Joyous in Tent 

The 131st edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's circus

The trouble with the circus is that everyone thinks he or she knows all about it. Everyone except little kids, that is.

Fancy bigtops like Cirque du Soleil came along and tried to make the circus appeal to sophisticates, but basically it's no different from the one you saw when you were five years old. Just better lighting. From a five-year-old's perspective -- and to many world-weary adults as well -- nothing in the world is as exciting as the sudden appearance of an elephant. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has those in profusion.

Do kids still want to run away with the circus? Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson, now in his fourth season with the Greatest Show on Earth, admits he doesn't know. "They've got all these video games and computers now. I know I wanted to do it -- not that I had a bad home life or anything, but I wanted to get away. That's why I joined the Boys' Choir of Harlem." Says the imposing singer-emcee, "If someone had told me I was going to get into the longest-running show in show business, I wouldn't have believed it. But here I am."

There he is, at the center of a whirlwind of acrobats, clowns, contortionists, Mark Oliver Gebel and his big cats, comic Bello Nock and his four-and-a-half-ton pachyderm pal Bo, and the Max-Air Blizzard Battalion, which blends ramp skiing and trampoline jumping in a sort of indoor version of the X Games. Iverson has this advice for young would-be circus performers: "Enjoy the thrills, but it's hard work. You have to sincerely concentrate on your skills." And keep your eye on the big guys. "For the kids, the biggest thrill is the elephants. It's always the elephants."

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

Latest in Culture

  • How to Party Properly on New Year's Eve

    Whether you want to dance till morning or be in bed by midnight, we've got the rundown on the best events happening this year.
    • Dec 19, 2012
  • The Year of the Lounge

    Oakland's new nightspots incorporate a homey feel.
    • Dec 22, 2010
  • World of Punch Lines

    Comedy is the new way to diversify your hipster portfolio.
    • Dec 22, 2010
  • More »

Author Archives

Special Reports

Holiday Guide 2016

A guide to this holiday season's gifts, outings, eats, and more.

Taste, Fall 2016

Everything you need to know about dining in and out in the East Bay.

© 2017 East Bay Express    All Rights Reserved
Powered by Foundation