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Monday, July 19, 2010 

A few more comments on Casey McCoy (Casey Cainan) cat act. It's the best act on the road, and that isn't hype. FOUR HIND-LEG WALKING tigers. Nobody else has done that, as far as I know. Two courbette cats. An incredible combination of complicated behaviors presented without props.

So why isn't this act on Ringling or in Europe? Likely there are several factors. Casey's cats are standard tigers lacking the visual "flash" of white tigers or golden tabbies. (And even whites seem less impressive to the circus-going public than lions these days.)

Audiences like the McCoy cat act, and animal people are enormously impressed. But again circus-goers are a sometimes fickle lot. The cat jumping through a flaming hoop – pretty basic – excites them more than tigers playing leap frog. Show patrons must be forgiven for not knowing that tigers just don’t do that. Fifty years ago the Ringling organization created an animal training mega-star, who in return filled seats for decades. Selling Gabel Williams to audiences was a phenomenal marketing success and it took some education for ticket buyers a generation after Court and nurtured on pith helmets, blank guns, and chairs to see the wonder of the European cat act. Casey Cainan likely belongs on Kelly Miller for years to come insofar as they compliment each other. But for both the circus and the act to truly flourish, KM probably needs a publicity machine capable of making and selling a performer, whether an animal trainer, an aerialist, or a Super Clown. In the egalitarian world of small mudshows it’s nice to think in terms of management that all performers are equal, and nobody really wants to nurture and feed the ego of any “star.” But the business of circus is filling seats – because then you can sell popcorn. Loftier sub rosa ambitions require the stability that comes with strong business. Even the greatest perch pole acts in the world don’t sell tickets to an American circus as well as cats, or aerialists, or truly talented clowns. Until KM has a chance to develop marketing department with media savvy, even a change in the way the cats are announced couldn’t hurt. “Gentlemen and ladies, in the more than 150 years since Isaac van Amburgh first stepped into an iron cage with wild jungle beasts circus trainers have become legend. From Louis Roth, to Mabel Stark, to Clyde Beatty, to Gunther Gabel Williams trainers working big cats have awed and astounded circus audiences. What you will see today has never been seen before. Without benefit of props or gimmicks, the most dazzling display of behaviors ever assembled in one arena. America’s own Casey McCoy and his tigers.”

Finally, when it comes down to it any circus with serious ambitions to play larger markets should look for star making opportunities. Circuses once knew that, and the rest of thye entertainment industry still does. Today only a handful of shows seem to remember the lessons. But everything old becomes new again, and we live and relearn.

One more note on KM. ...In Cortland the show played a fairgrounds lot off Rt 11, just a mile south from the old Sig Sautelle WQ. Some of the building still stand, including Sautelle's unique bigtop shaped house. Sautelle would have enjoyed the show.

I agree. I saw the show last Wen. in Norwich. I have never seen tigers do the things this young man has done. I was honestly amazed. Would love to see what he could do with horses or elephants.

James Whitmann

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About me

  • I'm B.E.Trumble
  • From Everywhere, United States
  • Ben Trumble works in circus, carnival, and media relations
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