Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The circus has left town

     Readers wondered why I had two columns in Monday's paper. One about federal judges helping ex-cons, which I posted yesterday. And this, about the final performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus performing for the final time Sunday night.
     The answer is simple enough. I wrote the federal judges column Friday (and a bit on Saturday, and again Sunday morning). Then Sunday night an editor asked if I might wax rhapsodic about the passing of the Greatest Show on Earth. Sure, why not?

     The elephants were important after all.
     A year after Feld Entertainment, owners of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, bowed to pressure from animal rights activists and retired their 40 performing pachyderms, a “dramatic” slump in ticket sales prompted the 146-year-old “Greatest Show on Earth” to announce in January that it was going out of business.
Which it did Sunday night, after one final show at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York.
     The wonder is it lasted this long.
     The death of the circus — the biggest, most famous American circus anyway — couldn’t have been just the elephants. High operating costs also did in the last circus to travel by train as smaller, nimbler, more innovative shows, such as Cirque du Soleil, gobbled up audience dollars without having to worry about feeding lions, tigers and bears.
     And an audience that could fight alien monsters or dogfight in spaceships or have almost any adventure imaginable while sitting on their living room sofa and jiggling a joystick didn’t need to go to the circus. The circus came to them.

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  1. It is my understanding that the circus experienced considerable difficulty finding a replacement when the Human Cannonbal retired. Not easy, evidently, finding a performer of his calibre.


    1. I heard that when she found out the circus was closing, the Human Cannonball went ballistic.

  2. I have mixed feelings; loved the show horses, monkeys, lions and tigers, acrobats and especially the elephants, but didn't like what I'd heard and read about the abuse. I guess its time had come and gone, but my happy memories of the "big top" remain.


  3. I wonder if anyone asked the elephants if they would prefer playing with a big ball, putting their front feet on the one in front of them and walking in a circle OR fending off a pack of hungry wildebeests?

    1. Wildebeests don't eat meat, Werner. They are like cattle.

  4. Once I did a feature story on a circus (a minor-league one, not RBB&B). As part of it, they made me up as a clown and put me in the show. It was a blast.


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