John Ringling North II due in the states on Monday to monitor Kelly-Miller Circus rehearsals and opening dates in Texas late next week. Trucks painted all pretty may wear snowflakes when they reach the Lone Star state — assuming they can find roads out of snow-bound Oklahoma. (Promise; no jokes about you-know-what.) On paper, thanks to manager Jim Royal sending me information, show looks full of promising energy, comedy, novelty – a veritable fun fest in the making. Cast of some 20-plus performers include first time in America turns from Aussie aerialists Nikkie and Carla Oggle, plenty of animals, some from the Rices, the charismatic Poema Family of risley whirlwinds, along with returnees named Torales and Cainan and Oliveras. Costumes being designed by Luciana Loyal. A fifties-themed production number has clowns Ryan Combs and Steve Copleand working as soda jerks. These guys are also uncorking a new exterminator gag and a couple of walkarounds. There’s even a novelty by a woman whose name I misplaced working with flute and fabric. Entire spread sounds like a lively big top energizer ...
Orphans in motor city? “World’s first and oldest circus may now be homeless,” reads a Shrine temple website, hoping to reverse their eviction from the fairgrounds.. Says Shrine Circus director Chuck Baer, they can't understand why. They pay $40,000 in rental fees. Officials eyeing the venue for a job-creating project. “There it is,” says Bear, referencing the empty fairgrounds, “give us the keys.” Indeed, this is the city where the Shrine Circus (but not the oldest in the world) was born, back in 1906. Sadly symptomatic I think of a shrinking number of temples nationwide putting on circuses, and too many of them not being put on well at all.
World Circus Day: It’s now a reality, to be celebrated in some 12 countries. It will happen on April 17, and we can thank the formidable H.S.H. Princess Stephanie of Monaco for her prestigious support. I'd say the Princess deserves her own Gold Clown Award for so honorably carrying on the legacy of her late father, Prince Rainer, who founded the annual Monte Carlo Circus Festival. Sponsoring World Circus Day is the Federation Mondiale du Cirque consortium, founded in 2008. Group's members represent Monte Carlo, Europe, the U.S., Australia, Canada and South Africa, with Asia just admitted. I am impressed! Their goal is to “promote circus arts and culture worldwide.” We can all be proud.
Monte Carlo Gold: Brit animal man Martin Lacey, Jr. scoring for his country its very first Gold Clown. About time, considering that in London Town the modern-day circus was invented by equestrian Philip Astley. And it took our Lacey only a month, rounding up two lions and 12 lionesses and getting them to dazzle the judges. “Wining a gold is fantastic,” said he, “and it’s historic to be the first Brit. But I think it’s also about you as a person, how you work with the animals and we stand out very much. I think people realize how much we care for the animals and love them, and that shows in the ring.”
Artificial insemination a la Ringling produced Baby Barack (a first), who was born the day after Barack Obama's inauguration, such a polite little pachyderm holding off until our new president could have his day in the sun. Now a year old, Baby Barack got a taste of the bright lights on Ringling Blue, and is now en route back to visit his Mom for some quality time together in the shows’s Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk County, Florida. Good going, Feld Family! Now, what next on your in-vitro front: clown cloning?
Ryan Remembers: Pat Valdo was way up in years when a very young press agent Jack Ryan, during his first year out, ventured into Willis Lawson’s circus diner at the Venice quarters. Ringling's crack personnel director was not very hungry that morning.
Said Antoinette Concello, "Pat! Eat your eggs. That will put lead in your pencil."
Replied Mr. Valdo, "It's OK, Tony. I don't do much writing anymore."
Funny, I don’t eat eggs much anymore, but I’m still writing.
First posted 1.29.10