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

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Morning Midway: Gay Cinema Without Bars, Hustlers & Suicide

Imagine this:  A young college student comes home with stars in his eyes, and is happily surrounded by his loving mother and sister, sensing he has just met someone special. So you can imagine them asking him, "Who is she?!"  No,  in this film they ask him "Who is he?!"

Movies about gay men have advanced by leaps and bounds away from the freak show that was Boys in the Band -- yes, an admirable ground breaker in its time to be respected.

How apt that one of the better examples of a new gay cinema without traumatic "coming out" segments, should be found in Akron  -- an intelligent, sensitive and very moving film that deserved far more attention that it has received.

I took a chance on Akron, a  2015 film containing the above scene -- the dad was also pleased over the news.  Surprisingly, it was ignored by virtually all film critics, save for two, the two issuing a split verdict.

From Film Inquiry,  "The film explores the complex emotions that come with any relationship, gay or straight. What it means to forgive, even for something minuscule, is questioned here – daring us to define what it is that makes us carry on. It is in this way that Akron succeeds: its ability to get at human experiences without coming across as cloying.

From OUT,   "Akron is a nice try at normalizing gay romance, but the film making needs the erotic and spiritual masculine energy of great gay cinema.

Excuse me, OUT, but why does a "gay" film need to be loaded with erotica and  masculine energy? 

Akron is one of a growing number of non-stereotypical movies that avoid the bar scene -- loners over pin ball machines,  hustlers working the room, riff raff casing it, couples in for a drink or for a  late night take-out to share.  I could list many other such films that are casting gay relationships in Normal Town, USA. 

I watched in the Specials section of the DVD, the writer and co-director Brian O'Donnell discussing the reception they got while filming in Akron, his own hometown.  The people, he said, who knew what they were up to, could not have been nicer.

And isn't that itself a great advance?

A few other fine films on Netflix I can recommend:

Call Me By Your Name
Holding the Man
In Bloom

Can you believe this: I am writing this during the latest Smut & Smear Circus in DC, too sick of the whole disgusting mess to have the TV on.  Silent it will stay.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Falling Faster than Big Tops: The Circus Blogs

One of the fallen: Steve Copeland and Ryan  Combs

 How lonely it feels, surfing the remains of once-active circus blogs.  Too many of them are now but abandoned graveyards for yesteryear’s postings.

In fact, most of them have died.  Some due to the bloggers passing away, but where is a new generation of big top bloggers to fill the gap? 

* Most disappointing  no-shows, not heard from since last August, the blog of Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs. We know they are still out there entertaining, currently at the Circus World Museum.  They were my favorite blog during their heyday blogging  years when they toured with Kelly-Miller. Steve's daily postings put us on the lot in real time. His candor could cause sparks to fly.  In recent years, he would periodically put out very long catch-up postings.   They were way too long for me to get hooked on.

His last posting, last August, ended thus:

"I think that is about it for now.  I'll see you next week when our summer season is finished and I have my first chance to sleep since may!  Peace!"

I wonder what happened on his way to next week?

* Wade Burcks Circus no Spin zone. gone since March 2016.

Doc’s Midway Cookhouse, gone

* Last updated,  December 27: Paul Binder’s blog. A sad puzzling mystery to me why he had not posted anything about what the new Big Apple Circus offered New Yorkers last October.   He worked so hard to keep it going to the bitter end.  The silence suggests — well, no, I had better not go there  either.  There is enough conjecture out there parading shamelessly as fact..

Circus Anonymous, last posting -  December 24

Remember Pat Cashin?  Dick Dykes?  Jack Ryan and others?  Many long-gone blogs are still listed on Ken Young’s Circus Links .  It, too, appears to have ceased updating.

I can’t bring myself to remove those blogs from the right sidebar.  The void would be too  painful a reflection of our drastically shrinking American circus scene.(May we once more collectively boo  Kenneth Feld?)

Still open for business:

Jim’s My Days Are Circus Days, bright and colorful

Circus and Fairground Art, rich in art work

Circus blog, a charmer

Circuses and Sideshows, kind of

Buckles blog – He was been counted down and maybe out two times in recent years.  But returns with the help of others.

John Towsen’s All Fall Down 

I am starting to wonder what I am still doing out here on this decimated midway.  Will I be the last one out of the tent?  That would be too chilling for me to handle.

Bottom line: I continue to believe, that without a culture of open discussion  and debate within the circus community as freely exists among other entertainment fan bases and media coverage, there will never be the drive to nurture and embrace  circus blogging.

All those wonderful pictures of past glories can only go so far.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Morning Midway: Next up From Big Apple Circus -- Lean Lineup Has Russian Artistry, Tuniziani Double Trap, Vidbel Animals, New Clowns and Ringmaster

Returning to Big Apple Circus: Desire of Flight.

So, how do they look on paper?  Make that on You Tube, where I’ve watched clips of all  the acts in previous performances.

Six acts are listed on Broadway.Com — not counting animals and clowns -- suggesting a Cirque du Apple in the making.  This leaves me a bit skeptical, the reason concerning heavy-handed ballet interludes and operatic music that can soften if not emasculate the potential impact of strong tanbark action. The six:

Desire of Flight, with Melfina Abakarova and Valery Sychev on straps, is justly revered.  They first appeared on Big Apple Circus in 2012, and won a Gold Clown at Monte Carlo in 2014.   The team offer a killer payoff when they connect only by their ankles.  No mechanics here. This is the real thing, and is sure to wow the crowd.

Duo Fusion by Virginia Tuells and husband Ihosvanys Perez, an overly muscular contortion workout, to my jaded eyes (if I never see another contortion act in my life, I won't feel deprived).  Which does not mean it won't impress the crowd.  American audiences really lap this stuff up. Slow slow slow.

Horizontal juggling by Victor Moiseev, all very mystically staged, with large balls floating through space,  away from and back to Victor so smoothy and perfectly as to feel more cinematic than human.  The essentially one-theme act turns a tad repetitious.  However, depending on how it's staged, this could be another big wow.
Away from the cerebral, other three acts promise more old fashion action:  At the top of the list, a double trapeze by the Tunizianis, which I hope means two simultaneous triples up there, like they did for Ringling on its way out of this world.  Now, that's a major thrill.  Ammed will still  be turning or attempting the quad.  Promo claims the feat has been "only successfully landed by ten people in the world." This would be like claiming the Unus' one finger stand to have been accomplished by only  ten others.   Duh?  Who is in charge of ballyhoo on this show??? 

Free-standing ladder balancing by the Emil Faltyny.  It’s a good enough act, but I'd far rather see the kid Wesley Williams, who offers more and with such youthful gusto -- an element I don't feel much of in this program.  Remember GUSTO?

What does promise to humor the house are the Spicy Circus gals, who cavort playfully from a trampoline, bouncing up and onto and off walls.  It's ladies day this year at Big Apple, with the distaff side being played up in press releases.

Of course,  offerings from the clowns -- Mark Gindick and Adam Kuchler -- and from the Vidbel dogs may bring sufficient levity to the intensely introspective moments. Returning to direct is  Mark Lonergan; to lead the music,  Rob Slowick.  New to the ringmaster's whistle will be  Stephanie Monseu.

Yes, I am, you realize I trust, speculating.

On balance or off, I'd venture to guess they have a potentially more entertaining program ambitiously in the works. But they need to hold back on the artsy asides and operatic music that may come with these brooding Russians. How I'd love hearing Ravel's Bolero* during The Desire of Flight. Last time I heard that at a circus, Clyde Beatty was pacing the big cats through their routines over sawdust -- not exactly on pointe.

* I have an even better number, just heard on our jazz station here:  the moody Poinsettia.  Anything to give the weeping violins a rest.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Wall Street Journal Reviewed or Did Not Review Big Apple Circus? Here is How Each Replied to My Request for Comment

For the background to this, see the post that follows below.   

To The Wall Street Journal:

I decided it best to begin with Charles Passy, who the wrote Journal article.  I sent him a link, and wrote:

I am hoping you will consider answering the following two questions:

1.  Is the Wall Street Journal aware of this?

2.  If so, how would it explain allowing for such?

In addition, I would welcome any comments you may have

From the Wall Street Journal

Mr. Passy replied almost immediately:

“Wow, that’s pretty amazing.  When I used to be a reviewer, I was accustomed to critiques being taken out of context, but this is a whole other thing.

Thanks for bringing to our attention.  I’ll alert editors and let them decide if they want to follow up.”

To the Big Apple Circus:

Their website gives three contact e-mail addresses.  I addressed my request to two of them — Inquiries and Creative Director:

I refer you to the posting I did on the Wall Street Journal quotes about last year’s show, as they appear on your website. I would welcome your comment.  Am I wrong?  Might you have made made arrangements with the Wall Street Journal to quote from the article?  Thank you for your anticipated reply.

From the Big Apple Circus.

So far, nothing. 

I did notice yesterday, when trying to pull up their website, that you are sent directly  to Ticketmaster for sales.  The website itself appears to be totally missing in action.

Speculating, it seems most likely to me that either.

1.  Big Apple Circus publicists quoted the article without permission, and, if the Journal noticed it by accident, they did not take the time to realize what had actually happened, or looked the other way.

2.  Through possible inside connections with the Journal, Big Apple Circus secured, or thought they secured, permission to use the quotes.

It is impossible for me to believe that the Journal, which employs some of the best critics out there, would condone such a thing.


Solved: The Mysterious Origins of a Wall Street Journal "Review" of The Big Apple Circus

Last fall, when the new Big Apple Circus opened in New York, naturally I wanted to see the reviews.   There were only a few of them from major publications, and the show posted excerpts from them on its very impressive website, the quotes appearing one after another in a kind of stream.   
I had already read The New York Times notice, which I I have discussed here several times.

One in particular, from The Wall Street Journal, stood out on the Big Apple Circus website.   “It’s the most star studded show!  The most daring feats in the world.”

Phantom review

I’d call that a flat-out rave, and so I goggled it up, hoping to read the complete notice, ready to be awed.  But no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a review from the Wall Street Journal.  The only thing I could find was a story in advance of the opening.  And it was impossible to read the item, for soon after its appearance on my screen, a large “subscribe-now” ad blocked most of the screen, obscuring  my view of the story.

Okay, I let go.  For a time, I wondered if Big Apple had informally secured the quotes from a Wall Street Journal staffer who had seen the show and gave  his or  her permission to quote.  Those words — “the most star-studded show!” —  did not come out of nowhere.  Somebody had to have written them.

Advance to the present.  I have been lately looking at the Big Apple Circus website, interested to see what they might announce for their new show due out this October.   Each time you log in, you will see the same quotes that were used last year from the reviews.  Thus, I again  faced the confounding WSJ mystery:   Why can’t I find an actual review in the Journal?

Goggling in the dark

So, this time, about ready to give up,  I goggled a few of the words quoted by Big Apple Circus along with  "Wall Street Journal".  The story with which I was already familiar but had never been able to read in full again popped up.  And I spotted a few of my search words -- maybe they did review -- only to lose them when  the large Subscribe-Now ad blocked me out.  I had to get back in there and get more.

Feeling like the fashion photographer in Antonion’s film Blowup,  who studies enlarged photographs of shots he took in a park where a murder had been committed, I was scanning my pc screen as fast as I could each time I got the Journal story back up, only in seconds to be blocked out again by the the Subscribe-Now ad.  I linked off and  back on, and hurried to scan more words. I repeated this furious chase over and over, each time racing across text to find where I had been the previous time in order to read more: "put on one of the most star-studded shows ..."  It was a review.

Shocking discovery

Or was it? Ad block!  Out and back in: “For its return, the Big Apple Circus says it will put on one of  most  star studded shows since it began four decades ago ... The show features two of the most daring acts in the circus world -- the quad on the trapeze and the seven person pyramid on the high wire.  ‘We wanted to make sure we had the best show we could put together,’ said Neil Kahanovitz.’”

Jackpot!  Nailed!  From the boss himself.  And then, why hadn't I thought of this until now, I took screen shots of the text with  my iPhone.  So now I have the complete text.  And by now, too, that obnoxious ad gave up on me, and left me alone.  Out of robotic respect?

The story itself was written by Wall Street Journal staffer Charles Passy, who was in no way reviewing a circus yet to open, but passing along what he had been told about it by its management   “The Big Apple circus says.”  .

Double Duplicity 

So, here we have one extraordinary deception: a  circus quoting itself from a story in which it is quoted, and then framing its own quotes to appear as excerpts from a review by somebody else in the very same publication.

And yet another deception.  Note how Big Apple Circus edited  its own quote to make it appear even stronger:

What the Journal wrote: "one of its most star studded shows."

How Big Apple changed the wording": "it's most star-studded show!"

Mystery solved. And what a shock.  I can’t recall false advertising ever stooping to so shameful a low, not just under the big tops, but all along the entertainment spectrum.   I doubt that even Irvin Feld would have had the nerve to try bringing off such a brazen appropriation.  And if the Wall Street Journal actually approved of this, they come off looking equally duplicitous.

Fake media captured  

The whole thing  causes me to wonder about a number of things I have here addressed about the new Big Apple Circus last year, not the least being the New York Times giving the show a Critics Pick when its critic gave it a  ho-hum write up, at best.   And to wonder about inside connections, etc and why, when interviewed by chirpy Anthony Mason of CBS and then later, by the Washington Business Journal, Kahanovitz was never once asked by either for attendance figures or profits earned.  Not even from a "business" journal?

Hyperbole has always been a factor in circus ballyhoo, and something the public has looked for, and enjoyed, despite grumbling about it.  Ballyhoo is a form of courtship, which is why reputable objective reviews from reputable sources play an even more important role than ever before.  Beware of fake reviews.

 From The Wall Street Journal story, High Wire Act for Big Apple Circus,  October 26,   2017

As posted on Big Apple Circus website