Tyrades! by Danny Tyree
The circus and I go way back.
Most of my childhood memories are unanchored by a calendar; but on July 8, 1966 I cajoled my father into writing down my day's activities. So I have a written record that on that date, as I wound down for bedtime, I watched "The Greatest Show On Earth" on TV. (This was not long after I was mesmerized by a circus troupe that came to our small town.)
A few years later I would devour a biography of showman P.T. Barnum. Finally, in 2010 I wrote a column about the privilege of taking my family to see the Ringling Bros. "Illuscination" extravaganza.
So I was devastated to learn that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end its 146-year run in May.
According to the New York Times, Feld Entertainment (current owner of the American institution) decided the production was no longer a viable business model.Part of the problem is the enormous expense of transporting all the people, animals and props by train ---- and providing an education for the performers' children. ("Students, let's diagram the sentence 'Most experts agree that the three major food groups are circus peanuts, popcorn and cotton candy...'")
But the biggest problem was the fact that ticket sales have plummeted since animal rights activists forced the circus to phase out elephants.
I do not doubt the sincerity of the animal rights activists. Many of the most radical protesters made great sacrifices, such as taking a turn on the picket line before hurrying on to get their partial-birth abortion. ("Like Barnum said, 'There's one NOT BORN every minute.' *Chuckle*")
Yeah, why should elephants be bullied into performing silly antics when they could be doing something DIGNIFIED, like staying in the wild, falling prey to poachers and providing aphrodisiacs for pathetic Chinese Romeos?
Critics seemed to have an insatiable desire to punish the circus. One activist grudgingly admitted that Ringling Bros. has made a lot of progress in its treatment of animals, but insisted that they didn't start SOON ENOUGH. So apparently critics can be appeased only by ending the circus OR packing 13 clowns into a tiny time machine and sending them back to lecture their predecessors, toss a custard pie in the face of Lee Harvey Oswald and ---- if there's room for a really big seltzer bottle----extinguish the Great Chicago Fire.
Various last-ditch plans for cutting costs or modernizing the show were deemed too little, too late. These included secretly replacing the tightrope with a Taser line, renting out the Human Cannonball to North Korea ("Here, wear this enriched uranium vest, Yankee"), letting a lucky ticket holder use the three rings to pierce the body part of his/her choice and inviting the tigers to gobble up the electronic devices of bored six-year-olds.
From now on, I'll get misty-eyed whenever I hear Three Dog Night's "The Show Must Go On" (which uses the familiar circus tune "Entrance of the Gladiators" as its lead-in), because I'll worry about the fate of the performers.
Feld Entertainment promises it will reassign as many employees as possible, but the vast majority will wind up with a major career change. Imagine it:"Yes, I'm with Uber; but I won't technically be DRIVING the car. I'll be CARRYING it in one hand and a barbell in the other."
©2017 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades." Danny's weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.