Gran Circo Codona

gran circo codona broadside paint cropped 2During the 1929 circus season, Alfredo Codona decided to venture into the production side of the circus business. Along with two partners, Louis Perez and James Evans, he assembled a show to tour Mexico during the offseason. It was to be a first class operation. Equipment, including a new 160-foot big top was purchased, and top acts were signed, including Leitzel’s uncle, the clown Bluch Landolf, who was famous for a stunt where he walked back and forth, while balancing a long plank on his head, which remained motionless each time he turned around. Of course, Leitzel and the Flying Codonas were to be the feature acts.

The show was scheduled to open in Laredo, Texas starting on November 16 before crossing into Mexico for week long stands culminating in six weeks in Mexico City. It was to be a classic one ring circus of the European style. The show would carry twenty-one acts, but only fourteen would be presented on any one program allowing the show to change bills twice a week.

Tragedy struck in August, when one of Codona’s partners, Louis Perez, died in a fall while performing in his perch pole act. Still, it was decided to go ahead with plans. Not even the stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression could dissuade Codona from going ahead with the tour.

gran circo codona ad croppedThe production was a disaster from the outset. Rumors of the tour’s premature conclusion began almost before the show entered Mexico. By the time Codona’s denials of the rumors were printed in the trade papers, the show had closed. The circus never made it to Mexico City. Before the New Year, the circus was back in Laredo concluding its very short tour.

Codona claimed the show had broken even and blamed any problems on Mexican taxation. He claimed the taxmen followed the show and confiscated every cent of profit. According to everyone else, the show had lost a fortune, and the weather and the awful economic climate were the culprits. Leitzel never spoke publicly on the subject and seemed to view the entire escapade as a misadventure.

After spending the month of January in San Antonio, Leitzel spent February appearing in shrine circuses in Detroit and Austin, Texas, where Alfredo produced a very successful show that used most of the equipment from his own failed circus. By April, the couple were back with the Ringling show, the experiences with circus production in the rearview mirror.