FYI Vol. VIII, No. 5


Kelly Miller Goes Topless

My photographer Maike Schulz and I arrived at the Kelly Miller lot in West Creek, NJ a few hours before the first performance was to begin.  We presented ourselves the to the show management  and then began wandering the lot hoping to find some activity to shoot for a piece we wanted to do on the Mongolian troupe.  In the meantime management remained in deep consultation with the fire inspector for what seemed a very long time.  Before we knew what was happening one of the engines from the fire company sponsoring the show pulled up close to the big top, and the men began laying their hoses around the entire big top.  The reason for this activity remained unclear to us, but when Maike returned the next evening, the big top had been taken down and the show played an open-air performance, with one section of the bleachers facing the setting sun.  This prompted the audience to move to one of the side sections, throwing the performance off balance because the performer’s entrance was now facing a section of the seating area that was completely empty.  Apparently the fire inspector had refused to give the show a permit to perform in the existing tent.

Under these circumstances Nikolas Strubbe’s ability to keep the kids happy and entertained became more of an asset than it was when there was a big top overhead. Without him the performance would have been a total disaster, as every one of the acts seemed otherwise disoriented.

I conveyed this information to my friend, proofreader and inveterate circus fan Paul Gutheil who had already been made aware of the situation by his friend and fellow circus fan Frank Vopasek, who was promoting the circus’s next appearance in Little Ferry, NJ two days after West Creek.  Not only had he been papering the town with posters and encouraging fans from several nearby states to attend, he had contacted for a local 75 piece band to present a concert of patriotic and circus music in connection with the circus’ performance.

By then it had become apparent the fire inspector who got the big top pulled down in West Creek had also sent his report to state officials, making Kelly Miller more or less persona non grata throughout the state of New Jersey.

In the scramble to retrieve what could be made of a bad bargain Vopasek found a nearby auditorium in which the concert could be performed. But there was still the matter of the circus performance.  It had to be played with only side walls and the bleachers to define the playing area.  As it turned out the show was not well received and shortened considerably as a result.  But the coups de grǟce was the whipping winds and torrential rain that interrupted the performance and threatened to tear what remained of it to tatters.


More Bewildering Rumors Coming Out of the Big Apple Circus

The Lincoln Center stay is now said to run from September through February.  Anew format is being devised wherein the circus performance will only be one part of an entertainment village with interactive activity being featured.   I wonder how the Center’s neighbors who already resent losing access to Damrosch Park from October through December will feel about that.


One of the Saddest Dates in American Circus History is Commemorated

The 75th anniversary of the 1944 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut in which 168 persons died was commemorated in Hartford on July 6, 2019.  Two of the survivors, Nancy Spada and Harry Lichtenbaum, spoke movingly of their memories of that fateful day.   Members of the  Hartford Fire Dept. and Police Dept. also contributed historical context to the event.  An estimated 300 persons attended the moving ceremony.  There was no one at the event  representing the Ringling family who accepted full responsibility for paying all the damage claims made against the corporation.







Photos by Paul Gutheil