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, June 30, 2022

Where Is There a Notable Voice for the American Circus, Where?


                Over there, they have Princess Stephanie                  


     BRIT BIG TOP watcher Douglas McPherson is not a celebrity per say, but as a journalist and author, he enjoys byline access to such major UK outlets as The Stage and The Daily Mail, and thus is able to supply coverage of the circus on his side of the pond, and now throughout Europe. If only we had a McPherson over here, over here ... (can you hear the song rising?)

     IN HIS LATEST report on the subject, McPherson details the tragic plight of Ukrainian circus artists being rescued and given ring time under Brit big tops, and I am once again reminded that, on our side of the Pond, we do not enjoy such serious coverage.  Tis a pity. Observes McPherson in The Stage, “The inherently international circus industry has rallied around its Ukranian colleges”.  He talked to many of the key figures. Among them:
     PRINCESS STEPHANIE organized a benefit show for Ukraine circus schools at the Princess Grace Theatre in Monte Carlo.  The Ukraine  has 100 circus schools and seven permanent circus buildings, including the formidable National Circus of Ukraine building in Kiev.  How well I know that magnificent old landmark, from reaching it up a sweeping staircase  in 1989, when I visited the USSR on a research mission for my book, Circus Rings Around Russia.

     WE LEARN FROM McPherson’s report of Aussie Jasmine Straga, a director of the World Circus Federation, helping evacuate over 290 circus students from Kiev and Kharkiv, and finding places for them in circus schools in Sweden, France and Germany.  Noted she,  “Circus is very much socially focused and always comes together to help those in need.”

    WHO OR WHAT have we over here to keep circus USA alive in the public’s mind?  Don’t look to major media, fearful of wokeland’s wrath. In days gone by, The Billboard supplied weekly reports on circus business, daring to reveal crowd size estimations.  Variety once sent out three scribes to Madison Square Garden, each to review a separate ring of Ringling!   Life magazine loved photographing the show in its spring New York premieres.  And remember watching top circus acts on  Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night program?  Not to mention Circus of the stars, which first aired in 1977, and for which hundreds of big name celebrities appeared. 

   NOTABLE FACES in American culture were known for their  love of the big tops, be it the columnist Gabriel Heater, author Ernest Hemingway,  or any number of actors who enjoyed dabbling on the low wire, or juggling a few in early reality shows.

     TODAY? A AND B LIST celebrities rarely associate with U.S. big tops, and are more likely to shun them,  prone to side with, or be bludgeoned by, PETA.

     EVEN THE MAGAZINES are largely missing in action.White Tops down to only four issues a year.  Circus Report called it quits a few years back, and to Don Covington I e-mailed a suggestion that he consider taking over the magazine. He e-mailed back, neither saying yes or no.  Don?

     IRONICALLY, THE ONLY major media voice cheer leading for circus on this side, is actually from the other side, Simon Cowell. On his America’s Got Talent show, Cowell is a fearlessly  unashamed  sucker for the old knife throwing act, a lover of performing dogs. In fact, of many things from the sawdust rings.   I have yet to see a mechanic attached to any of the contestants on AGT. All of which offers compelling evidence that the lure of circus is still a powerful force for average ordinary Americans.

The Olate family dog act blew the judges away on AGT's 7th season and barked off with the million dollar first place prize.

SIMON, I BELIEVE, is helping to reestablish respect for what Hemingway called “the ageless delight, by daring to open many shows with circus act teases.  He knows well how to grab and hold a crowd.  And we are lucky to have him, from over there over there.
     END RINGERS, following the movements of the still-trouping: Culpepper & Merriweather played an appropriately lovely location, Green River, Wyoming, in early July ... Circus Funtastic rolling through Canadian dates, all of July ...Venardos Circus, “the little circus that could,” is still proving its metal, tenting up through Washington, Colorado, and Texas, North Carolina, wrapping in Florida....Circus Vargas currently entertaining in San Luis Obispo, CA  ... UniverSoul  opened a two-month run at  National Harbor, Maryland ...  The sporadically touring Zoppe Family Circus, when I call, answers yes. they are sill set for Petaluma, CA in August. Cheers to them all!