Recently I was thinking about Saturday afternoons while I was growing up. There was a television show that was a regular part of our family's Saturday. That show was "Big Top". On Saturdays, lunch was my Dad's responsibility. Dad would make us all coppacola (a spicy Italian ham) and eggs on a wedge, then we would sit down and we would watch the show together.
My recollections of "Big Top" are vague at best. I do remember the opening though. The camera would focus on the shows logo and then the logo would move slowly upward until you would see the face of a clown. The "Big Top" logo was printed on the top of the clown's head. I also seem to remember that the ringmaster would call to the circus band leader, ! "Mr. Brasile, if you will". or something to that effect, to star t the show or introduce an act.
I did a "Google" search for "Big Top". I didn't find a whole lot of information about the show, but I did find some. The majority of the information and pictures that I found came from two sources, the web sites for the Broadcast Pioneers Of Philadelphia (www.broadcastpioneers.com/bigtop.html), and for Dan Lurie (www.danlurie.com/). Mr. Lurie was the circus strongman. Another source that offered some information was IMDB, the Internet Movie Data Base (www.imdb.com/title/tt0042082/).
Here is some of what I learned...
"Big Top" first aired on July 1, 1950. It was broadcast by WCAU-TV, Channel 10 in Philadelphia. The show was sixty mi! nutes long and aired live. After its first few months on television, "Big Top" settled into its familiar Saturday afternoon slot from 12:00-1:00 P. M. In 1953, CBS began to air "Big Top" nationwide. It was sponsored by Sealtest , a dairy company. "Big Top's" audience was usually made up of Boy and Girl Scouts from the Philadelphia area. The show featured a live fifteen piece circus band under the direction of Joe Brasile, "The Brass King". I am not completely clear on this, but Hunt Brothers Circus may have been responsible with supplying the "Big Top" with some or all of its circus acts.
"Big Top" had a core cast consisting of seven regulars...
Bob Russell (Circus Barker) Jack Sterling (Ringmaster) - a well known radio personality and actor Dan Lurie (Circus Strongman) - he finished second overall in the Mr. America competition in 1942, 1943, & 1944 Ed McMahon (Clown) - he later became famous as Johnny Carson's straight man Chris Keegan (Clown) Barbera Cubberly (Majorette)
For Christmas Day in 1953, "Big Top presented a special one hour performance. The show aired live from 3:00-4:00 P. M. On that show among other acts were Professor George Keller with his cage act, The Coronas (a high wire act), the Quaker City String Band, and a special appearance by Santa Claus.
"Big Top" was nominated for two Emmy awards in 1953, and 1954 for "Best Children's Program". "Big Top's" last show was in September 1957. During its run, "Big Top" presented over 2100 circus acts. Here is the Sealtest "Big Top" Song/Jingle...
Now's the time to have some fun Lots of thrills for everyone Beneath the Sealtest Big Top
Clowns and acrob! ats are here Daring feats that you will cheer And Sealtest Ice Cream too!
While doing my "Google" search, I found on "You Tube" a full length video of a "Big Top" show that aired in 1950. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6o_h1b4g0U)
Also on "You Tube" I found a video for "Kelloggs Super Circus" from 1956. "Super Circus" was hosted by Claude Kerschner, and assisted by Mary Hartline. I don't remember that show at all. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODanACvvMHg)
Both the "Big Top" and Super Circus" videos can be downloaded fro! m the "You Tube" web site.
It has been quite a while since any circus, other then Cirque du Soleil, has appeared on television. I miss them. I would look forward to the highlights of the Ringling Brother Circus being televised each spring. There was also the occasional circus special, like the Moscow State Circus, to look forward to. I guess we have become too politically correct.
A recent posting on the Internet said that NBC is readying a circus themed show for this summer based on a highly rated European circus reality show featuring competition among celebrities. There are also rumors that ABC wants to bring back "Circus of the Stars".
Maybe hearing the names, "Big Top", and "Super Circus" after so many years will pique the interest of some of Blog's readers. Perhaps they have a memory of one of the shows or pictures they would care to share. I welcome any corrections or additions to the information that I have found. I am always anxious to learn more.