.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wait for the Big One! Showbiz David Reviews the Reviews --- Dares to Take on the Monte Carlo Pronouncements!



Preparing to face the truth of a new challenge, Showbiz David -- he, too, was young once -- returns to his first book to rekindle the spirit of daring take-me-where-you-must inquiry.

The New Challenge

Going beyond the beyond, raising his sights into the stratosphere from where, gazing down upon mere mortals, he takes on the revolutionary role of "critic's critic," Showbiz David will tackle the vexing issue now stirring into a frenzy all seven of his followers (and the mini multitudes who dare not show their faces) to the question of questions:

The Monte Carlo pronouncements, performers to photographers ...

Real or rigged?

Pre-judged or hot off the spot?

Here on your bribe-free midway, hold all hissy fits and wait for the verdict of verdicts.  The train of truth is about to arrive, ding! ding! Ha! Ha!

Wait for the Big One!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Baraboo Planning Package Tour to Link City's Old World Delights ... Can I Reserve Now?

 Wise.Wacky, and Hip: They're Baraboo Boosters


If plans now peculating among Baraboo's power players mature into banners, buffoonery, and open historic house tours, you'll be able to buy one ticket and take in four or five entertainments, from Circus World Museum to the old Al Ringling Mansion, with happy stops along the way at the International Clown Hall of Fame and the gloriously gilded  Al Ringling Opera House.  Savor the sawdust!  Sample a great old stage!



This terrific little town has a heap of historical gems to show off, not the least being the spot -- wherever that is -- where in 1884 under their first big top, the five Ringling brothers began a journey that would turn them into arguably the most famous circus kings of all time.  Sorry,  Old Europe, I could not rightfully resist.


And how about, while you're signing contacts for including participants, including a sit down at the cushy diner, the Little Cafe, just a few steps down from the Al Ringling?  Call it the Cookhouse Stop, complete with whatever passed for a meal back in 1884.   (I'm sending these ideas free of charge).




It's about  time that Baraboo got its acts together under one embracing umbrella.  Circus World Museum's new top man, Scott O'Donnell, seems to be the mover shaker, perhaps in tandem with Clown Hall of Fame's Greg DeSanto.  Let a new generation lead the way.



I love walking the town's simple streets. So wonderfully out of the past.  So finely yesterday. Fresh blood mining riches in a new format -- a merry meeting of the minds.  And perhaps they'll find a way to put on a scaled down circus parade every morning during the summer.


Reports Circus Report, by-lining Paul Holley quoting spot-on Scott-on:   "There is sunshine out on the horizon."

Heck, a brand new circus history show is coming to town!


Backstage at the Al Ringling theatre


Circus World's Rich Heritage

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tenacious Tenters Test Tricky Texas Terrain in Rain ... Circuses Storm the Lone Star State

The show must go on, must be moved every night -- if  you love it, you shove it, you push, you pull, and you fight!*

I've many times observed, impression here, that perhaps the Lone Star state is a wow of a welcome for circuses; Don't know if they'd sing "You're in Big D, my oh yes!" to Cirque du Solei.  They like their sawdust down and basic

No wonder so many shows pitch fresh canvas to start new seasons.  But why do they flirt with early spring mud is beyond me. There is a reason, Kids, why shows once opened in spring, Make that March and no sooner.  They did not, in fact, ever purposely lust after storm and stress.  (Oops! I overlooked Mr. V.).

As listed in the latest Circus Report (I'm a happy re-subscriber), on February 22 (and likely other dates as well), four shows will be down there in Texasland, thrashing around for customers:  Carson & Barnes; Kelly-Miller, Gatti-Charles ( Gatti of California???), Jordan World --- and add to the list a fifth contender in the form of Circo Hermanos Vazuez, which will open in Brownsville, already plied by the circus of North the Sequel.

Waiting for South of the Border hands to appear, no less than Johnny II and sporty spouse Shirley, per reports by -- guess who? -- seen mired in rain-drenched lots, terrific troupers they! Maybe not  singing my verse, but surely enslaved to the Great Passion: 

The tents must be pitched
The sledgehammers swung
Bright banners unfurled
the chandeliers hung ...
we have promised a grand arrival at dawn! *

Some magical musings: Texans who like Steve and Ryan can see them, nearby, in many of the same towns where they watched the guys cut up  in past years. In case you hadn't heart, Copeland & Combs are touring this season with Circo Hermanos Vazquez. 

I'm hoping Circus Report soon reviews the latest from John Ringling North II and the Byrds.

*from the song, "The Show Must Go On," from my and David Baron's musical, Those Ringlings, recently revised once again and now touring the in-boxes of our nation's leading  (and too often most evasive) regional theatres. Maybe this time, I have it right.

Who said the Ageless Delight was dead?  Not any more dead than my Broadway dreams.

2.19.14

Scoring Whoring Over Ice? Two Million Irate Ice Fans Demand Investigaion of the Judging of Women's Figures


 Robbery on ice:  Did Russia Steal Gold from South Korea?
 Russia's Adelina Sotnikova beats out South Korea's Yuna Kim

Skategate  in Sochi?

Were the judges pimping for Russia?  On the take?   Swapping scores in a fix?

I did not watch the event. Seems an avalanche of angry fans believe the South Korean was robbed of the Gold, which went to the Russian.

First of all, artistic skating is NOT a sport.  Never was.  Never will be. If ice skating was ONLY about athleticism, the skaters would be rigorously confined to demonstrating a series of jumps and spins, etc.  There would be no music.  No creative expression.  Then, the judging too would be easier to judge by spectators at large.  For this to be, turn off the music.  Fire the choreographers, the managers, the creative consultants, et all.  Never will happen.  The crowd would turn its fickle attentions elsewhere, just as it did to the old school figures and, more lately -- I assume -- to the set compulsory dances.

Ice skating is a virtual  entertainment industry, elevated, funded, glorified by Big Money.  Careers, sponsorships, ego, and national pride ride the results. 

Secondly, two people can view the same program very differently.  All judging of any artistic event  involves a degree of subjectivity.  So it would be near impossible to prove a judging error, short of documented evidence of collusion.  It's happened before and it could happen again.

Nonetheless, here looms a potential Olympic-sized whopper, a public relations disaster in the making.

No, no! will cry the insiders -- just more publicity for our darling sport, so cunning in its shrewd capacity to reap yet more scandal and lure in more fans. 

Watching all of this fake gold unfold from the sidelines is quite fascinating.  And considering possible corruption behind the scenes, driven by insatiable greed, the surly image of Tanya Harding comes to mind.  Sorry, but I think a reality check is in order.

You of the ice crowd:   Please tell us how you saw the event.  Do you believe it was a reasonable call, or possible fixed?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Out of the Past: Figure Skating Commentators At the Olympics: Sandra Bezic Shines Near the Ice, Dick Button Above It ...

First posted February 17, 2010

PLEASE NOTE:  If you wish to leave a comment, fine, but you will have to leave your name.  Sorry, but I am no longer accepting comments by Anonymous.   The thoughts of all are most welcome.

Update February 12, 2014: There are so many of you drawn to this post, I am inspired to try taking in some of the ice competitions in Russa, and turn out another rant or rave. So I might be back here on Sunday morning if not sooner.

What a tony pleasure to have Dick Button back at the games, sharing his feelings about figure skaters. He covered many Olympics for ABC, an arrangement I think that kept him from other networks. Button actually returned to the games for NBC four years ago. This man is so much fun listening to and believing in; he brings to mind late San Francisco evenings, years ago, sitting across a cafe table with friends following a night out at Skateland-at-the-Beach (a roller rink), just cutting up jokes and talking about a shared passion. Button has class. He has tact. He is not always right, and he will show his surprise when the scores surprise him.

In Dick Button's absence, I've had to stomach Scott Hamilton, whose excessive cheer leading and dubious critical faculties have driven me more than once to shout at my TV set, "Shut     up!" The best thing I can say for Hamilton this year, at least during the pairs finals on Monday, was that he has kept his comments to an admirable minimum. Maybe he was working under a gag order by NBC so that they could squeeze in more commercials; Not another night will I sit up until midnight, no matter who is skating. That's it.

Hamilton's rink-side partner for pairs was Canadian Sandra Bezic, and what a welcome voice and intelligence she possesses. I hope she covers more ice events in the days ahead. She has a gift for honest feedback in a velvet smooth manner. And she never dominates the action. She, in fact, proves herself a much more engaging commentator than did the super-nice Peggy Fleming, who always struck me as afraid as a mouse to offend a single skater -- or the sport she represented.

But up there in the NBC "fireside" room talking to Bob Costa, Dick Button is the real article. Character. Class. Age. Best of all, a natural undying enthusiasm for the sport that he has given his whole life to, from champion Olympic competitor to class act commentator.

There is something else, if you will allow me: Such sweet music to my ears on Monday night: "She is a former champion roller skater." Yes, yes! Thank you, somebody, up there, for the nod. Is that the closet my sport (laugh if you must) will ever get to the Olympics?

By the way, I thought that the young roller- turned ice-skater, Katie somebody, and her partner surely deserved higher marks; same for a Canadian team. In fact, I found the judging overall for this event rather atrocious. A couple of sacred cow Russian teams, ragged and inept, hardly deserved such a pass from the judges.

As for the pairs medalists, I was in perfect agreement on the Chinese teams, although I could have seen it going the other way.

The Middle Kingdom is catching up. The balance of power, as in politics and elsewhere, is changing on the ice too. Roller skating in China, anybody?

2/17/10

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ice Dance Rigged and Thrown by "Judging Johns," Sceams Toronto Journalist... Controversy Rages Over Final Scores Putting America's New Darlings on Top

 "A tawdry whore of a sport where the judges are the Johns."-- Rosie MiManno, the Toronto Star




Silver medalists: Were Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir robbed?

I'm not surprised, even though I did not stay up all night to watch the final program skated.  (I might have missed out on my quality time with Dracula).

The Russian pro who teaches both of the two top teams told CBS, on the subject of the judges, "I don't understand what they're looking for. It's a mystery."

Here's a sample of what might be going on

You have my take below on three teams which I watched in the short program. I remain appalled and astonished at how high a score the sloppy thrown-together flash team of Chuck and Bates received; and how stunningly under rated were the obviously superior due of Lanotte and Cappelini.

We all know that the so-called "judges" are not above taking bribes or "fixing" an event. Happened in Salt Lake City, and was there not the incident of a French judge in collusion with another judge ---you favor my skater, and I’ll favor yours. .

A report in the French sports publication L'Equipe said to be "circling that the Russian and American judges were in cahoots against Canada to help each other win gold medals -- Russia in the team competition, the United States in ice dancing."

Troubling sampler grabs my skeptical attention:

Tonight on CBS, film clips of  the victorious White and Davis, and then, more briefly, of  their Canadian rivals showed the latter to be a much more solid and polished unit.

When I can watch the entire final Ice Dance event in replay, I'm going to study it with laser eyes and report my findings..

Monday, February 17, 2014

At the Olympics: Terrific Little Dance Team Slighted by Judges: NBC Hacks Short Dance Coverage into Pieces; Has the Ice World No Shame in Allowing Such Treatment?

Okay, here is my first take on ice dance.

Last night, I watched three teams -- and then, NBC (Nothing But Commercials) switched to the ski slopes.  With this network's insultingly manipulative coverage, obviously designed to keep suckers watching, I gave up in disgust and went to bed.

Using my own scoring system, 1-100, here were my scores for those teams:

Mia and Alex:  92  (Judges: 64.47)  Some lovely and lively team work. 

Chuck & Bates: 64  (Judges: 65.46)  Sloppy flash hacks - they looked like they had teamed up a week ago.  I could not believe the score.  What galled me the most: No way could they compare to the superior Mia and Alex.

Lanotte and Cappelini:  94  (Judges:  67.58)  Wonderfully engaging. Sprightly carriage.  The commentator, Tracy, though a little too gabby -- how stupid do these commentators believe viewers to be? -- did give this team the credit it was due.

I might see if I can watch favorites on-line, and report back

POSTMORTEM: 6:47 AM PST

I have reached the land of NBC on my PC; maybe there I will find Davis ans White, and maybere there I can watch them in their short program, but I am drowning in a sea of ads and commercials, pop ups and blow outs, detours to anywhere where but I want to go.  I am lost in an inhuman intersection of American greed flashing at me like a thousand laser pitches from every possible direction on auto pilot.

I have one question for the world of figure skating: Why do you allow a network to present your short dance exhibitions in sections, spread out between other events?  Have you no shame?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

At the Olympics, Sochi Coverage SUCKS; NBC Commercials, Fallon & Meyer Plugs Consume More Time than the Games

UPDATE, 2/17/14: Last night, I tried watching the short dance.  After three couples skated, NBC shoved a ski event in my face, in effect, thinking they could string me along for another hour or so through their commercials, waiting to see another few dance teams skate.   No, I tuned out in disgust.  This is the same network run by morons that removed Jay Leno when the guy was still king of late night.

The thing I hate most about NBC's coverage is how little action they show compared to the endless parade of commercials.  On a few trying occasions this week when I tried to endure Slime Time coverage on NBC,  I could have sworn (let me do it here and now, belatedly) having seen far more ads than action.

Well, I was dead bored-out-of-my-mind right.  I read this morning in the Wall Street Journal that, indeed, Olympic action comprises only 24% of the telecasts, Commercials, a whopping 33%

No wonder I am part-part-time viewer.  I hate the whole marketing-saturated mess.

And, oh yes, let's see, I failed to mention, along with the nauseating ads, Lester Holtz dancing with some young girls.  Was that supposed to be Dicso Eliminations?  I switched channels to Pot Farming in Afghanistan.

And how late should I have stayed up to see the men's figure skating short program? Three AM in the morning? 

Tonight, I am going to try to watch what is now termed "short dance."

Remember the compulsories?  Evidently, they went the way of school figures. Both, not entertaining enough to keep draw the crowds

So I am ELATED to read that viewership is down by about 8%.  In some periods, much more than that.

If they want to get me back, they'll have to feature only my favorite Best of Commercials.  You probably know the ones, starting with attack food, etc.

P.S.: Jimmy Fallon looks like a loser already.  Jay, keep NBC on your speed dial.

Friday, February 14, 2014

New Board Game on eBay -- CAN'T STOP SHOPPING -- Sells in 43 Minutes After 3-day Auction Begins


A new one for Boyi and me.

We've been offering copies of our prototype board game  on eBay.  So far,  all of the copies we have sold were at the starting auction price, the auction taking its full 3-day course..

But this time, ZAP!  A buyer snapped up the game in only 43 minutes after it was listed last evening by purchasing at the higher Buy Now price.

Kudos to us!

We now have copies placed in New York city, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Indiana, North Carolina, and -- with this latest sale -- Nebraska!

Might your state be next?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Touring Planet Circus, German Magazine Glorifies the Ageless Delight ... In a EuroAsian Ring, the Act is Still King



Okay, let the rain fall out there.  Nice for once feeling a little couped up, wondering where we were when last we "hooked up" HaHa, me and YOU, all those strange people out in thee in the dark who never dare to drop a line or two here ... Feld Entertainment? Still peeking in now and then? ...

.... Touring Planet Circus, the magazine from Germany, is what last I promised.   Lavish spread of photos making circus art Over There look Big and Grand, Glorious and Wanted and Patronized.  Major Meets, circus acts competing for the Gold, a cultural shock. And a joy to behold.   What have we over here?   I think Circus Center in San Francisco holds a festival now and then, touting it of course as cutting edge.  If you're not cutting edge in America, you're hopelessly Old Hat.  Over There, they're still producing terrific talent, with a little help from the Merry Middle Kingdom, making me wonder why so many great ring artists hail from repressive countries?  Something about creativity, stay with me for half-a-moment on this.  Smart phones OFF! Here we go, are you there?  HELLO?   

ANYBODY STILL THERE???  Twas turning the issue over in my mushy mind whilst walking one sunny winter morning in Dried-Up Calif.  One creates, I propose, as an expression born of a liberating joy of the spirit, away from a sense of imprisonment --- be it a Depression, a Loss, a dominating political system pushing down the spirit.  One creates as an escape out of all that.  And in Russia Then and China Still,  there is plenty of oppression to produce individuals needing creativity as the Grand Escape.  

How did I do?



Planet Circus tells me of so many wonderfully affirming events over there.  The Festivals, so many, that draw major attention.   Monte Carlo to Paris to Moscow, to, even, China.  Now in China, animal acts are belatedly joining the parade, just when they are being shunned in Bonny England, voted off the lot in some U.S. Cities.  The World is Upside Down --  wasn't that a line from DeMille's movie The Greatest Show on Earth?



Boldly I quote Dirk Kuik of Planet Circus comparing an act as seen in two different venues: under the thick makeup and lights of Cirque du Soliel, and then, out of that tyranny into the flesh of a conventional circus ring:

"William Lin was clear evidence that the presentations of Cirque du Soliel do not always help to enhance the effect of the acts.  Some years ago this great diablo artist from Taiwan won a gold medal at the Cirque de Domain in Paris for his tricks and his immense personality.  Now in an average costume and mask from the arena show 'Quadam' all this was nearly completely lost. What a pity!"


And what a hypocritical pity that CDS recycles its tent shows into arena spin-offs, no doubt desperate to extract every last penny from a public willing to be taken.



Festivals covered or announced in the current issue taking place in Budapest, Latina,Moscow, Dax, China, any probably other places I missed.



What is my drift:  Touring the pages of Planet Circus, I see circus acts.  Had I checked out the recent avant garde gathering in Chicago, I might have seen re-birthing on the Fabrics, Waiting for Godot on the static Trapeze, How to Reclaim your Prenatal Purity Inside a Thousand Hula Hoops ...  Mid Air Gender Bending Exchanges on Sway Poles, and so on. Not that I'm against such daring diversions from the norm.  I still, however, find a great circus act to convey the primal power of the big top.   And that power radiates the pages of this wonderful magazine.

[All photos and ads, uploaded here, with apologies, on my cheap scanner, from Planet Circus]

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Circus Metrosexual: Yes, Henry Edgar, How Right You Were About the GREAT Clyde Beatty...



When last we met, I’d taken us down to the Brownsville, TX area, not yet noting that both Kelly-Killer, for whom clowns Steve Coepland and Ryan Combs once clowned, and Circo Hermanos Vazques, for whom the two jesters now clown, are both uncorking new season with weeks of each other. Yes, both opening their rings across the same Texas terracotta. 

Very interesting, I’d say.  Cosmically intriguing.   Beyond this, what else from the House of Ringling?  We must wait and see if anything new in the forthcoming program surfaces. Seems that last season’s advance clown was signed to become John Ringling North’ II’s replacement clown alley.  By the way, what exactly does an advance clown do?  I could never figure that out; over there Across the Pond, clowns being so loathed in some quarters, I can’t imagine a funny face fronting any circus. An advance pig maybe.  Or tiger or Monster Truck, HoHo!  Don’t’ send out the clowns!

Onto metrosexual matters, roughly. if you will, referencing a trenchant piece in the Wall Street Journal about the genders blurring into One, resulting in men being squeezed, drilled, and hushed down into little walking wimps.  That’s summing it up broadly.  What struck me as a connection to this new emasculating trend is how big tops, some, have eased up on the fear factor. Turned in single traps for fabrics.  And are shunning what I might call, at the risk of house arrest, male athleticism.  Or simply athletic (okay, I hear you knocking, PC police; let me insult a little more and then you can take me away, okay?).



Clyde Beatty.  The late Henry  Edgar argued Beatty’s near-phenomenal popular fame in American culture.  I tended to agree; and now having read a fine and grabbing, terrifically illustrated Bandwagon piece by Dave Price, "Clyde Beatty in Hollywood," about the young and glamorous whip master's presence in a number of movies (maybe second rate but not all box office fizzles) and Saturday matinee serials, I am sure of the fact.  Clyde Beatty, by the time I cribbed out and could turn the radio dial myself, was a Big Name.  We looked for him in the newspaper, knowing that at any time, somewhere in a circus ring, of of his charge my part script a go ballistic.


Most famous American circus personality ever?  Beatty pulled in kids to the Saturday matinees, all ages to the main features.  He also held down a radio show. 

Most exciting act I ever sat through.  Make that chilling: First time I saw the great Clyde Beatty enter the steel cage.  Think the band played Bolero.  Oh, thank you Ravel for a great circus pulse!

Know what.  On this note of high drama, I’m about to take my leave.  Yes, as I last time hinted, the dots from Barnum that once connected to every circus now sometimes bypasses wimpy metrosexual big tops and go directly to TV to extreme sports.

Hold on!  I meant to theme this whole thing as a tour through Planet Circus, the magazine from Germany. That must come next, and therein lies a victorious  tie in to the circus of Clyde Beatty and his — pardon me — masculine kind.  

Five o’clock news about to come on.  All for now, kids.

[all Beatty photos from Bandwagon]

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Tuesday Twitters: Kenneth Feld, a Forbes Billionaire ... Ringling-Barnum declared the "Gold Standard” of Circus. May I Suggest, in Lieu of -- The Lawrence Welk Standard?


Circuses, Wake Up!    You’ve got mud in the east,  a vast new dry desert to play out west ... If you’re coming to California, bring your own water.  I now feel guilty flushing my toilet, and how will I ever brush my teeth without a running faucet to keep me from performing a root canal on myself?

Behind every successful circus named Ringling lies a performing monster truck. One with a heart.  One that can dance and sing and even, I suppose, go out on strike.  And maybe, soon to come, a woman named Nicole Feld.   Once, I conjectured that the ice shows (lush ticket sales, few expenses, all on trucks) turned the biggest profits for Feld Entertainment and may even have funded the show's epic circus trains during the slack seasons.. Now, I’m thinking dump truck division. The Feld of Felds, profiled in Forbes, quoted from another source having claimed that 2012 was "the best year" in the company's history for attendance, revenue and, and rofits, etc.  Not hard to swallow considering the company's reach into other venues, the monster trucks leading the way.

Forbes magazine,  to whom he would not talk, naming Kenneth Feld  “the world’s newest billionaire.”  Seems he and another big top tycoon, our man up in Montreal, are both valued to hold in some form or another a cool $1.8 billion.  Forbes defaulted to other sources, and laced its report with some predicable fabrications out of the old spin-or-die Irvin Feld press kit.  Bob Johnson, pres of Outdoor Amusement Business Association,declared Ringling-Barnum to be “the gold standard of the circus industry.” If we're talking revenue, who can argue.  But, for myself,  I’d  call Ringling The Lawrence Welk Standard.  Feld's cunning  smorgasbord approach to doling out circus shows can send your spirit soaring one moment, leave you snoring the next.  Brilliant circus art shares the spotlights with incredible banality.  Or did.  Things may be looking up now that Ms. Nicole is in charge.

Yes, THEY saved the circus!  Clever how the Feld of Felds would not talk to the Forbes of Forbes, thus pushing them to spin from other sources.  Thus did they spin, on their very own:  "The elder Feld revolutionized the circus by taking it into indoor indoor arenas and stadiums." 

The gold standard in my book, goes to Big Apple Circus.  But they don’t have a monster truck division to fund PR flash, to pay off operatives and lobbyists, et all.   And yet, if you are measuring by money alone, this Feld may easily top what the 5 Ringling brothers achieved, some seasons each walking away with millions — and they did it without mice on ice shows or monster truck follies.

Onto small is beautiful, and I’m trying to be nice here. To  Kelly-Miller’s Backyard, where the lights went out with the departure of happy-go-lucky blogger Steve Copeland, now directing your attention to his and Ryan’s season with Circo Hermanos Vazquez.  That and more, or less (as you would) to come,

PLUS.  Is feminism and the “emasculated” new non-male male to blame for our big tops going soft and cerebral on us?   Have you head of X-Sports.  Can you connect the dots from Barnum to there? I can ... See you here next time, Kids!