Amid declining attendance and controversy about animal welfare, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is closing for good in 2017 (it made its final stop in Richmond in March). But 45 years ago, in the then-new Richmond Coliseum, the circus was quite the draw. Here are snippets from RTD coverage in 1972, when the circus made a weeklong visit that February – its first trip to Richmond in 14 years.
June 6 – Box-office business was so heavy at the Richmond Coliseum during its first year of operation that the planned celebration in honor of its one-millionth ticket buyer was overlooked.
Larry Thomas, director of community facilities, announced yesterday that from the Coliseum's opening last Aug. 24 through April 30, 1,053,433 people were admitted to the arena, once feared to be a white elephant.
Among the supershows, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus drew the most people (112,659). Next in popularity was Disney on Parade (70,145); followed by Holiday on Ice, the opening attraction (67,953); the Loretta Lynn Rodeo (24,793); and the Lipizzan Stallions (22,193).
Of the musical attractions, Elvis Presley and the Jackson 5 tied for first place, each selling out with audiences of 11,791. Isaac Hayes was a close third, with 11,372 in the audience. "Jesus Christ, Superstar" drew 10,640 for its first performance and 10,093 when it returned.
Other big attractions were Three Dog Night (10,807), Aretha Franklin (10,192), Sonny & Cher (9,909), the Osmond Brothers (8,693), Blood, Sweat and Tears (7,876), Alice Cooper (7,753), Chicago (6,939), Neil Diamond (6,414) and Santana (6,073).
Feb. 25 – Maudie Flippen, 25, and Sandra Hayes, 21, are the two girl clowns with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus that is playing at the Coliseum through Monday.
This is Miss Flippen's second season as a circus clown and the first season for Miss Hayes.
Because they are the only two female clowns among some 30 male clowns, Miss Flippen and Miss Hayes are excluded from the Clown Alley dressing areas. They keep their wardrobe trunks and makeup supplies in the showgirls' dressing room. The sign outside the door says "Ladies Dressing Room – 2 Girl Clowns."
While "Flip" and "Sandy" make their faces look funny, the showgirls are in front of lighted mirrors making their faces beautiful.
Feb. 24 – Ten million scintillating sequins, tens of thousands of radiant rhinestones and miniature mirrors, miles and miles of embroidery, and enough plumes to feather many a flock all embellish the million-dollar costume collections of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The show's 1,000 costumes must not only glitter and delight audiences, they must be durable enough to take the wear of sometimes precarious performances.
Joe and Hanna Hodgini, wardrobe supervisors, readily admit that the circus is forever in their blood. They once were performers themselves.
Costuming the men isn't all Joe Hodgini has to worry about.
Trying to get an elephantine pink sequined hat atop an elephant's head before the ringmaster blows his whistle is quite an elephant-size job.