As president of the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey during the heyday of the famed Big-Top and traveling circus which will have its final performance tonight in Long Island, New York, John Ringling North received a rather modest salary. But what North might have been lacking the substance of a millionaire, the consciously displayed the form.
North was a glittering anachronism whose social and professional activities evaded the traditions of such rococo sports as “Diamond Jim” Brady, “Bet a Million Gates” and his own prodigious uncle, John Ringling North.
North was a glittering anachronism whose social and professional activities evaded the traditions of such rococo sports as “Diamond Jim” Brady, “Bet a Million Gates and his own prodigious uncle, John Ringling North.
From the 1930s into the 1960s, he was one of the last few men in America who maintained private Pullman cars.
The Jomar, named after his aunt and uncle, was a silver-painted pleasure dome, 82 feet long, in which North lived both on the road and in winter circus headquarters in Sarasota.
The Jomar’s observation drawing and dining room were scenes of epic festivities in all the great cities in the USA where the circus was touring.
Partakers numbered such college mates of North (Yale, Class of 26) as Columnist Lucius Beebe, Crooner Rudy Valley and New Yorker Cartoonist Peter Arno who was hired as the circus “art director” to create dozens of delightful drawings for the souvenir program groups.
North hosted dozens of Hollywood celebrities including Bette Davis, Walt Disney and dozens of Hollywood celebrities on the Jamar after the circus performances in Los Angeles.
Prince Zalstem-Zalessky, a nobleman of Russian descent, and his wife, Princess Evangeline Johnson Zalstem-Zalessky, the last surviving child of Robert Wood Johnson, were frequent traveling guests on the Jamar.
- On one such trip, Princess Evangeline was awaiting telegram from her brother but never arrived. North found out the train conductor had delivered the cable to another Princess Evangeline traveling on the circus train. She was the side show’s sword swallower from Bulgaria. The Prince, Evangeline, and John found this hilarious with North dining out on this until his death.
In his drinking habits, North exceed even his own rococo standards. “The same drink in a row bores me,” he would confide to his guests.
He would use the Stork Club bartender manual, authored by his friend, Lucius Beebe, to go from Alexander to a Perfect Rob Roy and onto a Zombie. Many nights the cycle continued uninterrupted till dawn without any visible effect on his digestive system or equilibrium.
His exclusive salon on wheels required the full-time of a valet, a chef, maid, and chauffeur.
This bacchanal M.O. took place in almost every major city on the route, where North entertained everyone from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Vice President “the Veep” Albin Barkley, on the 10,000-mile transcontinental circus tour.