Mar 092017
 

On the weekend of March 4th and 5th, I was honored to share a stage with some veteran as well as many very promising young circus artists. I travelled to Brattleboro, Vermont, where the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) presented two performances of a delightful Circus Spectacular Gala and invited me to host as the ringmaster for both shows.  Serenity Smith Forchion and Elsie Smith, the founders of NECCA, brought together a fabulous and diverse group of performers, from hand balancers to rola bola masters.  They came from far and wide, from Canada to Tennessee, and all of the performers were somehow affiliated with the NECCA school as teachers or professional trainees.  Enjoy some photographs of the acts in action below:

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people on stage and text

Photo from NECCA’s Facebook page

The Circus Spectacular, performed at the vaudeville gem Latchis Theater, was a gala to raise money for a new building under construction for the school, as NECCA’s popularity grows and their facilities expand.  I was happy to participate in this wonderful venture!   And what a blast, to spend a few days onstage and backstage with these performers.

The acts included NECCA’s Advanced Youth Performance Troupe opening the show with a charivari, Alicia Dawn on the cloud swing, Jan Damm & Ariele Ebacher’s eccentric partner acrobatics act, and Liv Morrow on aerial straps.  Jan Damm reappeared in the second half on his rola bola, along with Molly Graves on aerial rope, “Kinetic Kristin” Leophard performing on the cyr wheel, with Ariana Ferber Carter, a Vermont local, sharing her contortion act.  Mario Diamond, a mime from Quebec who has performed on five continents, had two performance slots in the show.  They were true circus folk, who had performed with such companies as Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey, Cirque Eloise, Cirque du Soleil, the Bindlestiff Family Circus, the New Pickle Circus, and Vermont’s own Circus Smirkus.  Troy Wunderle, the Artistic Director of Circus Smirkus, performed a beautiful version of the breakaway bike (you might remember this act from Justin Case at the Big Apple Circus). Rounding out the performances were hand balancer Marieke Dailey, Doug Stewart on aerial rope, a juggling duet by Tony Duncan & Melissa Knowles, and the identical twin sister and co-Artistic Directors Elsie and Serenity on double trapeze.

Jan 312017
 

Dear friends and family,

There will be an auction on February 7th for the physical assets and the trademarked name of the Big Apple Circus. This is very exciting for me personally, as it gives me hope that the Big Apple Circus could be revived under new management. No matter what, I’m excited to open this new chapter in the story of the BAC. Sharing some good memories with this photo of the BAC BIG TOP AT LINCOLN CENTER AT NIGHT – look for the two strings of lights on top of the tent. Photo of the Big Apple Circus at night, in the heart of Manhattan, at Lincoln Center by Michael LeClair c.1992.

 

BAC tent at LC

 

Dec 092016
 

Hello everyone,

I had a ball on Friday night at the Metropolitan Room performing in my new cabaret THE TALL AND THE SHORT OF IT with dazzling singing partner Dana Mierlak.  In addition to performing a few of  old favorites, we threw in a few new solos, including my interpretation of “Try To Remember” and her show-stopping rendition of “The Girl In 14G.”  I loved working with her. The duets that we did were the highlight for me.
I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend an evening singing for my friends and family, and I was delighted to see so many familiar faces in the audience.  If you couldn’t make it, here are a few photos from the event:
We're two lost souls, on the highway of life!

We’re two lost souls, on the highway of life!

Me doing what I do best -- announcing!

Me doing what I do best — announcing!

Dana performing "The Girl In 14G"

Dana performing “The Girl In 14G”

This was the second time I’ve performed at the Metropolitan Room. Last Year, we threw a sold-out benefit performance of PAUL BINDER RISKS HIS LIFE, and this year it felt like coming home to perform in a familiar space. Last year, I thought to myself, “Gosh, this would be great to do again.” And lucky me, I did! The new show provided a unique format for myself and Dana to share stories about how “it’s difficult to be tall” (Paul) and “…average in stature” (Dana, 5 feet in heels). She’s also half my age.

As always, it was a pleasure to perform with Dennis Buck, our brilliant accompanist. Dennis’ immense skill and musical acumen make him invaluable on and offstage.
I hope you were lucky enough to join us, and if you weren’t, I hope you can come along next time!
Nov 042016
 

 

Me and Roberta Fabiano singing "Landmark State of Mind." Photo credit to New York Social Diary

Singing with guitarist Roberta Fabiano of the Peter Duchin Orchestra: “Landmark State of Mind” (our apologies to Billy Joel). Photo credit to New York Social Diary

This past Wednesday, November 2nd, I had the immense pleasure of emceeing the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s annual Living Landmarks Gala at the Plaza Hotel Ballroom. This is special for me because, as many of you know, Michael Christensen and myself were honored by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2002 as New York City “Living Landmarks” for our work with the Big Apple Circus.  At the time, Liz Smith was the emcee of their annual Gala at the Plaza, but last year she passed the baton on to me. I’m honored to do it once again this year. It’s a thrill!

 

Peg Breen and Lloyd Zuckerberg at the Gala. Photo credit to Whom You Know

Chairman Lloyd Zuckerberg and President Peg Breen at the Gala. Photo credit to Whom You Know

 

 

It’s the best party in town, because it’s New Yorkers who love New York honoring people who love New York. The honorees this year were Frank Bennack & Mary Polan, Barbara Taylor Bradford & Robert Bradford, Nina & Tim Zagat, Larry Leeds, and Wynton Marsalis.  What an honor to share the stage with these people who have had such a profound impact on the city we all love.  I even got to sing a rewritten version of Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” — “I’m in a Living Landmark State of Mind!” The entire evening was gracefully organized by Peg Breen.  I collaborated with my good friend Robbie Libbon on jokes that we could insert into a script that we thought could use additional humor. Here’s my favorite gag of the evening:

“We’ve got a couple of CEOs, an MD, a CFO, a PhD, even an OBE…to add to the long lost of SOBs from past years — no, no, I’m just kidding — there’s no CFO.”

Here are some photos of the event:

 

Shelley and myself after the ball. Photo credit to Peachy Deegan at Whom You Know

Me and the great jazz trumpet player Wynton Marsalis. Photo credit to New York Social Diary

Here I am with the great jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. Photo credit to New York Social Diary

 

 

Not everyone has the opportunity to attend the Living Landmarks Galas, but all of you can come to my next cabaret performance! It is a ONE NIGHT ONLY event at THE METROPOLITAN ROOM, on DECEMBER 2ND at 7PM.  After a successful benefit performance of PAUL BINDER RISKS HIS LIFE at the Metropolitan Room last year, we’re bringing a new cabaret: THE TALL AND THE SHORT OF IT!  I will be joined by the dazzling Dana Mierlak in the new show THE TALL AND THE SHORT OF IT. We will share a few songs, a few stories, and a few jokes about how “it’s difficult to be tall” (Paul) and “…average in stature” (Dana, 5 feet in heels).  We can’t wait to see you there! Tickets are available here.

Sep 242016
 

 

Showfolks of Sarasota

Showfolks of Sarasota

Well I’m a couple of weeks behind, but I want you all to know about a wonderful evening I spent at the Showfolks Club of Sarasota in Sarasota, Florida. First of all, let me say that the club is a very special place. (I am a lifetime member, although I think they didn’t expect me to live this long.) The walls are covered in photos of circus performers, dating back to the 1930’s, many signed by the artists. It is a haven for many of us who worked in the circus business.

For the second year in a row, I offered to do a benefit cabaret performance for the club, so I wanted to share some of the highlights.

I partnered with the wonderful musical comedienne Dana Mierlak, and we called our show Big and Little. I’m six feet tall, Dana’s five (in heels). Also, she’s half my age. It made for fun banter, i.e.:

PAUL: I’m Paul, the tall one.

DANA: Dana. … Average in stature.

And:

DANA: We were both seven years old when we saw our first Broadway show. But of course his was in 1949, and mine was in 1989.

showfolks-cabaret-2

“So if baby, I’m the bottom, you’re the top!”

We had a ball, and it was a great success. Here are some photographs.

I’d love to make it an annual event.

 

"So, nooo?"

“So, nooo?”

showfolks-cabaret-1

Big & Little

 

I’m doing a version of the same cabaret with Dana at the METROPOLITAN ROOM in New York City on DECEMBER 2nd AND 6th, at 7pm. SAVE THE DATE in your calendar!

Aug 272016
 
BAC 1981 Show Poster, Paul Davis

1981 Lincoln Center poster designed by Paul Davis

At this point, the Big Apple Circus has fallen short of the funding we needed for the Save the Circus campaign so that it looks like we will not be able to open a new show at Lincoln Center as planned in October. It’s the first time in 36 years that we will be unable to do that. Every year since 1981 the Big Apple Circus big top has been put up in Damrosch Park. Lincoln Center won’t be the same during the holiday season without the circus.

Many of us are not yet willing to give up. It’s truly a matter of the finances, so we’re continuing to do what we can to continue this wonderful New York City tradition.

One thing that I can tell you is that my father used to tell me, “Paul, I’ve never seen you give up.”

Paul and Michael at first LC BAC

Michael Christensen and Paul Binder clowning in the first Lincoln Center production
photo by Linda Rivero

Aug 032016
 

Tanglewood 2016It’s become a tradition for the Dartmouth class of ‘63 to have a mini-reunion every August in conjunction with Tanglewood on Parade in Lenox, MA. Seeing and listening to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Orchestra is a truly wonderful experience every year.

This year they performed a contemporary piece called “Night Train to Perugia” by Michael Gandolfi. It was actually commissioned by the BSO and premiered at Tanglewood on Parade a few years back. The Orchestra also performed a harp concerto by Mozart, and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra performed Ravel’s La Valse. All of the musicians in the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra are less than thirty years old, and they are fantastic!

One of the true joys of this year’s show was John Williams conducting the Boston Pops. You know, John Williams is no kid anymore. He did several pieces including a suite from The BFG, which is his latest project, once again united with Steven Spielberg. Before leading the Pops in a song from the new Star Wars movie, he took the microphone and said, “As a composer for the movies, you have to understand that you never know what the movie will actually sound like once special effects gets ahold of it … with all the gunfire and the zooming and the booming. So it is my pleasure to present this scene WITHOUT the special effects.” He got a standing ovation upon both his entrance and exit. At eighty-four years old, he still has his talent and humor.

John Williams

John Williams

As in previous years, the concluding piece at Tanglewood on Parade was Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with live cannon fire (that’s written into the music), followed by a dazzling and explosive fireworks display right over “The Shed.”

A little treat for you (and for me) if you haven’t read my post about Tanglewood from last year: in the second part of my blog entry, I recount the time that the Boston Pops joined the Big Apple Circus, and there’s even an old video of me conducting them in full clown regalia. It’s definitely worth a watch … or two (or twenty-five!).

“Pops Joins the Circus” is surely one of my finest memories of 30+ years at the Big Apple Circus.

Jul 182016
 

In my last communication, I stated that the Big Apple Circus had managed to raise $800,000 since launching the Save the Circus campaign. Indeed, as of today, July 18, I’ve been informed that there is more than $960,000 raised or pledged to help save the circus.

The Big Apple Circus at Lincoln Center in Damrosch Park (c. 1992), photo by Michael LeClair

The Big Apple Circus at Lincoln Center in Damrosch Park (c. 1992), photo by Michael LeClair
(the two light strings are on top of the tent, the large building above it is the Metropolitan Opera House and the building to the right is the New York State Theater, now the David H. Koch Theater)

Jun 292016
 

When the Save the Circus campaign launched four weeks ago, I was a bundle of nerves.

Michael, Paul and Leonard _Peter Angelo Simon

Michael Christensen and me with our juggling partner,
Leonard the rubber chicken

The Big Apple Circus has been a huge part of my life ever since Michael Christensen (my performance partner and fellow Founder), Alan Slifka (our founding Chairman of the Board), Richard Levy (an enthusiastic red-haired friend), and I founded our not-for-profit organization nearly 40 years ago. Frankly, I don’t know what life will be like without the circus, and I don’t like to think about it. The Big Apple Circus has not only brought joy to my life, but I know that the company has touched countless others through shared, warm human experiences, both through our annual shows and the five award-winning community programs that our wonderful organization has developed alongside our performance season.

Saying farewell to Grandma the Clown (Barry Lubin)

Saying farewell to Grandma the Clown (Barry Lubin)

Before stepping out of the ring in 2009, after every performance I would have the experience of several audience members coming up to me and recounting stories of attending the Big Apple Circus, as kids, with their parents … and the joy that they now feel being able to bring their own children to “this very special show.” Anyone who has talked to me for more than five minutes has probably heard at least one of many stories from my life in and around the circus. I’m always eager to share my tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and many are eager to listen, which is what prompted me to write Never Quote the Weather to a Sea Lion and Other Uncommon Tales from the Founder of the Big Apple Circus.

Since its founding, the Big Apple Circus has managed to touch the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people because of the determination of a group of ordinary people who have wanted to see extraordinary things happen in their lives. And now, I’m asking that you band together with us to ensure that extraordinary things continue to happen through the Big Apple Circus.

Save the Circus 8 hundred thousandAs of this morning, June 29, the Big Apple Circus has managed to raise over $800,000 in total contributions and pledges in just under a month. But we still have a long way to go to get to $2 million! I am overjoyed that over $115,000 of the total raised has been donated by about 1,150 ordinary people stepping up to contribute anywhere from $1 to $2,500 through SaveTheCircus.org.

Please consider standing with us and making a contribution right now.

The Big Apple Circus is an organization that serves the community. For 38 years we have brought the intimacy of the one-ring circus to communities in New York, Boston, and many other locations up and down the east coast. Through our community programs such as Clown Care and Circus of the Senses, we have worked to bring laughter, joy, and wonder to children of all ages and, equally as important, all abilities. In order to continue to do these things, we need people to contribute to the Save the Circus campaign. Let me repeat … we need your help.

The Big Apple Circus has not closed yet, and I surely won’t stop fighting for its survival. This organization means the world to me, and I sincerely hope that it means something to you as well.

Paul

The performing company of "Dreams of a City"

The performing company of “Dreams of a City”

Jun 072016
 

The front page article of the Metropolitan section of the New York Times on Sunday, June 5 was an article by columnist Ginia Bellafante titled “Can the Big Apple Circus Be Saved.” (Click here to read the column.)

In her column, Ms. Bellafante refers to a bagel advertisement that I showed her during a meeting at the Big Apple Circus offices. As word about the bagel ad got out before the advertisement itself, I wanted you all to have an opportunity to see it. Here it is:

What’s the price of a bagel got to do with saving the
Big Apple Circus?

Save the Circus Bagel PhotoThe average seat at New York’s most beloved circus was $25 in 1981, our first season at Lincoln Center. A Zabar’s Bagel cost 35¢ then, now $1.66.

Today our average ticket is $50. By bagel math, it should have risen to $118. Our performers soar, but our prices don’t. That’s part of our mission as a not-for-profit arts organization. On the quiet side we are deeply engaged in raising the spirits of hospitalized children with our heralded Clown Care program.

Our 2015/16 show got rave reviews. It was a New York Times critic’s pick and played to over 200,000 people. In popcorn numbers, that’s 9 bazillion kerneIs. In dollars though, that’s not enough.

We’re going broke.

After many years of balanced books, the 2008/9 financial crisis hit. Suddenly big companies canceled private parties with us––let’s just say the optics of throwing a lavish holiday party in the midst of crashing markets would rival a solo performance by Nero on violin. Then a blizzard in 2011 and a massive hurricane in 2012 nearly blew us away. We were too slow to react.

We need $2 million or we’re toast.

Okay, mea culpa, but a major plan is now in place to right our valiant ship and sail into the future. But we need $2 million to open our new show at Lincoln Center and remain one of New York’s treasures. That’s a lot of bagels.

Please help!

If everyone who reads this ad donates $25 we’d be saved. There are more urgent causes that deserve your generosity, but none that give more joy. Please help preserve one of the most wonderful experiences of your life for yourself, your children, and your grandchildren.

In 1981 an H&H Bagel was 50¢ and today they’re out of business. That can’t happen to the Big Apple Circus. Can it?

Save the Circus Mailer

 Please consider contributing online at www.SaveTheCircus.org.
And please share this important message with your family and friends.