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.