Do I Hear Red Wagons Rollling?... Believe It or Not, the American Circus in 2022

Do I Hear Red Wagons Rollling?... Believe It or Not, the American Circus in 2022
Circus Spectacular at Aberdeen, South Dakota

Friday, May 20, 2022

Amusement-Hungry Covid Survivors Pack U.S Circus Tents... Animals and Clowns Now Wowing the Crowds Won't Be Welcome on Ringling-Barnum's High Tech "Return" Next Year ...

Betting on the wrong America?  While the Felds plan to revive Ringling without clowns, without animals,  American circus producers who dare to present the real thing are finding gold, post-Covid euphoria, in places far removed from blue state insanity.  

From Royal Hanneford to Culpepper & Merriweathe , the sight of seats filling up to overflowing offers indisputable evidence of a still viable market out there for what Ringling will be completely turning its back on.  

What do you see in these photos?  Be honest.  I see what I too often have not seen in ages, too many photos or videos showing circus rings surrounded by a sea of empty chairs.  We are not in a twilight zone episode. We are at Cindy Migley's  Circus Spectacular, in Aberdeen, South Dakota, in this very year, where the show packed ‘em in for all eight performances.  And where it did the same at several other SD dates. This, from Time Tegge, who ring-mastered. 

When I reached out to ask Tim for his take on circus business in general, he shocked and dazzled me by talking up soaring spring patronage for Hanneford  “In around 90% of the dates,  we either filled or nearly filled the seats. And on a few, we turned them away.”  

Oh, really?  Now, please ... One must be leery of such pronouncements from a circus pro, ever mindful of job securities, etc.  So I asked for a little evidence, and it came. And Tim was not spinning.

 Another day.  Another avalanche.  In Detroit Lakes, MN

But he was also quick to temper and link the phenomenal biz to a pent up hunger among Americans, now mask-free, to get out and mingle and take in most any live entertainment that comes their way.  He reports of spotting forty- and fifty-year olds in the seats who have never seen a circus before (he spoke with some), suddenly discovering its primal magic.

Down in Mobile, Alabama, on a cold date under new blue Royal Hanneford  canvas, they sold out half the shows — how dare they! — with wild animals on the bill. Yes, those hated wild animals. Not there.  The earthy spectacle of a tiger dutifully burning bright leaping through a fiery hoop, nearly brought down the house.   So audiences still go for animal acts, Tim?  “They’re eating it up!” I love trainer Brunon Blaszak's dashing huzza jump.

Tim will tell you how PETA has charmed or bribed Hollywood celebrities into foisting its cause on the media, and how the media does the rest.  And of how many people who still wanted to go, were conned into guilt or discomfort.

Salvation in red. I can see our smarter shows concentrating in on smaller towns (as if they already aren't) where audiences are still receptive to real circus, and rebuilding a strong marketing base.  In time, this may trickle out to the larger blue cities currently paralyzed under woke-choke control.  
Back to the Felds, and to a circus that seems to be self-destructing before our eyes, when it could be cashing in on and leading the way in a rebounding public love of the ageless delight.  No clowns, No animals are words that land like a huge, suddenly popped balloon onto flat lifeless cement.  

Tim and I tried guessing what the latest Feld make over, far closer to Cirque than to Barnum,  may come off looking like.  So  “sterile,” in a word from  our visiting ringmaster,  as to  “look like a hospital ward when you get there.”  

I am still laughing.

So, perhaps the new Greatest Show on Earth, poop-free, will require the wearing of a mask at all times.   Give me the poop, the restless growl of native Africa, a messy patch of earth below, the death-defying arc of true daring-do above. Give me the circus.

END RINGERS: Art Concello's life getting major treatment in a new book by Maureen Brunsdale, due out from Roman and Littlefield next spring .... Speaking of which, Lane Talburt, writing on Concello’s attempt to wrest control of the Beatty Show in the 1950s, gives Bandwagon magazine a jolt of some pretty gritty stuff. ...What else? ... How unlike the elegant perfection of an iPhone is an Apple store.  My iPhone died, and I went in to see if they could revive it, ready to buy new.  Horrible experience.  Was assigned a “genius,” who turned out to be only one of several, each, in turn,  granting me restless attention, the last coming off like a mop up man.  NEVER AGAIN.  D+

Monday, May 02, 2022

How to View a Circus When It’s Hardly a Circus? Poking About for What's Left in the Ruins of Ringling .... Take, for Example, Do Portugal Circus

        Nameless juggler and big box illusionist tops a weak bill 

     Going to a circus these days can be like rolling the dice over a sinking ship.

    During her supreme court nomination process, Katanji Brown Jackson was asked to define “woman,” She could not.  Or would not, more likely.  Yes, believe it.   More than ever, some of the most basic yet critical words are being  ignored or twisted into meaningless  mush: Objectivity, monogamy, gender, among the most fractious.    

       And so to the word Circus:  There is a definition upon which most of us, I believe, can agree: A variety show (preferably) in a ring featuring acrobats, clowns and animals.  These tepid days, I am keeping those three staples in mind whenever I step under canvas to take in another promise of “circus.”      

     At another show out of Mexico throwing up allusions to a more exotic land, called Do Portugal Circus, it offered to a gratefully responsive crowd heavily stacked with kids: no animals, few action-acrobatic acts, too much pointless dancing by four girls who start the show (Hello! The circus, anyone?), and a clown who clung to the ring as if he could have clung-clowned all night.  His self-satisfaction was not shared by everyone. 

      Overall, the number of motorbikes in the big “cage of death” fairly well sums up Portugal’s meager spread of talent: two.  Nothing bad, all very okay basic. 

      On balance,  however, the whole affair left the three adults and a bright sixteen year old in my party more amused in recalling how big a let down the whole thing was. A very merry ride back home was had by all.  For myself, I’d give five stars  to a ring redeemer in the terrific juggling and, later, big box illusions, of a showmanly young man whose name does not appear on Portagul's  bare-bones website.  My kin liked the elaborate multiple bow-and-arrow shoot out, too complicated to try describing.

                Classy Top, Comfy Chairs

     The tent was the most impressive thing of all, not small, with solid seating.  Add to that, a good half house full.  Lights flashed.  . The emphatic sound system pumped out woozy modern-sounding pop, loud enough to keep everybody awake. An inconspicuous ring-mistress made a few token appearances, mostly to urge customers to tweet up the show to friends.  Consumer reviews for Do Portagul, assuming they are to be believed, are boffo.  Perhaps Circus Talk can find some worthy character arcs in these generally slow turns. 

     And what might all of this really matter to the adults in the tent the next morning?  It matters if they are going away thinking, as my great nephew Noah did, that it was “really for children.”  Was the Greatest Show on Earth really just for children?

     Our twilight American midway grows smaller, the crowds younger.  And the shows hobble on in the shreds of a long-gone brilliance.  Astley’s great gift is virtually extinct over here.

END RINGERS: Do Portugal,which we caught in Harrisonburg, VA, appears to have several units. Who knows, they might sometimes put out a very good performance.  Website is devoid of photos.  In Culpeper VA,  there awaiting my train back to the state or inanity, we discovered a Zoppe flyer in a store window.  This family of charmers had been there only days earlier! Zoppe’s few dates are spread far apart across the country.  They will be out my way, in Petaluma, come August.  And once again, I will embark upon a midway with incurable dreams.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Ukrainian Circus Kids Safe and and Welcome in European Rings ... Barabao Back on Parade! ... Disney Caves to Gender Mania -- Snow White May Never Be the Same Again

                    From the Ukraine to Budapest, Hungary.      

Ukrainian circus boy in a strange and friendly land

    JOY OUT OF CHAOS  Circus kids of Ukraine, having fled  Putin’s slaughter, finding  comfort and cheer in neighboring nations. This reported to me by our London tipster, journalist and author  Douglas McPherson (Circus Mania).   “Hundreds of Ukrainian circus students have been taken in by circus schools across Europe. There have been donations of costumes and equipment to performers who left the country without them.” Stranded circus animals, too, are surviving on loads of food from Monte Carlo festival, flowing into the wastelands of Putin’s horrifying revenge.  

    HOW TO ANSWER BACK, wonders a  world on edge, held hostage by a monster holding in his hand the nuclear option?   We are facing the ultimate nightmare.  My  heart aches for the people of Ukraine, worst of all if reports are accurate, little children, being gunned down in the streets. This is barbarism at its worst.  May the  Russians find the will and the way to eliminate this modern-day Stalin.

     BIG TOPS WITH BIG HEARTS  World Circus Federation director Jasmine Straga calling it  “the largest collaboration of circuses in history.” And a moving one, at that.  Notes Sir Douglas, “I guess it’s the art form with no borders.” Yes, indeed, as I can attest —  that most beautiful of all entertainments, where you can sit next to  people of many tongues and share, without words, identical sighs, gasps, laughs, moans, thrills —  every time I go.  Under big and little tops, audiences are truly one family for a moment in time.  And here, world circus is coming together as never before. 

     THEY STILL LOVE A PARADE  Let the summer not be another bummer down in Ringlingville, USA – not if Circus World has anything to do about it.  Ringmaster in chief  Scott O’Connell promising not just a new tent show, Yo-Ho at The Big Top, pirate themed but, better yet, the grand free Baraboo Circus Parade back in motion.   “We’re hosting our sails and getting ready for the grand adventure,” pipes Scott on the dot, spot on.  Okay, yes, so you’ve checked the “theme” box.  How about the acts, Scott?


    WATER STREET WONDERS,  2022: Topping the bill is our own born-in, made-in, and discovered-in America — Wesley Williams, the "One Ring Wonder" who knocks ‘em dead with his really really tall unicycle (a guineas record), coaxing the thing up and down stairs, and, who knows, maybe past security guards on ground level at mobbed airports.   Wesley, a big wow on both UK and USA Got Talent TV shows,  now comes with his own doggy act, Puppy Pals.  Should make him doubly appealing to budget-strapped circus owners daring, still, to present anything that doesn’t move on two feet.  Other acts include the German Wheel, a bungee bounce and Mr. Bill, a clown who, from a video I examined, may land a few half-laughs  ...  But hold your half giggles or doubts!  Shelve your snickers!  Elephants will be there, too.  Princess Stephanie would be all smiles...

     DISNEY BE DAMNED  Uncle Walt must be roasting in his grave ever his family brand being dragged through the gender wars of America the aberrant.  Current Disney CEO, Bob Chapek,  bending to  LBGTQ+2.5x-pending-further-notice, about to re-sexualize signage, characters and accommodations in order not to offend 0.6 percent of the population. Yes,  0.6 percent.  Media whores blowing the realities ludicrously out of proportion. Since when did 0.6 percent of America get to redefine the other 99.4 percent?  Whatever happened to, became of,  Normal?  The late Brit fringe sex snoop and  scholar  Havlock Ellis, would have gone giddy over the new Gender Is What You Make It mania.  

 His days may be numbered ...

       SNOW WHITE AND CINDERELLA, the new model couple?   Disney may have to  remake its cherished catalog of screen gems – Toby Tyler no longer an ordinary kid  falling for  the heretofore  acceptable  “opposite  sex.” Now opposite to what, pending, x+, or otherwise? We are going mad over here, and a restless majority is starting to wake up to liberal lunacy bent on demolishing norms anchored in biology.   If I were a parent, I would not place my child in a school hell bent on stealing away parental control and imposing its own agenda on the most fragile segment of the population — little people just learning how to read and speak and make friends.    

    BLOCKBUSTER BIBLE readings to the rescue: Believe it or not, a young well-meaning Catholic priest, Father Mike Schmittz of Minnesota, joining  bible author Jeff Cavins, began, first of the year,  reading 22 minutes a day from the sacred scriptures. His podcast is now ranked number 1 among some 2 million podcasts. Given the woke-choke attack on almost anything vaguely related to western civilization, a growing number of innocent citizens, desperate for a semblance of timeless continuity,  may be flocking to hear the good father’s readings.  

     END RINGERS IN VAIN: So-Cal based Circus Vargas looks stocked with a variety of grabbingly good action. And how I hope they’ll grab me up my way .... Royal Hanneford also looks boffo.... In eerie limbo: Big Apple ... Silence unbecoming: Ringling, about its promise last year to return next year ... Comes a monumental edition of Bandwagon, no longer edited out of Sarasota, but Baraboo, home to its editor Greg Parkinson. ... Better yet, on first scanning, it looks downright woke-free ... At this critical hour, could we ask for anything more? ...


Monday, March 14, 2022

Movies in the Dark, An Exasperating Challenge to the Mentally Awake -- A Candle, Anyone?

Lights Out Update, 3.14.22  Suicidally dark.  Idiotically dark.  Insanely dark.  The "Darkest Movie Ever" award, if there is to be one at the next Academy Awards, should go to the just released, The Batman.  "It's so shadowy," reports the Wall Street Journal, "the trick was making sure people could still see what's on the screen."  And how terribly thoughtful of them.

Add to this bloody blackout blockbuster a new mediocre entry from darker Disney called Encanto, meant, I think, for the kiddies.  I felt stuck inside swaths of shadowy gloom,  and I wanted to scream, WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE TURN THE DAMN LIGHTS  BACK ON!  It may prepare the Little Ones, already challenged  by diminished perceptions behind masks,  how to navigate their way through movie houses turning ever murkier --- where flashlights should be handed out upon entering, and where groping patrons may opt for brail apps. Welcome to the new dark ages at the bijou

From 2020.  By tragic accident, I put in for Arkansas on Netflix, believing the movie had been nominated for some big Academy Awards, or maybe by overhearing a talking voice on radio or TV raving it up.  Big  Big mistake. That I had to wait a long time to see it only added to my misconception of ground-breaking cinema. Those words should be banned for ten years.  So, I received the film in my mail box  today with high expectations.  At least here, in the room where I watched it, the lights were on.  I have this inconvenient fetish for movies I can actually see.

A few minutes after running it, I wanted to run from it.  Like  too many modern films,  this dog wallows in darkness.  These films should come with a medical alert: Some scenes in extended darkness may strain weak eyes, consult with your optometrist.  Another barely visible challenge that left my eyes groping was a Netflix series,  Better Call Saul.  Again, darkness prevailed. An no, my vision with glasses is perfectly fine.  One of the main characters is an older man who spends a lot of time not speaking, just maybe flexing a few wrinkles, real cool like. The closeup was meant, I charitably assumed, to convey the heavy heart, weary of it all and about ready to call it a life.  In that morosely dark set, I would have. 

See the figure lower right? That's Warren Beatty as Howard Hughes, I think, in Rules Don't Apply.  I would have opted for light bulbs in the 150 watt range.

The old classic film noir in black and white had lots of shadows, but the single contrast between the two colors made them much easier to watch. In color, today's imitators  swamp themselves into abject gloom, making me want to scream: TURN THE DAMN LIGHTS ON, YOU IDIOTS!

Losing patience, I headed to Rotten Apples, hoping to find some bad reviews, and then to feel not so impetuous about shutting down this  dreary valentine to Arkansas.  47% !  The state should sue.  Didn't Nellie Forbush in South Pacific hail from Little Rock?

I don't get it.  And I don't much care.  If filmmakers can't afford to pay for good lighting, the Hollywood censors should add another warning code: BAF: Bring a flashlight. 


Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Impresario Enters ...

From 2008 ...

Golden find:  Included here are opening night notes from John Ringling North to his creative staff in 1951

Only he can silence a room. Only he can still the ego of others. The abrasive choreographer ... the overbearing set designer ... the prickly composer — they all suddenly turn silent when HE enters ... They all bow to him, for he is the ultimate arbitrator of what they will do. He is the studio mogul, the stage impresario, the big top king. The audience of audiences.

In the riveting brilliance of the British film masterpiece The Red Shoes, He is Boris Lermontov, played by Austrian actor Anton Walbrook. They all talk of him, wait for him to appear, take their cues from his wishes. Walbrook (who, in real life, broke from a circus family to pursue acting) teaches us perhaps everything there is to know about the importance of that one looming figure whose demanding vision lights the path that all of the rest must follow. Many years ago, perhaps that figure was Nate Salsbury, who produced Black America , a spectacular touring exhibition celebrating “Negro life and character,” now profiled in the current issue of Bandwagon. Maybe he was once was a young Al Ringling who lured his brothers into a legendary showbiz dynasty unrivaled in its time.

Today, he surely is Guy Laliberte, Cirque du Soleil’s founding force whose creative drive powers an operation of almost unprecedented contemporary splendor and world-wide success ...
Who else in modern times had it? I will surprise you, perhaps, by suggesting — even though he did not exactly dress for the part — that maybe Cliff Vargas had it, however crudely, however fleetingly. Maybe that is the reason why he remains so profoundly respected by, it seems, everyone under the big top

When I was not even 9-years old, I went with some kids to see The Red Shoes at the Roxie movie house in Santa Rosa, and I would remember only a cinematic image of a make-believe world anchored to selfless discipline. Those days, my mother mopped up and dusted the dance studio of one Dinah Selby, so that my sister, Kathy, could take tap lessons. There, I sometimes felt a certain magic in the air... Girls danced on pointe and, in their dedication to a difficult art, I sensed there was something more to life than baseball and Lionel train sets.

Watching The Red Shoes in recent times (the other night on TCM), I marvel at its depiction of the same world, only now I find myself even more mesmerized by the figure of the dashing and demanding Anton Walbrook, who seems so hauntingly real to me in his relentless hunger for artistic exaltation. He is not a merchant. Not a cast-couching lout. He is the producer of great performances. He is the true impresario.

In Lermontov, I can see shades of John Ringling North — the impeccably attired, elusive mogul assuming a position above it all. North must have known what an impresario can do for the circus. If his uncles gave the show the respect of a family operation, North gave it the flamboyance of one man’s superior vision. Like most entrepreneurs, he did not direct or design. More often, they inspire. Badger. Hold out. Expect. Push. Insist. Even dream, sometimes madly ...

Now at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, where at long last the long-guarded Ringling-Barnum Archives have been opened to the public, there are a couple of stunning documents written in North’s own handwriting. These two discoveries open wide a window into the emotions of a man who rarely revealed his innermost thoughts on the subject of producing. In his own handwriting, we can witness him boldly issuing notes on the 1951 show after it had just opened. There is a lot of the bluntness of a Lertmontov in them: “Sammy Grossman, arrange Veronica Martel so it will be perfection. Doug Morris, give her perfect lighting. This is a new star with a magnetic personality.”

And more, of which .. “As of today, I demand that all acts finish their numbers together and any feuds as such will engage themselves for mortal combat outside of the circus arena.” Lermontov? Walbrook?

Here is my favorite picture of the mysterious Mr. North, who strangely almost never attended any of the circuses he produced once they passed through dress rehearsal and onto opening night. So tentative, standing there all alone at the edge of the Paris opening during the European tour. Insecure about his own work? Not quite sold on the result? Holding out still for something he knows he may never achieve? Waiting, still, perhaps, for his own elusive Lermontov masterpiece?

[photos, above: Anton Walbrook in The Red Shoes; Guy Laliberte; Cliff Vargas; John Ringling North, in Business Week, October 12, 1963)

First posted February 14, 2008

Sunday, March 06, 2022

Here’s Seven Stars for the USA: That Many Circuses Are Springing Back in Spring with Safe, Doable Fare .... Southern Dates Dominate the Arrows ...

     THEY CAN'T STOP TROUPING, though New England may not know it, not with our seven one ringers favoring dates leaning westward and southward, with Texas, not a surprise, the most valued midway. Culpepper & Merriweather – or waryweather — uncorking in good old reliable Hugo, OK on March 18, then heading down into Longhorn country.  In my unscientific memory, this is the most receptive spot in all of  America for circuses from near and far.

     ALSO HEADED TO TEXAS is Circus Funtastic, coming to us, let’s have fun assuming, from a wing of the Byrd family.  They’re calling this mini sampler  “a superhero adventure.”  Wishing them plenty of super crowds to match the adventure, being sold for a charitable $5 to $15. This just might give the dormant Byrds a more viable hook into how to fly their bigger tents once again.  Add to the Texas guess list, soon to arrive, Circus Venardos, the small time charmer with a breezy mix of circus, magic and various poetic touches.

     OVER MY WAY in the State of Insanity, there is Circus Vargas, the name growing stronger and sturdier by the year, bless its hopeless addiction to the life.  From website photos of the show, I  see a classy spread of refined ground action tinted in hues of Cirque du subtle.  Animal-free all the way.  Okay, yes, I do understand.  “We don’t  have any animals, and haven’t had for about 20 to 25 years,” culture signals one of the company’s own to a media reporter, nibbling around the subject we dare not speak.

     SHOWING OFF YOUR  wokeness is damn near necessary to avoid being run off your own lot by some amateur thug running out of a drug store with legally stolen loot, and pausing to slam the beastly sins that you circus people should still be ashamed of!  No wonder, the Vargas voice, later in the interview, inserted, “We have two rescue dogs” (signal, signal). Okay, who can blame her, considering the open air asylum in which Vargas  gratefully and graciously operates. Seats are going for $28 to $70.  Heck, next time they come my way, I’m gonna go full tilt on my wallet and try the ring-curb view.

     ROYAL HANNEFORD rolling royally down Alabamy way ... While, up in red hot Georgia, the new Big One, (UniverSoul), flexing up its  funky strut and “black owned” creed for a month of soulful jazzing up the sawdust in Duluth, Ga, then settling into a mighty two month stay in Atlanta.   Tickets a friendly $25 to $40 ... But without a live band, I can’t quite call them “the Big One.” Retract that signal.     

     HECK, THERE'S EVEN something for me!  I only need ride an empty BART car to transfer to an empty bus over a bridge to San Rafael, from there to train up on the new  “smart train” (dumb, really)  to Petaluma, once the “egg basket of the year.” Drum roll!   The Zoppe Family Circus will be jumping from Colorado to California, with a first stop in the still old-fashioned egg basket,  August 25 to September 5.  They do get around, and I admire their pluck, first seeded in 1842.  Remember Cucciolo?  

     TWO BIG QUESTION MARKS:   Over at the Big Apple Circus website, this message: “We’ll See You Again Next Season”. Missing are the words “October” and “Lincoln center.” Prominently displayed at top is the word “Wallenda.”   And  I am voiding out here, stuck between Nik’s shredding dream of Gotham glory and a memory of Kenneth Feld talking up the return he keeps talking up.  Maybe by then, there will be mandatory mask implants so that a brave  new faceless world can return to the new abnormal.   It could be worse, or could it?  Keep the exotics in the barn, and tell the clowns to stick one pink nose on their face covering.  Better yet, skip the Golden State like Elon Musk is doing and tent up in Texas.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Chance Circus Reflections... from Olympian Flops to the Glory of Colleano ...


     RANDOM RANTING AND RUING, in no particular disorder.  May I begin by officially bashing the Bumblers-in-Chief behind this Olympian disaster (aka, farce). From the top, NBC, which shoves under or overwhelming personalities at us, from the dull man in the control booth to Iceland’s precious guess-who-I-really am gender bender, Johnny Weird.  Gosh, world, do you really need him to inform us that a number of male figure skaters are gay?  Duh?

     NOT TO SLIGHT the elegantly corrupt IOC.  Give them a gold for Site and Scheduling Stupidity. ... Founder of the games, a Frenchman, declared it was not the act of winning but that of entering the race itself that merited respect for all.  Today, some of the young contenders are berated by their coaches for falling short of the gold. Silver for Shame.  Bronze for Boooo!                           

     SIMON COWELL’S Extreme Desperation?  I bumped into his latest, a strained effort chasing the extreme sports market, which lingered too long between its Big Moments (one, truly close to death), and padded the slightest evidence of danger ahead with overwrought judges faking near-hysterical dread.  And then, running the action in slow motion!   Since when did I want to watch the cannon man in slow motion?  Since when was speed not a thrill?

     SOME OF THESE TRICKS are old circus and carny stunts.  Pardon my insensitivity in recalling one of the biggest let downs of them all, this from the “Nerveless Nocks,” whom I could not wait to see on Ringling-Barnum – lured by the image (in my mind only) of the performers jumping from the tip of one spar to another and passing each other in breathless  “mid-air exchanges.”Actually, those maneuvers were grasping and clumsy, as the Nocks clung to each other’s bodies while exchanging poles. A stunt, period, redeemed, however, when each of the Nocks came sliding down their respective spars, head first, for a terrific finish.

     WHEN DID THE END begin?  Here is the cover before me of a White Tops, featuring a photo that shows a sign “PLEASE HELP SAVE THE CIRCUS” You see some young people signing petitions spread out on a table during intermission at Circus Vargas, and you marvel at the date of the magazine: July-August 1975. May I repeat: 1975.   That early?   Yes .... It was a long time in coming, with PETA up and running, Cirque du Soleil yet to attack ...

     CRITICALLY GONE: Writer and critic Ernest Albrecht, from whose possibly last review I quote, this from his March 2020 Spectacle on line, which went dark thereafter.  Albrecht was reviewing Circus Sarasota, just before Corona came to call. He was was high on two acts, and left to pick over the rest with notes.  Samples of discontent:  “A juggling act called Get the Shoe never really got very interesting ... comes off as nothing more than sloppy juggling mixed with martial arts.”  About a labored cradle routine from Hannah Griffth,  “It might help if she could do something to break up the monotony and engage the audience, perhaps with some flirting.”  Like, say, a little Lilian Leitzel? ...  A thoughtful voice was  he who supported and favored the best in all forums, including what he called “the new American Circus,” which, sadly, was maybe still new but hardly thriving by the time of his passing.  A serious voice worth missing

     BIG APPLE ANONYMOUS:  Was there ever a more thoroughly under reviewed show that came to New York city than Nik Wallenda’s version of the still-beleaguered Big Apple Circus, this having marked its third incarnation out of a shaky bankruptcy.  What went wrong?   Early in his rocky trial date with Lincoln Center,  Nik threw a three-ring snit when ordered by his landlords  to remove posters on construction walls.  And this he turned into an ugly campaign that did nothing to enamor this particular Wallenda of the city that never sleeps, or forgets.   

     BIGGEST MYSTERY OF ALL is how many seats he filled.  If he attracted healthy crowds, Nik gets double-high marks for playing Gotham in the dark when  media attention totaled ZERO.  Not a single notice in any of the dailies. So I offer you a rare review, this one posted here as a comment, which I subsequently posted  as a real review -- by the ever-sharing Anonymous.  See if this does not strike you as smartly observing stuff. Samples:   

   "THERE ARE SOME STELLAR solo and duo acts, [but] the show is ONLY solo and duo acts apart from the wire act, which is made extremely cringe-worthy by Nik's several interruptions to show video and speak on mic to the audience ... It's all made worse by the suspicion that he is doing nothing but alienating his neighbors in Lincoln Center by his Page Six video, hollering about discrimination and unfairness." **
     IN YOU TUBE WE TRUST, when all else fails, with or without posters, Monte Carlo acts or “character arcs.”  You Tubing is the ultimate road to circuses then and nearly now. I stumbled into an eight minute stream of Cirque du Soleil’s 2014 Volta, and found two standout displays  – the shimmering acrobatics of a woman from her web; and the very circus-like action of some bike riders up and down ramps. Exciting! The rest?  Home made action to my eyes, even the props, or the way they were worked, looked humdrum. If this is a typical Cirque entry, I can’t see them packing the tent.  

     AUSSIE AWESOME: You Tube streamed me to the image of low wire god Con Colleano, and I linked, Yes!  And  was swept away into glorious black and white, a stream of old film first showing the Big Show trains unloading in the yards, the tents going up, and then the Great One dancing upon and somersaulting over his wire on fire.   How lucky was I once upon a superior season when Clyde Beatty Circus came to Santa Rosa, and with it, Colleano.  Such passion and thunder! I knew I was watching a true wizard of the big top.  I never got to see another Great One —  Colleano’s wife, Winnie, who arguably took the single trapeze turn to its highest summit ever.   

    THEY WERE STARS in those days!  Names known!   Hollywood wanted Con Colleano, to fill in for Rudolph Valentine following his passing.  Con was not turned on to the offer, remembers an Aussie interviewed on the feature, but stuck to his first love, The Circus. And doesn’t that give you a rare good feeling in these especially precarious times? 

     GOODBYE, SWEET KIEV: Misty memory of a cool Autumn evening in 1979,  on foot in my favorite Soviet city (such sparkling grandeur) to take in the circus.  Along the way, a handsome young fellow, earnestly inclined, discretely joined my company, striding alongside.  Why, soon it became clear.  He told  me how hard it was to buy the jacket I was wearing in his world, and then commenced a soft campaign, hoping I would understand and allow him to purchase the prize off  my back.  Politely I declined.  Gently, he continued, from other angles.   And then I reached the circus, and he reluctantly stood aside as we parted company.  I felt a genuine sadness. I can imagine him, maybe 20 years later, finding a jacket like mine in then-liberated  Kiev.  Tomorrow?  I am not so sure.

**to read the full review link  to "circus reviews" found on the right sidebar and scroll down a ways.

Friday, February 18, 2022

The Olympics That Never Were ...

UPDATE, 2.22: They're calling it "a disaster." NBC suffered 50% drop in viewers. Pissed off marque losers headed for therapy.  Birng back ABC! (moments later, from googling) Good grief, I  see that we're stuck with NBC through 2032.  Recall!  Recall!

 Nathan Chen, from quad to quad to quad


Anybody watching it?

I looked and deflated, all those empty seats, so sad and depressing.  The High and Mighty Americans were gutless in not boycotting the games rather than using them as a platform to bash China.  Yes, there is plenty about China to bash, but not at the Olympics, which is supposed to be an international athletic completion.  The Chinese may coerce and exploit children through Olympic training. Over here, seems that hordes of young female gymnasts are sexually exploited by their coaches.

Those who culture signal are like Kapernick "taking the knee" on his paymaster's time.  Collecting more than most people could ever hope of earning, and then using game time to  promote a fake cause before captive crowds.

Another thing, I love ice skating, but am put off by the self-precious look-at-me-and-deal-with-it Johnny Weird, a neon advertisement for the gender-less society.   When last I toiled to endure him, he was obviously pleased with himself in flaunting his LGBQT++++ credentials**  Daring the hard-working center to try figuring him out. This is not a commentator; this is a social radical making a sideshow of himself. 

Quad mania.  I did manage to watch Nathan Chen's Gold skating in replay. He is one magnificent athlete. But, it looks as if these skaters are competing to jam as many quads as they can get into a program,  which  can render the routine short on artistic contrast and mood, long on horse racing mentality. Boooring.

And NBC itself comes in for some blame.  When I got serious about watching their coverage in the past, I could never find accurate scheduling in order to know when what I wanted to watch would appear.  I hated NBC for this.

And I read this sad sad affair may pull the lowest Olympic coverage ratings in years. I was one of the no-shows.

The greedy IOC is as much to blame as anybody.  They should have postponed the games. They would have done everyone a favor.

Besides which, okay, I hold a grudge. My own sport (yes, laugh) is or was roller skating.  They came close many years ago to getting roller hockey in.  Then, the president of the IOC, Juan Samaranch, was himself an avid roller hockey player and fan. He could have made it happen but did not, the gutless coward.  Likely he was lobbied and gifted by a cunning ice lobby bribing away to keep those on wheels out.  Believer it or not, there are forms of roller competition, such as school figures and regulation (ballroom type) dance, arguably superior to how they are skated over blades. 

** Now on the Dramatist Guild website is an insanely long listing of various "genders" one can give for whomever the hell, in their protected opinion, they happen to be at the moment.  I could not believe my eyes. 

Life in Woke-Joke America. Were I now dating in any lane, I would love to have an app on my iPhone able to sense the reality of intimate candidates:  GAB -- Gender At Birth.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Revisions to My Musical, Those Ringings, Reveal Stronger Personal Feelings Confronted ..

Now posted on Amazon are some changes I made near the end of Those Ringlings: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Musical.  Deeper feelings between James A Bailey and his long-time secretary, Merritt Young, are shared. 

In the next scene, the young boy Raymond, who has tried to adopt  Al and Louse as his parents, is  now, in the wake of a midway melee, maybe close to death.  A grief-stricken Louise, deeply attached to the boy, seems unable to face Al, and her coldness devastates him. Fearing he is losing her, he pours his heart out to his closest brother Charles, feeling he has failed in selfishly depriving Louise of any offspring. Charles gives Al what perhaps none of the other brothers could. 

Are these factors based in reality?  Surely, the Bailey-Young relationship is.  The bond between the two was profound, In fact, for the year or two when Bailey was away due to chronic illness, Young, a bachelor, was with him every step of the way.  In fact, Bailey valued the loyalty of bachelors, for they came with no marital distractions.

With Raymond and Louise, this is mere speculation.  No, I do not know of a young kid like Raymond, although I know that Louise had a long time personal chauffeur to whom she willed some of her money. And there were rumors of an affair between the two.  And of course, inevitable would have been the likelihood of a young boy running away with the circus and finding comfort in the association of Louise and Al.

Those Ringlings, I believe, may now deliver its most heart-felt moments in the final scenes.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Ernest Albrecht ... February 3

I feel a  deep sadness.  Although I had never met Mr. Albrecht, I admired his voice and his dedication to what he called in his well received book, The New American Circus. And though I disagreed on the concept, I acknowledged how more valid might be his perspective in time. We have arrived, you might say, closer to the concepts he reported on and championed, or at least constructively embraced, more so than I have ever. 

I have missed his Spectacle magazine on line.  Something did not quite feel right. So many important contributors to our American circus scene have been leaving us. The Felds, who may return -- let us pray.  Johnny Pugh's Cole Bros. The Byrd's Carson and Barnes. Paul Binder's Big Apple. John Ringling North II's Kelly Miller.  The Biggerstaff's Circus Report  And now, Ernest Albrecht.

My warmest condolences to his family and friends everywhere.