Thursday, February 24, 2022

Chance Circus Reflections... from Olympian Flops to the Glory of Colleano ...


     RANDOM RANTING AND RUING, in no particular disorder.  May I begin by officially bashing the Bumblers-in-Chief behind this Olympian disaster (aka, farce). From the top, NBC, which shoves under or overwhelming personalities at us, from the dull man in the control booth to Iceland’s precious guess-who-I-really am gender bender, Johnny Weird.  Gosh, world, do you really need him to inform us that a number of male figure skaters are gay?  Duh?

     NOT TO SLIGHT the elegantly corrupt IOC.  Give them a gold for Site and Scheduling Stupidity. ... Founder of the games, a Frenchman, declared it was not the act of winning but that of entering the race itself that merited respect for all.  Today, some of the young contenders are berated by their coaches for falling short of the gold. Silver for Shame.  Bronze for Boooo!                           

     SIMON COWELL’S Extreme Desperation?  I bumped into his latest, a strained effort chasing the extreme sports market, which lingered too long between its Big Moments (one, truly close to death), and padded the slightest evidence of danger ahead with overwrought judges faking near-hysterical dread.  And then, running the action in slow motion!   Since when did I want to watch the cannon man in slow motion?  Since when was speed not a thrill?

     SOME OF THESE TRICKS are old circus and carny stunts.  Pardon my insensitivity in recalling one of the biggest let downs of them all, this from the “Nerveless Nocks,” whom I could not wait to see on Ringling-Barnum – lured by the image (in my mind only) of the performers jumping from the tip of one spar to another and passing each other in breathless  “mid-air exchanges.”Actually, those maneuvers were grasping and clumsy, as the Nocks clung to each other’s bodies while exchanging poles. A stunt, period, redeemed, however, when each of the Nocks came sliding down their respective spars, head first, for a terrific finish.

     WHEN DID THE END begin?  Here is the cover before me of a White Tops, featuring a photo that shows a sign “PLEASE HELP SAVE THE CIRCUS” You see some young people signing petitions spread out on a table during intermission at Circus Vargas, and you marvel at the date of the magazine: July-August 1975. May I repeat: 1975.   That early?   Yes .... It was a long time in coming, with PETA up and running, Cirque du Soleil yet to attack ...

     CRITICALLY GONE: Writer and critic Ernest Albrecht, from whose possibly last review I quote, this from his March 2020 Spectacle on line, which went dark thereafter.  Albrecht was reviewing Circus Sarasota, just before Corona came to call. He was was high on two acts, and left to pick over the rest with notes.  Samples of discontent:  “A juggling act called Get the Shoe never really got very interesting ... comes off as nothing more than sloppy juggling mixed with martial arts.”  About a labored cradle routine from Hannah Griffth,  “It might help if she could do something to break up the monotony and engage the audience, perhaps with some flirting.”  Like, say, a little Lilian Leitzel? ...  A thoughtful voice was  he who supported and favored the best in all forums, including what he called “the new American Circus,” which, sadly, was maybe still new but hardly thriving by the time of his passing.  A serious voice worth missing

     BIG APPLE ANONYMOUS:  Was there ever a more thoroughly under reviewed show that came to New York city than Nik Wallenda’s version of the still-beleaguered Big Apple Circus, this having marked its third incarnation out of a shaky bankruptcy.  What went wrong?   Early in his rocky trial date with Lincoln Center,  Nik threw a three-ring snit when ordered by his landlords  to remove posters on construction walls.  And this he turned into an ugly campaign that did nothing to enamor this particular Wallenda of the city that never sleeps, or forgets.   

     BIGGEST MYSTERY OF ALL is how many seats he filled.  If he attracted healthy crowds, Nik gets double-high marks for playing Gotham in the dark when  media attention totaled ZERO.  Not a single notice in any of the dailies. So I offer you a rare review, this one posted here as a comment, which I subsequently posted  as a real review -- by the ever-sharing Anonymous.  See if this does not strike you as smartly observing stuff. Samples:   

   "THERE ARE SOME STELLAR solo and duo acts, [but] the show is ONLY solo and duo acts apart from the wire act, which is made extremely cringe-worthy by Nik's several interruptions to show video and speak on mic to the audience ... It's all made worse by the suspicion that he is doing nothing but alienating his neighbors in Lincoln Center by his Page Six video, hollering about discrimination and unfairness." **
     IN YOU TUBE WE TRUST, when all else fails, with or without posters, Monte Carlo acts or “character arcs.”  You Tubing is the ultimate road to circuses then and nearly now. I stumbled into an eight minute stream of Cirque du Soleil’s 2014 Volta, and found two standout displays  – the shimmering acrobatics of a woman from her web; and the very circus-like action of some bike riders up and down ramps. Exciting! The rest?  Home made action to my eyes, even the props, or the way they were worked, looked humdrum. If this is a typical Cirque entry, I can’t see them packing the tent.  

     AUSSIE AWESOME: You Tube streamed me to the image of low wire god Con Colleano, and I linked, Yes!  And  was swept away into glorious black and white, a stream of old film first showing the Big Show trains unloading in the yards, the tents going up, and then the Great One dancing upon and somersaulting over his wire on fire.   How lucky was I once upon a superior season when Clyde Beatty Circus came to Santa Rosa, and with it, Colleano.  Such passion and thunder! I knew I was watching a true wizard of the big top.  I never got to see another Great One —  Colleano’s wife, Winnie, who arguably took the single trapeze turn to its highest summit ever.   

    THEY WERE STARS in those days!  Names known!   Hollywood wanted Con Colleano, to fill in for Rudolph Valentine following his passing.  Con was not turned on to the offer, remembers an Aussie interviewed on the feature, but stuck to his first love, The Circus. And doesn’t that give you a rare good feeling in these especially precarious times? 

     GOODBYE, SWEET KIEV: Misty memory of a cool Autumn evening in 1979,  on foot in my favorite Soviet city (such sparkling grandeur) to take in the circus.  Along the way, a handsome young fellow, earnestly inclined, discretely joined my company, striding alongside.  Why, soon it became clear.  He told  me how hard it was to buy the jacket I was wearing in his world, and then commenced a soft campaign, hoping I would understand and allow him to purchase the prize off  my back.  Politely I declined.  Gently, he continued, from other angles.   And then I reached the circus, and he reluctantly stood aside as we parted company.  I felt a genuine sadness. I can imagine him, maybe 20 years later, finding a jacket like mine in then-liberated  Kiev.  Tomorrow?  I am not so sure.

**to read the full review link  to "circus reviews" found on the right sidebar and scroll down a ways.

Friday, February 18, 2022

The Olympics That Never Were ...

UPDATE, 2.22: They're calling it "a disaster." NBC suffered 50% drop in viewers. Pissed off marque losers headed for therapy.  Birng back ABC! (moments later, from googling) Good grief, I  see that we're stuck with NBC through 2032.  Recall!  Recall!

 Nathan Chen, from quad to quad to quad


Anybody watching it?

I looked and deflated, all those empty seats, so sad and depressing.  The High and Mighty Americans were gutless in not boycotting the games rather than using them as a platform to bash China.  Yes, there is plenty about China to bash, but not at the Olympics, which is supposed to be an international athletic completion.  The Chinese may coerce and exploit children through Olympic training. Over here, seems that hordes of young female gymnasts are sexually exploited by their coaches.

Those who culture signal are like Kapernick "taking the knee" on his paymaster's time.  Collecting more than most people could ever hope of earning, and then using game time to  promote a fake cause before captive crowds.

Another thing, I love ice skating, but am put off by the self-precious look-at-me-and-deal-with-it Johnny Weird, a neon advertisement for the gender-less society.   When last I toiled to endure him, he was obviously pleased with himself in flaunting his LGBQT++++ credentials**  Daring the hard-working center to try figuring him out. This is not a commentator; this is a social radical making a sideshow of himself. 

Quad mania.  I did manage to watch Nathan Chen's Gold skating in replay. He is one magnificent athlete. But, it looks as if these skaters are competing to jam as many quads as they can get into a program,  which  can render the routine short on artistic contrast and mood, long on horse racing mentality. Boooring.

And NBC itself comes in for some blame.  When I got serious about watching their coverage in the past, I could never find accurate scheduling in order to know when what I wanted to watch would appear.  I hated NBC for this.

And I read this sad sad affair may pull the lowest Olympic coverage ratings in years. I was one of the no-shows.

The greedy IOC is as much to blame as anybody.  They should have postponed the games. They would have done everyone a favor.

Besides which, okay, I hold a grudge. My own sport (yes, laugh) is or was roller skating.  They came close many years ago to getting roller hockey in.  Then, the president of the IOC, Juan Samaranch, was himself an avid roller hockey player and fan. He could have made it happen but did not, the gutless coward.  Likely he was lobbied and gifted by a cunning ice lobby bribing away to keep those on wheels out.  Believer it or not, there are forms of roller competition, such as school figures and regulation (ballroom type) dance, arguably superior to how they are skated over blades. 

** Now on the Dramatist Guild website is an insanely long listing of various "genders" one can give for whomever the hell, in their protected opinion, they happen to be at the moment.  I could not believe my eyes. 

Life in Woke-Joke America. Were I now dating in any lane, I would love to have an app on my iPhone able to sense the reality of intimate candidates:  GAB -- Gender At Birth.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Revisions to My Musical, Those Ringings, Reveal Stronger Personal Feelings Confronted ..

Now posted on Amazon are some changes I made near the end of Those Ringlings: The Complete Book and Lyrics of the Musical.  Deeper feelings between James A Bailey and his long-time secretary, Merritt Young, are shared. 

In the next scene, the young boy Raymond, who has tried to adopt  Al and Louse as his parents, is  now, in the wake of a midway melee, maybe close to death.  A grief-stricken Louise, deeply attached to the boy, seems unable to face Al, and her coldness devastates him. Fearing he is losing her, he pours his heart out to his closest brother Charles, feeling he has failed in selfishly depriving Louise of any offspring. Charles gives Al what perhaps none of the other brothers could. 

Are these factors based in reality?  Surely, the Bailey-Young relationship is.  The bond between the two was profound, In fact, for the year or two when Bailey was away due to chronic illness, Young, a bachelor, was with him every step of the way.  In fact, Bailey valued the loyalty of bachelors, for they came with no marital distractions.

With Raymond and Louise, this is mere speculation.  No, I do not know of a young kid like Raymond, although I know that Louise had a long time personal chauffeur to whom she willed some of her money. And there were rumors of an affair between the two.  And of course, inevitable would have been the likelihood of a young boy running away with the circus and finding comfort in the association of Louise and Al.

Those Ringlings, I believe, may now deliver its most heart-felt moments in the final scenes.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Ernest Albrecht ... February 3

I feel a  deep sadness.  Although I had never met Mr. Albrecht, I admired his voice and his dedication to what he called in his well received book, The New American Circus. And though I disagreed on the concept, I acknowledged how more valid might be his perspective in time. We have arrived, you might say, closer to the concepts he reported on and championed, or at least constructively embraced, more so than I have ever. 

I have missed his Spectacle magazine on line.  Something did not quite feel right. So many important contributors to our American circus scene have been leaving us. The Felds, who may return -- let us pray.  Johnny Pugh's Cole Bros. The Byrd's Carson and Barnes. Paul Binder's Big Apple. John Ringling North II's Kelly Miller.  The Biggerstaff's Circus Report  And now, Ernest Albrecht.

My warmest condolences to his family and friends everywhere.