January 15, 2017

The circus is over.

After 156 years, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end.
"It's been through world wars, and it's been through every kind of economic cycle and it's been through a lot of change," said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. "In the past decade there's been more change in the world than in the 50 or 75 years prior to that. And I think it isn't relevant to people in the same way."...

Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn't have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image. After 1956, the circus no longer performed under tents, moving to arenas....

Animal rights activists put pressure on cities where the circus toured.... In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year legal battle over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants.

The initial lawsuit was filed by a former Ringling barn helper who accepted at least $190,000 from animal-rights groups. The judge called him "essentially a paid plaintiff" who lacked credibility and standing to sue, and rejected the abuse claims.

Kenneth Feld testified about the elephants' importance to the show at that 2009 trial. "The symbol of the 'Greatest Show on Earth' is the elephant, and that's what we've been known for throughout the world for more than a hundred years," he said. Asked whether the show would be the same without elephants, Feld replied, "No, it wouldn't."

And, it wasn't. Feld Entertainment removed the elephants in 2016, sending all 40 of them to their Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. Ticket sales plummeted. The circus, already an afterthought for many, receded further in the public mind....
So it wasn't all that complex. The end of the circus is explained in one word: elephants.

68 comments:

steve uhr said...

A new business opportunity for the Trump boys --- The shooting elephant circus.

David Begley said...

And litigation.

mockturtle said...

Gee, I thought it had been over decades ago.

rhhardin said...

Somebody nameless at work signed up the director for clown school.

Danno said...

Think of the poor children who will never be able to see the circus.

rehajm said...

As life affirming pastimes go watching African elephants at a river bank ranks quite high.

Original Mike said...

Beginning of the end:: "After 1956, the circus no longer performed under tents, moving to arenas...."

Fandor said...

I've seen the elephant...and it's a "snowflake".

rhhardin said...

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

rhhardin said...

Elephant irrelevance.

rhhardin said...

Everybody has childhood memories of elephants in the circus, but do the elephants remember the children.

rhhardin said...

Circus elephants are now found only in past tents.

rhhardin said...

What's gray and comes in quarts.

rhhardin said...

Thai elephant

1/4 elephant
500 lb garlic
500 lb onion
500 lb cumin
500 lb ginger
250 lb red pepper
125 lb cinnamon
1000 lb coriander

Birkel said...

It was the people who closed the circus. The elephants were bystanders.

When they came for the florists...
When they came for the bakers...
When they came for the circus...

Now what?

Michael K said...

The environmentalists shot 10,000 elephants in Africa. Their concerns are selective, at best.


No, it was 40,000 elephants.

Animal rights at work.

Laslo Spatula said...

It is elephants all the way down.

I am Laslo.

AJ Lynch said...

You need a tag for posts like these. How about "liberals ruin everything"?

gspencer said...

"Feld Entertainment removed the elephants in 2016"

Now, if you want to see them now in their natural environments, you'll have to go to America's shopping malls.

steve uhr said...

Michael K -- Stupid so-called environmentalist. He should be ashamed to show his face in public.

So are you for or against shooting elephants for sport?

wildswan said...

Not to sound like PETA or a liberal, but I didn't like circuses anymore. I didn't like imprisoned wild animals and I didn't like the clown acts or the midgets and such and the ringmasters were annoying and the food and tickets overpriced. I still liked high wire and trapeze in real time but why go through all the rest for that when you could see it on youtube?

William said...

Not a single joke about the elephant in the room? You can ignore the elephant in the room, but you notice their absence under the big top........It will be hard to top rhhardin's observation that elephants in the circus are now only found in the past tents.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Circuses, such as the Ringling Bros. had their place and time in history. When people were very rural, disconnected, no technology, few books or photos available...the circus coming to town was a big deal. Entertainment opportunities were few and far between and everyone was sick of Uncle Cleetus playing his badly tuned fiddle anyway.

The idea that you could see some exotic animals from far far away in the flesh! (instead of the cows, pigs, sheep and chickens that you were familiar with) was incredibly exciting. The circus performers doing feats of magic, gymnastics dressed in their glittery costumes were amazing.

No one really thought that much about how the animals were suffering or how the circus performers or the human freaks of nature were being mistreated. It was just a fact of life in those days.

Those days are gone and we can view the animals in documentaries on the television, youtube videos, or see wonderful photos of the wild life in albums, books or on the internet. Live viewing of animals can be seen in some zoos and better yet, in wild life preserves. There is no need to capture and torture the animals to make them perform for our amusement. The human performers also can be seen in better circumstances: live or through the same technologies. We are beyond being amused or entertained by other people's unfortunate genetic anomalies.

So...sad as it may be to see the institution of "The Circus" pass away, it is time. Zoos with animals in cages should probably be next to fade away.

Birkel said...

steve uhr:
How does your question relate to what Michael K typed? I would like you to defend yourself.

So let me employ your bull shit tactic:
Do you support the destruction of private property as part of riots to protest political results you do not prefer?

boycat said...

Zoos are next on the agenda. They always have an agenda.

Birkel said...

Dust Bunny Queen:
I agreed until the last.

You will have to define cage, precisely. I do not believe you can.

Fandor said...

"I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I'll never know!"

Groucho Marx

Linda said...

When my sons were little we took them to the circus for many years when it came through Madison. I always dreaded when the spiel came on the tv, always during Saturday morning cartoons, so they knew and we couldn't avoid it. The boys really enjoyed it . . . me, not so much. I disliked it, but sat through it for them. As my sons have gotten older, I swore that when (if) I became a grandmother, that is one thing I would not do. Now presumably - - - going to the circus - - - is a thing of the past. Yea!

rhhardin said...

The elephant is the only animal having no ridiculous aspect, according to Warburton.

campy said...

I have a great recipe for elephant stew, but I can never get past step 1: take one medium elephant; cut into bite-sized pieces.

Eleanor said...

Where am I going to threaten to run away to now?

steve uhr said...

Birkel:

Regarding your first question, Michael is rightly slamming an environmentalist for supporting the killing of thousands of elephants. So I asked him his view of killing elephants; is he okay when conservatives (or others) kill elephants "for sport" but now when "environmentalists" kill elephants. I want to know whether his positions are consistent. Okay?

As for your second question, my answer is no. Easy question.

gspencer said...

"Not to sound like PETA or a liberal, but I didn't like circuses anymore."

Neither does Jack Handey,

To me, clowns aren't funny.
In fact, they're kind of scary.
I've wondered where this started
and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus,
and a clown killed my dad.

steve uhr said...

Donald Jr. is also a strong supporter of gun silencers. I guess that comes in handy when you miss the 15,000 lb elephant on the first shot.

jacksonjay said...

The NFL ratings are down and the NBA is considering shorter games. More than elephants and not rocket science.

Big Mike said...

I imagine the "scary clown" meme played its part, yes. I'd like to know who started that.

When our kids were little we took them to see the circus. They loved it, of course. Sorry to see it go. Time to queue up "The Last Cowboy Song" but substitute clowns and acrobats for cowboys.

EDH said...

"Let's break out the booze and have a ball."

Maybe the most depressing song lyrics of all time.

Is That All There Is?

And when I was twelve years old, my father took me to a circus, the greatest show on earth
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads
And as I sat there watching
I had the feeling that something was missing
I don't know what, but when it was over
I said to myself, "is that all there is to the circus?"

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is

EDH said...

Never went to the circus as a kid. Never wanted to go.

I blame Peggy Lee for my early aversion to the circus, as well as house fires and love.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Birkel said...

steve uhr:
Your side is going to do what you claim not to support. They are going to riot. Again.

Reasonable people everywhere will blame Democrats.

As for elephant hunting, so you see no difference between 40,000 and one? Must be that new math.

EDH said...

Combining themes a la Peggy Lee, I remember my father taking me to P.T. Barnum Hall at Tufts University to see the huge stuffed hide of Jumbo the elephant, which later was burned in a fire.

And I asked myself, is that all there is?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumbo

buwaya said...

Im glad we were able to take all the kids to see their shows at the Cow Palace every year through their childhoods. The elephant acts and the whole procession was unique in the world. They have got that to remember.

Seeing the proper American "Greatest Show on Earth" circus was one of the few things on my entertainment checklist when I first came here.

The others were to see a rodeo, go to Disneyland, and to go to a science fiction convention. The rodeos exceeded expectations, Disneyland was spotty. Though parts were brilliant much of the experience is tedious. And the science fiction conventions were always terrible disappointments.

It does seem like a general decline in the splendor, for lack of a better word, thats available to the American public. Everything seems more cramped and restricted or chintzy in every way, or less affordable.

EDH said...

It does seem like a general decline in the splendor, for lack of a better word, thats available to the American public. Everything seems more cramped and restricted or chintzy in every way, or less affordable.

In other words, buwya... "is that all there is?"

MountainMan said...

I can agree with a lot of the comments above. Seeing this announcement yesterday suddenly triggered memories I had not had in years. I can recall as a very small boy - maybe 4 or 5 - going to the Ringling Brothers Circus in Albany, GA, with my slightly older brother and my dad, who had taken the day off from work. This was in 1955, I think, which would mean it was one of the last times they performed under the Big Top. I recall walking into the big tent across an open field where it was set up outside town, the smell of fresh sawdust on the ground and, for some reason, the distinct smell of the elephants. The bleachers inside were full and I recall the acrobats, trapeze artists, the lion tamer, clowns, and the elephants, and the show ending with a man shot out of a cannon into a net at the other end of the tent. I only saw Ringling Brothers one more time, in Atlanta at the old Civic Auditorium, when I was about 9 or 10. Not nearly the same as what I recalled from the first time and I never went to the circus again.

The circus, minor league baseball, air shows, and holiday parades were always big events in small towns like Albany. A lot of these have disappeared or have become much less frequent, which is a shame. They formed memories which I can still recall today 50 or 60 years later.

Magson said...

I've taken my young daughter to the circus the past couple of times it's been in town. Arena was maybe 1/3 full. Each act would come out and do their thing and each act would get polite applause, but there wasn't really anything that seemed to make anyone go "Wow!"

i mean, yeah the tightrope people, the acrobats, the trapeze artists, the aerialists.... I know they are doing really hard stuff, but... I've seen it before. Many times. And I can watch it on youtube any time I get a hankering. And my daughter was asking if we could leave at intermission instead of staying for the whole show each time too.

I'm not surprised it's no longer a viable business.

EDH said...

I remember as a kid being taken to the Big Top circus and seeing the elephants with their large trunks.

Either that or the neighbor dragged me into his pop-tent and showed me his dick.

It's a little foggy at this point.

Unknown said...

So did the "paid plantiff" suffer any consequences?

BillyBob said...
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William said...

It's sad to see an institution of such durability fade away. If you saw the circus as a young child in a small town, the memory stayed with you for life. But everything passes. Chariot races used to be big, but who even remembers them anymore. The latest Ben Hur movie flopped.

cyrus83 said...

The elephant seems to have been the one iconic element of the show that sustained it because it was difficult to find it anywhere else.

Youtube and other forms of internet video largely replaced the purpose of the rest of the circus acts, where people can see a wider range of the bizarre, the death-defying, and the spectacular all without paying any admission fee other than watching an annoying ad here and there.

EDH said...

"The Circus is over."

In related news, the Clinton Global Initiative served notice on the NY Dept. of Labor that it would lay-off all 22 of its full-time employees.

BillyBob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben David said...

uh-huh.
Except that Ringling Bros was always the cheesy homogenized over-merchandised behemoth of the circus world.

And we are in the midst of a revival of circus-cabaret-acrobatics type performance. Everything from Cirque du Soleil to a renaissance of old-style European "small tent" circuses.

Here in Israel an entrepreneur has arranged for our country to be the winter home of the Italian Medrano troupe. They were smart enough to realize that there are lotsa kids here in Israel, and that Jewish holidays usually give them 3-4 additional weeks of peak demand each year.

Among the super-smart marketing tie-ins has been an extremely popular circus arts day camp.

Live entertainment should not compete with mass media. It succeeds when it is human in scale.

David said...

Hartford, July 6, 1944.

Michael K said...

"So are you for or against shooting elephants for sport?"

I'm not aware of any big game hunting still going on. The circus involved Indian elephants since African are not very trainable.

I'm not sure that Indian elephants in India are any better off then those that were in the circus. It seems that small town type entertainment is gone with TV and the Internet.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Just after they hored a woman as rngmaster, it ends. But I heard the anchors on WABC discuss whether somebody might buy it.

Maybe, but it is like buying amuseum that has fewer visitors every year,

Wilbur said...

Here's an interesting 1978 amateur video of The Hoxie Bros. Circus, while playing in Secaucus, N.J. The first seven minutes, while unnarrated, were outside of the show tent, showing a glimpse of the thoroughly mundane life of the people and animals who lived it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2uvJg6twEs. The last 20 minutes are of the show itself. The Hoxie Bros. used to come through central Illinois into the 1980s's.

My father enjoyed telling me about the circus coming to our small city when he was a kid in the late 1920's - early 1930's. He loved it, and had a lot of anecdotes about the circus arriving and unloading from the railroad depot, and of doing little odd jobs for the circus people, for show tickets or (if he was lucky) maybe a quarter or two.

Fabi said...

rhhardin said...
Circus elephants are now found only in past tents.


Hall of Fame nominee.

David said...

The brand name has to be worth something.

The Cracker Emcee said...


"Except that Ringling Bros was always the cheesy homogenized over-merchandised behemoth of the circus world."

Yes. It is perfectly possible to have an entertaining, creative circus without tormenting or caging animals. They don't belong in circuses or any kind of seriously restrictive enclosure.

Humperdink said...

Steve uhr said: "Donald Jr. is also a strong supporter of gun silencers."

Ever go to a gun range? Ever wonder why the hearing aid market is booming? You might be able to put and two together, but I doubt it.

BTW, they are known as noise suppressors.

Humperdink said...

How does a liberal kill the circus??

"One bite at a time."

steve uhr said...

If there is a drive by shooting in my neighborhood I would like to hear both so I can take cover and call the police. Don't ear muffs work at the shooting range? I believe that is what the police and military use even though they presumably could use silencers if they wanted to.

eddie willers said...

and that Jewish holidays usually give them 3-4 additional weeks of peak demand each year.

OK...that made me laugh.

Humperdink said...

@Steve uhr. If you frequent gun ranges, a substantial portion of the population will be wearing hearing aids. And it's not from old age.

In my neighborhood, when I hear shooting, it's music to my hears. Of course, I live in the woods where target shooting is a regular weekend event. It is especially enjoyable when the music is generated by the Armalite Rifle 15, aka AR 15. I know I am in a safe neighborhood. Amazing how that works.

FullMoon said...
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Zach said...

One of my favorite movies, Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control used the circus as a visual metaphor for the Unknowable Other. There's a great quote (I think with elephants in the backgound): "I see you. You see me. I see you seeing me."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ky5r38c_U0

gadfly said...

Baraboo's Circus Parade just keeps on keeping on.

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages! Baraboo will commemorate its stupendous circus heritage as the historic home of the world-famous Ringling Bros. Circus with the 5th Anniversary of Baraboo’s Big Top Parade & Circus Celebration on Saturday, July 22, 2017.

The Big Top Parade, featuring over 75 circus and community entries, will begin at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 22, traveling around the downtown historic courthouse square district. Other family-friendly events are scheduled in the city that morning and throughout the weekend.

They even show elephants among the participants and they are not invisible. Do these folks still do the Milwaukee parade as well?