kiss your Hugo hush puppies, and nominate you for the Carnival Restoration Hall of Fame. Give me The Whip, please, Ms. Byrd!
Gary Dunning (Big Apple Circus): You have work do. A lot of work. Get notepad and paper.
1. Your front door is a constipated streetcar named frustration. Do you have an amateur show complex or something?. I dread having to wait in line (a la Disneyland) and then having to sludge through while two young amateurs fiddle with wands that do not make magic. I look at your bloated masthead, dozens of names for this and that — how many brains does it take to hatch a production? You have already spilled blood purging employees for murky reasons. Time to get real, slice half the staff, and offer your booted bureaucrats positions on the front door, which desperately needs bodies to move the crowds. Or hire anyone out of Hugo, Oklahoma. I still recommend Jim Judkins for the job. Crack your whip!
2. Cease and desist your blatantly misleading performance information. Since you cut 15 minutes out of the morning shows, common ethics dictate that you so indicate on your website. I searched and searched and found nothing and assumed like a sucker that you had repented since my last visit. I am sending my ticket back for a refund, false advertising the reason. Shall we meet on Judge Judy? Either my money back, or a video of Grandma singing in the rain, with or without walker or portable ventilator. How dare you omit such a talked-up item from any performance! Has BAC becomes such a sacred cow that it can moo us on and around however it pleases? Your callous disregard for properly informing prospective customers rivals that of Kenneth Feld (see below). Shame on you!
3. The Barry Lubin matter: Since you pander to Mr. Lubin’s need for rest and time off, a policy unprecedented in the circus world, I urge you to insert a slip in the program, Broadway style, whenever he is out, stating “In this morning's kiddie program, the role of Grandma, sometimes played by Barry Lubin, will be played by....”) Taking a cue from the late great David Merrick, why not hire guest celebrities to do Grandma? Madonna? Dr. Phil? Ophra? Simon Cowell? ShowBiz David? You could extend Grandma’s box office cache for another half century and make Paul Binder a very happy man, either above or below the ground.
Kenneth Feld (Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey). Your blase attitude towards ad ethics is galling, simply galling! No, I am not surprised. Let’s see, you produce a really great show, first time under the big top on American soil in over fifty years, you pitch it over Coney Island, you call it Boom A Ring. Good going, so far. So far seems to be your operating mantra. Now as to my complaint: You short circuit your impression on the public by refusing to replace the high wire act (seen here) that left in April. An act, by the way, still illustrated in your program magazine, still featured on your website video teaser. Reminds me of how you shamelessly misrepresented your Ringless Bros. 2006 outing to the public by using a video tease containing acts it did not present. Why do I complain? Your show needs more in the air to seal the deal.
Mr. Feld, Paragraph Two: This willful negligence is inexcusable, especially for a circus that treats a million bucks like chump change and had spent years building up an honored and TRUSTED reputation. Don’t fool yourself into believing the customer will not notice. What were you thinking on opening night at Coney Island, standing there next to Mayor Bloomberg and expressing faith in return summer visits? I fear this highly notable venture will come up a bust like your Kaleidoscape did, and you will pack up your toys and pull out in a pout, never having gone the distance to make it work, defaulting back to demographics and flash. Your blatant lack of ethics, I am afraid, extends the darker side of the Feld legacy.
Guy Laliberte (Cirque du Soleil): take a year off from whatever it is you are up to away from your Cirque throne (okay, I'll grant you that space ride, but get back here to earth on the next return flight), and spend a little more time watching your shows — remember the shows? You are the King, so ACT LIKE A KING. Are you out of your mind (or broke?) forsaking your signature tent show style by reducing to indoor arena drivel your earlier editions? (Note my fearful restraint in not bringing up the explosive book about you alleging a penchant for costly pleasures.) Now if those extra curricular activities are blowing your kitty up in Montreal, I'd suggest turning to Craigslist. Happy anniversary!
John Ringling North II (Kelly-Miller): At the risk of inspiring a rash (okay, a tiny trickle) of edgy e-mail smears from your loyal staff (compliments on charming them so well), I exhort you to return to your earlier, more global reach in act selection. Your seasons 1 and 2, on paper, looked more interesting, what with an Asian contortionist whom you were said to have favored, to those exciting (or so I read) African tumblers last year. Looks to me like Hugo got the best of you and you defaulted this season to the Mexican Family Plan, not, I hope, because your Master Card has maxed out. So how about making like your Uncle John and scouting foreign lands (via public transit, if that’s all you can afford) to sign exciting new “first time in Oklahoma” imports? BTW, congrats on your promotion from proprietor to producer.
John Pugh (New Cole or Old Cole or Modified Cole): My only complaint at this point is the elusive contact information on your website. No phone number? The e-mail address given has for years gone nowhere. Why not more than a Deland post office box? I am sending you a letter with self-addressed stamped return envelope, hoping you will return to Coney Island next year, and hoping you will share with me the dates, which I promise not to reveal, so that I can see both yours and Mr. Feld's shows, and have myself a Brooklyn big top bonanza.
Cedric Walker (UniverSoul) I'd like to see your circus more often, and here's why I shun it. Please take that childish “It’s a black thing” chip off your shoulder and bring your show into a better Oakland. That would be Jack London Square, not that desolate mound of dirt, weeds, and freeway off ramps out by the Raider Nation Stadium in the land of nocturnal drugging and hooking. I also suggest, in advance, shelving your lame need to preach. Your plodding morality messages reached a crowd of young single women with kids in toe the morning I attended a couple of years ago, who promptly got up and ditched the tent, snubbing your accusatory sermons. Responsible dating? To the wrong crowd, already dated into hopelessness, your message fell flat. Get over it, or start touring gospel halls.
And one more thing, Mr. Walker, please ban those idiotically insulting, ear-destructive boom box speakers over the ring side seats. I fled to the upper reaches of the tent in order to spare my hearing and life. Oh, heck, it’s too good an idea to withhold, so here’s free advice: You could make a Kenneth Feld killing in your shabby concession tent pitching hearing aids to newly deaf customers on their way out. Either that, or sonic-boom proof ear plugs on their way in
Now, all of you, go take the day.
[Showbiz David, in his 2009 Circus Critic Protection Program makeover, big cage ready. Direction and photo by Boyi Yuan]
First posted July 14, 2009