Thursday, December 31, 2020

Showbiz David’s 2020 American Circus Evidence of Life Awards

   At UniverSoul last month

What is there to write about a season that wasn’t ?  That it will stand out in American circus history as, yes, the season that wasn’t?  And what’s to look forward to in 2021? As Nellie Hanneford so simply stated, when I reached her by telephone, “It’s out of our hands.”

And the sooner it’s back in, the better.  But even then, I wonder.  There should be plenty of Americans hungry for the kind of down-to-earth live entertainment that circus can offer.  And if the Feld of Felds does make good on his promise to bring back The Greatest Show on Earth, that will be, by far, the best thing that could happen to the big top scene here. For, Ringling-Barnum symbolizes American circus. When it died, so in the minds of many did circus die.  A successful return could work wonders for an institution that is closer than ever to the abyss.

How does 2021 look to the trouping wounded?  I dialed their numbers, sent out e-mails seeking their thoughts on what lies ahead. My rankings here are partly based on the responses received; also on my knowledge of each show’s history; and a gut feeling.

2020 American Circus Evidence of Life Awards         

1.  UniverSoul

No need to call them.  The sight of an actual tent in the air anywhere over the U.S. marks a milestone. They pitched theirs for a perilous period last month down in Texas.  Whether the crowds pitched back is another matter. Photos I have seen show only a few strays in the seats. But something is better than nothing, right?  My hat's off to you, Cedric Walker.

2.  Cullpepper Meriweather

Why so high on this list?  They are small enough to have, I assume, the smallest nut, and they’re run by pros, and have been around for a long time.  

From Cullpepper’s Jim Royal:  “Show owner/manager Trey Key is monitoring the situation daily.  We are in touch with our local sponsors and ready to set the route.  Everything hinges on the pandemic. I know, no surprise there.” 

  3.  Royal Hanneford           

I’d never spoken with Nellie Hanneford before, such a sweet soul.  She tells me they are working on dates, and she nearly mentions one in particular, but I do not press. These days, “in particular” could mean a whole season.  

4. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

They should be at the top, and soon, they might be again – if Kenneth Feld follows through on his announced plans, through brainstorming sessions with many people, to create the return of Ringling, originally projected to happen in late 2021.

From VIP Stephen C. Yaros, in reply:  “Thanks for reaching out to Feld Entertainment. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, our plans to relaunch The Greatest Show On Earth have been delayed.  As soon as we have more information to share, we plan to do so.  I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas.  Cheers.”

Money is no problem for the Felds.  Only key issue, as I see it, is when best to strike.  I’d say, when Americans feel safe enough to sit next to each other at a circus.  Feld has good reason to maximize the potential for a groundswell of grateful yes-give-us-the-real-circus patronage.  Was the stage ever better set for a circus named Ringling to roar back in triumph?

5.  Big Apple Circus

It’s presence remains, I’d venture, even more  murky, as witness what you hear when you dial their number.  At the other end, a recorded message from a cool sounding guy: “Hey there, thank you for calling. Please leave us a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.” No name of voice or circus. Us Circus?

The guy, answering my e-mail on the upbeat,  turns out to be Jack Marsh from Circus Flora — the Flora that played a hand in the last Lincoln Center date show before Covid came calling.

“Yes, life is here, indeed!!"pipes Jack.  “Obviously hard to have a crystal ball right now, but all plans are for BAC to re-launch once the world will allow. Plan A right now is to target Lincoln Center in October, our usual time frame.... Fun plans are underway.  Fingers crossed for the industry we both love.”

His name stands above the imposing title, Executive Producer.  So I e-mail back, and toss Jack be nimble some questions:

 Is Gregg Walker still in charge?
      “Gregg is moving on to greener pastures.”
Is Walker’s company still involved in any way?
      “I don’t have precise details on the arraignment but Remarkable has some ownership of the           company, as do other investors.”
Who is your CEO?
      “That’s not a position we have right now”.  
New Owners?
      “No, no ownership changes to report.  Be careful about assumptions!”

Jacks seems to be a splendid fellow. See how much space he got here?  He even offered to set up a chat, which might have been very interesting, but I did not wish to take it that far.  Given Jack’s fluidity, I might have ended up with so much inside stuff, that I would feel guilty not writing a book about it.  So politely, I declined.

Since they can’t seem to live without Lincoln Center (their Achilles heal),  they might not be too welcome back come October. Broadway is still looking uncertain about 2021. 

6.  Carson & Barnes

Both circus Vargas and Carson & Barnes are about equally inaccessible by either e-mail or phone. I am graciously awarding an edge to  C&B because they answered my e-mail of yesterday with this lovely reply.  "Hello David, Thank you for contacting us! Someone will respond to you very soon about your inquiry."  Well, I am still waiting.  

Whereas, however...

7. Circus Vargas

Didn't get back to me at all.  When I dialed there number, I was sent into a loop-the-loop extension chase down into a hole.  No reply to my two e-mails.  So I must relegate them to this bottom slot.  You have come to the end of the rankings.  You may now take your mask off, kids.

                                                              
END RINGERS: This is the year when we lost Circus Report for good, when Spectacle suspended publication due to lack of subject matter to cover ... When the Brits showed us how to could keep a dozen or more circuses on the road for a few months.  From the land that gave us circus, I would hope for that.  Kudos to them!...  A year when Italy, which had suffered devastating covid deaths, warmed my heart by staging a great circus festival, in which star Italians inspired before masked-in audiences. ... The year when Cirque du Soliel went into and out of bankruptcy, as if anybody cares.  I have grown weary of the Cirque style.  And I believe many Americans have, too. I mean, really,  does "character arc"do that much for any of you? ... Feld Family: You are our last great hope, so don’t let us down this time!... And I almost forgot, when cyber courier Don Covington stuck in there, continuing to find all sorts of stories related to circus and sending them out and keeping me on the list. Thank you, Don!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

And a ... a ... a, ah ... Merry Masky Christmas!

How vividly this classic suits the moment.  Poor Santa, having to sit alone, off limits to children.  Banned from chimneys

The next one can only get better, brighter, happier, and more all-together, right?   

In the meantime, my warmest wishes for all!  Especially for those normally hard working families struggling in long lines,  patiently waiting for meals, hoping for a job to return, praying for the solace and security of a way-of-life ripped from them by fear-mongering opportunists in places of ill-held, ill-deserved power.  May God bless you all.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sunday Pause: Teaching Myself to Enjoy Visiting as Much as Watching DeMile's The Greatest Show on Earth ...


How many times can you see a movie before getting burnout?  Some people watch favorite films countless times, and never stop watching.

I have come to think of this wonderful circus movie as a familiar place, a world of people and things I may always find new surprises among.  And I have found a renewal of desire to watch it by knowing that I will watch it in two sittings.  Last night I watched the first hour and a half, stopping just as they were going into the song on the trampoline, Be a Jumping Jack.  Now, after I write this, I will take my seat and watch the last part of the movie.

 

I'll admit I am a hopeless John Ringling North fan. Why? When I was barely in my teens, I learned of a movie being made, this one,  in which he appeared as the big boss, a movie that swept me away.  Soon, I subscribed to The White Tops and was reading The Billboard every week, following his exciting and controversial creative moves in designing and staging the shows, and the whole look of the circus on the lot.  

Even though I once was lucky to meet and interview him, there is still about him that mystical quality, mainly I think because he was a hand's off showman, giving others from various creative realms the freedom to create. On came, via Art Concello, the seat wagons, and other dazzling innovations.  There was talk of putting up a tent for dancing on the midway, with one of the Dorsey brothers leading the band.  There was talk of a Ringling theme park. Of a pole-less  big top designed by Norman Bell Geddes.

Back to the movie: The train wreck has, increasingly over the years, struck me as excessive, as it did a few otherwise impressed critics.  But since it comes around two hours into the film, this works good for my viewing, for it arrives after my taking a break, returning to the film the next day.

Last night, during Sebastian's build up to his reckless trick resulting in a fall, I sat back and gave more attention to  the lean flyer who makes those big reckless arcs, moving from one trap bar to another, rather than to a catcher. He is really good!

There he is, John Ringling North in the hat, with brother Henry to his left, and could that be Art Concello, to his right, in the other hat?

We are lucky to have this wonderful film, rich in so many ways.  And, yes, maybe only a circus fan can feel this way.  On rotten tomatoes, it hits a high of around 45%. But when it opened in 1952, Variety and a few other big shots gave it full out raves.  Know what?  I think they were right.  And so were those Hollywood insiders who gave it the Oscar for Best Picture of the year.

Looking for photos, I landed a great treasure trove of images in rich black and white, largely featuring John Ringling North, because they were posted in a story about him in New York Social Diary.  Great discovery!  A few brought on here.

Saxing it up in the M'Toto Room at the old John Ringling Hotel.  I see his good musician friend Rudy Bundy, lower right.

There's Bette Davis with John, to her right, and Henry, lower right.  

A juggler of sorts.

 

North and press agent Frank Braden at Madison Square Garden, 1950.  I was in awe of Braden's writing style in the roue books.

You can view all the photos at:

 https://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/john-ringling-north-circus-king/

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Those Five Ringlngs: The Jobs, Gates & Bezos of Their Day

Hit the road with five young brothers from Wisconsin, who take on shyster big tops with honest dealing, loudly refusing to condone grift on their midway.  Who declare themselves,  “Flounders of the new American School of Showman.” Their exploits soon incur the wrath and skulduggery of the entrenched status quo.  

“ Kudos for everybody! The next best thing to a circus is a rousing good musical comedy about wondrous circus ways and the meanies who try to corrupt nice guys like those five Ringling brothers.  The lilt of David Baron’s always lively, never blatant score carries sounds developed from the big tent ... David Lewis’s are entertaining and as relevant as his book and dialogue.”
                              – HOLLYWOOD DRAMA-LOGUE

 
Be there to watch their brazen ballyhoo rattle James Bailey, sending him into a vindictive snit and setting into motion a deadly string of counter attacks. When bloody bill posting wars and all manor of competitive sabotage spread chaos and death across the midway.  

“They found the circus in the hands of vagabonds,” wrote William Lyon  Phelps, “and put it into the hands of gentlemen.”

Be there too, for comedy and hoopla, adventure and romance —  from trusty to lusty –  set rousingly to song, dance, and circus spectacle.

“Baron and Lewis hit upon an inventive idea.   It has style, spirit, appleaing characters, good songs ... filled with rousing choruses and lyrical ballads.”
                         — LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS

Under the big top, the brothers became  the Silicon Valley tycoons of their day — the first to show movies under a black tent on the midway, the first to drop the canvas sidewalls to let in more air, giving customers relief while suffering a drop in soda pop sales.  The first to hire Pinkerton detectives to comb the grounds for pickpockets and card sharks, at first, stationing a man at the ticket wagon warning patrons, “count your change!”

Here, finally, is the musical that tells their story in two fast-paced acts, replete with circusy show tunes and darker refrains born of adversity and misfortune.    “Life is a circus, starring us all,” sings Al Ringling.  

"Better than Barnum ... with proper handling,  this show deserves a shot at the Tony."                  

                     -- VARIETY

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"A show that is basically better than Barnum"
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Hit the sawdust trail with five young brothers from Wisconsin, who daringly take on shyster big tops with honest dealing, battle Barnum & Bailey to the top, and win the hearts of Americans. From comedy to calamity, hoopla to heartache – and tragedy, this acclaimed musical celebrates their remarkable rise from rags to circus kings.

"For any producer with vision, the potential is evident ... It has style, spirit, appealing characters, filled with rousing choruses and lyrical ballads." – THE LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS


“Kudos  for everybody! .... The lilt of David Baron’s always lively, never blatant score carries sounds developed from the big tent.  David Lewis's lyrics are as entertaining and as relevant as his book and dialogue."    -- HOLLYWOOD DRAMA-LOGUE  
 
 
 
"A dazzling musical. Top drawer entertainment!"
        -- RIVERSIDE PRESS ENTERPRISE  
  

"With proper handling, deserves a shot at a Tony" 

-- Variety

 
"We think the script is really wonderful."
 
-- Tyler Dubrosky,
Associate Artistic Director
Providence Repertory Company 
 
Special $4 offer good through December. 25.  Reserve Now! Go to Amazon, link to books and enter the title.   Give the book as a gift, this option available on December 25.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Sunday Morning Pause: Quiet, Still and Inbeween While Corona Shadows the Land ... Fred and Ginger Visit ...

Sitting here on my couch, staring at the TV.   Corona overkill does not invite me to go out walking, and anyway,  out there it looks cold and sullen, some timid streaks of sun hovering behind weak clouds.  In about 15 minutes, they are showing on the movie channel a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers flick, Flying Down to Rio.  I may never have seen it.  However silly like all the other sillies it will likely be, there is sure to be the songs and the dances, and a lazy way to kill time.

More and more, those hypocrite politicians who order us to behave in a way they do not, are trying  out, some say, more mind control on society. Some believe it's an orchestrated  agenda to sweep conventional values away, and bring us closer to some new radically  reconfigured way of life.  I tie them into the ultra left San Francisco socialists. A Shocker:  Rents over there have dropped by 25 per cent, with the average one bedroom priced at less than $2,000!  Id say that's cheaper now than Oakland! That  social cesspool pandering to fringe groups is driving people away. Nobody wants to live in Baghdad by The Bay anymore. 

Now the sun is piercing right into my face, maybe heard me calling it "timid."

What was I starting out with?  Astaire and Rogers. Here comes a song, I think:  Music Makes Me, Never heard it.  Love the salty rhythms.  These snappy refrains never fail.  The beat is old fashioned, and I like to picture my mom and dad dancing to it when they were whirlwind courting.

Are you still there?  Fred is playing an accordion!  A film so trite and disjointed, hard to get through.

Back at u later.

Now it is after six, and some 3 stooges shorts are on.  They always deliver.

The sun I told you about stayed only briefly, a big yellow tease, then flaked back out.

Okay, it's only tonight and I'm  back before I planned.  Fred and Ginger in The Gay Divorcee, which easily beats out Rio, and they just did Nite and Day, one of those heaven-sent moments when music and choreography and dancers merge in miraculous perfection.  He is trying to lure her into a dance (translated, romance), she holds out but finally lets him take her into the song, as if the first time they ever danced together, and the results are matchless. The only other Astaire number I would equal it to would be Dancing in the Dark from my favorite movie musical of all time, The Bandwagon. 

Catch you tomorrow morning, when I decide whether I have the nerve to post this.  Of course, now I must.   At least, Martin Burton's great quote will still be up there -- the most powerful thing I have heard a circus owner say in many years.   

Monday, November 30, 2020

BRIT BIG TOP REPORT CARD: Corona Transmission Count: 0. Autumn Biz: Healthy. Boris’s Funding Heart: Generous. Next Season’s Prospects: Good

 

 
 Zippos Circus owner and producer, Martin Burton

     OVER THERE and Over Here, I go back and forth, cheered to see Brit big tops getting ready for next season, less optimistic as I stare at dormant U.S. circus websites, and walk a bleak landscape looking like forgotten playgrounds.  Have we about lost it all? (or have I?) Are we still in the running? Yes, UniverSoul is playing a Texas date, good news, and  a vaccine is on the way. And then, let’s see. And then, who will have the will and the wallet to reboot and reroute?   

      CULLPEPPER & MERRIWETHER, the smallest show, shines the brightest on my PC screen.  Big Apple Circus, arguably the biggest U.S. name, shines the grayist – as barren as one flickering light bulb on a rusting neon sign over a boarded up store.  Bankruptcy to go -- or for pick up, anyone?   Paul, where on earth are you! Please come out and say something.

Corona is Not a Circus Fan

      SO BACK TO the sunny side of the pond: The best news is that not a single transmission of Covid at any circus has been reported.  Writes my Atlantic correspondent Douglas McPherson, in helpful reply to my asking him for a general update,  “Socially distanced big tops proved to be a safe environment.”

     THE FIFTEEN OR SO circuses of the UK evidently did okay through the autumn.  In early November, they were all locked down through at least until December 2.  A few of the bigger ones produce pantomimes filling out December.

“I think all the circuses will be back in 2021,” writes Douglas.

Big Top Boris  

     FUNDING TO THE RESCUE: Boris (as in prime minster) opened his pocketbook with grants to a number of shows. That would be a cool 1 million (pounds) to Gandey’s, 600,000 to Zippos, and 466,000 to the National Center for Circus Arts.              

     BREXIT HAS mucked up the flow lanes between the UK and other countries, making it not nearly as easy or affordable now to import artists from abroad.  And those are the ones who supply, it would appear, an increasingly critical component of  the kind of shows the public wants to see.

Circus Art is Not a Hobby, Kids

     MARTIN BURTON, Chairman of the Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain, and owner of Zippos Circus, told The Stage, “There are a lot of people in the UK who say they are circus artists.  But for the quality that I want, I don’t need somebody who decided to train in a building-based circus school in their mid-20s because they thought it sounded more exciting than working in a factory.  I need somebody who trained in a 42-foot ring almost from birth and has the skill of an Olympic athlete, which is why is why we employ so many overseas people."

     BURTON OFFERED a nine-month tour to some “excellent artists” from an English circus school.  They yawned, “Oh, that’s too long. We don’t mind doing July and August.” With British born artists dwindling in number,  Burton and other owners are relying more on Eastern European performers and, of course, the redoubtable Chinese acrobats

But for my fear of flying, how I would relish crossing the pond, come summer, to take a look for myself, railing from one lot to another on those cozy British compartment trains.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

COMING IN DECEMBER! ... WAIT FOR THE BIG SHOW! ... BUY A BRIGHT NEW MASK FOR THE BIGGEST DAY OF THE YEAR!

Here comes the  musical that wowed  L.A. critics.  The musical that Variety declared  “... deserves a shot at a Tony.”  Follow the  remarkable  rise of five Wisconsin brothers who take on shyster big tops with honest dealing and win the hearts of Americans.  Relive the greatest period in American circus history.  Those Ringlings are coming again!

They called us a “mud show”
Now, look who's on rails
in top hats and tails
talking by the press
“You’re chasing Barnum?”
Yes!

to be published by BearManor Media

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Dark Side of Model Building: How I Made Laffing Sal live in My Playland-at-the-Beach Fun House

Daring to disclose, yet feeling the apprehension of Frankenstein in his laboratory fearing the fury of society and the gallows, I post this rare, possibly soon-to-be deposted video on You Tube, either by outrage in miniature land, or by my own guilt-wrenched soul.

Be there for the inside story on how I really created the half-mad Laffing Sal. Be there to witness my fall into the depths of despotic scratch-builder madness.  Oh, the acts of inhumanity I have committed in quarter inch scale!  On, the temptations to play God with Exacto blade in hand!

And be there to behold a gruesome foretelling of what modern society, in its quest for infallible beauty and surgical-ordered perfection, may one day fall victim to.

Here's how:

google "The dark side of model building," or go to:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THv_I_z8qg8

Hurry!  Hurry!  Limited engagement!

Friday, November 13, 2020

New Bette Davis Musical Fearlessly Tackles Freedom of Speech

 

From Red Cameras Roll
the longest running under-consideration musical on Broadway!
Now in its 18th month at York Theatre

While shooting Storm Center in a small Northern California town, Bette Davis is invited to march in a rose festival parade, amidst growing community opposition to the film.  To her cohorts, she expresses her true feelings:

 My parade is unafraid to sing a song,
    dark as death, red as rage
    for my colleagues who were censored, one by one,
    out of words, off the stage.
    I salute them all who stood up to injustice
    and answered, "No, I will not share your shame.”
    I parade for friends imprisoned    
    who refused to name my name!

    When free souls aren’t free to speak their minds,
    is this America?
    Do we light the world by burning books,
    or have we lost our way?
    

Based on the making of the movie Storm Center in Santa Rosa, CA, 1955, during the red scare/communist witch hunt era, the story depicts the plight of the town's librarian when she refuses to remove from her shelves a book titled The Communist Dream.

Music by Max Dancer
Book and Lyrics by David Lewis

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Italian International Circus Festival, Confined to the Host Country’s Talent, Delivers Top of the Big Top Thrills ...

They are a family.  A nation.  A circus world unto themselves.           

What moved me the most while watching their recent International Circus Circus Festival of Italy on You Tube, was how much they mean to each other, and how much the circus means to them.   They have suffered and lost and grieved and cried, and hung on through a devastating pandemic. 

Streamed live from Latina on October 19, given the current situation, only they could  perform. But perform they did, serving up a heart-warming array of world class acts. Acts that gave me pause to consider Italy’s key role in world circus history.  And to recall some of its greatest stars who have entertained me down through the years, such as slyly chilling Josephine  Berosini on the high wire,  the Zoppe riders with Cucciolo,  zany big cage satirist Tarzan Zerbini, suave foot juggler Ugo Garrido, slap stick hurricane Fumagalli, and the marvelous Canestrellis on the trampoline with that dynamite little spinning firecracker of a kid.  He once nearly brought Ed Sullivan to tears of joy. And how can I not thank Edmondo Zacchini, for his human cannon invention  -- a great big wow to a child's eyes.

 Italian Showmanship Foreshadowed the Russian Circus Empire

To also recall, while researching for my book Circus Rings Around Russia, writing about circus impresario from Milan, Gaetano Ciniselli.  In the 1870s he won favor with the Russian Czars to present shows in St. Petersburg.  His eclectic showmanship earned him European fame and would inspire a new school of Russia artists when they took over, following the 1917 revolution.

But back to Now: I have already covered the first two hours of the festival.  Here are some highlights from the last two.

Dashing wire dancing:  Shannon Orfei, whose unusually intricate foot work and flair won me over, called to mind the flashing creativity of Con Colleano of yore.  And I wish she had taken this even further, following the example of Mark Piazza.  Instead, she slowed down into a pair of ballet shoes, crossing the silver strand in lovely perfection. This diva has many tricks up her sleeve.

Simply Sensational

Mark Piazza took my breath way on the webs, powerfully twisting and twirling in ways I have never before witnessed.  Like fireworks going off in every which direction, each diving thrust -- up or down or sideways -- a thrill.  And then he flung himself through a series of one arm rollovers, but, with a vertical twisting, as to seemingly invent virtually a new act.  His driving force alone is riveting.  Pure gold.  Monte Carlo, send it to him now!   This is circus.  Not theater.  Not ballet. Not Self Esteem Workshop for the Jaded Rich, 101.  No, Circus – get it?  By the way, most of the music throughout was relevant and strong.  The dramatic scoring for Piazza's act is a pounding work of art. Bravo, maestro!

One-man juggling jamboree: Vastly diversified Darwin Pelegrinni came close to looking more like a group jugging act, he had that much going on.  How does he stack up against his competition? I only  know that he won me over with his tremendous control.

Other notables (I should note that I missed a few of the acts): The young Gabriel Dell’Acova-Canestrelli, hand walking with upside down contortions revealed remarkable mastery and poise for so young an age.   Nicholas Errani executing head stands on a single trap that went not just back and forth, but in a circular direction.

We all, don’t we, go to the circus looking for such things as what I have just described?  Looking for what John Ringling North once told me he looked for: “Something I haven’t seen before.”

Tearful Encores

The last half hour was not quite like anything I had seen before.  Awards were handed out,   I wanted to leave, but could not. Wanted to call it a show, but could not.  Had to stay, wanted to stay out of respect for what these wonderful performers had lived through during one of Corona’s most brutal attacks, having to watch family and friends die, one after the other. To watch them now, kissing and hugging each other at the end — you could feel their love — and for the passion they so brilliantly serve.  Indeed, they are a family. 

 Let the show go on!  They did, and they will.


****************************************************************************

END RINGERS: My one personal connection to the Cristianis: One hot summer day in Cleveland Ohio, when Wallace Bros. Circus ringmaster Bob Mitchell took me into the house trailer to meet  “Papa” Cristiani for a work interview.  Papa looked me over with a smile, we exchanged a few harmless words, and I was hired! – to work as an usher for zero compensation but free room and board.   In a few weeks, they made me to clown, at $25 per week.  

Every morning I awoke to usually find Pete Cristiani (think Robert Mitchum) , out in the middle of a big top yet to rise, its canvas sections being laid out and Pete pushing the crews to lace them up and get the thing back in the air.   During the show, I always tried to catch Cosetta Cristini’s snappy, sassy high kicking strut on the back of a cantering horse.  In their prime, the Critianis might have been the best group riding act ever.

Thanks to Don Covington for bringing the festival to my attention, and for his valuable input.  I've tried to freeze and snap action photos off You Tube, but it just doesn't work.

The Cristianis

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Sunday Morning with Gabriel Heatter: "Give Me the Circus" ...

Preface: this wonderful article written by the late American radio commentator Gabriel Heatter, revered for his morale-boosting rhetoric during some of the nation's darkest hours in the depths of Word War II. This article appeared in (and was likely written for) the 1943 Ringling-Barnum program magazine -- SD.

"We have heard a good deal about that word MORALE and its importance to us all. Put me down for the circus as the greatest morale tonic of all. Give me the circus to make me feel young again in spirit. Give me the circus and the laughter of children and the whole parade of wonders to make me realize life is good to live and worth living too

Give me the greatest show on earth — Lord how we need it now as never before. Give me a few hours to invite my soul in this wonder world and fine blessed forgetfulness for a few hours away from all the wear and tear and care of a world outside.

Give me a seat near the circus and let me hear stirring fanfare and let the great parade of wonders begin — and I am young again in heart and spirit. Give me a boy and girl close enough to share it with and to hear all the exclamations of wonder, bewilderment, surprise, and let the laughter ring out.

For the circus is a part of everything we mean by morale – a part of everything we mean by America. As much as Yellowstone or Pikes Peak or Yankee Doodle. Let me walk by the side shows and gaze in wonder on all the sights which remain unforgettably in one’s heart and memory. Give me all this and I’ll come out refreshed, happy, keen in spirit, and keen to come back again and again.

Why you could no more speak of America without a circus than America without baseball or football. Let me hear that circus band and feel the tingle and the warmth racing into my heart as it always does — and let me see all the eager, happy faces around me. Lord, how we need it now – as never before.

Yes, and give me the clowns and all their falls and tumbles and let me drink in all their generous and wholesome fun. That’s the word — fun — for man, woman, boy or girl for we need our share of it now. And the place to find it is in the circus — the greatest show in all the world. And here I’ll let myself go, and here I’ll shake off my cares for a few blessed hours, and here I’ll find all the reminders.

Life is good to live when there is a circus in town. So — on with the show. The circus has come and I and tens of millions will know there is a priceless bit of heaven-sent joy waiting for us all."

Thank you, Gabriel Heatter, and Thank you, Circus Vargas.

12/13/09

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Sunday Pause: Italian Circus Festival Inspires in the Face of Advesity ...

A four hour You tube of the event just came through from Don Covington, and I sat myself down to watch it. Four hours?  I took in the first two tonight, and will hit the last two tomorrow.

 

 Circus Festivals, which I have never taken in, I can see can delight you and also leave you wanting.  This one, truth be told (look the other way) contained a wild animal act with a few good items, but by far the most tediously drawn out display of mostly nothing that I have ever seen in a big cage. Presented by Prince Andre who spent most of his time moving furniture.  Next time, I'd suggest Ikea light.

There were at least three big highlights that satisfied my been-at-the-circus-too long handicap.  (Apologies to the solo contortion acts, which I skipped. Their slowness tries my patience)

This kid, Darix Bianchi, is a young star -- if only he had not foisted on us, at the end, a routine too too complex to bring off. He only proceeded, through three attempts, to do it, and failed each time. But there were parts of his deftly accomplished  repertoire that gave me perfect satisfaction. Dazzling in the way the red balls, up to 11 by my count, moved in lateral as well as vertical fountains. Marvelous!


Another neat juggling work out, this one on diablos, was turned in by ever-active Michael Zoran.  He, too, went for a big big payoff that fell apart three times in a row.  Never should have tried. Well, give the guy credit for not using a mechanic. (it's okay to laugh).

Most inspiring act I have so far seen: The Canestrelli-Togni mixed liberty horses.  Regal, quiet, majestic, its unified formations a gentle work of art.  The elderly presenter had such gifted control. I assume he is a legend. Bravo! 

Given what Italy has been through with Coroona, I was especially moved to see the Italian audience in masks.  And I liked the ringmaster's crisp non-bombastic introductions.

There is still life Over There in the world where this magic all began. Meanwhile, back here at the ranch in the states, still nobody home at Big Apple Circus website, which is taking on the aura of a shimmering tombstone.

Have a good day, and wait for the Big Show when a vaccine finally comes to town! 

And thanks, Don, for this pick-me-up.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Fearlessly a Princess, Faithfully a Fan: Princess Stephanie Slams French for Banning Circus Animals

 

 


She grabbed Daily Mail Headlines.  And she did not hold back this time.

How refreshing!  The woman has guts. The woman pokes holes in nonsense.  The woman spots hypocritical bias against select animal events a mile away.

And she appears to have had it with those fussy French.  And, for that matter, with the whole lot of the whole earth loonies bent on running every last performing non-human out of the ring. Blasting the antagonists "'a minority who wish to impose their will upon others."

She nailed it in The Daily Mail, and they ran with her rage, the story reported by By Claire Toureille

Circus animals are "loved and spoiled" 'declared she, just warming up into a royal snit. "We've come a long way since the stool and the whip,"

'They're members of the family. They are not trained or mistreated, but simply loved, fed, spoilt"' 

Once more, French logic is prejudicially applied:  "Other trades where animals are exploited should be banned under the logic of the new French ruling"

 


 You're on a roll, Princess.  More, please!   'I will add that in France, everyone is free to work, or else you'd have to forbid farmers from making money from cattle breeding."

Boffo!   "They'd have to ban horses races, because it's also animal exploitation,"

And .., and ...?  'If I want to eat a good steak, I'm not keeping someone else from enjoying soybeans.'

Lima beans, too, Princess?

Notes The Daily Mail, " It's not the first time she has lashed out at those who criticize circuses for using performing animals, claiming they're just trying to be 'fashionable'."

Summing up, says the circus worlds greatest defender and preservationist,   'This is part of our cultural heritage. It's a whole, with clowns and acrobats"


Encore, please!

"They should ban everything rather than hammering on the circus families. Circus has changed, it lives with its times." 

We need more voices like these on our side of the pond, who can command media attention and expose blatant bias. Who have we here? Of course, the biggest name is Kenneth Feld, but he is out of the circus business at the moment, and bears a ragged history of his own.  Paul Binder is a natural, but I fear he is on the fence, and certainly not easy about  lobbying for the elephants.

The saddest truth of all is how the world is closing down on wild animal acts -- a turning away I fear it may take a long time to reverse.  In the meantime, please do roll on, fearless Princess of the ring.  You may start a new movement "Performing animals matter, too!"