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, May 29, 2019

Management Earthquake at Big Apple Circus: Kahanovitz Axed ...Dufresnoy Signing Acts, Guiding New Show ... Horses Out ... Olate Dogs In ...

This just in from the latest issue of Spectacle magazine on-line:

Ernest Albrecht, who has been trying to chase down rumors of a shakeup in top tier management, was able to get the Big Apple Circus to  issue  the following official statement:

 “Neil Kahanovitz is focusing on other pursuits and is no longer working with the Big Apple Circus. We are extremely grateful to him for getting the circus to where it is now and wish him the best of luck with his new endeavors.”

Writes  Albrecht, "Dufresnoy, in fact, continues to be involved in all aspects of the circus including the beginning discussions for the new tent show." 

He's scouting and signing acts.  West Hyler to direct new tent show, Housch Ma Housce to clown.  Show to erect heavy aerial rigging and have people "flying around everywhere,”  And I LIKE that. I have all along felt a lack of earthy excitement. Vidbel's horses and mutts are out,  Olate dogs acts are in, set for two ring romps.  

I have sensed a cloudy deviousness about the retired spinal surgeon who will have managed Big Apple for less than two years. This feeling is  born partly of his shocking lack of ethics in touting reviews of the show (see my postings on the Wall Street Journal below).  As circus producer, he seemed to favor a rather staid, if respectable, lineup of acts.  This is not based on my seeing  either of the editions. but of impressions gained from reading New York reviews.

Do we assume that lackluster business played a part?   This would not apply here if a claim made to the Wall Street Journal  by (new?) CEO Gregg Walker is true.  He stated that Lincoln Center ticket sales jumped by 95% over the previous year.  An astonishing accomplishment.   If really true, one can only speculate on any number of possible reasons that may have hastened the doctor's exit. CEOs who produce such dazzling results do not as a rule suddenly disappear.  

Reports Albrecht, "there are several rumored explanations still hanging about."

I feel a renewed hope for the Big Apple Circus spirit, but feel a futility in their flirtation with a second unit for big arenas.   And I continue to believe that  they need to  let go of  their insane addiction to the long Lincoln Center date, the punishing rental fees being what they are, and focus more on other city parks.  Cunningham in Queens is heavenly.   They say Brooklyn's Prospect Park is more beautiful than Central Park.

Where is Paul Binder?

And, they need to reach out and ingratiate the support of Big Apple circus founder Paul Binder,  the best pied piper the show ever had.  I am sure, with a smile and call for advice (heck, send him to Monte Carlo to scout acts), he would be a happy trouper once more.  Better than that alone, offer him a second act as top dog -- but confine his role to the performance and hold him to the tight budgetary restraint of others whose control over the kitty is absolute.   

Albrecht is riding the story, promising more news is it surfaces.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Chance Chat with Circus Bella Fella Leaves Me Felling Blue ..

Just back from an afternoon stroll.  Quiet sunshine, trees above a sleepy stream below, a guy and girl sitting on the edge, about where you see that rock, looking down.  Passing by, I glanced back -- had I seen  “Bella” on his jacket?  

Reversing course, I had to ask “Circus Bella?”

Yes, said the guy.

“Were you with it?”

“I was."

“How did they do on Treasure Island?”

He brightened, they did good, I think he said.  Excited, I wondered about business — wanting something a little more specific. "So," going gentle at first, I guessed "the houses, half full?' 

“Well, yes," he answered, "and we had some sellouts.”

“So, are they going back next year?”

He answered no.   And I wondered why, and  yet could not  bring myself to ask if it had  been profitable.  He talked up the annual summer season ahead.  Was that all, to myself I wondered.  He turned my attention to big plans in the works.  They had signed a memorandum of understanding with somebody, and this would  bring them new dates in the spring and fall.

I could not help wondering if something had gone wrong on Treasure Island, so I returned to the subject.  He gave a little, revealing that a restaurant, maybe the Mersea, for they played in Mersea Meadows, had backed out, or tried to, of some agreement.  From there, I let up.

“We are not returning to Treasure Island,” he said once more, with a bleak, almost disparaging finality, and it felt as if something had gone wrong that he would not disclose.   They are animal-free.

I wished him well, and walked, on, and crossed the street and sat on a bench on a pleasantly detached  dead-end street, where people with dogs sometimes pass, and sat there under the sun feeling a pang of sadness for Circus Bella.  It made me realize how happy I had been when I learned last year of the Treasure Island date.  It sounded like a bold new future underway.  Already history.

Another setback for the contemporary circus in this country.  The visit to Treasure Island had sounded so promising on the rise, they had secured an attractive tent, as it turns out,  on loan from Ramos Bros. Will they be using it again, I had asked the fella. He seemed unsure.

Circus Bella  will be out again as usual, come summer, playing free shows on variable grass and dirt in variable city parks around the Bay Area.

On Treasure Island, where they had played through the month of December,  they had added acts and sold tickers at surprisingly high prices.  I can only conclude that not enough people bought tickets to make the venture worthwhile.     Surly, they do not shun success.

But of course, I did not share this feeling with the nice fella wearing a Circus Bella jacket.

These days, one holds their breath with a kind of sensitive respect for the trouping wounded.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

MIDWAY FLASH ... California Senate Bans Performing Circus Animals ... Assembly Expected to Ditto ...Horses and Dogs May be Spared, Camels Not

Bye Bye Big Top, headlines the Sacramento Bee.

Another cold curtain comes close to crashing down on our disintegrating circus scene.  Remember the circus, anyone?

Sacramento, land of leftward politicians, is voting exotic animals off the lot. Next stop, the Assembly,  then likely onto a signature from Governor Gavin Newsom.

Writes Andrew Sheeler in the Bee:

"The language initially could be interpreted as banning not just circuses, but also wildlife conservancy and education groups’ outreach efforts.

'These animal act bans are superfluous laws that will be selectively enforced, making criminals out of good people,' the U.S. Association of Reptile Keepers said in a statement upon the bill’s introduction.

The bill also was opposed by groups including the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Discovery Valley Animal Hospital, the Snow Leopard Conservancy and the Southwest California Legislative Council. While the USARK has withdrawn its opposition, the other groups have not
In response to the criticism, the bill’s author, Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, tightened up the definition of the bill, specifically wording the ban so that only circuses would be affected."

Lions and tigers and elephants.  Camels, too, then why not horses while they're at it?

Dogs next? Don't rule that out in the State of Insanity.

Which makes me wonder, if one blunderful day, some genius doctor At UC-SF advocates gender reassignment for strange-acting animals.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

My Letter to the Wall Street Journal, Re: Big Apple Circus Ad Fraud, New Arena Unit, Biz Claims ...

Actually, an e-mail I sent to  Charles Passy at the Wall Street Journal regarding his story, "For It's Next Act, Big Apple Circus Goes on the Road," reprinted in The Circus Report.  

UPDATE:  Read about Mr. Passy's reaction to my post below.

Dear Mr. Passy,

When last we met by e-mail, I shared my astonished reaction to a review by your paper of the Big Apple Circus -- as quoted by the Big Apple Circus.  You may recall they merely lifted from a story you did on them, quoting how they described their own show!  That you allow this ad fraud to continue (take a look at their website) suggests the Journal is a party to the brazen deception. No?  I wonder what really went on behind the scenes to allow for such. 

Strange, the Journal, whose Saturday edition I read regularly,  sometimes stresses its adherence to rigorous ethics.  Evidently, at the circus, this may not apply.  My guess is that somebody made a little easy  money on the side, or a huge stack of free tickets -- or maybe a free spinal adjustment -- in order for the Journal's good name to be nailed onto a fake review.  Does this not bother you?   Oh, that's right, it's only the circus.

Huge indoor arenas have become the morgue of the modern day circus, plagued with ever-declining attendance.  More than ever, the public seems to want small -- at least the illusion of a half way decent crowd around them.  BAC is a small show, no longer "produced" so costly as it was under Paul Binder, so the idea of their saving money on not having to "produce" the indoor trick, since it will be a carryover from last year, is a bit of a stretch. 

Their claim of skyrocketing ticket sales is impressive, if anywhere near the actual truth. I remember once being interviewed by Forbes, and questioning Kenneth Feld's claim that his circus played to 10 million people a year.  Forbes evidently did some intelligent fact checking of their own (rare for a circus story), and estimated the figure to be around five million.

Anyway,  I will be looking forward to the next review of the Big Apple Circus by the Wall Street Journal.

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

As quoted on the Big Apple Circus Website, featuring a string of excerpts from reviews.


I emailed Mr. Passy a link to my blog, and he responded, assuring me that  nobody at the Journal would have gained from any association with the Big Apple Circus.  I printed his full reply, believing it to be fair,  and sent him the link.  He was taken aback by my doing this, so I offered to remove his reply, and he gladly accepted.

In his e-mail which I deleted, he remembered my bringing the matter to his attention last year (In fact, I published his reply then), and he believes he forwarded the issue on to higher levels of management at the Journal.

He wrote, “to be honest this happens all the time ... Broadway producers are legendary for ‘finding a quote’ and taking things out of context.”

To be honest, I find his last assertion more than a stretch and a bit wobbly, for while Broadway producers are known for quoting out of context, they quote from actual reviews, not from advance feature stories, as Big Apple Circus has done here.  This is what in my view makes the matter doubly astounding, and begs the question, why does the Journal allow such a blatant deception to continue?

Interesting story.