The Little Circus That Could ... Highest Rated of Them All on Yelp

The Little Circus That Could ... Highest Rated of Them All on Yelp
Currently Reigning Champion at 4-1/2 Stars, Zoppe Family Circus Wins the Crowds with Heart-Warming Tradition

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hang up Now! Kelly Miller Phone Room Shocker - Telemarketers Spooked by Violent Threats - Sponsoring Jaycees Cancel Shows

Nasty threats bordering on gun violence rocked and shocked the Hugo-based telemarketing lines of Kelly Miller Circus pitching tickets for its date in South Russell, Ohio to local businesses.  Story reported by Patrick Cooley on Cleveland.Com.  

But when questioned about the names of those called, the telephone solicitors could not recall.  Nor could an investigation by the Chagrin Falls Police Department yield any leads.

How very Strange.

It simply does not make sense for the telemarketers not to know whom they were calling--- unless they were using automatic mass dialing systems, in which case they must have been dialing beyond local retail shops, into homes.

Why the threats?  Were they from people who simply did not wish to be bothered by yet another solicitation?  I can’t imagine a locally based business reacting in so reckless a manner.

Or, might the threats have come from somebody connected to an animal-rights group?  In fact, Cooley's story noted that animal rights advocate Linda Hernandez of Solon, OH,  had launched a petition on to ban Kelly Miller from South Russell.  

And so the Jaycees, their nerves understandably rattled, canceled the date.  When I contacted Kelly Miller general manger James Royal about the matter, he replied that the story and angle “was from a sponsor who acted in haste, and didn't report the facts.”

The story, in fact, had caught my attention, not because of the animal angle, but because I had nearly forgotten that there are still phone rooms in operation.  Yes, naive of me.  And so I e-mailed Jim, sharing with him my view that telephone sales may be key to how the show continues to stay on the road despite puzzling evidence from a variety of sources suggesting that attendance is lackluster.   

At the time, Jim was on his way to participate in the World Circus Summit in MA, but promised to respond in greater detail.  And he did.  Here, in his own words:

“Regarding telemarketing, the era of big promotions is long gone.  There was a time when day and night rooms could keep a show on the road, but not anymore.  We use a very small operation that sells discounted children’s tickets to businesses.  A large portion of our dates are repeats, so the local companies know this is a good way to help the local sponsor and buy reduced price tickets.  These tickets are mostly used by the companies, although some are returned to the sponsors. If we were to rely on phone sales as the major source of income, the show would still be sitting in Hugo.  It is just another tool in marketing mix”

Royal would only describe business this season as "not terrible, not great."

“Still sitting in Hugo.”  Okay, so there is still the nagging issue of all those empty chairs, and the tempting rationale to follow the phones.  I am no stranger to the power of advance “boiler room” operations to keep circuses solvent even when the "customers" don't come.

Boiler Rooms from Hell, there was a day, and I was there ...     
When I was working as press agent for Sid Kellner’s James Bros Circus in 1969,  upon my entering St. Louis, I received word from the front office to refrain from any and all publicity efforts.  No trying to get performers on TV or radio. DON’T.  No ads; at least, keep them to the smallest size with very few placements.

Why?  Seems the phone room had so outlandishly oversold tickets, they feared  that even should a fraction of those tickets end up in the hands of people wishing to see the circus, the building might overflow quickly, and the sham promotion would be exposed.

Ah yes, back then, boiler rooms ran rampant through the notorious 1970s, in many ways the worst decade in American circus history.

Kelly Miller phones rooms, a far cry?  I suppose they are, but I have a feeling they are more critical to John Ringling North II’s sentimental journey than James Royal would have us believe.

END RINGERS: In my correspondence with Jim, I also asked him, in two different e-mails, two questions.  1.  Whatever happened to ringmaster John Moss. 2.  Does he see the Ringling elephant retirement issue eventually effecting his own show in the future.

He declined to comment on either.

Finally, for a good tickle.  Among 100 comments left at the end of the Cleveland.Com story, there was this, which I offer with no implied connection to any particular party.

"Progressives go to Mars for candy bars; conservatives go to Jupiter to get stupider."

Well, South Russell, wherever you are or go, you do have a refreshing sense of humor.

"When grift went out, the phones came in"

   -- Arthur Concello, as quoted in my book Inside the Changing Circus

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Send in the Nuns When the Clowns Can't Make 'Em Laugh

Long interesting story in the Wash Post about Sister Dorothy Fabritze, who gives Communion at five different circuses, currently traveling with a sister companion, Mary Seibert, from one show to another.  To reach Kelly Miller, they follow the arrows.  Such true sawdust saints, they!

Sister Fabritze started out 16 years ago spending all her days on the Ringling show, but now she shares her faith with many other believers or spiritual seekers on smaller shows.  Blessed are the humble, out of their spangles.

Greatest Mass on Earth: Ringing believers await the sisters 

On Kelly Miller, the sister's most avid listener of the moment is Finnish ventriloquist Sebastian, a European import by John Ringling North II, who works with his puppet Hector and who describes himself an "inquirer.”  (Hector is apparently abstaining).   It seems the two are not always making them laugh, and the silence of a crowd, to be expected inside a chapel, can be traumatic under a tent.  Writes Post reporter, Abby Ohlheiser,  Sebastian  "killed [em?] in the Rio Grande Valley. But last week in New Jersey, “it was very difficult,” revealed Sebastian.  A true confession from a true pro.

On the road with altar to go:  the two sisters in their sanctuary on wheels

After spending an hour with Sister Fabritze,  Sebastian, maybe a convert, maybe not, needed to be up and out -- to get ready to do his act.  Another crowd. Another chance to entertain.

The visiting Sister offered the humble ventriloquist  her daily blessing, tailor made just for him: “Make ’em laugh.”

If he can, perhaps our touring nun has one more for the flock

Thanks to  Don Covington, who sent  me the Post story
Top two photos from Washington Post
Photo of Sebastian, by Rick Purdue

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pissed Off Pachyderm Pitches Parked Auto in Denmark ... or, Was He Just Wanting a Taxi?

Fuzzy details on CBS News.  Seems, if I got the drift, a perception that the elephant did not welcome the attentions of some Denmark circusgoers.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Circus Bella Spreads a Gentle Magic Over Summer Grass

From 2015 

Here are some pics I took of Oakland's own Circus Bella, at the town's Mosswood Park, on July 3rd.  The park is only a short walk from where I live.

A cat who stole the show:  First number out was warmly amusing. We see a stranded cat atop the pole.  Several performers try in vain to rescue the morose puffer, who reacts with a repertoire of squeaky meows, as if either fearing for its life --- or resisting rescue.  Finally, the show's merry jester, Calvin Kai Ku, tries his luck ...

And... succeeds!  A genuinely funny little gag that struck me as an instant clown classic.

As usual, group juggling, directed by Pickle Family Circus vet Judy Finelli, was the highlight of the show.

The spirited Bella band, again ingeniously directed by Rob Reich through his own original score, has a whimsical way of seeming to comment on some of the acts in a very personal manner, at times addressing every move with a specific reaction, slyly shaded with comedic undertones.  All of which helps Bella, in its best frames, take on a Fellini-esque spirit.  Remarkable moments, those. 

Circus Bella gives a dozen or so free summer shows throughout the Bay Area.


Saturday, July 04, 2015

Showbiz David's Carny Classics Play YouTube

Happy July Fourth!
This Way to My Century of Thrills Amusement Park! 

Ride the Big Dipper roller coaster ... The Whip ... Tilt-a-Whirl ... Ferris Wheel ... the Swings and the Thimble Theatre fun house!

The first image you will see is of my Uncle Smity atop a Merry-Go-Round horse

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Showbiz David Goes YouTube! And He's Laffing in the Dark

A momentous thing just happened.  I was able to upload a simple video made during an early construction phase of my scale model Laff-in-the-Dark Ride

I"m out there in You Tube Land!

Here is a link to my first humble offering:

This was a trial run.  I have a DVD of my entire Century of Thrills amusement park, which includes five classic rides in operation.  Among them, the Big Dipper roller coaster, The Whip and the Tilt-A-Whirl.  Yes, they ALL move as in real life.   This may take some time to figure out how to convert it some file that You Tube recognizes.

Then, too, I will make one of the front end of Laff-in-the-Dark.

BTW: the drive belt, which I said came out of a model airplane kit. No, it came from a motor in an inkjet.

I feel like a kid with the smartest new toy under the tree.