Big Tent Childhood: Growing up in the Circus

"Public figures, whether they are performers, politicians or preachers, often prioritize the admiration of the crowd over the needs of their own children, which makes their children feel dismissed, unimportant and angry," she said. "Children feel that they are always competing with the crowd that they can never measure up to. I think that's what Candice Bergen was talking about. The dummy brings admiration of the fans, money in the household and gives the parent a sense of purpose. What child can compete against that?"

It also explains why some kids genuinely follow in their footsteps and some end up chasing success to make up for something they lacked as kids.

Bale caught the acting bug at age 9 when his older sister Louise landed a role on the London stage. After several of his own stage roles, Bale's big break came at 13 when Steven Speilberg chose him for the lead role in "Empire of the Sun."

Shortly after, he moved to Hollywood with his dad, who became his manager, and his parents divorced. His father later remarried feminist icon Gloria Steinem and became an outspoken animal rights activist, while his mother lived a more modest life as a reflexologist in England. The British papers say mother and son do not appear to be close.

"He could be just really angry at her legitimately, for childhood wounds, a nomadic lifestyle, parental divorce," Marshall said.

But Bello Nock, the Ringling Bros. clown who graces the poster, believes not every circus kid has to have an unhappy ending. A seventh-generation performer, he has raised his three children, ages 19, 15 and 12, on the road their entire lives.

"Normal is what you make it," he said. "I try to pay attention not only to what my needs are but what theirs are too."

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