In January, 2007, I received an email from some production Company in Mexico, seeking riggings, for a reality television show about circus .
This was followed by a few phone calls from the producer and then a meeting was planned in Sarasota.
A little restaurant on the St Armands’ circle was where we would meet for breakfast.
Ruben Galindo, the executive producer, was not what I expected, having drawn my own conclusions from his voice over the phone.
He was tall and well built with boyish good looks and had eyes that penetrate you when listening.
He was accompanied by his cousin , Santiago and an associate producer, Marcello and I referred to them as the 3 Musketeers , silently of course.
They outlined their plan for a live reality show based on 7 groups of 5 members, one member being a famous personality, who would lead the group, competing against the other groups.
The idea was to have each group do a circus type act , each week a different one and present it to a live audience and a panel of judges.
The group with the lowest points had a week to improve or be eliminated and the prize for the winning team was $150,000 , not for them but for a little child that needed a medical miracle that only money could buy…..it was a good cause and I liked it already!
“We do not know anything about circus and we need someone who has that knowledge that can help us with ideas, riggings and safety issues”Ruben declared honestly after breakfast.
I took them to the Ringling Museum where I had constructed a series of riggings that were on display in the entrance hall of the Tibbals Museum .
I was proud to have been a part of that project and proudly showed them my designs and workmanship.
As we left the Museum, I turned to Ruben and said,”If you want me to be a part of your project, I will give you a 100% but I also tell it the way it is.”
He smiled and then invited me to Las Vegas to continue our discussion and to see a few shows. A few days later I was on a plane.
We saw Cirque’s KA, Mystere and had endless discussions and were joined by another associate producer, Roberto and the announcer to be , Marco Antonio Regil.
After Vegas , 6 weeks went by and then a phone call from Ruben.”You have to come to Mexico City, the tent is up”!
He wasn’t kidding! I was inside the worlds tallest tent which was to house the show and 2 smaller tents, the average circus size tent, behind it, for rehearsals.
In 2 days we planned and designed everything that was to be hung from the cuppola, all the trusses that would accommodate the lighting and winches and hang points.
3 weeks later an entire set was created in the tent with a 3ft tall stage that covered 70% of the floor space, barely leaving enough room for bleachers for the live audience of 800 people.
It was a mammoth project produced by Galindo Productions and “Los 5 Magnificos” was broadcast every Sunday night by Televisa for 9 weeks.
During the 9 weeks…
At first there were 7 groups in the competition and all were wanting riggings for the first show and so Fernando Castrigon and I boogied .Fernando was my hand picked welder from Mexico and well known in the industry for his giant wheels, bleachers and circus masts.
The first show was organized chaos and a half hour before we were going live I was running around with last minute adjustments, before having to change and put on my costume for my second job..being a judge.
I was so nervous and dry mouthed and I could not hear a word they were saying or what was being said to me so I did my best to answer and give a fair judgement on the act that was presented.
The reason for not hearing was they forgot to give us sound monitors on stage, a small oversight in the big scheme of things but to a foreigner (Gringo) who relies on every word it was vital.
Not to mention there was a “little” conflict backstage.
Here I was , helping , advising and teaching performers of all the groups , equally supporting them in their tasks for the week and then judging them at the performance…mmm…..I resigned as a judge after the first show.
I have to mention that each group was assigned a creative director and teachers to design and teach the acts to the group….I was merely assisting, where I could volunteer and on demand.
After the first 2 weeks, Ruben and I designed the rallies.
It was a fun obstacle course requiring circus type skills which took a member to complete and then pass on the “baton “, like in a relay race to the next member.
Marcelo added his part, wanting the rallies to be completed in a fixed time and the fastest team won the event.
He was responsible for programming each second of the show so naturally it was to his advantage but it also added to the success of the rallies as they were very often, the highlight of the show and the highest ratings too.
Marco Antonio Regil was the “ringmaster” or announcer and what a job he did, leading the 3 hour live show each Sunday.
His total control and charm , matched with good looks and a total command of his native tongue added a huge touch of class to the entire project.
We shared the same hotel and many a tired Sunday evening was spent at the dinner table discussing ideas and a few words of wisdom went both ways.His manager, David Steinberg, was also a pool of wisdom and had a pleasant demeanor.
After nine weeks of 12 hour days and mission accomplished, I want to end this by saying…
Ruben Galindos’ dream and his total focus plus his belief in me to help him achieve that dream was the main reason I went there.I felt that if he had the balls to tackle such a HUGE project, I should support him in it , seeing as it was my playing field he wanted to play in…the circus.
What I left with, was an intense admiration for the Mexican culture, a respect for the television industry and good memory of a bunch of amigos . and as Mr Tihany so aptly put it when he gave out the trophy to the winning team,
“Viva Mexico” !