What a thrill it was to be there in the center of the ring as the guest ringmaster for this years Big Apple Circus 36th Holiday Season Family Benefit Gala and Luminosity Performance at Lincoln Center. When I was initially asked to be the evening's ringmaster my first thought was ' Are you sure you have the right Tom?'
On my way to the show I received a phone call from a woman offering me some friendly advice ''Don't tell any jokes or try to be funny, just be yourself'' Ouch! My Mom sure can be tough sometimes.
Right before making my way into the ring, John Kennedy Kane (the actual ringmaster) handed me a red velvet blazer that was a bit small (Even for Dustin Hoffman), and my unusually large head barely fit into the tiny top-hat -- but I didn't care, because I was the nights ringmaster! The curtain opened up and I was so nervous I thought the audience might smell poop before the animals even entered the ring, thankfully that wasn't the case. OK, here we go -- ladies and gentleman -- children of all ages! Wait, sorry folks, that's the other circus!
Once I made it through my lines, everyone really enjoyed Jennifer Vidbel and her amazing horses, the daring acrobats, the angels on the flying trapeze, and all of the clowning around. The show was amazing and filled with energy. There's always a magical innocence about being at the circus with your family. Something about seeing their eyes light up at a Poodle in a tutu that makes you forget the seriousness of everyday life. Something about an empty wallet and tasting hot dogs two days later that makes you realize how we "jump through hoops" (a little circus humor) for our kids.
Some may not know this, but the Big Apple Circus isn't just fun and games. The Big Apple has a clown care program that has served over 2.5 million children in hospitals. This season there were 1,500 visually or hearing impaired children in the tent for their own special show called the "Circus of the Senses". They also opened the tent this past Veterans Day to hundreds of service men and women and their families broadcasting the circus -- live -- to millions of service families around the globe! This is what they call 'circus for all'.
Last years Gala VIP lineup included Aviva Drescher from "Real Housewives of NYC" and funny man Gilbert Gottfried. Aviva said she felt right at home at the circus. Enjoying the clowns, animals and the silly screaming, sort of like being with her RHONY cast mates.
This seasons gala was less star powered, featured an open bar, a gourmet meal, plus all you can eat snacks including cotton candy and popcorn (Did I mention cotton candy?). Thankfully, we raised over $200,000.
There are more children in need of help, so if you want to support the art in the ring and the service outside the tent, and want to be an insider part of the joy and wonder of the circus, check them out here.
Remember, you don't have to run away to join the Big Apple Circus.
Photos courtesy of Tom Murro