Ever since Circus World exited Orlando's peripheral amusement ring, the corporate mongers of Universal and Disney have remained busy only with the exploitative fiberglass of imaginary cartoonishness. There's been no side show, no humility, and worst of all, no risk.
Thank god, then, for the occasional visit of the three-ring Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Sure, the dirty-teen PETA pundits hover with their Save the Elephants posters and, when I lived in Tallahassee, more than one person fell to a drunken midnight death at FSU's circus-training ground by way of the unmonitered trapeze. But where else is a kid to enjoy so much cotton candy, senseless daredevilism and sheer panty hose, all enhanced by the smell of performance poo?
Planet Hollywood, of course, where bathroom attendants armed with cologne stand ready to exact revenge on your tipping habits. ("Remind me never to do that again," you might say to yourself upon your exit with an itchy nose. Spray cologne, that is; not poo.) Tonight the Planet welcomes Ringling's new hood ornament -- and seventh-generation circus performer -- Bello, for a spirited, small-staged representation of his coveted role as star of the age-old traveling show. Not really a celebrity, sure. But certainly good for an almost-celebrity belch and a giggle, right?
That all depends on what it is that rattles your tummy. Bello, you see, is a resounding failure in this particular venue, beading sweat across his forehead while understandably annoyed fry-batter consumers are trying to peacefully wind down their day in the presence of more exploitative fiberglass -- this time, a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Downey Jr.'s bronzed heroin rigging. (Oh, to dream.) Bello is not false enough, it seems, even though his pointed hair is shellacked to the ceiling, and his boxy, oversized tuxedo is laced with lame lamé. Deer are more engaging in headlights than this little ball of freckled apology.
"I am a comic daredevil," Bello chokes from up front. "And these are wooden balls." (Ahem.) "I have to tell you that they're wooden, or else you wouldn't believe me."
Oh, I believe you, Bello.
The exhibition kicks off with Bello tooling through some unimpressive rudiments of the juggling profession, and I guess we're supposed to believe that wooden balls are slightly less malleable than their rubber counterparts. That's the dare to his devil. That's the trick. That, and a follow-up headscratcher that sees Bello retrieving 12 balls from his trick bag ("These are twelve balls," he says. Yeah, yeah, we know), then drop three, then juggle, comedically and daringly, the nine remaining balls in sealed-up nettings of three. Trickling applause follows, while behind Bello a screen distractingly flashes "Happy Birthday Muhammed Ali." Absurdity reigns.
And while it might be fair to say that Bello's second trick amounts to withstanding the wince inspired by his awkward miming with a suitcase -- something like watching a 12-year-old hit himself over and over -- his face-paint dance doesn't really have a beginning, or an end. Alas, the suitcase opens to reveal a mini-scooter. Three botched attempts to ride the bike across the carpeted four feet of the stage only result in a few more beads for the pancaked brow, and eventually he just gives up. Sort of like I always do. I start believing myself to be a little too Bello around the edges -- what with my failed crowd-pleasing, failed wardrobe and typically failing up-do, I'm a shoe-in for his stand-in.
"Bello, meet Billy," says the publicist, by now wary of my pointed observational tactics. A sheepish hello is basically all that follows, as I start to realize that any comments regarding hair or personal failure would probably bounce off of his rubber (or is it wood?) and stick to me. And just as I'm cowering away, back into my contextual distance, said publicist smiles a big smile followed by, "I recently saw some scary video footage of you!"
Really. Oh my god. You're kidding right?
As I start to wonder just how much of my flaccid, er, person she might have eyed from a previous column exercise that found me and the photographer at my right bare-ass naked in the presence of porn stars, she gives up her arsenal. Turns out a mutual friend merely taped me executing perfect microphone fellatio in a particularly uninhibited (meaning about 1:30 a.m.) moment a few months back. I query about the fellatio bit, saying "fellatio" a little loud for the comfort of the serious folk at the front-and-center Make a Wish Foundation table, and I catch the eye of one youthful wisher. Something like a Cindy-Lou-Who regret crosses my face, and I whisk off toward the bar.
"Do you guys want something to eat?" the publicist asks. "I never see you eat."
"Any chance you could purée that in a blender and pour it over ice?" spites the photographer and pudging ex. "Maybe then he won't know he's eating."
Yeah, you can find me ribbed-up to the exploitative fiberglass bar. In the third ring of my personal circus hell.