Monday, April 30, 2007

Two Interviews down...

Yesterday I had the immense pleasure of speaking with Bob Carabia, a circus musician (he plays saxophone and other woodwinds). Now mostly in retirement, Bob spent the majority of his young years in concert halls and playing rodeo bands. He was always enamored of the circus, and in 1996 got a chance to form a band and play for "Maine Dates" of Shriner circuses. According to him, he had died and gone to heaven. He was the band director for the three-week Shrine Circus in Detroit, a premiere event.

His biggest reason for not working in Circus any longer was because more and more circuses are moving to taped/digital music. I know this is true and many of the smaller shows are using all electronic music. Only the bigger shows are still using a band, and even then, sometimes the band is acting in support of electronic music rather than the other way around.

I know that Cirque du Soleil (not a real circus in my opinion) uses a band and no electronic music. Ringling uses both, as do Big Apple and Circus Flora. Mud shows for the most part aren't using any band at all.

Of course, in my circus, we will have a band. Since I'm aiming for a Circus Flora/Circus Chimera type of circus, I will be able to have a band. I lament the loss of live music in Circus as acutely as Mr. Carabia.

New Site Design

I changed the site design a bit, tweaking it a little. I hope the new look isn't messing anyone up. I thought it was appropriate to put up a circus picture. It is one I took of the Kelly Miller Circus setting up in September 2006.

On a side note, Kelly Miller was reported to be folding after the 2006 season. The Rawls family, who had operated the circus since 1984, were no longer interested in keeping the show going and wanted to retire. John Ringling North II stepped in to buy it and it is now touring the middle of the country. Kelly Miller winters in Hugo Oklahoma. Hopefully they'll be back in our area this fall, and we can see them again.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

One Interview Down...

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry allen Dean (yes, he wants a small "a" in his middle name), self proclaimed "animal trainer extraordinaire." As someone else referred to him, "the animal trainer with three first names." Either way, I spent an enjoyable 2 hours listening to him talk about how he got into animal work, and what he enjoyed, and what he was doing now. Larry's great love is to work with big cats, although he's worked elephants, horses, and camels as well. I learned a lot. There may not be a lot of what he gave me that I can use, but the interview helped me to understand how a "contract" trainer can work with animals that don't belong to them.

This has been sort of a sticking point for is hard for me to understand how a trainer can work with animals he didn't raise and doesn't own and didn't train him/herself. Where does his sense of responsibility for the care and feeding of the animals he works with come from? The bond may be there, but certainly not as strong a bond as would exist if the trainer had raised the animals or at least had a hand in their training from the beginning. But it happens all the time, so I guess it works.

I have found, too, that animals change owners quite often, and that about half the time, the owners aren't even animal trainers themselves, they are buying the act and hiring a contract trainer so they can make money on the act.

Larry rarely works on shows any more, although he was once quite a big name in Circus circles, including work on Ringling and Big Apple. He says that the the percentage contract trainers make these days is not enough to live on. He also sees fewer and fewer cat acts in circuses because there is such high overhead in maintaining them. Cats must eat every day, even when there are no shows. That's true for all animals. But in the case of big cats, there are a considerable number of ancillary services that must be paid for besides food and bedding. Cats require more security, more men to handle cages and wagons and feedings. While one man can take care of three elephants without a whole lot of trouble, one man cannot take care of the same number of cats without plenty of physical help.

Tomorrow I'm talking to a musician and a schoolteacher, with any luck.

Friday, April 27, 2007

More Great Interviews

So I have been on a bit of a tear of writing lately. It helps that The Klown is out of town for a few days and I have some pretty quiet evenings to get some things done. I decided to send out a call for help to a Circus Fan list and see what I could get by way of interviews. I have pretty much read all the books I can possibly read at this point, and I need real-life interviews to fill things out. I asked specifically for:

1. "Star" clowns - where there is only one clown or one major featured clown on a show (like a Belo, Nino, or David Lareble).
2. Anyone that has performed for Big Apple Circus.
3. Animal trainers/performers who do not own their animals, particularly elephants.
4. Performers that are not "stock" or born into the business.
5. Anyone who has worked on costumes/costuming for a smaller circus.
6. anyone who has been a school teacher on a show.
7. Anyone who has been on a show that experienced a natural disaster in the form of a tornado.

Boy, have I gotten responses! Some are pretty lame ("hey, buy my book, it has all your answers in it!") but some are really great. So far I've lined up solid interviews with two animal trainers, and a tentative booking with a ringmaster. I have also heard from a clown, a musician, and a schoolteacher! These are going to be major interviews for me, and should help me better round out some of the characters in my story.

I can't offer these people anything for their help. The best I can do is list them in my acknowledgments when I get done writing the book.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Inactive but Active

The work on Without A Net is slow and painful. But it is progressing. The story is not complete, which still leaves me with lots of holes to fill. Particularly I need to build in about two months of touring and shows with appropriate drama before coming to the conclusatory crisis of the tornado. And that's only one of the huge gaping plot holes in my story.

Hmmm, I think I just made up a new word. Hopefully you know what I meant.

I have a day at home today with two sick teenagers who don't have the energy to watch their baby sister. The Klown, aka Daddy, is out of town at a Clowns of American convention. So, a day off for me. I hope to get some writing done. I have the stereo loaded up with all my Gipsy Kings and Esteban CD's to get me in the mood. The little one is under the table next to me, sneaking pretzels and being exceedingly quiet, something I find greatly amusing.

Maybe it will be a productive day.

Minor Techie Update

I bought the domain and have created a forward from it to my blog. So, if you want to update your bookmarks, the new address is

The old address still works just fine.

That is all, back to writing!