Going Nuclear at Garden Bros. Circus Can Be Crazy Fun, Or So It Seems ...

Going Nuclear at Garden Bros. Circus Can Be Crazy Fun,  Or So It Seems ...
Kijome Hara with the World’s Smallest Man and Wini McCay

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Tale of Two Circuses Coming My Way: Desire to Dread

Location.  Location.  Location ... So, too, for where a big top billows.

When Circus Vargas posted information for its Oakland date at I-880 at Zhone Way (a bit James Bondian there?), I could not believe they would return to the circus lot from hell.  It's been tented over by Carson and Barnes, by  UniverSoul, by Chimera (I think), by Caballero and others that slip through, playing on the super cheap. And to think that Vargas is daring to return to this ominously tacky thrash of clumpy dirt between freeway off and on ramps, surly roads, and, all around, a feeling of drug-dealing riff raff and whatever, as they might say, polluting the asphalt void.

NO WAY, am I going to the end of the earth.   But then, luck offered a superior option. They are also playing, how could I possibly be so lucky, less than a mile from the BART (rail commute) station in Dublin!  An upscale place, this I can embrace with no qualms.

Then there's that show once-called Greatest Show on Earth, returning to a place I have come to detest, for a storm of trivial reasons, that altogether bring to mind something John Ringling North II was alleged to have said (he regularly recants on interview quotes, asserting never to have made them), something about Ringling these days being like a day at the mall.

The Big Show plays the Oakland Coliseum.  Think I-880 at Zhone Way, only a hundred gun shots away, with barbed wire and security.  The BART station alone gives me the creeps, as I run up the escalator and cross a vast parking lot on a cement walk way barbed wire on its edges.

Worse yet, this AM, it struck me: There is something that makes going to see Ringling in that huge cavernous cold arena that can seat up to 18,000 people even more unsettling and oddly uncomfortable.  It's the layout; that is to say, how this Ringlesss show is played at the front end, cutting off about a third of the seats for reasons that make artistic and commercial sense.   But still, who wants to sit in an arena more than half empty?

It's something about all the hoopla those fizzy busy Felds can't let go of, ringmaster overkill, and of  course, the regular fireworks. Maybe that's why they keep repeating "you are at the greatest show on earth!" as a desperate compensation for how smaller this whole show has become.

Blame it on the venue? Yes.  I'd much rather watch Ringling (and they have, let me be clear,  plenty to offer on balance), or any show, in a tent that seats say a third of what the Oakland Cavern can hold, if the tent is at least one half full. Better, say three-quarters.  Most of us in the human class,  when we invest in a ticket to a live performance of any stripe, like to see that what we like is also liked by a few others, not just a handful of circus fans or a few blocks of group sales bundled together.

So, I am not looking forward to taking in Ringling-Barnum.  The gloomy BART station.  The shady characters that lurk about. Scalpers, on parole?, who give me the shivers. Fowl Raider Nation vibes, please don't come over here and beat me up.  Probably the baseball jocks if the A's are playing that day at the next-door coliseum. No, they're not scary, they must make me envious of the crowds a ball game can attract that a circus can't - these days.  PETA, too, the drag of drags.  Built to Amaze might amaze, but going out there to see Ringling these days feels as much a duty as a desire.

JRN II helped me realize that context plays a part.   Ringling in three rings in a big arena with the chairs well occupied?  Nice feeling.  Ringling down there in the front end, thousands of not-sold seats shuttered in the shadows behind the extended performers' entrance?  Not so.

We humans, returning from a movie, a concert, a theatre show, usually, when talking it up or down to friends, address a key component in the mix:  "How was the crowd?"

Vargas may do no better in its smaller tent, but, oh, the location is so much less like a mall, so much more intimate.

It even makes the old Ringling-Barnum 8,000 big top seem human.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: Snapshots Through 1988 ... Cirque in S.F. ... Ringling Loaded for Japan ... Comments About His Contributors ...

  Don's model circus at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach in El Cerrito, CA, where he lived.

Passing images of the sawdust scene, from his letter to me dated April 16, 1988:

"That Circus of the Sun [Cirque du Soleil] is in San Francisco but so far I haven't gone over there at all.  I really ought to go look at it and attend one show - that way I could say I did see it. But it doesn't appeal too much to me...  it isn't circus as we tend to think about it ...

"Within a couple of weeks the stuff for the Japan tour of Ringling will be leaving.  Most of it is going out of Los Angeles ... It seems to be having a pretty strong lineup of acts.  Only thing I heard was that the Japanese promoter didn't want any motorcycle globe acts and Feld is sending one over anyway."

[There was more about the show, as it turned out, that the promoter in Japan did not like at all, resulting in a lawsuit against the Felds, alleging that they delivered an inferior Ringling product]

"Vargas is also supposed to go up north this time around and will not go into Canada.

"I don't seem to get as much news as in the past.  That fellow Stoddard sees a lot of shows, which is a big help. [Billy] Barton's column is also a help these days and while several people have said they were happy to see it back, none of them expressed any complaint when it didn't appear."

About another one of Don's contributor's, he wrote, "Only thing I thought he wrote his column like he was writing a sermon for church.  People did make comments at times because of his always good reports and upbeat articles."

How ambivalent Don was, sometimes skittish about relentless positive notices, but prone to print only them, thus getting what he wanted, whether he liked it or not.

Once, he complained  to me in passing about all the glossy reviews one fan after another was turning in on Circus Vargas. Sometime later, to my surprise, he told me that so and so "sent me a review of Vargas, it wasn't very good, so I didn't print it."

Sigh.  What I might have said, but why?   That was Don.  He was a good friend.  I knew his limits.  So I refrained from even mildly trying to suggest that a bad review now and then might juice up the paper, and would likely not result in a mass walk-out of subscribers.

Hmm.  Or would it?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Quad Prince: 13-Year-Old Michael Martini, Youngest Flyer Ever to Master Elusive Trick

Dazzling achievement lands him in Guinness Book of World Records.

Big top's new Number One Flyer reached quad heaven on June 1, rehearsing with Circo Orfei near Taranto, Italy.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: Going with Don to See Our Friend Hugo Marquardt Perform on Graham Bros. Circus, 1965

Astonished to discover, last week, yet a slew of more letters from Don.

And in one, I discovered this long forgotten photograph of myself.  Had I not put some information on the back of it, I would have totally forgotten that we went to Graham Bros, one reason to see my Santa Rosa friend, Hugh Marquardt juggle with the show.

Hugo was a great guy who had worked on the railroad that ran through Santa Rosa, and was married to the looniest of women.  She was a hoot.

After retiring, I think, Hugo and wife split up, and Hugo went east seeking a life under any big top that would hire him.  He had been an avid amateur juggler.

In Don's letter, dated May 12, 1965, a few sample lines:

"Dear Dave: Enjoyed the trip to Benecia and the Graham Bros. Circus and hope you were able to get home OK without too much fuss [by Greyhound].  Incidentally, how was the weather in Santa Rosa last weekend - good I hope!

"The fair used circus as its theme and too bad that I didn't know about it, might have been able to get my [model] show up there.

"Enclosed is the picture of yourself which I took at Graham Bros.  Unfortunately, it was back a bit too far but in the picture I was trying to get the whole marque,  [I've cropped it here]

"Got thinking today and wondering if I could sometime talk to you into doing some promotion for myself and the model circus?"

I did make an effort to book the variety show that Don himself booked and hosted at smaller county fairs; he also did his magic tricks.  It was called California Varieties, and in it he stepped modestly out of and away from his usual highly controlled demeanor, bordering on, what, the austere?  But I was unable to land a single date.  Not a promoter, I!

Strange that in this letter Don did not mention anything about Hugo.  Years later, Hugo worked I think mostly in the New England area, finding a woman to be romantic with in the mud (I couldn't resist that), and the two of them managed to get sporadic work (he at least finally got to live out his dream), and then our communications faded out.  I seem to recall I was the last one to write a letter.

But the days in Hugo's house with that loony wife of his, oh were there great laughs!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Big Top Shout Outs: I Wish I Were as Good a Writer as Bandwagon Makes Me Out To Be ... and More!

UPDATE ON TY TOJO, 7/20/13, 9:15 am PST

Thanks to Jack Ryan, who tells us that although juggler Ty Tojo was born in Japan, he grew up in Las Vegas, where he was trained by his renowned juggling step-father, Ohio-born Dick Franco.  Thus, I'd say that the kid is a product of the U.S.A. Jack also assures me that, yes, Rob Torres is really from here.

Nothing as flattering as getting misquoted, that is, in words you never even composed in the first place that are words that impress you - pardon my provisional narcissism. Now, that's how it struck me when I read in this new issue of Bandwagon, something I'd allegedly written about Ken Dodd's lively and creative clown alley when he helmed the funsters for Beatty-Cole in the 1970s.  Lane Talburt has a full and engaging report on Dodd's big top career, in which my discovery of such in 1972 informed the first article that I landed in Variety - "Circus Flight Thrills in Moon Age, But Clowns Seen as Obsolete Species."  That season, 1972, there'd not been a single buffoon on Carson and Barnes.

My story came out in 1973, not 1975, as Talburt indicates.  The first paragraph as quoted  is spot on  correct; the second one, in which I appear to be describing a Dodd takeoff on The Godfather, spot off. Where this came from, I don't know, doubtfully from me for I have looked around in vain, and I can't recall ever using the words "ducts' or "considerately"    ... Nor, as Talburt reports, did I dedicate my book Fall of the Big Top to Ken, nor did I interview Ken for that book.  In fact, I quoted Kenny on one or two occasions from previous interviews over the years.  I dedicated my most recent effort, Inside the Changing Circus to the generously sharing Kenny.

Produced by Kenneth Dodd: His Bonnie and Clyde movie parody on Beatty-Cole Circus, in the late 1960s.

On the positive side, Dodd's canvas career seems to be well covered.  But it all ended some 20 years later, when he went home to care for his ailing mother, and while there, evidently fell out of love with trouping, for he never went back ... You might say he turned himself into a professional circus fan, hanging around the Circus Vargas show, getting chummy with Mr. V., who wanted him to take over clown alley.  Back in Florida for good, Kenny became the Roddy McDowall of Sarasota, forming many warm relationships with circus vets (among them, legendary Art Concello), and compiling such an awesome collection of photos and videos.  Strangely, he refuses to go near a computer.

 Lucille Ball poses with Ken Dodd on the Cristiani lot, Los Angeles, 1959.  This and the above photo are Bandwagon, from the Kenneth Dodd Collection

Good grief, we are snared once again in Ringling country!  In the same new issue of Bandwagon, which arrived six months late (they might be making up five or six days with each new number), Bill Taggart resumes his intimate memoir of his days as a ticket seller for the Big Show.  Mostly mundane day to day stuff, and honest accounts of great business the show for the most part was not doing. Not after boffo crowds in New York and Boston, and here and there on rare days.  And then, the big drama up in Minneapolis when the working crews walked out on strike just as the evening performance was beginning, the tent went dark, customers ushered out.  For moments, the whole thing looked doomed, dead. In an eerie limbo. Feisty don't-mess-with-me fixer (aka: legal adjuster) Noyelles Burkart came onto the lot, and roused dormant crews back into action, and got the big top down, the train loaded for St. Paul, the show back on the road.  

When I interviewed dynamically decisive Burkhart about that eventful night, he told me that John Ringling North thanked him the next day, but never talked to him again.  Not so, according to Taggart's Bandwagon account, in which we learn that, according to Burkhart's wife, North asked her husband to manage the show, but he, Noyelles, would have insisted on a drastic reduction in size, as had ArtConcello before walking out at the end of the 1953 tour.  Whom to believe, what Burkhart told me or what his wife told somebody else?  Sigh, I'll go with what the man himself, very bitter, had to say in my presence about North, some of it not printable.

John Ringling North in a more flattering light: makes a cameo with actor Charlton Heston in the movie The Greatest Show on Earth.

Okay, let's take a break from Big Bertha, okay!  And let somebody else get onto the lot. Glad to see Big Apple Circus's new show in the making, LUMINOCITY, splashed in a press release now going out.  Virtually a whole new slate of artists from around the globe, including 15-year-old Japanese juggler  Ty Tojo (welcome back to the ring, Japan!), and from the USA, returning animals trainer genius Jenny Vidbel, also the cracking good physical comedian Rob Torres, who wowed us all - my sister loved him - on the company's brilliant Dance On!   This circus alone - I'll say it again, a national treasure -  makes a trip to New York city damn near irresistible.

Nice touch: Luminocity to be directed by Michel Barette, who co-crafted the masterfully wrought Picturesque (2004-2005 season), and who ringmastered for Cirque du Soleil's first show to play the states and seize world class overnight acclaim - We Reinvent the Circus.

Truth in spin: How refreshing to hear a PR person coming clean on box office pulse. That would be Phil Thurston of Big Apple, when I wrote asking for the Queens 2014 dates and wondering how the show has been doing, and Phil's answering back with such candor.   It's been up and down, he says. "We were doing quite well in Boston until the bombing. Queens was good but the engagement in Charleston was flat & Lake George is about the same so far."

 Zhang Fan on the slack wire with Legendarium

"I wish there were more ticket buyers," says Phil  "This year's show is one of the best (in my humble opinion, based on thirteen seasons' experience) and I wish more people wanted to see it. It's circus!  Not interactive video, post production special effects, two-dimensional entertainment.  That being said, I do think there are audiences for our art, we just have to work harder to reach them."
Big Apple's season of unfortunate box office-crushing events, from bombs in Boston to nature's wrath along the east coast, was well profiled in a recent on-line issue of Ernest Albrecht's Spectacle.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mayfair Games Charmed But Not Quite Sold on CAN'T STOP SHOPPING ... Valuable Feedback Stirs Creators to Major Revamp of How Game is Played

 Niece Lisa, right, and her son Noah, shopping near Times Square in New York.

They are one of the biggest board game makers in the world (holding world-wide English language edition rights to Settler's of Catan, a modern day phenom) , AND, unlike most board game makers, they WILL accept e-mail querries from inventors; if they are interested, you are asked to send along the rules and a prototype game board. Now, when you can atleast nab the attention of a pro at this game (do you like that pun?), you may receive invaluable advice, advice you would be stupid not to seriously consider.

Came a friendly reply from Mayfair's Minister of Product Acquisition, Alex Yeager (left).  Alex was generous enough to express liking how the game seems "engaging" and "amusing."  He also shared with us a sense of discomfort in  the game's "level of randomness."

Getting feedback like that, I was stirred into action, after looking up a thousand definitions of "randomness," and asking myself, how can we make the game more definite?  So I came up with a new set of shopping coupons for everybody to have equally at the outset, thought it was great, called Boyi up, asking him to come over and test my brilliance, holding off on telling him what I had done in order to get the coldest possible test game play from him.  I needed Boyi's honesty.  When once I told him of having just test played another game I was working on with some people whose feedback wasn't very good, Boyi said, "That's the best kind of feedback." 

Naturally, I could imagine Boyi reacting to my bright new idea with giddy glee. Yes, that's it, he'd exclaim!

He did not.  The new approach moved along sluggishly.  Boyi struggled to stay engaged.  We discussed what did not move him, and then, he uttered three words that did not much rouse me just then, but a day later did:  "shuffle the cards" -- the "cards" being what turned into ACT-ON Coupons.  Now, such a suggestion may strike you as obvious or simplistic, but if you knew what did not exist then and what followed, you would understand.  Thus came Version 3.

Boyi came by to try it last week. He was so enthused, we ended up playing Version 3 four times, without my ever suggesting we even play game 2.

Three game-changing words: "Shuffle the cards."

Game Two: Boyi claims victory at Must Buy!
Is this the answer?  Is the game less random?   It brings more mystery to Can't Stop Shopping.  Now, a turn is defined as either a roll of the dice or the play of an Act-On coupon.  Now, players have more tools (coupons) to work with at the outset, but they don't know what tools the other players have. And the results came be quite amusing and unexpectedly dramatic. Suspense fills every shopping cart!    

We know that the real action is on computer screens, not around family tables. We know they are coming out with mobile board games. We know our marketing options may be shrnking by the day.

My sister, Kathy, between her daughter and grandson. The game has been played now on three continents, in the U.S. China and South Africa!

Heck, we  might go on-line ourselves and put a few copies of the prototype up for bid on E-Bay.  Just to maybe cause a little buzz to rise.  Nothing, ventured, nothing gained?  And we might try Alex Yeager again.  Will he still sense too much randomness?  Or ... will he turn out to be our own George Parker, the man who, in 1935, after resisting one Charles Brace Darrow many times, finally agreed to put out what became the worlds' most famous board gamer. ever.  You know the name.

That game, by the way, was decades in development.  Darrow's version of Monopoly had been adapted (taken) from its direct and all-too-familiar predecessor, The Landlords, a game invented by one Elizabeth Magie Phillips

Ah ... Mr. Parker -- I mean Mr. Yeager, are you still there, knock knock!

 Amtrak passenger Jacob gives Can't Stop Shopping a test play.

Noah and his pilot dad, Brian, "Captain United," at home in Luray, VA

Boyi and I playing the very first game, on a Chinese train from Beijing to Guangzhou

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: Finding the Biggerstaffs

Rarely did Don Marcks, a life-long circus fan and model builder, show ego, vanity, and hardly ever disdain, but I saw these all on precious few occasions. Some circus troupers, among them Ken Dodd, would remember how "shy" he was around the show, in the backyard.

Disdain?  While once visiting Don in the basement (really the ground floor) of his house, where he would invariably show me the latest circus magazines - not infrequently carping over their contents -  and letters, he pulled out a letter from a guy who was then connected with the Pickle Family Circus out of San Francisco.  I can't recall the guy's act.  Acrobat perhaps. A nice guy who wrote Don offering to come over on a volunteer basis and learn the ropes of Circus Report, the spirit of his offer being that, were Don to at some point need help, he would be prepared to step in. 

To me, the offer seemed above board; after all, Don's many illnesses were well known to his subscribers, of which, at a high point, I would guess there were around 2,400.  On a few occasions, he had to postpone issues while he was in the hospital undergoing a procedure or operation.  I remember visiting him at least once at Doctor's Hospital, not far from where he lived, when he was in ICU. He gazed at me with a hopeful, grateful sigh - as if he had nearly died, stating that he would go on with the paper for certain.  He was very sentimental about it all that day. Almost to tears.  I'd never seen as much soft emotion from Don Marcks.

Back to the letter.  Don looked at it skeptically.  I told him, the fellow seemed sincere, the offer a constructive gesture. I can't remember much else, except that Don became more agitated over the note, to the point of angry distrust.  He lived in fear of another circus periodical coming out against which he would have to compete. It never happened. His paranoia was most unbecoming that day. He may have even distrusted my reaction.

He crunched the letter in his wrist, making a face of inexplicable anger -- as if somebody had insulted him beyond repair -- twisted it nearly to pieces, and tossed it into a wast basket.  I was astonished at such monumental ingratitude.  Perhaps there were things about the man making the offer that I did not know.

Now onto a more viable option; not sure whom contacted whom first.  Here from Don's letter to me dated October 4, 1986:

"By the way, had a call the other day, from those folks in Vegas (Bill Biggeerstaff) he wanted to know when I was going to move there. They've been after me for some time to move up there and say that I could handle the business and make up of CR and they would do the rest for me.  We've never discussed what that would cost me and it might be more than I can afford to think about.

"Even so, I'm not all that sure I would want to live up there - really hot in the summer, cold in the winter and the town might be too wild for me. Would be nice to go there sometime for a visit just the same.:

Bill and Jan Biggerstaff, of course, assumed control of Circus Report following Don's death.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Big Top Bits: Copeland & Combs Drop Kelly-Miller for Circo Hermanos Vazquez ... Russians Claim Cirque du Soleil in Collusion with Animal Do-Gooders to Run Them Off the Road

Good bye, John Ringling North II and Kelly Miller Circus, clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs will be saying when the 2013 tour comes to an end this fall.  The "sultans of slapstick," as they call themselves, have inked a contract to tour, stateside, with the U.S edition of Mexico's Circo Hermanos Vazquez, founded in 1969, with two units, one south of the border, the other north.  Show, with a website to back it up, is said be a class act, offering a mix of traditional circus fare, scored by a six piece band.  Now, on the latter count alone, LIVE music, am I provisionally impressed.

How well Steve and Ryan can endure the long stays in extended big city engagements will be interesting to see. Steve has spent his years on Kelly Miller turning out a daily blog, covering in detail the hauls, his own vehicular breakdowns (which give his auto the onus of a clown prop), the variable (make that mostly not good) lots.  He once gave us audience size.  No longer.  My impression is that biz has been lately on the tepid side.   These guys are young, creative, driven, and proud.  Though the higher class gig may end up boring them to death  - what will Steve have to look forward to without the daily drives from one town to the next, and all the unpredictable challenges that ensue?  But they deserve a change. They deserve to be challenged in a different format. To face different directors.   Mexican audiences, attuned to talky talky funny brown faces and long skits built around off-key musicians, may delight in the more fastly delivered form of slap stick that Steve and Ryan can't seem to produce enough of.  I am happy for them.

Going to the dogs, too?  Is this the future of the Russian Circus menagerie? 

Over to Russia, site of the old Soviet Circus empire, remember that?  Lately, members of the local circus community are complaining about a certain monster up in Montreal (aka: Cirque du Soleil) being in cahoots with Russian animal rights do gooders, purpose being to further demolish what's left of the native circus scene, so that a larger slice of the box office can be snatched away by, who?  Yes, you got it.  A cool little tense drama in the making, kids ...  

 “I don’t want to accuse Cirque du Soleil, because I don’t have proof, but our American partners talk about it openly,” said Edgard Zapashnii, general director of the Moscow State Circus. According to a report,  “American and Canadian circuses with animals - and they do exist - don’t like Cirque du Soleil."  Probably a tad if not a mountain correct.  But it's a free market, sort of, and in the end, I imagine the Russians with money to splurge on live entertainment will decide the future for both organizations.

Oh, how I love those Russian bears!  In photo hunting for this blog, I came upon that fabulous pic up there.  I never thought I'd ever take to a hula hoop act, until NOW.   That did it.  Those brilliant bruins and their genius trainers occupy star status over there, AS THEY SHOULD.  I can't imagine Muscovites letting anybody anywhere run the coveted performing animals out of the tent, Cirque be warned.

Zapashnii went on to join the war of words:  "Cirque du Soleil has been waging a long-running secret war to clear other circuses out of the market," said the report, then quoting him: "Cirque du Soleil is very rich, and it is clearly interested in freeing up the Russian market, so that there are no alternatives to Cirque du Soleil here,” he said.

No other options?  A season or five without a dancing bear, and watch the crowds storm the tent when they are brought back, by court-ordered popular demand, Putin "I'm in" or "I'm out" be damned. Nyet? Da?

Memo to Moscow:  If I want circus-ballet, I'll patronize your Bolshoi, spasebah.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: Mice to Elephants

He embraced the mouse, and might have gone farther.  The mouse being that gadget that slips back and forth across your computer screen.  In fact, I first saw it while visiting Don one day, when he was showing me something about a Circus Report issue underway.

He often considered a new printing press, new word processing modes, etc.  He may have been one of the first to purchase an Apple computer.

How would-might he have adapted to today, to a time when print journalism is sadly on the wane, when more and more people -- even circus fans -- are drawn to the Internet for their daily or weekly fix?

Here he is, addressing the subject in his letter of May 18, 1985:

"I watched a Channel 9 [PBS] program on 'You are on a Computer' this past week and it was rather interesting. As I watched it I could vision a person having all kinds of circus info on such a machine.  It would take a big one perhaps, but can't you imagine what a guy could do with one in keeping track of circuses, people, animals and such.  One person couldn't do it, as you'd need one person just feeding the information into the machine all the time.

"Anyway, I checked with the local computer store and they felt the Macintosh was the machine that would do me the most good ...If nothing more it will be good for the mailing lists and making better mailing labels than the present system."

I think he enjoyed all the mechanical aspects of printing the paper and getting it out into the mails - more than the actual type-setting and editing process.

What might he have done with a possible on-line version of Circus Report?  I think he would have found the challenge irresistible.

Now, from mice to elephants, and to the passion for them by Dorey Miller.  Here is Don at the typewriter, March 14, 1984.

"Carson & Barnes is due to enter Calif. in April and will be in the state about five weeks.  I am a bit disappointed as I thought they would be here longer. Seems after coming all the way out here that they would play more and better spots - surely it must be impossible for them to draw well - might be they make a few spots for a few years, establish themselves and then come for a long run - Can't tell.

"Interesting thing, I think, is that this year they will be carrying 31 elephants, plus a few teams of draft horses, plus all of the usual animals and things - wow, must be quite a show. Good that we'll be able to see it."

I saw the show in So Cal in Ontario, and my brief notes show that I was sold by the pachyderms:  "Great bull display.  Lots of action."

Also by the late great Lucy Loyal riding a horse as if streaming through a cosmic circle, lost in a passionate orbit of her own making.  Well, credit the music, too - some years. I can still hear a pounding song the band played when Miss Lucy rode -- "Guenevere"  from Camelot.

Such a fiery rider!  And so robustly alive was the big top then.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Cirque du Soleil, 2012: Profitless. Ka on Hold as Overall Biz Slumps

Not much we have not already heard, a report in Business Week quoting Montreal officials.

Last year's flat take blamed on production costs spiraling "out of control ...compounded by a weak U.S. dollar. "

Future performances of KA, where Sarah Guillot-Guyarda was killed last week after losing contact with a safety harness, are "cancelled until further notice."

Until further notice.  I'm now going to try to avoid all reviews of the new touring show due here in S.F. this fall, cause I want to review it on my own hire wire, cold turkey.   My wish is that it will erase labored memories of the mediocre Totem, dominated by a tacky roller skating act.

About an imagined or perceived chill left in the wake of the tragic accident, I am wondering if Cirque patrons might subliminally connect the dangerous imagery that brought down one company member with the more traditional circus experience, the linkage a negative for Cirque?

After all, more than any other company -- yes, even though the do present real risk taking aerial acts now and then -- this company has perfected the move towards circus ballet, conditioning modern audiences to expect their thrills and chills in a more esthetically safe environment.  No?

The Business Week report, same as earlier one out of Vegas, erroneously marked the fall as the first Cirque fatality. Not so, they've had another one.

Plus, there is also the been-there-seen-that factor that may eventually come to bear on the Cirque box office.

It's a company of terrific creativity and risk taking of its own.

And the cirque king, Guy Laliberte, is not to be underestimated.

Keep your eyes on Him Up There.