Sunday, February 07, 2016

Why Can't Circus Fans Talk More Like Sports Fans? Follow Their Silence into the Backyard

How odd that I, not a sports fan, should be drawn to sports talk shows. 

Why?  I love hearing host and callers debating issues. And rarely without calling each other moron or Hitler sympathizer – as so often happens on your typical mud-slinging right-wing or left-wing take all talk show.

If only circus fans could carry on in like manner.  Most of them — you too? — would rather, it seems, spend a weekend deep sea diving over the Bermuda Triangle than dare issue an opinion in public. Such as: what did you really think of that circus?  That act?  That show owner’s decision to (fill in the blanks).  Such as, do you turn off your brains the moment you hit the midway?

Full disclosure.  Living here in Oakland, I couldn’t care less about the Oakland Traitors wanting to shuttle their booze and  brawn back to LA, the Warriors angling to head for hoops over in Playground-for-the Rich San Francisco, or even the Oakland A’s, of whom I — my one token nod to sports — am a fair weather fan, staging more mediocre Billy Bean-dead seasons in some other town’s field of dreams.

So I have little reason to listen to sports talk shows, except that, of all talk shows, sports fans display the greatest talent for engaging in lively debate without going ballistic.  They possess great passion and they take chances. 

Why can’t circus fans take chances?

It happens in all other venues.  I exchange views on theatre, cinema, TV and music with friends who share those interests.  We may have sharply differing views, but we can learn from each other, and the open conversation can itself be a great pleasure.   

But why not the big top buff?  Here’s the biggest reason why.  Call it the backyard seduction.  Many fans would rather spend time in the backyard hobnobbing with circus folk than actually sitting in a seat and watching the show.   And because the fans are allowed such intimate social access, naturally they form friendships. And wanting to preserve those friendships, they naturally refrain from sharing in public or in print what they really think about any performer or any show owner, etc. Makes sense?

Think it out: In what other form of entertainment are patrons allowed such extraordinary direct association with the artist?  Can you imagine yourself inside a theatre walking backstage during a performance and speaking with the actors while they are waiting in the wings between scenes?   Or freely hanging out on the set of a TV show being filmed?   That's what you are virtually able to do at many circuses.

There is a reason why your are pampered behind the scenes. Down through the years, circuses — in essence, gypsy companies — have needed to foster beneficial relationships with towners as insurance against times of liability and distress.  Who better to speak for the circus than a local attorney or doctor or hardware store owner?  The CFA (Circus Fans Association of America) was there in many cities to provide moral support, as well.  Two of its founding slogans were "we pay as we go" and "we fight anything that fights the circus."  Little wonder it would shun critical reviews.

Were this not so, were you barred from such extensive social contact, can you imagine how easier it would be to participate in a radio talk show discussion of such matters as:

Should clowns wear less makeup?

Does PETA have a good case based on the barbaric Tim Frisco elephant training You Tube?

Should the Felds have retired the elephants?

Miguel or Tito?

Bello Nock got a Gold Clown at Monte Carlo.  Grandma, only a Silver.  Fair?

How do today’s flyers using multiple riggings and action compare to the older style flying return act?

Is Cirque du Soleil a circus?

When Kenneth Feld is gone from the picture, what are the chances that his daughter(s) can keep the show successfully on the road?

How much to blame are the Shrine temples for degrading the image of circus art by serving as their own clowns and by the obscenely long concession-stuffed intermissions they allow?

How much was Kenneth Feld himself to blame for events forcing him to retire the elephants?  Let me know what you think after we return from a brief commercial break!

Yes, I know, you’re not going on record.  And I understand why the shows you see will not likely be as good as your "reviews" of them sent off to White Tops or Circus Report -- as long as they pamper you back of the big top. I understand this because I value friendship and a friend is someone' whose aspirations you support rather than debate or critique in the public sphere. 

And may all your days be backyard days!

(Photos by Sverre Braathen: Top image: fans in the Cole Bros. Circus backyard, 1941; Clown Otto Griebling with fans, Cole 1947;  CFA members during the 1933 convention in Baraboo: Walter Hohenadel, White Tops editor, is third from right.  From The Milner, Special Collections, Illinois State University)

first posted February 7, 2016


Dominick said...

While I am not a regular subscriber, I am bothered by the reference made saying Tim Frisco utilizes barbaric methods towards his elephants. Another well known circus media socialite did the same last year, with his greatest posts on earth. What's not fair is you buying into the activists garbage. I'm sure you have seen the video. Everyone has. But the scary part I am starting to see is that PeTA is suceedind at their job. Circus fans, who live, eat, and breathe the industry actually buy into the bull. Now let's talk about the video...yes...harsh language was used. But, what was actually done? Remember, all exhibitors of animals that fall under the control of USDA are inspected at random, at the discretion of the governing body, and under obligation to follow up complaints, unannounced. Now when such a video surfaces, the governing bodies are obligated to investigate such a video. And they did, if you don't believe me, please inquire to the governing bodies, they will give you the results. Now, the results given on such a video were found to be, in no violation of the rules and regulations, of the federal governing body of the animal enterprise. So, calling his treatment barbaric, shows that their propaganda is being bought into. Do you, or they, know him personally? Have you, or they, ever seen his work, in the rings ride, or outside,day or night, home or on the road? It's scary how assumptions are made. This is why the industry is dying. Its not the animal trainers, it's not the handlers, it's those who let the extremists get the upper hand and persuade people, even those who love the circus, that people are inherently evil with animals. So sad to see this. Maybe meet him and get to know him before making assumptions, you will be pleasantly surprised to see how well cared for and content the animals are, and see the difference between a circus fan and a friend.

Showbiz David said...

Tim Friso, re: The video in a training session at a Carson and Barnes barn. that is barbaric. you can't talk it away. Perhaps all the screaming about "make them scream," and all the harsh and sadistic digging of bull hooks into the elephants are par for the course. You see it your way. I see it mine. I am very much in favor of circus animal acts, but not if they are treated in this manner. I think that video has done far more harm than any other evidence I am aware of to sway the public against animal acts, and that's a pity, but it's reality.

Dominick said...

You are buying into the propaganda. It's not a reality. Peta was offered 10,000 and his retirement to put out an unedited video, and they wouldnt, saying they did what they had to to help their cause. So you buying into their work, makes you no better than they are. Are you that naive to think, with their millions of dollars in donations yearly, that they don't have the capability to edit things in their favor? I can easily film someone correcting a child, add some audio, clip some footage, and make it look like abuse, if that was my aim. But do your homework before dragging someone's name through the mud. You don't know him, how much he does to better these elephants lives, or even the basis of elephant handling for that matter. I've worked for this man in the past, and he does wonderful things for these aninals, that video is the furthest from anything I have ever seen in my years with the herd. This is what separates fans from friends. Everyone is entitled to opinions but sadly, in this case, there are some very uneducated people.

Harry Kingston said...

Hi David,
First you have to have a real circus fan that helps out where he can to make it easier for the modern day circus.
Not a fan that joins and is gone the next season.
I joined CFA in 1970 and still with it doing what ever I can do to help them out.
A year or so back with Armondo Loyal and his group we had a 45 minute jack pot session and some of is guys had never heard what stories about the circus that we both came up with.
I miss the sessions i have had with Johnny Pugh on is circus and other shows as he has a wealth of knowledge on circuses.
D R Miller was another was something on the circus and loved it till the day he died.
The world has changed and so have people and there are not many real circus fans left anymore and we just had Garden Bros here with there circus and I did not know till I saw it on tv that there pets out protesting the elephants. And the lady was talking about Ringling and the elephants like the show had not closed and how about Ringling winning the 25 million dollar suit against peta.
If peta wanted to do something and keep them from killing elephants in Africa just to get the ivory.
I am still bragging about Carson and Barnes Circus saurus as it is the best performance I have seen from a circus in a long time. Very well done and presented and under a real tent and animals as well.
Feld learned a lesion when he got rid of the elephants as people want animals and the business fell off with less folks showing up for the circus and less money meant that they closed both units of the circus.

Showbiz David said...

Happy New Year, Harry!
I would love to see C&B Circus Saurus.
Hope you have some good days on the lots this season ..
I am hoping that Jim Judkins will bring out Kelly Miller my way, since he knows
this market well.

Anonymous said...

Well first you'd have to find five fans who aren't in their 80's. 'Circus Fans' are hardly a large demographic.

Harry Kingston said...

Happy New Year to you David,
I emailed Judkins on Kelly Miller as i knew he was very busy and he told me he is starting out small but in for the long run.
He had a good one on Carson and Barnes and helped them make it.
You got to make the nut and keep it going on a money making business.
David I hope you get to see C and B Circus Saurus as they have a great performance and very well done. They have animals worked in and again well done.
We saw them several times during the year and one Texas town with two shows scheduled they had to give a third show and it was a sell out on all three shows.
Cannot wait to see what Kelly Miller will have this year and hope it comes near me so we can visit with Jim.
At least it is coming out and not closed.
Wish Johnny Pugh would give it a try again as sure miss Cole bros as it was all circus and jack potting with Pugh is worth the trip to any where.
Just had Garden Bros here and they did 3 shows and they made the nut plus on the first show. They sold hundreds of lighted swords.
Peta picketed Garden on account of elephants and on tv and the lady talking like i said did not even know Ringling was closed.
Hope all is well in sunny California for you.