Ringling Brothers Circus is Closing.

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by V.C. Brunswick, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. The Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, probably the oldest and most famous circus in the United States will be closing after 146 years. This iconic piece of Americana will be striking their tent for the last time, at least figuratively speaking, when they give their final performance on May 21. Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Brothers, cited rising costs and declining ticket sales and attendance.
     
  2. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    Call me ambivalent.

    When I was a little kid the RB&B&B Circus was headquartered in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and in the springtime the circus train would travel the tracks visible from our family's house in Madison. Big thrills. Made us feel special, somehow.

    The circus moved to Florida, although the Circus World Museum remained in Baraboo.

    I can't recall when I last attended a circus. It's been so long ago that I don't trust whatever dim recollections of it I might have.

    That dog's day has come and gone. It happens. Baseball hasn't been "the national pastime" in decades. Football's time at the top will come to an end. (Looks a little like that slide is starting.)

    The wonder is that RB&B&B lasted as long as it did. Just consider how the world has changed over the past 146 years. Radio, movies, television, recorded music, automobiles, airplanes, digital communications -- none of it existed.
     
  3. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Circuses came before vaudeville and outlasted it -- and there was, in the Era, a lot of crossover between vaudeville and circus performers: acrobats, tumblers, pantomime clowns and some types of animals acts would move freely between the theatre and the circus tent. So on that basis, I'm sad to see circuses, in general, fading out because they were the last stop for a lot of show-business techniques and traditions. I don't know where these kind of performers are going to go as the circuses fold up -- other than politics, there isn't much call for clowns these days.

    All that said, the "big animal" acts always bothered me, even as a kid. I remember being very upset about seeing a trainer jabbing an elephant with a bullhook -- the elephant didn't want to do what the trainer wanted him to do, and you could tell he was being forced into compliance with physical pain. I didn't find that entertaining when I was five, and even less so now. I'm glad the culture has caught up with my thinking on that point, and I hope such things will become even less acceptable as time goes on.
     
  4. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    ^^^^^
    I take it you ain't much for bullfighting, then?
     
  5. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    Anybody besides me catch that show about the Big Apple Circus on PBS a few years back? No animal acts. Personnel in the biz for a wide variety of reasons.
     
  6. Monsoon

    Monsoon A-List Customer

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    My dad had a cousin that literally ran away and joined the circus. Worked the tiger show with Ringling Brothers. Mrs Barnum was his guardian.
     
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  7. Inkstainedwretch

    Inkstainedwretch One Too Many

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    The American circus flourished best when every little town was connected by railroad. As the railroad declined, so did the circus.
     
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  8. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion One Too Many

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    The thing that I remember most from my trip to the RB/B&B Circus as a kid was the endless hawking of toys: and it got even more shameless and expensive by the time we brought my kid to a performance when he was little. I got the impression that it was meant to be one of those once in a childhood experiences for most kids, like a trip to Disney World, or going to see the Nutcracker. Granted, for many, those activities are done on an annual basis... but I kind of view them as "do it once and move on" experiences.

    I do remember my grandmother saying that they no longer held the circus under a big top tent because of a tragic fire that had occurred years before. Later found out that this occurred in Hartford Connecticut in 1944: "The Day the Clowns Cried." Est. 168 people died, and hundreds were injured.
     
  9. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    Good book on that tragedy: "The Circus Fire," by Stewart O'Nan. My wife and I read it aloud to each other shortly after it was published, in 2000. It's a view of a world few of us knew firsthand.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
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  10. A sight soon to disappear forever.

     
  11. Stearmen

    Stearmen I'll Lock Up

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    I'm glad I stopped to take a couple of photos last year! Sad that I will never see this sight again. [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  12. These circus trains also have some of the last examples of working vintage rolling stock to be seen on our railroads. I believe many of these cars were originally built during WWII for use as troop trains.
     
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  13. Someone had posted this comment on Facebook which I found to be quite poignant. I don't think I could have said it better. Not my words but I did edit it slightly.

    "End of an era. A jaded PC public that considers clowns evil is no longer able to be awed by animals and entertained by Old World spectacle. The circus was magic, the animals awesome and beautiful, people regarded as freaks celebrated in stardom. It was a place where nature and mankind met and danced for a while and the laws of physics forgotten if only for a brief afternoon. Many will celebrate its demise, but sooner than you think you will no longer know the joy of maverick performers.

    Our entertainment is already becoming dull and sterilized, slick and corporate. I will miss things like a circus, a carnival and summers under an unrelenting sun. I'll miss the space to breathe and enjoy some low-brow amusement without being judged as an inferior. You lose a circus, you lose balloon animals and flowers that squirt water. No more tiny cars containing thousands of clowns. No more pretty ladies trusting a lion's open jaw, or an elephant's foot against their cheek. High wire acts will fade away, juggling balls set aside to check smart phones. Bombastic bands playing Sousa marches replaced by angry street sounds.

    You think this is good news but it isn't. Not by any stretch of what remains of imagination."
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017
  14. tonyb

    tonyb I'll Lock Up

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    ^^^^^
    Tells me more about the author than his subject matter.

    He resents what he perceives as "being judged as an inferior" for taking in "low-brow amusements," yet the entire spiel is dripping with his superior judgements. I mean really, who's looking down on whom?
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
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  15. ChazfromCali

    ChazfromCali Familiar Face

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    Eventually you'll see some form of it come back probably on a more local level. Isn't Circus Vargas still on-going?
     
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  16. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    We had the Big Apple Circus as a big-screen HD event the year before last, and it brought out an interesting audience of grandparents and kids. The older folks loved it, and the kids didn't get it at all. I suspect part of it was simply that it's more impressive to see such a show live -- for kids, acrobats and wire-walkers and such are no big whoop when they see more exciting feats in any superhero movie, but maybe seeing them in person would make a difference. But I think part of it too is that the whole circus format is something kids just don't get anymore.
     
  17. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Bullfighting is on the same moral plane as dogfighting and bearbaiting.

    Elephants and great apes, I think, are a special case that goes beyond simple animal cruelty. The more we learn about them, the more likely it seems that they are, in some way, sapient. To brutalize a sapient creature for mere entertainment is morally indefensible on any level.
     
  18. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    I passionately support fair and humane treatment of animals, but also believe that not everything labeled as cruel is cruel just because it makes the person saying it feel morally superior. (Swatting a thoroughbred on the butt several times during a race is hardly being cruel to some of the most-pampered animals in history; however, some of the other things they do to some of them, and what happens to some of them in retirement is another story - and not a good one.)

    If the treatment of circus animals is / was cruel (and Lizzie's attestation above carries a lot of weight with me, in particular, as I have no first hand experience), and if the circus can't survive without those acts, then so be, our society moved on in a good way even if, unfortunately, some good things (and opportunities for employment and, even, stardom for some) go with it.

    I'll miss the annual news coverage of the Elephants being walked through the mid-town tunnel at 2am when the circus would arrive in NYC. Why they didn't bring them in, in trains cars, I don't know, but the midnight stroll through the tunnel made for great TV coverage (which might be why they didn't bring them in by train).

    I also image Lizzie hit on a good point that CGI movies and life-like video games may have anesthetized a generation to the thrills of real-life "death-defying" acts.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
  19. Lean'n'mean

    Lean'n'mean My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    There are some videos on youtube showing just how the Ringling Bros. circus treats it's animals. As usual in such cases of animal abuse, it's the sheer callousness of the torturers that is the most disturbing.
     
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  20. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    I suspect the loaded term "jaded PC public" says it all.

    I saw this story in the freesheet this morning. It's said in one sense to see it passing - and yet if it really had been such as beloved institution, would it not be flourishing yet? It reminds me of a furore that kicked up last year in the UK, when a pub-chain stopped doing its well-known Sunday Dinners. A lot of folks came out of the woodwork to complain, but the fact was that they simply weren't selling well enough any longer, or they'd still have been making them. Maybe I'm overly cynical, but a lot of the mainstream nostalgia for stuff that goes rings a little hollow when the people indulging in it never did anything to support x when it was still running. Similarly, I'm sure Mr Bowie would have been nmuch more grateful if half the people I saw making a real show of morning him had actually bought a single album of his before he died.

    Anyhow. I always felt sorry for the larger animals kept in small cages on the road (that seemed to me a greater sin than the idea of it being undignified to train them to perform for human entertainment, absent actually cruelty to achieve that name). As to animal cruelty, there was a case some ten years ago in Ireland where one of the members of one of the main circus families on the island was caught beating a chimpanzee. Cruelty to animals is low, often even lower than that meted out to a human, who at least will (in the vast majority of cases) have the chance to tell someone.

    We used to go to the circus once a year when I was up to eleven. We stopped after that.... I don't know whether we just moved on or what the reason was, but that was it. I remember the circus used to come to the village for Two! Nights! Only! (I doubt that in a place of population 3,500 they'd have been able to do more shows than that). Always the last week of school before the long Summer holiday, or during the first week of holidays. Animal welfare issues aside (we never saw anything that looked directly cruel; animals were mostly dogs, horses, and one or two small monkeys), it was a sort of innocent fun that had no television branding, no merchandising (I only remember once seeing ... I think it was Fosset's selling pin badges; normally the only thing on sale other than tickets of entry was candy floss), just live entertainment. Clowns were funny. I don't recall any kids ever being traumatised by them... I guess we were yet to see the movies that deployed the "clowns as horror" trope for the first time. I've long been tempted to go back, but yet at the same time I fear that if I did, I'd be disillusioned by it being not the same, or a bit tired and dog-eared....
     
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