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, November 11, 2021

You're Not Welcome Here, Nik! Upitty Koch Theatre and City Ballet Order Big Apple Circus Posters Off Construction Walls ... A Fearless Wallenda Blasts Back On Eve of Show's Opening ... ...

This is one for the ages.  Remember when the circus came to New York in the spring and the press covered it as tantamount to a holiday?

Remember when crowds stormed the ticket windows at Madison Square Garden to grab the best seats for the greatest Greatest Show on Earth?

Today, it seems that even New York’s own circus can’t get a pass on plastering plywood walls encircling a construction site with posters directing customers to its hard-to-detect box office, and then to its tent, somewhere back there.  Good luck on this shipwrecked midway.

Heartbreaking to listen to the show's new producer Nik Wallenda spill out his heart — a great spokesman for the growing disdain in general that many circus artists are being made to suffer in a land that has gradually been talked out of its love affair with spangled wonders under billowing white tops.

Yesterday, a day before opening, there in a bizarre affront to a tradition once embraced by the millions, was the lonely figure of Wallenda removing his own ballyhoo sheets ---as if the show had already come to town and was leaving. 

The famed wire-walking grandson of Karl Wallenda  told Page Six, apparently a wing of the feisty New York Post, that construction in front of the building was  “completely blocking our box office.”  So he raised the posters in order to direct customers through the makeshift maze. 

Can Wallenda turn this ordeal into a public backlash --  swelling the coffers and filling the seats? So far, media coverage of the shows third reincarnation since fumbling out of bankruptcy has been anything but boffo. In fact, hardly aware at all. Told silence from The New York Times. 

This is potentially one hell of a human interest story, and how it may play out  in the Big Apple could have some effect on America’s nearly brain-dead indifference to true circus.

Said righteously articulate Nik, “We’ve trained our whole lives, and to be treated and beat up for who we are is heartbreaking.  It’s like our art form isn’t worthy — which is obviously offensive. It’s green mesh construction barricades. What are we hurting by having signage, so people know we’re here?”

Show uncorks tonight.

Stay tuned.

Thank you, Don, for the link

Friday, November 05, 2021

I Wrote Some Books ... Do Any of Them Still Sell?

I get sentimental over typing machines that serve me well. On the cusp of a new millennia, I typed out a love letter to my loyal royal portable. I still use it for short notes.

Here you see me getting tear-eyed over my dying (or then I assumed) 2008 Dell Vostro, which I still much prefer typing drafts on.  A few months ago, it was acting very erratic and weak, seeming to wobble and lose focus, so much so that I knew its days were suddenly over, ready to force myself to get a replacement.  But then, Vostro (maybe down with Covid), made a total recovery, back to its old reliable self, and I value it more, turning it on in the mornings when I write,  and then off for a day long break.

My best selling books were born in circus rings. Big Top Boss: John Ringling North and the Circus, moved almost 4,000 copies out of the warehouse. Still in print, it virtually never sells a copy. My latest royalty statement from University of Illinois Press showed Total Taxable Royalties: -6.96.  Does Uncle Sam owe me? 

Behind the Big Top, my very first book, put out by A.S. Barnes in New Jersey,  sold out its first printing of 2.500, and was slated for a return trip to the press when its new west coast publisher, Oak Tree, a house that catered to kids, went under.

Now here comes Broadway Musicals: A Hundred Year History, my third best selling title, of which I am amply proud. (An entire chapter on Stephen Sondheim was reprinted in Gale's annual Drama Criticism.)  After the initial rush of good strong sales, it might sell 10 to 20 copies most years, then something unexpected happened: What I regard as possibly my best written work has rebounded at the registers.  

Now nearly 20 years in print, the book is now selling closer  to a hundred copies a year, and it ain't being given away.  McFarland, who knows how to move books,  lists the paper version for $49.99, the kindle for $19.95.  I have come to believe that when somebody really wants a book, they will pay what they have to to get it.  But, if the interest is low, you can't give it away.  May I be pardoned from mentioning any of my own indie titles that fit this woeful  category? 

I had, yes, past tense, given the self-published world a good try, and  have little inclination to go back.  My first book, Riding Amtrak: The Rise and Fall of American on Rails (under a pseudonym), did remarkably well given totally no media reviews and a ragged bag  of split consumer comments, selling so far around 250 copies.  Not bad for me in Indie.  A few indie titles later, with zero sales humbling me, came another bright exception ...

I have always felt I got super lucky with this marvelous cover design, by Brian Pearce, which in my biased opinion, deserves some kind of an award.  By far the best cover of any of my six books on the spangled subject.  Believing it would be impossible to find a publisher willing to go with a narrative that candidly covered my dealings with various publishers and editors, I did not even try, but decided to self-publish. 

And  I was proved right by the half raving, half damning review in Publishers Weekly, which went ballistic over my gall to be honest.  What bothered me the most was how blatantly PW misrepresented and/or invented what I said with respect to my travails at publishing houses.  However, they did grant that, for much of the way, "circus fans will be thrilled." A red hot quote.

Of course, had a traditional house brought out Big Top Typewriter, it would easily have sold three to four times as many copies, if not more.  But it did sell decently well off the press, and I am cheered to see that rarely a month goes by without a few copies still moving off Amazon shelves   In the indie world for me that is big.

There is one big flaw in Typewriter: The irrelevance of the three-chapter middle section that covers my two books on musical theater -- the one you see above, and Flower Drum Songs: The Story of Two Musicals.  When recently I reread Typewriter, I was so happy about the whole thing that when I got to the Broadway chapters, I jumped them completely to keep the circus parade going.  Were I to do it over again, there would be but one brief chapter about my interval on the stage away from the sawdust.

Almost always, there are things I find that I wish I had done differently. But there is one book of mine that I feel comes as close to a thoroughly unified work as I have ever been able to bring off:  Inside the Changing Circus.