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Elephants Attract Attention

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Monday, July 19, 2010, at 05:42PM
IMG_8844 Ed Fuentes

A trained Asian elephant unveils a star outside Staples Center that reads “Honoring P.T. Barnum, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.”

Staples Center's Star Plaza has accumulated an impressive statue collection over the years, but the space got its first star last week courtesy of a trained Asian elephant.

The event was part of the festivities for "Barnum's FUNdrum" that premiered over the weekend at Staples, a show honoring the 200th anniversary of circus-founder P.T. Barnum's birth. One hundred and thirty performers from six continents and a host of animals tour in the current show, which still uses the "Greatest Show on Earth" phrase coined when Barnum and Bailey merged with Ringling Bros in 1919.

It was the animal performances and showcases that earned the Greatest Show On Earth its title at the turn of the last century. Now when one states the circus is in town, one could also be describing the protests by groups such as PETA that follow the show and accuse it of abusing its elephant stars. At least one hundred protesters were outside Staples Center for Wednesday's opening night show.

The smaller and more modern-retro-gothic circuses, like the Los Angeles-based Cirque Berzerk, avoid the tight wire of politics and protests by not having exotic animal acts.

With the big show, though, it seems unlikely that either side is about to budge.

At the dedication, CEO Kenneth Felds touted the excitement and achievements of Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey Circus, including programs that benefit the performing pachyderms.

And so the dueling shows seem likely to continue: one circus inside and another out.

"Funundrum" closed Sunday at Staples and opens in Anaheim on July 28, 2010.

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