This year's circus features new bounce

This Just In ...

March 10, 2000|By Dan Rodricks

SIX WORDS I never thought I'd write, about something I never thought I'd see: eight Russian women on pogo sticks. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is back in town, once again, bringing to the Baltimore Arena (nee Civic Center) death-defying aerialists, dancing poodles, clowns in big pants, a guy in tight pants who does a backward somersault on a high wire, a motorcycling family inside a steel cage and ...

And eight Russian women on pogo sticks.

Sorry for the emphasis on what's listed in the Ringling media guide as "Pogo Stick Act," but it stunned my sleep-deprived eyes and jarred my weary midwinter mind. I had never experienced the likes of this before.

The media guide says the pogo act "defies description," but I'll try.

The women come bounding out of the wings to Jazzercise-type music, hitting the floor on their pogo sticks in rhythmic unison. Then they join up with a troupe of seven Brazilian men for an acrobatic act that includes -- get this -- martial arts.

I know it sounds weird, but it's good. Not your in-one-eye-and-out-the-other entertainment experience. Know what I mean?

The women, gymnasts who arrived in the United States in 1998, teamed up with the Brazilian guys and developed the pogo stick act over a five-month period in Vermont. (The only thing that strikes me as more bizarre than eight Russian women on pogo sticks is eight Russian women on pogo sticks in Vermont!)

Anyway, I want these women to feel welcome in Baltimore. Your act is strange, pogo women, but very entertaining. And as a guy who has sprained two ankles five or six times trying to sustain a bounce on a pogo stick, you have my admiration. Good show.

The rest of the circus? It's still a treat. There's a handsome and inexplicably serene-looking guy named Mark David who hangs by his heels from a swing high above the floor (no net). There's an excellent trapeze troupe from China, the Wuhan Flyers. There's the Human Comet, a hooded, husky guy in something like a Jiffy Lube jump suit who turns into a ball of fire near the ceiling of the arena, then free-falls into a big, flame-resistant mattress. There's Svetlana Shemsheeva, who somehow trained cats to perform with doves -- and not eat them. There are fabulous-looking horse acts. (If Ringling ever lost the lethargic tigers and sad-looking elephants, I bet it would experience no loss of gate.) There's an amazing Peruvian named Wilson Dominguez who runs for his life inside a massive, tumbling contraption called the Wheel of Wonder.

And there are eight Russian women on pogo sticks!

Is this a great country, or what?

'Homicide' props go online

It didn't take long for some of the "Homicide" props and wardrobe sold in Baltimore last week to get on eBay. There are dozens of items from the show's out-of-biz sale posted online. Sellers are asking $510 for a burned corpse (fake, of course) from a fourth-season episode; $197 for a Detective Bayliss necktie and $355 for one of his sport coats; $51 for Detective Pembleton's business card and $300 for his hat; $10 for a judge's robe; $41 for a Luther Mahoney crime-scene photo; $17 for one of Lt. Giardello's suits (Jos. A. Bank); and $5 for evidence tags.

Vibes from yesteryear

TJI cultural correspondent Joey Amalfitano reports: "Me and Maxine were excited for weeks. We practiced our cha-cha and slow drag dances. Finally, on a large Saturday night, we rode down to the Sparrows Point Country Club with Jerry and Wanda and strolled into an early 1960s time capsule -- a packed Buddy Deane record hop. Buddy is 75, most of his old 'committee members' from the TV show are in AARP, and I swear I thought I smelled Ben-Gay on the dance floor. But it was good vibes, great fun and a couple of rum and Cokes.

"That night I met a cat named Tony Warner, a former TV sports announcer in Little Rock, Ark., who is writing a book on Buddy. He started reporting early last year and needs to talk to a couple more committee members who were on the show, '57 to '64, including that little sweetie Mary Lou Raines who goes by another last name now and lives near Philadelphia. Warner says his book is a labor of love, and writing begins in summer. He had a photographer with him, Willie Allen. He shot the dance and the property where Etta Gowns once stood and Lee's of Broadway, favorite stores of the stylish kids on Deane's show. Me and Maxine were glad we practiced, 'cause we had a ball. And Jerry drove home."

Move over, Hillary

Laugh or Cry Dept.: First-graders at Carrolltowne Elementary in Eldersburg studied George Washington and Abraham Lincoln last month. A student teacher testing their knowledge found the 6-year-olds hip to presidential lives. They even knew the names of the respective first ladies -- Martha Washington and Mary Todd Lincoln. "Who is president today?" the teacher asked. "President Clinton," many replied. And President Clinton's wife? After a brief pause, one little boy thought he knew: "Monica."

Tracking the conductor

From Cereal Mom, TJI contributor and frequent light-rail rider: "Next time I ride the light rail and someone in a uniform asks to see my boarding pass, I'm going to ask to see the results of their last random drug test." is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. Letters can also be addressed to The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. The TJI hot line is 410-332-6166.

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