breaking news


APNewsBreak: Ringling Bros. circus to close after 146 years

Published: Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 10:11 PM
Updated: Saturday, January 14, 2017 @ 10:10 PM


            Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performers ride camels during a performance Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end the
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performers ride camels during a performance Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will end the "The Greatest Show on Earth" in May, following a 146-year run of performances. Kenneth Feld, the chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, told The Associated Press, declining attendance combined with high operating costs are among the reasons for closing. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on "The Greatest Show on Earth." The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May.

The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives say. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise.

"There isn't any one thing," said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. "This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family."

The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.

Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. Major stops include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Brooklyn. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.

The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals.

By midcentury, the circus was routine, wholesome family entertainment. But as the 20th century went on, kids became less and less enthralled. Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn't have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image.

"The competitor in many ways is time," said Feld, adding that transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers' children— are throwbacks to another era. "It's a different model that we can't see how it works in today's world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you've got all these things working against it."

The Feld family bought the Ringling circus in 1967. The show was just under 3 hours then. Today, the show is 2 hours and 7 minutes, with the longest segment — a tiger act — clocking in at 12 minutes.

"Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes," he said.

Feld and his daughter Juliette Feld, who is the company's chief operating officer, acknowledged another reality that led to the closing, and it was the one thing that initially drew millions to the show: the animals. Ringling has been targeted by activists who say forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime opponent of the circus, wasted no time in claiming victory.

"After 36 years of PETA protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times," Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a statement.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, acknowledged the move was "bittersweet" for the Felds but said: "I applaud their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts."

In May of 2016, after a long and costly legal battle, the company removed the elephants from the shows and sent the animals to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida. The animals had been the symbol of the circus since Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882. In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year fight over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants.

By the time the elephants were removed, public opinion had shifted somewhat. Los Angeles prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers, as did Oakland, California. The city of Asheville, North Carolina nixed wild or exotic animals from performing in the municipally owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.

Attendance has been dropping for 10 years, said Juliette Feld, but when the elephants left, there was a "dramatic drop" in ticket sales. Paradoxically, while many said they didn't want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them.

"We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Bros. was getting to see elephants," she said. "We stand by that decision. We know it was the right decision. This was what audiences wanted to see and it definitely played a major role."

The Felds say their existing animals — lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas — will go to suitable homes. Juliette Feld says the company will continue operating the Center for Elephant Conservation.

Some 500 people perform and work on both touring shows. A handful will be placed in positions with the company's other, profitable shows — it owns Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live, among other things — but most will be out of a job. Juliette Feld said the company will help employees with job placement and resumes. In some cases where a circus employee lives on the tour rail car (the circus travels by train), the company will also help with housing relocation.

Kenneth Feld became visibly emotional while discussing the decision with a reporter. He said over the next four months, fans will be able to say goodbye at the remaining shows.

In recent years, Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster, then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app. It added elements from its other, popular shows, such as motorbike daredevils and ice skaters. But it seemingly was no match for Pokemon Go and a generation of kids who desire familiar brands and YouTube celebrities.

"We tried all these different things to see what would work, and supported it with a lot of funding as well, and we weren't successful in finding the solution," said Kenneth Feld.

Amal, George Clooney donate $1 million to anti-hate group after Charlottesville violence

Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 @ 12:58 PM

Amal and George Clooney attend the Celebrity Fight Night In Italy Benefitting The Andrea Bocelli Foundation and The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center Gala on September 7, 2014 in Florence, Italy.  (Photo by Andrew Goodman/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night)
Andrew Goodman
Amal and George Clooney attend the Celebrity Fight Night In Italy Benefitting The Andrea Bocelli Foundation and The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center Gala on September 7, 2014 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Andrew Goodman/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night)(Andrew Goodman)

George and Amal Clooney have donated $1 million to Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit that strives to put an end to domestic hate groups and extremists, in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month.

>> Read more trending news 

“What happened in Charlottesville, and what is happening in communities across our country, demands our collective engagement to stand up to hate,” the actor and humanitarian lawyer said in a joint statement.

>> Related: More than 900 active hate groups in the U.S., report says

On Aug. 12, a rally in Charlottesville turned violent when a group of white nationalists clashed with counterprotesters. One woman was killed when a car plowed into the crowd at the rally.

According to Reuters, the donation comes from the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which the couple created in 2016 to promote justice worldwide in courtrooms and classrooms.

Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen released a statement thanking the Clooneys for “standing with (the organization) at this critical moment in our country’s fight against hate.”

Maria Menounos to join Miss America judge panel

Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 @ 1:18 PM

Maria Menounos Bio

Not long after revealing she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and stepping down from her on-air position with E! News, Maria Menounos has joined the Miss America judging panel, PEOPLE magazine reported.

>> Read more trending news

Menounos, who was Miss Massachusetts Teen USA in 1996, will be joined by five other celebrities to choose the winner of the 97th annual competition, which is set to air on September 10. A seventh judge will be announced closer to the competition.

RELATED: Maria Menounos prayed for her own cancer diagnosis during her mother's cancer battle

Actress Molly Simms, 2014 Miss America winner and human rights advocate Nina Davuluri, former “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks, PEOPLE editor-in-chief Jess Cagle and country star Thomas Rhett have also been tapped as judges for this year’s competition.

RELATED: Mel B stormed off the “AGT” stage after Simon Cowell’s crude joke about her wedding night

The winner of Miss America will be given a full college scholarship. And judges won’t only look for beauty in this competition. They will also take lifestyle and fitness, talent, interview and evening attire into consideration.

“I’m so excited to be a judge at this year’s competition and am happy to participate alongside an organization that is an advocate for women’s education. I’m looking forward to seeing all the young women who have come this far and hearing more about them and their interests,” Simms said following the announcement.

Sparks added in a statement: “I am honored to participate as a judge for the Miss America competition this year. I understand the pressure that a competition brings and I’m lucky it’s given me the unique perspective on the hard work that the contestants have to put in to get to this point. No doubt they are all strong women and I look forward to hearing the platforms they represent.”

“Bachelor” host Chris Harrison will serve as the host of Miss America which will air live from Atlantic City, New Jersey on September 10.

Actress Maria Menounos attends "The Fate Of The Furious" New York Premiere at Radio City Music Hall on April 8, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)(Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Thousands of Atlantic salmon escape fish farm in San Juan Islands

Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 @ 12:45 PM

An Atlantic salmon is pictured here. Washington State officials are encouraging fishermen to catch as many Atlantic salmon as possible after thousands escaped from a fish farm in the San Juan Islands.
The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images
An Atlantic salmon is pictured here. Washington State officials are encouraging fishermen to catch as many Atlantic salmon as possible after thousands escaped from a fish farm in the San Juan Islands.(The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

A fish pen containing 305,000 farmed Atlantic salmon collapsed over the weekend in the San Juan Islands, raising fears about the potential that native Pacific salmon will be negatively impacted.

>> Read more trending news

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 fish escaped the damaged pen off Cypress Island when it first became compromised Saturday.

The farm's owner, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, said the farm then collapsed entirely on Sunday, trapping most of the fish inside.

Both the company and state officials did not expect disease to be transferred to native salmon because the farmed fish are considered healthy. Ron Warren, fish program assistant director for WDFW, said the farmed salmon had not received meal with antibiotics in more than a year.

>> Related: Watch the International Space Station fly across the solar eclipse

"That's a good indicator of a good healthy lot of fish," Warren said.

Warren expects the fish will make their way to fresh water areas, particularly in north Puget Sound, but predicted the biggest native impact on local wild salmon would be new competition for food.

He said there was no evidence that Atlantic salmon have successfully interbred with native wild salmon in Western Washington, but that "we don't like to test that theory.”

State officials encourage recreational anglers to catch the salmon, which are about 8-10 pounds each.

>> Related: Strange sea creatures in northwest waters ‘concerning’ scientists

The state says there is no size or catch limit for Atlantic salmon.

Read more here.

Queen, Freddie Mercury biopic cast set

Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 @ 12:47 PM

September 1976:  British rock group Queen at Les Ambassadeurs, where they were presented with silver, gold and platinum discs for sales in excess of one million of their hit single 'Bohemian Rhapsody', which was No 1 for 9 weeks. The band are, from left to right; Brian May, John Deacon (standing), Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury (Frederick Bulsara, 1946 - 1991).  (Photo by Ian Tyas/Keystone/Getty Images)
Ian Tyas/Getty Images
September 1976: British rock group Queen at Les Ambassadeurs, where they were presented with silver, gold and platinum discs for sales in excess of one million of their hit single 'Bohemian Rhapsody', which was No 1 for 9 weeks. The band are, from left to right; Brian May, John Deacon (standing), Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury (Frederick Bulsara, 1946 - 1991). (Photo by Ian Tyas/Keystone/Getty Images)(Ian Tyas/Getty Images)

Rami Malek, the star of USA’s “Mr. Robot” was already tapped to play Queen’s flamboyant lead singer Freddie Mercury. The movie now has the rest of the iconic band cast.

Ben Hardy, who was in “X-Men Apocalypse”, will be portraying the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor. Gwilym Lee, of “The Tourist,” will be Brian May. Joe Mazzello from “Jurassic Park” will round out the band as John Deacon, according to Queen’s website announcement.

From L to R: Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Gwilym Lee(Getty Images)

L to R: Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Brian May(Getty Images)

The movie, which is being directed by X-Men director Bryan Singer, will be called “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Singer has said he plans on recreating Queen’s iconic moments, like the 1985 Live Aid performance.

>> Read more trending news

There had been a shake-up in casting. Originally Sacha Baron-Cohen was set to play Mercury, but after arguments between himself and May and Taylor, he dropped out and Malek took his place, NME reported.