Baraboo on Parade!

Baraboo on Parade!
Down Fourth Street on Saurday, the fifth annual circus celebration and big top parade. Photo by Todd Krysiak, Baraboo News Republic

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Beat of the Big Tops: Ringling Goes Out with a Whimper ... John Ringling North II Thanks PETA for Free Publicity ... HBO Smiles Upon Smaller Circuses ... Past CFA President Critical of Feld’s Hasty Fold

 
Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey may be gone, but John Ringling North II is not.  And he’s not going anywhere but up the road onto the next stand for Kelly Miller Circus, the mid-sized tent show he bought ten years ago.  Interviewed for a segment by HBO about the collapse of the circus his uncle’s helped found, said North, “I don’t think it’s a circus without elephants.”

Bring It On, PETA
   
This Ringling is tingling with heart, and with a rare sense of humor.  He whimsically antagonizes his antagonizers from No-Animals Central:  “They generally help  business.  They get press coverage and people know we’re here,  I often go out and thank them, which they hate.”

Love it, Sir John II!

Unlike most TV networks , HBO spread some sunshine through the clouds left hovering over the last Ringling stand in Uniondale, New York. 

“The demise of Ringling bros isn’t the end of the road for the circus,” noted reporter Kristin Fraser,.  “Small circuses still cross cross the country.”   Adding to the hopeful theme, said Kelly Miller Ringmistress. Rebeca Ostroff, “We bring the circus to people,  and it’s easier for them to see us.”


 "People like tradition,”says the last Ringling on the lot. “Even if they've never been to see Ringling Bros, they know the name.”

I was so depressed the morning after Kenneth Feld’s spectacular fold, so engulfed in a void of desolation, that I hadn’t the heart to move on the first draft of a post I was doing about my feelings.  How I hungered for a sliver of good news.  Anything.   And then came the HBO story, and a YouTube of it linked my way by Don Covington.  And my favorite quote from  the unflappable North:

“But circus isn’t dead, we’re coming.”

How I’d love to be there when Johnny the Second personally thanks his animal rights opponents for the publicity and patronage they are helping to promote.  Gosh, could you ever have imagined it coming to this?  A circus owner thanking PETA?   Only from wryly amusing John Ringling North II.
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His five famous uncles must be smiling down on him and his twelve-hundred seat tent, fully twice the seating of theirs when they opened in Baraboo in 1884.

Super Fan Takes on Kenneth Feld


He’s Pete Adams, past president of the CFA, seen here at his home in Sarasota.  He’s fearlessly unafraid to say how how unhappy he is with the actions taken by Kenneth Feld, only a multi-billionaire who could have – chump change to him – kept a smaller unit of the show on the road, with trucks, something he had already done with his Gold Unit.  I saw one of its one-ring shows at Coney Island -- one of the very best circuses I'd seen in years.

Not with a Bang, But a Whimper ...

About the sudden close, it didn’t have to happen, Adams implies, as I have asserted on this blog, and how refreshing to hear a super CFA-er take on the most questionable circus axing of all time.   Had Irvin Feld been around, Pete Adams does not believe it would have happened at all.  ”If his dad was still alive, he’d be very disappointed in his family. I truly believe they made their money to buy the operations they have today based upon what they made originally from the circus.” 

This is a story that will only get more interesting — hopefully more revealing — as the embers of a tragedy cool and people begin digging  through the ruins for deeper clues into what really drove the Feld of Felds to take such dire action.  There are already conspiracy theories floating around.  One thing is certain: It was not for lack of money. 

And, know what? I don’t feel so bad after turning this one out.

Call me a super circus fan!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Oh, Happy Day! Grandma Returns to the Big Apple Circus

 Photos for New York Daily News by Andrew Savulich

So, let’s all sing a happy song for a change.  Like a glorious MGM sunrise on the big screen, comes a burst of good news, and let’s hope it marks more good news yet to come.

Grandma’s on her way back, to rejoin the re-organized  Big  Apple Circus!    And that’s, by far, the smartest move the new owners could have made.  I'm impressed.   New Yorkers now have a strong sentimental reason to return in droves as the show goes back on the road, come October at Lincoln Center.  Having stood in ticket lines and sat with local residents though several Big Apple shows under the tent in Queens, I came to learn of their enduring affection for one of America’s legendary clowns.  

Next smartest move the new owners, Sarasota-based Compact Partners, can make would be a royal reinstatement of Big Apple’s founder and personable ringmaster, Paul Binder.  Even after his official “retirement” in 2008,  Paul has labored tirelessly to help raise funds needed to keep the show on the road, season after season.  In my book, he is still the heart of this national treasure.

In ringmaster red, Paul would be the perfect host to greet loyal New York patrons back into the tent.  As a ringside announcer, he is one of the best, neither bombastic nor bland.  Informed, gracefully enthused, most of all— gracious.  He recently served as Celebrity Ringmaster for the New England Center for Circus Arts Circus Spectacular. 

Another big plus, where Paul a part of the mix, is the natural, understated chemistry in the ring that he and Barry Lubin (Grandma) share  The presence of the two would lend a feeling of a family tradition reunited.

Already, with Grandma signed, Compact will enjoy, and well deserves to enjoy, enormous respect from the city, and this move will give them, I believe, an emotional toehold into the town's very psyche.  Bravo, Compact!

In other promising news, down Baraboo way Circus World excitedly awaiting a new and bigger tent,  said to offer twice the seating capacity, for the summer circus shows. Says top man Scott O'Donnell  to the Baraboo Republic:  “We’re thrilled to have a tent with a larger capacity with the upcoming homecoming and all those crazy events – it’s going to be a well-used space.”

While the Ringling funeral trains rattle down tracks of finality, back to Sarasota for the last ride, while curious onlookers along the way rush in to snap selfies and to wonder why, and while others with a lifetime of memories shed tears over the most devastating chapter in American circus history, the circus world is not about to fall over and follow the Feld script.   The circus world is still finding ways to adapt, to downsize if necessary, this when an emerging class of more vocal Americans are beginning to make their more populist voices known in the court of public opinion, too long dominated by small bands of activists.  Say the new dissenters in growing mass, We want animal acts!



On this critical subject, writes Barry Lubin on his Facebook, as quoted in Circus Report: “There is only one American circus that god rid of elephants last may and is closing this May. It’s a big one for sure. It was my home base for 5 seasons.  I feel terrible for those losing their jobs .... but may I make a suggestion: If yah like circus, go see other wonderful shows crisscrossing the American landscape these days.  The living breathing American art form we call circus ain’t dead!

Show us the way, Grandma!

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Big Top Typewriter is Coming to the Circus World Museum


Excited to announce that my new book, Big Top Typewriter, will be coming to Circus World’s gift shop, ready for the summer crowds and the opening of the circus show on May 19.

I can't think of a more idyllic setting for the book and buyer to meet.  The enchanting town of Baraboo itself.   The walk down Water Street past original Ringling brothers buildings, and onto the grounds, where the magic of what the five brothers gave us lives vividly on.

Here is where the most famous circus title in the world was born.

Also the perfect setting, given that the young up and coming circus kings make a rare and rousing cameo in my book -- a cameo that I could never have imagined when I set out to begin writing it many drafts ago.

While working on the very last draft, but still mired in a critical chapter that I believed needed a stronger ending, suddenly there it came, from out of nowhere --  the nowhere of my mind — Al,  Alf T,  Charles, Otto, and John entering to deliver it:  They were just beginning a glorious new chapter in their own remarkable rise to  the top of the big top.  How surprising it all happened – exactly what the chapter needed! Exactly what we all need now, I believe, as we face the depressing day of a world without Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.

So, what better place on earth than Baraboo to purchase your copy of the book -- or, if you already have, maybe an extra copy or two for others, come birthdays or holidays?

Thank you for the honor, Circus World!