Fall of the Big Top: The Vanishing American Circus

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McFarland & Company, 2008 - History - 231 pages
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Once an eagerly awaited spectacle, the traveling circus????????????that miracle of red wagons, trumpeting elephants and spangled trapeze artists that slipped into town at dawn and disappeared by midnight????????????has all but vanished from the American landscape. This work explores circus history from 1793 to the present and addresses the forces of modern culture (such as the popularity of Cirque du Soleil, and pressure from the animal rights movement) that are pushing big top shows toward what the author calls "circus ballet." Numerous photographs and in-depth interviews conducted with show owners, performers and directors enrich the narrative. Overall, the book reveals a sobering contrast between circuses of yesterday and today, even as it honors the outstanding performers who created, and have sustained, the enduring appeal of the circus.

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Contents

Preface
1
The Big One Falls
5
Back Before Barnum
18
American Heyday
29
Brother Can You Spare a Ring?
44
Spectacles Unsublime
56
Mavericks on the Midway
66
Cirque du Invasion
77
Gunther in Black
132
There Go the Shriners
139
And the Band Did Not Play On
148
Minus Clyde Beatty
158
This Way to the Ballet
169
Bumpin Back with a Voice
184
Big Apple Delicious
194
And in the Only Ring That Matters
206

Encore for the Eighties
88
Vanishing Visions
98
Laliberte Latitudes
104
Ringling in Retreat
114
Reparations for Jumbo?
124
Chapter Notes
221
Bibliography
225
Index
227
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Entertainment journalist and critic David Lewis Hammarstrom has written articles for The Christian Science Monitor, American Skating World and Variety. He lives in California.

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