Thursday, November 26, 2009 

Joyous Holiday wishes to all.  More on media tomorrow.  (Maybe.)  This is of course a big weekend for circus in several places.  Personally I suppose I'll always associate the holidays with Big Apple in New York, recalling how the show looked oh-so-many-years ago when I was a zoo guy in the city.  Much as I love the traditional tented season, there's a magic to holiday circus as well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 

I swear when I get some bandwidth I'll post pictures.  (Really!)  Of course I've been threatening for weeks and months now...
Much as I like in lovely Freeville, NY... which we now call home... unemployment is starting bore me to tears.  Working seven or more months without a break or a day, you start to daydream about what it will be like when the season ends. And the first few weeks when you can sleep almost until dawn, that's nice enough.  But then you need projects.  In California there were always projects, but here in New York, not so much.  Even filling out QuickyMart applications only kills so many hours.

Not that life is entirely without excitement.  The Tractor Supply Company "Black Friday" ad came in the mail, and if I needed a new drill press or nifty looking welding mask...I WOULD BE SO THERE at dawn on the day after Thanksgiving.

Driving into Ithaca today I found myself thinking about the diminished role of print media and how that applies to selling circus.    Much as it pains me to say that daily papers are irrelevant in terms of publicity or ad buys, it's sadly true.  While a show with a real publicist playing towns large enough to support a serious daily paper may still succeed in placing one or more stories in advance of a show, too often smaller dailies no longer have the staff to rewrite spoon fed stories supplied by a press agent.  You might get a picture of the advance clown.  They might get the date and show times right.  Of course its much easier to get teh same paper to cover putting up the tent, but by then it doesn't help much with a one day stand.

For better or worse "serious" coverage is now more often found in weekly papers, but weeklies are a gamble.  Small town weeklies will generally run a press release.  Weeklies in larger communities often seem to lean a bit to the left, so we have to be ready to compete with aniti-circus material in courting a story.  But when it comes to promoting an act that shines, a long feature in a weekly with photos is a real coup, and getting a reporter from a weekly to visit a show several weeks ahead of playing a town (to make deadline) isn't something to dismiss.

We keep hearing that the internet is the new face of news.  But I have yet to see a website really deliver worthwhile publicity viewed by a large audience, enough to drive ticket sales.  Wondering if it will ever happen.

Lots more thoughts on teh subject, but that TSC flier needs rereading.

Thursday, November 19, 2009 

In 1897 lightening struck a center pole on the Ringling bigtop, erected in North Dakota.  Several workingmen died.  As always, that night the show moved on.


We all know that on some level the circus and the carnival are about the stories that we tell.  The oral traditions of a sometimes insular traveling society.  The jackpots of a subculture.  And when we stand around sharing our stories there are always characters that pop up with names like Cowboy, or Indian Phil, or Mad Dog, or in a place like Lucerne Valley, California, certainly Hog Jaw. 


The heroes and the goofs. 


That these same names are less often mentioned when we talk about the history of this outdoor amusement business doesn’t diminish their contribution.  In a discussion of history we recall acts and owners, promoters and trainers, the guys who run phone rooms, or paint trucks – but by no means should that suggest that somebody on a tent crew or shoveling dung is any less important.  The act that earns $3000 a week may love the circus.  The man or woman making a small fraction of that and doing it for twenty years loves it no less. 



The jags, the majordomos, the batmen, the heavy-lifters who make a life of it…


Invaluable, dear friends.  


Sad note.  Longtime elephant guy Mark Pierson has died.  Mark was visiting family in Canada.  In recent years Mark was a cornerstone of the Big Circus Sideshow.  BCS closed its season recently in Shreveport.

Monday, November 16, 2009 

Two weeks feeling miserable, now I understand why people get flu shots.  Anyway, that’s over now.  Yesterday walking up the steep hills in Ithaca I managed to cough up the worst of the crap in my lungs, and today I actually felt like a full-fledged human being again.


BJ Hebert drove up to Hugo from Goree, TX and reports that at the Culpepper WQ Scott Moss is busy getting the trucks ready for 2010.  There’s work on the seat wagon to be done, and another new floor for the candy wagon, but before Christmas most everything will be prepared for another season.


In recent years I’ve spent time in New York State with Carson & Barnes and Kelly Miller, seen some great towns booked by guys like Jim Mead in Owego – but driving around central New York and northern PA it amazes me just how many towns that were once regular stops for Wayne Franzen, or  extended KM tours in New York, but there are others that haven’t seen a tented show in ten years.  And not just small towns.  Carson and Barnes comes to the northeast only now and then, and in recent years Mr. North’s Kelly Miller moves through the state quickly on the trek from New England into Ohio.  Everybody knows how complicated the regulatory picture is in New York, though it’s certainly no worse than California… but regulation alone isn’t a great explanation for why New York seems to have fallen off the map when shows still play Michigan annually season after disappointing season in the likes of the Thumb.  I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that there are thirty days of goof outdoor dates in New York and the northern tier of PA.  What I don’t know is if anybody will ever book and play them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009 

It isn'y yhat I've forgotten blog. For ten plus days I've been down with the flu. Though it was a cold, but no such luck. First fullblown flu I've had in years. On the road you try to work through the fever. Glad not to be on the road. Did accomplish a few things. Moved the motorhome from western Pennsylvania to the house we found just east of Ithaca, NY. Did some unpacking and figured out how to light the furnace. Feels like there's much to be said but that will have to wait a few more days.

Friday, November 06, 2009 

Friday.  Good weekend for circus in the State of Oklahoma.  In Hugo, the folks behind the purposed Circus Museum are  sponsoring a festival including performances by Casey McCoy's cats and other outstanding acts from the Hugo based shows.

Meanwhile up in Miami, OK Shane Johnson is producing his annual Shrine Circus date with na stellar line up of entertainment and the wonderful Tarzan Zerbini elephants.

Thursday, November 05, 2009 

Looks like home is going to be Freeville, NY -- just outside Dryden and not far from Ithaca. After oh-so-many--years in California, I need to buy a snow shovel.    Only a short drive up the road to Homer, NY and the site of the old Sig Sautelle winterquarters -- a significant show in its day.  I think that these days traditional shows seem to avoid Ithaca when routing the summer campaign, perhaps fearful that such a liberal college town is a haven for activists.  But it's also a family friendly town and it was a staple for Franzen Bros.

News out of Enid, OK where an elephants walked away from the Family Fun Circus at the fairgrounds and collided with an SUV on RT 81.  Fortunately little damage to vehicle or elephant.  No need to go into whose elephant or how it happened.  Bad enough that somebody has to explain that to APHIS.  The media always sees things like this as a "humorous" story, but it's hard to laugh when you have to answer for it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009 

Driving west from the Finger Lakes to western Pennsylvania late last night ran through rain, freezing rain, and a bit of snow.  Winter's kiss as it were.  We've found a home in Freeville, NY -- just east of Ithaca.  Should cost a fortune to heat.  

It's been many years since I spent a winter in the east, or in the cold.  In California, the warm part anyway, even in the winter when the rains come -- drive an hour and somebody has a circus under a tent.  I've seen Hispanic shows play Salinas in January when there's frost on the grass.   From a distance, in a warm clime it's easy to forget how show biz troupes on through the winter even in the snow.  The big indoor shows, the Shrine dates, the regional school shows, or Jose Cole playing hickey arenas.  And if you're not an absolute purist, and excuse to pop corn, spin floss, or hawk novelties or pitch books means you're working...whether there are clowns or donkey basketball players.  

Winter, I'm telling myself, is just another season.