Big Top Boss: John Ringling North and the Circus
by
David Lewis Hammarstrom
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ISBN Number: 0252019016
Format:
Hardback
Number of Pages:
384
Publication Date: 1992 - first edition
Publisher:
University of Illinois Press

A brilliant, eclectic showman, circus king John Ringling North achieved international fame as a talent scout, booking the likes of Gargantua the Great and Unus, the man who stood on his forefinger. He once engaged George Balanchine to choreograph a ballet for elephants, with Igor Stravinsky composing the music.

Big Top Boss explores the remarkable career of North, who ran Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for thirty years. Using as a backdrop North's flamboyant lifestyle and the lavish spectacles he brought to the big top, David Lewis Hammarstrom details in lively and dramatic fashion how North guided the circus through adversities ranging from depressions and wars to crippling labour strikes and rapidly changing trends in American entertainment. This first balanced picture of North's controversial life reveals how his popular image as an impresario was shattered in the wake of his bitterly opposed 1956 decision to strike the tents for good and move the circus indoors. It also shows that North's circus was not artistically run down and losing money when he sold it in 1967 but in fact had been re-established as a profitable enterprise that earned first-rate critical notices and was attracting larger crowds each year.

Hammarstrom has interviewed a host of key circus figures including North himself; his brother, Henry; his famous general manager, Arthur M. Concello; and many performers, directors, and department heads who were involved with the circus when North owned and operated it. Big Top Boss also sheds new light on North's personal life, giving proper significance to his long-term relationship with Countess Ida von Zedlitz-Trutzschler, the onetime ballerina with whom he lived for nearly thirty years.

Condition: Mint with mint dustwrapper.

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