A brief memo wouldn't do.

But then sending the corporate message by elephant or trapeze might be overdoing it.

So Kenneth Feld, wearing top hats as both head ringmaster and chief executive of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, decided to prove his point by performing his own stunt.

This winter, Feld is paying his acrobats, lion tamers, clowns and other employes entirely with $2 bills to demonstrate the economic impact of the "Greatest Show on Earth" to the residents of the circus's winter home, Venice, Fla.

Hurt by what he perceives as an unappreciative audience and irritated by fees levied on the circus by the Venice city council, Feld said yesterday that he plans to pay his entire $1 million payroll during the circus's two-month stay in $2 dollar bills. He started with last Saturday's payroll and said the bills already have started appearing in the cash registers of supermarkets, bowling alleys, retail shops -- and even the Ringling Brothers ticket stands.

"In Venice, they've come to take the circus for granted," Feld said of the small community where the circus has spent its winter rehearsals since 1962.

"It's our way of showing that the circus puts money into the community," he said. "I wanted the merchants and citizens of Venice to realize that if we weren't here, this money wouldn't be here either."

The circus, which has its headquarters in the District, once made its winter home in Bailey's Crossroads, which takes its name from the same Bailey who appears in the Ringling Brothers company name.

Feld thought of the $2 bill stunt last year while asking the Venice City Council to stop charging the circus $25,000 for special police and fire service.

The seven-member council is "split" on the issue, said Mayor Richard W. Louis, who called the circus "a real asset to the community," and said Feld "doesn't have to prove his point to me."

Feld said the circus contributes at least $5 million a year to the Venice economy, between the 700 winter employes, the 10-week Clown College and the year-round construction of train cars and props.

The mayor said, however, that the circus does cause major disruptions to the tiny community, which includes an island, a year-round population of about 18,000 and a winter population of 38,000. "When the circus plays here, you can't move in this town."