“The toughest, timeliest, gutsiest magazine around.”
Circus Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Gerald Rothberg (seen in the commercial) stopped publication of the magazine in 2006 and sent the following soul-baring letter to its contributors:
“It is with sadness and a deep sense of loss that I must inform you that I’ve experienced great financial loss, which includes Circus Magazine. Over the last year, I’ve tried my best to hold on to Circus Mag, selling all my personal possessions, including my home, pumping the money into the mag. And I’ve lost all. I’ve held off contacting people because of the shame and humiliation I’ve experienced. I’m broke. I feel like Humpty Dumpty who had a great fall.”
A rather sad end to a magazine that during its heyday in the mid-1970s to mid-80s featured an editorial staff that consisted of some real rock critic heavyweights, including Lester Bangs, Nick Tosches, Paul Nelson, John Swenson, Jim Farber, Kurt Loder, David Fricke, and Fred Schruers.
Personally, Circus wasn’t a magazine I paid much attention to, it seemed geared to teenage boys and focused on bands heavy on metal and pomp-rock, but its punchy covers (designed by Milton Glazer) always added a splash of color between the racks of the more muted facades of Hit Parader, Creem, and Rolling Stone. I later discovered, via my friend John Swenson, that Circus had a pretty dynamic record review section that had little to do with the rest of the editorial content of the magazine. It was there that many of the critics mentioned above were given free rein, under Swenson’s guidance, to write about records of their choosing. Perhaps now would be a good time to unearth some of those reviews for a book or Internet archive. In the meantime, you can visit Running Away With Circus, a loving tribute to the magazine by some of the writers.