Lefsetz: Ringling Brothers Death Sign of the Times

I went at the old Madison Square Garden twice, maybe three times…

The last time I finally put my foot down and told my mother I didn’t actually like ballet and wasn’t going to go anymore.

Then my father took me to Madison Square Garden.

They used to have a sideshow. Well, not really – as in freaks and geeks – but in the low-ceiling basement you could walk by the chained elephants and gawk at the giant and I’d never been so scared in my life. Because this was 60 years ago, when safety laws were not as strict, when the only thing separating me from the animals was a couple of feet of air.

And I took a ring off the finger of the giant, I think the fee was 50 cents. I kept that gold plastic circle forever, at least until my mother turned my bedroom into her office and threw out not only that ring, but my World’s Fair hat, my baseball glove and…

I just heard it was the 50th anniversary of the first Super Bowl.

I remember it vividly, it was a curio not a must-see. I was at my friend Marc’s house, with him and his father and a buddy – that father and the buddy are gone – but it seems like it was yesterday. No one expected the AFL to win, but then only a couple of years later Broadway Joe showed us who’s boss and football eclipsed baseball and the Yankees sucked and it seemed like everything I knew was changing.

Then free agency came and Steinbrenner with his deep pockets, and suddenly everybody was a Yankees fan, because America loves a winner.

But most of us are losers.

Then again, my contemporaries solved that by giving everybody a trophy. And their kids played soccer, football was for the underclass. Unless you lived in the south, but northeasterners could never get over the accent, never mind the beliefs.

Friday Night Lights? Who’d pay for them?

Money was for academics, back when public schools ruled and you felt you could stay in the middle or move up a notch (before we found out the joke was on us) when an even younger generation got rich, and then those people we decried elected Trump and now even the circus has bitten the dust.

Many will say good riddance. That the animals were mistreated.

They probably were. But these same proprietors you’re putting out of business, the circus, the Sea Worlds, they’re just a harbinger for the rest of America, whose future was stolen when the elites decided they were in control of what’s right and wrong and…

I didn’t mean for this to become a political screed.

It’s just that Bridgeport, Connecticut, the metropolis next to where I grew up, was the home of P.T. Barnum. There was a museum. I remember going there and seeing the mummy, I don’t think they let you see mummies anymore.

And they don’t let you do so much stuff, because you might get hurt, whether it be physically or emotionally.

And I’d be lying if I told you I had any desire to go to the circus today, not having been in eons. However it used to be a rite of passage for young ‘uns, to not only be wowed, but to be ripped-off, to learn the ways of the world. I remember bugging my dad to buy me one of those flashlights everybody was twirling during the show and finally he did and it burned out before we got home.

That’s a lesson in America. Everything’s a con. It’s a giant magic show. And those in control are laughing all the while.

Now we’re pushing back a bit – we’re refusing to pay for billionaires’ stadiums.

But, I have to admit I’m no longer in control. I could be like the rest of my brethren, embracing vinyl records and physical books and trying to keep my head in the past, but the truth is the future is inevitable, as is change.

And the circus outlived not only its utility, but its audience, because you know for sure, if they were still making money they’d find a way to continue.

But they aren’t. People have stopped going.

They stopped watching football. They’ve stopped doing so much we used to.

But man, when the circus goes, I know it’s just a matter of time before I do too.

That I’m in the rearview mirror, that my memories are only that. It won’t be long before people will marvel that we had circuses at all.

Of course, the young disruptors will find a substitute. Kinda like Cirque du Soleil, which is now hurting too. Which I never liked, because the truth is some things just can’t go upscale. The circus was blue collar entertainment in a world where working with your hands earned you not only an honest living, but respect.

But now you’re a chump.

Like I said, I have no desire to go the show, but I wish it was still there. I remember reading about the Flying Wallendas in Reader’s Digest. Then again, that’s gone too – at least I think it is (actually, it’s not). The magazine went in and out of bankruptcy and the pastime of sitting at home reading in silence, that’s passe too.

The Big Top, with three rings, as American as apple pie.

That’s before everybody went gluten-free, sugar became anathema and people were proud to be vegan.

I no longer recognize the country I grew up in. And maybe that’s the way it’s always been. You grow older and…

I didn’t expect it to happen to me.

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9 Responses to Lefsetz: Ringling Brothers Death Sign of the Times

  1. miket. says:

    i used to think it would be really cool to fast-forward 50 – 100 years into the future, see all the wonderous marvels not even dreamed of in my time.

    today, i think i’d be afraid i wouldn’t recognize my own country.

    but lefsetz, it’s not about growing older and falling behind the times. the times, they are a-changin’ too fast for anyone to keep up.

  2. E.H. says:

    We’re seeing all sorts of American pasttimes go away. I guess people still go to the movies, I don’t understand why since there’s nothing to see. I’m really surprised there hasn’t been a collapse of movie theater chains.

    I went to that huge crossroads mall..it was daytime and I walked in and all the power was out and it had a Mexican consulate..all the anchors were gone and it was sad to see poor people milling about in an abandoned shopping mall. I sure wasn’t welcome..man that place was packed and THE PLACE TO GO in the late 80’s.

    Funny, coming back to the U.S. I noticed there isn’t that Friday and Saturday night fun there used to be. From what I remember that’s what everybody did back in the day..if you were poor, middle, upper middle..you all went out on the weekends and had fun at a myriad of places. Heck, it could have been the bowling alley but you still had fun. Drive-ins, bowling alleys, movie theaters, ball games, nightclubs, shopping malls, restaurants..and when you came home you had late night cable tv.

    Now everybody does everything at home on their smartphone($80-$120 a month), right?

  3. CG says:

    Very sad to see and hear…

  4. Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

    But isn’t this all a generational thing? Don’t all generations lament the changes they are seeing and how everything they saw as good during their time going away? I remember my grandparents and then parents doing it. Now, I catch myself doing the same thing.

    • E.H. says:

      It could be, but I think in the past the older generation could live vicariously through the young, thus keeping them young as well. Maybe that is what’s missing?

    • admin says:

      Definitely true, Guy…

      That said, for a century or two Ringling Brothers was an exception to that rule.

      Next up on the endangered species list: K-Mart and Sears

  5. Jack Springer says:

    This is what happens when liberals get their way about political correctiveness. What or who is next?

  6. Kerouac says:

    Rod Serling narration, Twilight Zone episode ‘Walking Distance’:

    [Martin Sloan, age 36, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things, but not in the one effort all men try, at some time in their lives… trying to go home again.

    Like all men, perhaps there will be an occasion – maybe a summer night sometime – when he’ll look up from what he’s doing, and listen to the distant music of a calliope and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past.

    And, perhaps across his mind, there’ll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then too, because he’ll know that it is just an errant wish, some wisp
    of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that would cross a man’s mind – that are a part… of The Twilight Zone. ]

    Who says you can’t go home again: live in the past… as Kerouac, those ne’er leave remain, fore’er.


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