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Man Who Revived Big Top Circus Dies

September 6, 1989

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Clifford E. Vargas, who transformed a boy’s dream of the old-time circus into a revival of the traditional three-ring big top, has died. He was 64.

Vargas died Monday night of heart disease at his Hollywood Hills home, according to a press release from his Circus Vargas.

The grandson of Portuguese circus owners, Vargas grew up on a farm in Pleasanton.

He held a variety of jobs, including Fuller Brush salesman and Chicago nightclub owner, before going to work as a promoter for a circus, which he eventually bought from the owner.

Later, he founded Circus Vargas with three trucks and eight animals. In the early years, he served as ticket taker, ringmaster and truck driver.

The circus, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, grew to include 150 animals and up to 300 employees. It is billed as the largest traveling, tented circus in the world.Up to 3 million people attend the circus each year in shows held in more than 100 U.S. and Canadian cities.

Vargas is survived by three brothers and a sister-in-law. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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