News of the Week: The Circus Leaves Town, an Alligator Visits, and We Have a New President 

Goodbye Ringling Brothers

Circus
I went to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus once in my life, during a class trip in the late ’70s, and the only memory I have of it is of my friend Pete irritating the vendors. Our teachers specifically told us that if we wanted some tonic (which is what we in New England used to call soft drinks, and maybe some still do), we had to say “pop.” Of course, when you tell middle-school kids to do something, you can pretty much guarantee they’ll do the opposite, which is what Pete did. He told the vendor he wanted tonic, and when the vendor said to him “we call it pop,” he smirked and said, “well, I want tonic!”

The famed circus announced this week that it’s closing after a history that stretches back 146 years. Here’s a great Post Perspective on Ringling Brothers from David G. Wittels and Jeff Nilsson.

That’s Not an Alligator, That’s a Dinosaur

This looks like one of those fake viral videos that someone makes and we all believe it until it’s debunked a day later, but it’s 100% real. I have no idea why those people are just standing there filming it.

House of Wax

What is President Abraham Lincoln worth? $8,500.

I’m talking about his wax likeness, which went for that amount this week during an auction of wax presidents at the Hall of Presidents and First Ladies Museum in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (the museum closed in November). Check out the pics of former presidents and first ladies being hauled off in this USA Today article. Bess Wallace Truman and Mary Arthur McElroy look like they’re going to star in a weird remake of Thelma & Louise.

Lincoln was the top seller, by the way. The wax version of Theodore Roosevelt went for $8,000, and Jackie Kennedy went for only $550. Outgoing president Barack Obama brought in $2,000.

RIP Miguel Ferrer, William Peter Blatty, Gene Cernan, Dick Gautier, Tony Rosato, and Tommy Allsup

Miguel Ferrer was a veteran TV actor, known for everything from NCIS: LA and Crossing Jordan to Twin Peaks and Desperate Housewives. He also appeared in Magnum P.I., ER, Will & Grace, Lateline, the Bionic Woman reboot from 2007, and dozens of other live-action and animated shows. You also saw him in movies like Iron Man 3, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Robocop, Traffic, Mulan, and many more. He’ll appear in the new Twin Peaks series on Showtime in May.

Ferrer came from a talented family. His father was actor Jose Ferrer, his mother was Rosemary Clooney, and his cousin is George Clooney. Ferrer passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer. He was 61.

I had no idea that William Peter Blatty had written the screenplays for the Pink Panther film A Shot in the Dark and What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? Of course, he’s most famous for writing the novel The Exorcist, which spawned several movies and a current TV series. Blatty passed away at the age of 89.

Gene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon (but hopefully not the last, period). He did it during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. He later went on to help develop the Apollo-Soyuz space mission. Cernan died on Monday at the age of 82.

You might know Dick Gautier from a million things, including the original production of Bye Bye Birdie in 1960 and TV shows like When Things Were Rotten, Mr. Terrific, Charlie’s Angels, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Love, American Style, as well as dozens of cartoons. But he is probably best remembered by classic TV fans as Hymie the Robot on Get Smart, even though he only appeared in six episodes of the series. Gautier passed away at the age of 85.

Tony Rosato was a comedian and actor who appeared on both SCTV and Saturday Night Live, as well as providing the voice of Luigi on the Super Mario Bros. TV series. He passed away of a heart attack at the age of 62.

Guitarist Tommy Allsup’s life was saved because of the flip of a coin. He was going to get on the plane that carried Buddy Holly and other musicians on February 3, 1959, but had to take a bus when he lost a coin toss to Richie Valens. Flying in snow, the plane crashed, killing everyone on board. Allsup went on to work with people like The Ventures, Roy Orbison, and Willie Nelson and produced several albums for Asleep at the Wheel. He passed away at the age of 85.

In brighter news, Betty White turned 95 this week!

​Winter Books

In our current issue, we pick some great reads for curling up on the couch with on these cold winter nights, including J.P. Delaney’s thriller The Girl Before, Kevin R.C. Gutzman’s Thomas Jefferson Revolutionary, Christopher Bohjalian’s The Sleepwalker, Douglas Preston’s The Lost City of the Monkey God, and Portraits of Courage, which showcases the paintings of George W. Bush. He’s actually quite good!

To that list I would add Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. Yes, I know it was released in 1957, but I’m just now catching up with it (I’m a little behind). It’s a really great read. It’s a book of humorous essays on family and work life by Jean Kerr (you may have seen the popular Doris Day movie), who wrote several pieces for The Saturday Evening Post, including “Children Really Are Not People,” which is included in the book (under the title “Where Did You Put the Aspirin?”). It’s out of print (a travesty), but you can search for a used copy online at AbeBooks.

This Week in History

Andy Rooney Born (January 14, 1919)

The acclaimed writer and 60 Minutes essayist talked to The Saturday Evening Post in 1984 about his career, how he handles his fame, and how woodworking is like writing.

Ronald Reagan Becomes Oldest President (January 20, 1981)

The 40th Commander-in-chief — a famous midlife career changer — was 69 years old when he took the oath of office. Donald Trump becomes our oldest president elected at the age of 70 when he puts his hand on the Lincoln Bible today.

USS Nautilus, First Nuclear-Powered Sub, Launches (January 21, 1954)

The submarine was decommissioned in 1980 after 26 years of service.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Benjamin Franklin’s Birthday

The talented Founding Father was born on January 17, 1706, and he’s partly responsible for the existence of The Saturday Evening Post.

Feeding the Presidents

By the time you read this, we will have a new president. I thought it would be good to link to some recipes that past presidents enjoyed.

Here’s George Washington’s Morning Corn Cakes, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Vegetable Soup, Lady Bird Johnson’s Pedernales River Chili, and for dessert, White House pastry chef Bill Yosses’ recipe for Apple Pie, a favorite of the Obama family.

I mentioned above that Donald Trump would be sworn in today with his hand on the Lincoln Bible. Did you know that Lincoln loved gingerbread men? He did! He even mentioned it at the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Here’s the recipe.

As for Trump, we don’t know what his favorite meals will be in the White House, so until we learn more, we’ll just have to Make Vegetables Great Again.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events​

National Handwriting Day (January 23)

Here’s what I think you should do next week: buy some stationery and some stamps and write an actual letter to a friend or family member, or even a company you’re mad at for some reason. It doesn’t matter, just write something. In this day and age of texting and short social media posts, you’ll be amazed at how good it feels, and the person who receives the letter will be shocked and happy. Handwriting still matters, no matter what some people may say.

Chinese New Year (January 28)

The Year of the Rooster begins in 2017, and the celebration lasts until February 15, 2018.

The Last of the Greatest Show on Earth

When it combined with the Barnum & Bailey circus in 1919, Ringling Brothers proclaimed itself “The Greatest Show on Earth.” But this May, the show will take down its tents for the last time.

Ringling’s decision won’t surprise many Americans, who can’t imagine how circuses could stay alive today. How could trapeze artists, high-wire walkers, bareback horse riders, subdued lions, waltzing elephants, and clowns still make money? Today they must compete with video games and computer-animated blockbuster movies. Ticket sales have declined sharply, and operating costs have steadily risen. Yet these weren’t the critical factors.

The end came when the circus, under pressure from animal-rights groups, agreed to stop using elephant acts on tour. When the elephants departed, so did the big audience numbers.

In the past, circuses rode out the hard times. As the December 2, 1944, article “Jinx Over the Big Top” shows, they had survived the Depression, fires, striking workers, and — as the article explains — implacable jinxes.

But Ringling couldn’t survive a public that had become uncomfortable with the idea of training wild animals to perform tricks.

The circus is not dead. It’s only Ringling Brothers that’s folding up its big top. Smaller circuses will continue to tour the country, setting up alongside rodeos, state fairs, and mall parking lots. They’ll feature the traditional high-wire walkers, trapeze artists, and, of course, clowns. But any circus had better have a replacement for its trained animal acts, because they won’t be coming back.

 

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Read the article from the December 2, 1944 issue of the Post.

Featured image: SEPS