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What the . . . Circus of the Stars?

June 15, 2012

*What the…Friday? is a weekly Friday feature in which I resuscitate a video relic from the swampy pits of Pop Culture Wasteland.*

Today:  What the Circus of the Stars?

Our WTF? video feature today was sparked by an elaborate dream I recently had in which I witnessed Brooke Shields walking barefoot across a long path of broken glass while wearing a sequined leotard.

Crazy, right?

Later, Balki Bartokomous from Perfect Strangers swung from a flying trapeze.

You’ve probably heard of a person dreaming in a foreign language?  Well — get this —  in my dream, Cousin Balki spoke just like an American!  That’s right, he sounded nothing like a man who’d emigrated from Mypos.  Oh, and he was far less hairy than I’d expected.  I know!  Dreams are pretty wild.

I awoke from my dream-filled slumber after a cool midnight breeze rested its gentle hand upon my cheek — or, more accurately, I was jolted out of my laptop-coma after a photo of my neighbor’s dead toenail appeared in my Facebook news feed.  And after reflecting on what had just happened — the assimilated immigrant on a trapeze thing, not the blackened toenail peering out of a flipflop thing — I was immediately filled with joy!  What a wondrous vision, what an amazing gift of the imagination!

Celebrities from the ’70s and ’80s in sparkly tights being trained to perform circus acts!  And then I laughed and laughed at the thought of it all — such Mad Hatter foolishness, Angie!

And I’m sure you’ll agree it seems even more preposterous when you try to imagine our celebrities today doing such gimmicky things to shamelessly promote themselves.

You know, like taking a break from their lucrative careers to appear on classless TV shows, despite the obvious risk of completely humiliating themselves.

You know, like training for weeks upon weeks to perfect flamboyant performance acts for the sole purpose of getting back in the spotlight.

You know, like trying to restart their careers by tackling a series of inane tasks assigned by a mad man, only to come off looking like some sort of bizarre sideshow act.

Those kinds of publicity stunts would never happen today!  Not to mention what kind of idiot would watch them?

But then I dug through the YouTube vault and — guess what — you’ll never believe what I discovered.

It was real!  Circus of the Stars was real!  And not only did it exist outside of my imagination, but it was populated by the hottest stars of our time!

In the following video, Cousin Balki performs a death-defying trapeze act — although, here he assumes the identity of his circus-performing alter ego “Bronson Pinchot”.

41 Comments leave one →
  1. June 15, 2012 6:21 am

    I barely remember Circus of the Stars, with a super star line-up to beat ’em all! I must have too busy been playing with my Barbies to notice. But I was watching the Barbara Mandrell Show every night.

    Your dream transitioning into waking up on your laptop with your neighbor’s dead toe picture — PRICELESS. That is the very reason I quit Facebook. I’m so glad that your dream came true. That Bronson…quite the contrast to his Balkie counterpart. Hubba hubba!

    • June 17, 2012 7:25 pm

      I so loved the Mandrell Sisters’ show! I had a girl crush on Irlene — at the time I thought she was the coolest person ever.

  2. June 15, 2012 6:24 am

    Oh dear. I remember watching Brooke Shields hang from a wire by her teeth. Thanks, Angie, for letting me taste my breakfast twice — the second time through my nose.

    • June 17, 2012 7:28 pm

      Yes — that one! I know I saw that one — or maybe it was Lucille Ball hanging by her teeth in the one I saw? But they were dentures and they fell out and she plummeted to the ground? Brooke Shields was on Circus of the Stars several times — one time she walked on glass and I remember being traumatized by seeing blood on her feet. Yech.

      • June 17, 2012 8:32 pm

        I watched it once. When Brooke hung by a wire by her teeth. Somehow there was always something else to do when that show was on …

        It makes my mouth hurt to remember it.

  3. June 15, 2012 7:01 am

    I remember seeing commercials for Circus of the Stars, back in the day, but I may have considered myself too high brow to actually watch it (in truth, it was probably aired opposite some equally inane show and we didn’t have a working VCR in those days).

    Why is it that when history repeats itself, it never seems to be the really great stuff?

    • June 17, 2012 7:31 pm

      My research shows me it aired annually from the late 70s to the early 90s. How does that kind of dog and pony show (literally) last that long?

      “Why is it that when history repeats itself, it never seems to be the really great stuff?” Since you put it that way, I’m now terrified that the return of the mullet is inevitable.

      • June 17, 2012 7:35 pm

        Sorry to terrify you. Look at the bright side, The Love Boat and The A-Team shoud be back sometime soon

      • June 17, 2012 7:43 pm

        We’ll see how the new Dallas does — I won’t hold my breath, though I’d sure love to see the 2012-Gopher.

      • June 18, 2012 5:55 am

        The new Munsters promises to absolutely suck.

  4. June 15, 2012 7:17 am

    Hahahaha! This must have been one of those rare American tv shows that didn’t actually make it to our Aussie shores. I feel cheated now. Gotta do some serious youtubing now.

    • June 17, 2012 7:37 pm

      How is it that you Aussies would turn down our Circus of the Stars, but yet we gladly took Zoo Family off your hands?

  5. June 15, 2012 7:27 am

    In that block of names, the one that popped out at me was Angela Landsbury. I would be curious to see how she was incorporated into a circus act. I hope she was the lovely assistant to Vanilla Ice’s head-in-the-mouth-of-a-lion act.

    • June 17, 2012 7:56 pm

      Ha! I bet Angela Landsbury did something totally lame like hold a hoop for a poodle to jump through. Perhaps Vanilla Ice rapped on a tightrope. In my youtube search I found Joey Lawrence singing a horrendous pop song while a tiger (in a cage, mind you) snarled behind him. Then a woman dressed as a tiger chased him around. It’s the greatest show on earth, folks!

  6. June 15, 2012 8:13 am

    Y’know…ever since I came upon your blog four score and seven years ago…I have been waiting with bated breath for your Balki post and lo and behold: it’s finally here! And with a video no less so I can relive his dream of trapezedom! He is rockin those tights, baby! Yow!

    • June 17, 2012 7:58 pm

      If the village sheep herders back in Mypos caught wind that Balki was dressing in tights, just imagine the horrible things they might do to him!

      Balki deserves his own post — this one really doesn’t do him the respect he deserves.

  7. June 15, 2012 8:40 am

    Awesome post! I’ve made the correlation between COTS and “Dancing for Relevance” many times. I guess a star’s gotta do what a star’s gotta do. I imagine that, for many of them, it’s about a paycheck but for many it’s about ego.

    • June 17, 2012 8:00 pm

      Thanks, man! “Dancing for Relevance” — that is some kind of wonderful right there. Nice work.

  8. June 15, 2012 8:54 am

    At least we’ve heard of most of those lion tamers. This is yet another example of how society has gone downhill in the last 30 years. The definition of “star” has changed to encompass those who answer the questions: “Who? Who did they say? Which one is supposed to be the star?”

    • June 17, 2012 8:01 pm

      Are you saying that Snooki is not in the same league of “star” as Rock Hudson? Please stop, Peg — my heart hurts.

      • June 18, 2012 2:34 pm

        Well, of COURSE I didn’t mean Skookins…Spookie…Sluttieee…sorry, I keep forgetting her name. My bad.

  9. csgomez79 permalink
    June 15, 2012 10:15 am

    You didn’t let me down. How could I have forgotten this little gem at the birth of celeb-reality TV. Everyone is commenting on how hunky Balki looks. It must be a product of rock stars or goths every where that no one commented on his eye liner. Also, I want to watch the video again just so I can try and figure out who the other two girls are with him in the clip.

    • June 17, 2012 8:03 pm

      Aw, thanks. Eye liner — yes! I’m so impressed that you noticed this! One of the other girls in the clip, the smaller one, played a friend of Punky Brewster. Her character’s name was Margaux. Can’t get a good enough glimpse of the other one though.

  10. beck16 permalink
    June 15, 2012 10:56 am

    Man, I’m bummed I don’t remember this!!

    • June 17, 2012 8:10 pm

      It aired every year from the ’70s to the ’90s! I cannot believe how quickly this show has ditched our memory banks. Mine included.

  11. June 15, 2012 11:37 am

    I remember watching Brooke Shields walk on broken glass when it first aired. She cut her foot slightly.

    • June 17, 2012 8:12 pm

      Yes! I saw that exact one. In fact, that’s the one I remember the most clearly. Because there was blood trickling down from her feet. I probably watched that as a 6-year-old, and it effectively dissuaded me from ever running away to join the circus.

  12. June 15, 2012 5:33 pm

    I would have loved to have seen the episode with OJ Simpson. I’m sure he would have been completely normal.

    • June 17, 2012 8:25 pm

      What a bummer that I can’t find that awesome clip on YouTube — it was probably used as evidence.

  13. June 15, 2012 9:06 pm

    Oh how I loved Perfect Strangers…I need to YouTube all these videos.

    • June 17, 2012 8:26 pm

      I recall once seeing Balki and Cousin Larry zipped up in a sleeping bag together and thinking, it sure doesn’t get better than this.

  14. June 15, 2012 11:42 pm

    I vaguely remember this show. Too funny.

    • June 17, 2012 8:27 pm

      It was definitely a relic worth fighting for — I can’t believe it ended. And now we’re left with Dancing with the Stars.

  15. June 16, 2012 10:14 pm

    That clip made my entire day! I was super young when Perfect Strangers was on the air, so I hardly remember Balki and had never heard of the Circus of the Stars until now. However, it’s obvious from the yellow sequined unitard and the surprisingly hunky Bronson that I missed out on A LOT! A. Lot.

    • June 17, 2012 8:42 pm

      I have to admit that Balki looking manly in his extra-tight tights is rather creepy for me to witness — he seemed so sweet, innocent and child-like on Perfect Strangers. This is like watching Rain Main do porn.

      • June 18, 2012 12:47 pm

        ^^ OK, THAT is disturbing!

      • June 20, 2012 3:49 pm

        Um, yeah, I tend to take things to the next level. And from there I swan dive off a cliff.

  16. June 18, 2012 10:01 am

    wow, you’ve introduced me to so many shows I’ve never heard of before. I would never have guessed in a million years there was any “Stars” shows before they danced. The circus? Just wow. Anyway, aren’t you curious to where a lot of them are now? I always wonder what they’re doing when they leave the spotlight.

  17. June 19, 2012 10:30 am

    I didn’t read through the comments, so maybe someone has already called you out ….
    Angie, forget Circus of the Stars, what about Battle of the Network Stars!! Wait. Did you already cover that in a pre-Lenore-stalking post? If so, my sincerest of apologies.
    That is all.

    • June 20, 2012 4:44 pm

      No — no one brought it up! You win the prize, Lenore! I actually was just talking about Battle of the Network Stars this weekend. It completely slipped my memory until I was googling for Circus of the Stars photos and a rockin’ picture of Scott Baio and Heather Locklear in their track gear popped up. Holy smokes! That show was brilliant! I think I even remember watching a couple spoofs of it on SNL and SCTV.


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