Sharing the Cirque spotlight 

Ranger Rich

I was recently on a big stage with clowns, acrobats and trapeze artists before thousands of villagers at our World Arena, marking the first time I'd fulfilled a lifelong dream to be in the circus. Although technically it was the second time, if you count my years at the Gazette (motto: "Step Right Up And Watch the Bearded Lady Get Laid Off.")

The highlight of the Gazette circus took place each Friday, when publisher Tom Mullen would juggle the circulation figures. Then editor Jeff "Houdini" Thomas would make a four-day-old Denver Post story magically appear in the Gazette. But enough about that.

Anyway, I was at Cirque du Soleil ("Circus of Soil") last week with my wife, Susie, who is a magician and circus performer in her own right. A month ago, for example, when I thought I'd gone blind and deaf, she pulled me out of my hat. And whenever I suggest we fool around, she leaves the room like she's been shot out of a cannon.

The famous cirque has 21 shows in production and will open a Michael Jackson-themed show in 2012. (As I understand it, Dr. Conrad Murray vaults off a trampoline onto the singer's chest with a gigantic syringe filled with the anesthetic propofol.)

Our show was called Alegría, a dazzling, powerful display of gymnastics and high-flying artistry by chiseled men and women. At one point I found myself searching my own body with my hands to gain a better understanding of human anatomy, until an usher told me to knock it off. There were staggering displays by gymnasts launched from trampolines and an eight-man trapeze team that made the audience gasp, and an unforgettable silver-hoop-spinning girl.

And then there were the Mongolian contortion twins. Their act is difficult to imagine, so let's try this: Right now, wherever you are, lie down. Bring your legs way up over your head. This will probably hurt, but it will give you an idea of how Bristol Palin sees the world.

For 15 minutes the Mongolian sisters had the audience hollering and cheering as the contortions became more stunning and complex. At one point the sisters were folded in half, backward, with one sister balancing on the other sister using just one hand. As far as anyone knows, the last woman to bend like this was Charlie Sheen's hooker as he was stuffing her into his tiny hotel room closet.

And then came my big moment. Two Cirque du Soleil clowns leaped from the stage in their gigantic shoes, grabbed the sleeves of my leather jacket, pulled me up into the spotlight, and put an outlandish wig on my head. My heart hadn't raced so much since early December when I shoplifted some nice Christmas presents for my wife. ("What the hell am I going to do with a canoe?")

Anyway, and I swear I am not kidding, here's what old pal and Gazette entertainment editor Warren Epstein wrote about my circus debut: "Clowns also play a major role in Alegría, drawing big laughs with their audience interaction. In one bit, they dragged Independent columnist Rich Tosches from the audience to play along with an acrobatic parody bit, and with his own keen sense of physical humor, Tosches ended up stealing the show."

I did not steal the show, of course. But it was fun. And I have to admit, I do love physical humor. (Next time you bump into me on the street, pull my finger.)

Before I knew it I'd become fully engaged in the magic. I danced and pranced across the stage, looking like ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov or a deer that had been maimed by a mountain lion, depending on whom you talk to.

So there I was in the bright lights with some of the greatest acrobats and gymnasts in the world, and before I knew it the clowns had me leaping and cavorting about. I even got to close with a grand bow.

Back home that night, thinking Susie might have been excited by the whole thing, I put on a pair of her red tights and bounded and sashayed into the living room.

Then I had to go sleep outside. In the canoe.



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