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Friday, December 15, 2017

Cicuses Under Seige: Judkins Jumps into Kelly-Miller Circus Ownership, Drops Exotic Animals ... Lane Talburt Interviews Copeland & Combs and John Kennedy Kane ...

So, shall we face the music once more and still try dancing?  That's how I started  the post, two down, that pulled in a staggering 3,358 page views in a single day — stratospheric for me.  Almost twice the previous high for traffic inside this here side show.  The postings that pull in the mostings are those that wallow in — or wallowed in,  thank you so much, Kenneth Feld —  all things Ringling. Maybe now all things Big Apple? 

On that stat-busting  post, "A Little Apple Reception," I took on the generally tepid reviews  that covered the new Big Apple Circus opening at Lincoln Center.  Since then, I don’t know how the show has been doing, but there’s some good news —  two dates on a so-called "national tour," at Alpharetta, GA, and National Harbor, DC, are now being touted with tickets for sale on the show's website. Hardly national, but it's a start!

It's been reported that the Anastiani Brothers, this not being their first time with Big Apple, recently set an all-time record for the number of flips on the risley.

Now, the subject  for today will not wow the mini multitudes who sometimes, by accident or intent,  gawk anonymously upon my banner lines, making me feel like one of the  tenters out there playing to hundreds rather than thousands.  (so now you know).  Let me alliterate:

Jomar to Judkins: The Jomar refers to the mobile home that was occupied by John Ringling North II, while traveling with his Kelly Miller Circus.  Unwilling to continue on without exotic animals -- and possibly having to subsidize the struggling operation, North threw in the towel and sold Kelly Miller to veteran big top boss, James Judkins.   The sale made a big front page interview in Circus Report. This should be interesting.

Judkins, made known  that, for a number of  long-time Kelly Miller staffers — I assume those who have clung to the show like orphans to the last foster home on earth — the time to leave is at hand.   I can think of a few names, but kindly I refrain.  Jim, who managed Carson and Barnes Circus for a number of good years, later spent an awful lot of his own money starting up his ambitiously non-traditional Circus Chimera, a kind of bargain basement Cirque du Soleil for struggling families on lower income levels.  Jim’s impressive  first season’s lineup cast a take-notice impression.  Over its decade-long struggle, Chimera slowly lost appeal with a class of people who still want some animal acts— at least, say, a few gifted dogs. I could never understand why Judkins was so puritanically self-restrained in this area.  Just as the same mindset on Circus Vargas makes no sense to me at all. AT ALL!


Among a handful of outstanding acts that appeared on Circus Chimera over the years, surely the brilliantly creative Alex Chimal is a true star.  The variably talented Chimal Family, a staple for many season, supplied plenty of engaging action.  

Jim told Circus Report of how happy he was when John and Shirley North reached out to him “to reinvigorate and reinvent the circus.”  Ah, yes, yet another reinvention.  I'm not sure he can match the best North II years,  but surely he can and must offer the customer a  better program than what John II allowed into his ring the last few hapless seasons.  Lord knows, there are plenty of top grade circus acts out there no doubt looking for work. 

The new Kelly Miller owner speaks of “developing a more precise image for the show,” of exotic animal acts being too costly to foresee including  in  2018.  Without the exotics, Judkins should find the trouping ahead much easier.

Over Talburt tanbark:   Open-minded video journalist, Lane Talburt, continues to capture on film what is going on on out there in the shaky present tense.   Best of all, he is able, in a few words, to ask big questions and then let his subjects answer without interrupting them or hording the spotlight.  Talburt is amassing a formidable canon of on-the-lot interviews with the trouping wounded , to wit a pair of recent examples:

Clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs talking about the changes they are making in an effort to avoid being fatally associated with another aspect of  our battered big tops — clown alley in greasepaint — that has fallen out of favor with the issues-driven public.  Says Ryan, “It’s an uphill battle when you start out looking like a clown.”  You, Ryan, are one smart, articulate cookie   Steve notes  how the same gags, whether executed behind or without makeup, still draw laughs.  I agree, although I might suggest a few facial marks to subtly convey —  say, a safe degree of acceptable eccentricity? ...

A Kane for all seasons:  Talburt landed a most entertaining interview with John Kennedy Kane, sometimes a ringmaster, overtimes, well, whatever the job was that fate dealt  him down the sawdust trails.   The humbly flexible Kane, who must have left his ego inside the womb before checking out, wanted to start out clowning for Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros, but, instead, was offered the flaming role of fire eater.  Quickly, he learned, and safely he burned.  Along the way, he has pitched concessions one year, blown the whistle the next.  A shame he was not kept on with Big Apple Circus.  That warm heart of his might have warmed up a tent that — recklessly speculating here — might be a little too on the coldly serious side. ...  Which reminds me, what a shame it was that another top ringmaster,  John Moss II, left Kelly Miller a few seasons back.  That was about when the program began to deteriorate ... Next stop down the Lane of Talburt: Circus Smirkus.

End Ringers,  Covington Connected:  Here comes Cirque du Soliel in another corporate contortion, this time joining forces with the NFL to supply sideline acrobatics — or eye candy.  Perhaps CDS will give those “taking the knee” a more artfully mystical execution  ...  The passing of UK circus fan, David Jamieson, who edited King Pole magazine  for many years and was involved in many aspects of the circus scene.  Such a nice fellow, who reviewed my books fairly.  Which means, he gave  one of them only a luke warm notice.  Funny how David’s face, a photo of which came through in Don's link, is so different from an image I have for years hosted in my fuzzy mind. .... The passing, too, of Pinito Del Oro,  the most mesmerizing aerialist I have ever beheld.  Something about the way she moved (like a Beetles song) while standing on a free swinging trapeze bar, especially when she drove it in concentric circles. Luckily, I first saw her under the Ringling big top. She seemed to loose herself in a kind of surreal self-hypnosis ...Those are the moments than burn circus magic in your soul forever ...


Last tickle::  When I stepped up to purchase my ticket to the first edition of Jim Judkins  Circus Chimera, ready to join ten or twelve other souls to watch the show on one very cold San Francisco night, the fellow on the other side of the glass looked awfully familiar .. who is he?  Could it be, Oh, are you  ... Yes, I know!

Herb Ueckert.

Are we still  dancing?

Anybody still there?

Now forming in my posting mind   Trapeze in Our Time.

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