Welcome to Buckles Blog. This site is for the discussion of Circus History all over the world.
This the front cover of the first Circus World Press Kit.Not too many pictures but plenty of printed material, mostly about Irvin Feld's background and credentials.
3/10/2009 07:21:00 AM
we should definitely go for a Circus World reunion--It was fun to be in the middle of the great big dream for a year or two before transferring to the DC offices--lots of good memories and the showcase (tented building) space alone was a triumph with an incredible IMAX film which pre dated by a decade or more the IMAX theatres that are now so popular; i wonder what happened to the circus film they made for it?
I was their the day it opened.I was 15 or 16 years old.Met Irvin Feld and Allen J.Bloom very briefly.Too bad the best laid plans never came to fruition. I later worked their for a very short time and met Don Foote. Never hsad the nerve to talk to Buckles or his lovely wife.I had a crush on her. Many years later I met Buckles at a Tommy Hannaford Shrine date at the Orlando Arena.
there were many artists and designers working on the Circus World project--some very talented people. It must have cost a fortune. They designed everything, from banners to stationery to merchandise. a lot of the original creative team and the park management came from Disney--of course the Disney management people weren't big on circus folks so relations were often strained. Buckles will remember. I was a bit of a lone dog in the original Orlando offices (before we permanently moved to the site) because i came from the Irvin/Allen camp and all the rest were theme park people--Chappie was in the same boat. Once we moved to Haines City it was more fun as the circus people were there and we added more circus types to the front office, like Glen Graves (a character!), as head of group sales, whose father I believe was once the prop boss on the tented Ringling show. Jim Hergen, a VP-Sales of NBC for years (and the guy who sold the ads for the circus TV specials), was lulled from retirement to run the place and relocate his (wonderful..and brave) family from New York City. Jim was an elegant, big city guy who was used to the executive suite and the network style. I think that the obstacles he had to deal with were more than frustrating. He and Chappie both bought homes in nearby Winter Haven next to Cypress Gardens. As I recall, Jim's son and a friend, Jeffrey, in his early 20s at the time, was in a terrible motorcyle accident in Winter Haven and was forever disabled--a real family tragedy.
The most horrifying part of the IMAX movie was the shot done from atop Tony and Pio Nock, Jr.'s swaypole.The swaying back and forth AS IF YOU WERE DOING IT still sends a beer mug frosty chill down my spine.Wasn't the name of their act PILATUS?It took me many years before I could watch a swaypole act again.
I remember the IMAX movie...the first one I ever saw...but not in much detail. So I was delighted when I found out that there was going to be a screening of one of the only copies of the film at the Al Ringling Theatre in Baraboo during the Clown College reunion last fall. Unfortunately, cannister that was supposed to contain the film instead turned out to contain a rather faded travelogue about Monte Carlo containing a couple of minutes of old circus festival footage. Needless to say it was a bit of a disappointment. I'd LOVE to see the Circus World film again if a copy exists.
Tony and Pio performed the swaypole act as the Pinotos, if I remember correctly. I worked for a year at the attraction in the participation circus and filled in for Pat Lane in the flying act on his day off. I first met Buckles there when just the showcase was open. All the great people I met there and worked with, all the nights at the HoJo's bar, and all the good times spent there. I remember so much sitting on the bleachers for participation circus with none other than Irving Feld - alone - and him asking me how I was doing and what I felt about the park. Kenneth and company need to think back about his approach - showman first and businessman second insted of trying to reinvent something that was never broken.So many great times and so many great people. Buckles and Barbra, Jewell New, Murphy James, Richard Fick, Chico, Manuel and Hugo Zunegia, Rigor Mortis, Gary H., The Coronas Family, Jorge DelMorale, Mario Gaona, Victor ("you high enough but you no high enough") Gaona and so many more including the folks at Florida Camp Inn where so many of us lived. I can't remember everyone. What a glorious place this should have been.This old body does not turn triples anymore, does not walk the wire, does not love the experience of working in partnership with incredible exotic animals any less. but remembers the joy of being in the shadow of such greatness for a brief moment of of my life.Warren
I remember the opening--I was there with John Hurdle, the curator of the Ringling Circus Museum at the time. I remember two parts of the impressive IMAX film: the opening where one saw sky and at the bottom of the screen some land. Slowly, a massive-looking elephant rose from the land to face the audience. Very impressive start to the film! The other was the sequence shot from the platform of the Gaona act and the camera actually going out with the swing of the flybar and making a slow-motion somersault. Wow to both for they are not forgotten after 35 years!My other two recollections of Circus World are from when I worked in the Library at Baraboo. Chappie had hired me but just a couple of months after my start their was an all-staff meeting at 8:30 one morning in the lounge area as one entered the library building. I was one of the last to arrive and could immediately tell that something was afoot as there were many worried faces, big staff meetings at CWM were not the style. It was then that Chap announced his resignation to go to Florida effective the end of summer. Stunned looks. That summer he was busy trying to recruit his successor and I remember a fellow that came up from the Texas State Fair. The other memory was that we later had a bunch of park designers using the library and making lots of sketches from the many photos in the library. One fellow didn't quite draw something correct in the photo he saw and I pointed out some detail. His response was that "we don't deal with things as they were but rather how people think they were." Never forgot that as it is the challenge faced by the historian! Dick FlintBaltimore
Hi Jerry Disney folks were never part of the park elements The group that Mattel brought in when they took the whole project away from Irvin & Co were from "Grand Ol Opry" It was only after such dismal results were nearly completed that Mattel came back to Irvin to send an emergency creative team to try to patch things up on a shoestring budget as most of the allotment was gone I was there along with some of the greatest folks in Ringling then recent history Hope all is well with you Chic
Chic:not to be difficult, but i was there as early as '73 and the original team Irvin hired was from Disney, headed by Dick Evans, who was a Disney Park executive and later went on to become president of Madison Sq. Garden; Evans brought a number of his Disney associates with him.
Hi Jerry,just want to say hello to you after all this years. You always did a fantastic job and I remember you very well.
I came to WQTs in the middle of 1973, working for Doc Henderson. He had hired me out of the dead park, "World of Animals" in Texas, when we sold them 3 elephants.Rex Williams got the other male. Doc told me then that they were building a new Circus themed park with an animal park with it. I worked at WQT's taking care of hoofstock and the gorilla, then Buckles came and took over the elephants from Hugo.I then transfered to Buckles crew and we delivered the herd to "Circus World" in Feb of 74. I went on to "Great Adventure" in NJ, and on to Africa to pick up 25 baby elephants. I stayed up there for 2 yrs then came back to "Circus World", where Jewell New had the lion act and Buckles had the elephants. I also inherited the Menagerie Supt job and Elephant ride from Buckles. The park had another makeover at that time in 76. We then went on the road with the Blue Show for 78. God I loved that place!
Sorry Jerry I would love to chat with you about some of the details Weren't the original team replaced at the very start I (half) remember meetings in Hawthorne where some of Mattel folks got pretty unpleasant with Allen who was trying to protect the project for the team I was brought out there a few times to do our own (pardon the expression) dog & pony for the Mattel corporate folks (a mind is a terible thing to lose) I may have some of the sequence of events details confused Best Chic
hello, Henry:how are you and what are you up to?lots of water under the bridge since the good old days but here we are still doing what we do!Chic:Yes, i think the Dick Evans Disney team departed soon after we opened CW Showcase and we had various General Managers parade thru; i remember being loaned out at least twice from the traveling shows to camp out in Haines City and help relaunch the park with various new attractions...including a side show, magic show, participation circus and the indoor circus.
Thanks Jerry I think the best of it were the Imax film and the "Circus Day Theater" after the rehash and cleanup but so many of the other elements never seemed to bring the crowds that were hoped for The last of what I remember as a last ditch effort to salvage some of my poor "Monte Carlo" show (I designed & created all of the physical elements) was such a dismall failure that it it was partly what led me to reduce my involvement with the entire organization (my choice) Chic
Hi jerry,send me a email to firstname.lastname@example.org I remember when we did the IMAX film, it was done in Texas and California. When the filmed the Elephant walk in the rain in Dallas(the only scene I`m in)we actually had to walk a couple extra miles so the could enough footage. We where not to impressed because we had to stop all the time so the could re wrap there cameras in plastic bags to protect them from the water.
It's interesting to see the name of Dick Evans associated with the park. I was working for the Opryland entertainment complex in Nashville when he came on board as president and COO of the company. I believe he had been hired from Madison Square Garden and I'm sure he's had some success in business but it would seem that theme parks are not his forte. When he came on board at Opryland, Nashville was the number one tourist destination in Tennessee, the company owned 2 theme parks, a 1000+ room 4 star hotel that included an 18-hole golf course, a campground, 3 cable television networks (including a production facility in Nashville that pretty much operated 24/7), a showboat, a chain of themed restaurants, around 20 television and radio stations, 2 publishing companies, 7 newspapers, 2 of the nations' best live entertainment venues, and seemed poised for more growth. Two years later, almost everything except the hotel and a couple of radio stations had been sold or shuttered, the world-class theme park had been bulldozed to build a shopping mall, Dick Evans had "resigned to pursue other interests" (which usually translates to "he took his loot and bailed before the tar and feathers came out")and Nashville's tourism industry had suffered a blow from which it has never recovered.I know there were a lot of factors that led to the failure of Circus World but I find it interesting that the same man was involved with 2 failed park operations. Even though it's been gone for over 20 years I still get a little sad when I drive down I-4 and see the shopping center that now occupies the CW site (another coincidence that a shopping center also stands on the former Opryland site?).
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