2002-03-23 / Community

Circus Serves Up Thrills, Chills Commentary On The One Thing That Does Not Change

By Howard Schwach

Circus Serves Up Thrills, Chills
Commentary On Perhaps The One Thing That Does Not Change
By Howard Schwach

While most things have changed greatly since the "good old days," the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus has decidedly not changed much in the forty years since we last saw it.

Wild animals still abound, clowns still perform while the roustabouts set the scene for the next act, flyers still fly, jugglers still juggle, and the all-hands circus parade is as spectacular as I remembered it.

When last I saw the circus, I was about 12 years old and took the Long Island Railroad the "short way" to the old Madison Square Garden, over the Rockaway jetty with my father (long since gone) and my cousin (just retired from the school system).

This time, I was with my son, his son and my wife. The show was as exciting as I remembered, but the real show was in my grandson's eyes as he watched the show as I had 50 years ago.

The show just wound up a stint at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale and is now at the new Madison Square Garden for two weeks. From there, it moves on to the Continental Airlines Arena in the New Jersey Meadowlands.

One thing has changed. If you come an hour or so prior to the show, you can go down onto the floor and meet with many of the show folk. The clowns clown around, the jugglers spin plates on your finger and the elephant tamers work with an elephant that paints with finger paints.

Kids can get up close and personal with the performers and that is a perfect setting for what comes when the show begins.

There are actually two Ringling Brothers shows, the Blue Team and the Red Team. One is on the east coast while the other is on the west coast one year and then the switch the following year. So, you can see the show two years in a row and not see a repeat performance. The shows are slightly different.

The east coast show features "The Prince of Laughter," David Larible, who uses lots of audience participation in his shtick.

The top animal trainer is "Sara, the Tiger Whisperer," who indeed whispers onto the ears of her charges and then gets them to do her bidding.

My grandson's favorites were the clowns. I thought it would be the elephants, but you never know with three-year-olds.

My favorite was Wilson Dominquez, billed as "Crazy Wilson." He spins and flips on this large device that looks more like a kitchen whisk that anything else. You have to see it to appreciate it.

Then, there's "Jumpin Jon Weiss," the human cannonball who is shot out of a large cannon by his wife, Laura.

Of course, part of the fun for kids is buying the light stick, stuffed elephant, tiger snow cone, etc. Those things don't come cheap. A revolving light goes for $16, a stuffed elephant for $24. Add some popcorn, soda, tickets, a $10 program (necessary for autographs) and the night does not come cheap.

It is well worth the once a year expense, however, to see the light and the excitement in the eyes of a young one that you love.

All in all, it's a performance worth seeing – especially through the eyes of a child.

Sara, the Tiger Whisperer actually whispers in the ears of her tigers.

Crazy Wilson spins and twists high in the air on a device that looks like a kitchen whisk.

Circus elephants walk through the toll both of the Queens Midtown Tunnel on their way from the Queens railroad yards to Madison Square Garden. They were escorted by NYPD officers because of a threat by PETA to disrupt the march.

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