Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Van Dyke? Possibly. Dick? Definitely!

The clown on the right is Chuck Sidlow. I'm not positive about the ID of the other three. Maybe Greg can ID them before I embarrass myself with a guess based on program pictures.

The gentleman in the center is Dick Van Dyke. After reading his less-than-flattering assesment of the art of circus clowning in Diane Keaton's recent book CLOWN PAINTINGS I set aside my feelings about his television and film work in the 1960s and now feel that Mr. Van Dyke has become nothing less than a complete and total Dick.

I'm amazed that someone could insult the work that professional circus clowns do after turning in the putrid performances he did in the CBS Television CLOWN COLLEGE 20TH ANNIVERSARY Special.

Yes sir, quite the Dick.


Anonymous said...

The clown on the top is Willie Youmans, Clown College Class of 1982 and Blue Unit Alley of 1983 and 1984. He was also on the Gold Unit in Japan in 1988.
I believe the clown to Dick's left is Levoie Hipps but I am probably wrong.
The clown below Dick I recognize but I do not know the name of. I don't believe he made it on the road, maybe it is a Class of 1987 Grad? The only one I am sure of is Willie.

Anonymous said...

What did he say about circus clowns in Keaton's book?


Pat Cashin said...

Without having the book in front of me, I believe it was something to the effect of: "Clowns aren't funny. Clowns never were funny. They don't EVER make me laugh. Clowns stink."

This from the host of the 20th Anniversary TV special.

Carol Burnett claimed to be terrified of clowns and runs shrieking from them whenever she sees them.

Weird thing about old 60s/70s Ringling photos from Los Angeles? Carol is in them, backstage gladhanding. Carol and Bobby Kay. Carol and Mike Coco.

Carol had Emmett Kelly on her show.

Carol is a lying bag of...well, she's Carol. Like with Dick Van Dyke, I enjoy the work, don't think much of the person.

Several other celebs dump on the profession in Keaton's book, very few have anything kind to say. Chief amongst those that do: Paul "Pee-Wee Herman" Reubens, who grew up in Sarasota.

GregDeSanto said...

With the book playing heavily into the anti-clown movement, it's not too hard to believe most of the celebrities wrote negative reactions to go along with scary clown paintings. Don Knotts, Ellen Degeneres, Goldie Hawn, Jerry Lewis, Nathan Lane and Phylis Diller all wrote rather positive pieces on clowns and comedy.

The Van Dyke quote is "Clowns have my respect and admiration, but they still don't make me laugh". I offer that would apply to any of us in regards to clowns, comics and comedians and comedy in general. Comedy is subjective. I respect greatly what Paul Jung created and crafted in the circus ring, but I rarely find him funny. Otto cracks me up, and I can not see what anyone finds funny in Jerry Lewis's work past 1966 (and that's being generous!)

Being in that Clown College TV special with Dick Van Dyke, I can say he was very kind and respectful to everyone he worked alongside, and spent quite abit of time chatting us up with stories of his encounters with Stan Laurel, Buster Keaton and Lou Jacobs.


Mandy (the Clown) Dalton said...

I read a couple of reviews of the book. It was very interesting to me that all of the reviewers started out with the oh so hip and cool comment--I've always found clowns creepy--how original. Because of this, I'm going to Blog on clourophobia as the new hip phsychological disorder to have at cocktail parties. I'll post it on my own blog. Please come and check it out.
Mandy RBBBCC '82

Mandy (the Clown) Dalton said...

Here are two Paragraphs from my latest posting about clourophobia-the latest phobia fad. It's going to be kind of an extended essay. This stuff has been bothering me for a while. It was written to folks who don't know much about clowning.
No doubt you know someone, or maybe you yourself have said, “I’m afraid of clowns.” Many people tell stories about their feelings of being “creeped out” by clowns as a child. All the while, the same people clamor to buy tickets to BORAT or laugh with convulsions at JACK ASS II, or if those movies are too crude for them, they pay $200 or more for tickets to Cirque du Soleil. If I were to tell the same folks that Borat is the quintessential clown character, and that Jack Ass provides us with some of the most daring “clown antics” in years, and that Cirque Du Soleil was founded by a clown company, those people would look at me like I didn’t "get it." And maybe I don’t. But I’m going to write about my thoughts here anyway.

For the last five years, clourophobia or “fear of clowns” has grown into a fashionable psychological disorder. People joke about having it, in order to appear clever to their fellow cocktail party guests. These days, Hollywood glitterati, New York "hipper than thou" art/theater/literature/fashion critics, and famous (and unfunny) stand-up comics use the American notion of a clown as an easy target for some cute, cutting remarks. They like to use clowns as the joke in just the same way that they used mimes about 10 years earlier.

Anonymous said...

Whenever anyone (snarkily) tells me they are afraid of clowns, I always tell them that there are some clowns they SHOULD be afraid of. It's worth it to see the look on their face. (And besides, I was on the Blue Show, and so I know that's true:)

As for Jerry Lewis; 1966 is when he had his big pratfall accident, where he chipped his spinal cord, and he struggled with pain and painkillers after that. That explains the change in his work. But I know for a fact that he LOVES clowns, and actually collects them. About 15 years ago when I published a calendar of my clown photos, someone gave him a copy, and he sent me a lovely note.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mandy. Well said. I am a Red Cross Clown, and get to deal with the whole "I'm afraid of Clowns" thing far too often. I usually diffuse it by saying "I understand. I'm kinda afraid of people. How do you smell anything with such a small nose?" I agree it has become the hip new phobia that It's "Cool" to have. I sometime want to ask "So, do you still sleep with the light on?" I have spent a lot of time learning to be a gentle clown and letting kids come to me at there own pace. It's just sooo much fun when a parent says "See the scary clown.He might eat you!" I turn around and say "WHERE!?"eople like that can make you want to scream....

GregDeSanto said...

Jerry Lewis really digs clowns, he did a guest clown spot on the Ringling show in 1961 in LA, performing in spec, with Gene Lewis & Paul Jung in the Health Spa ring gag. He also appeared in the early 70's Feld produced TV show "Klowns", in tramp make-up alongside Otto Griebling.

He was appearing in Madison, Wisconsin back in 1993 in a concert show he and brought myself, Barry Lubin, Jeff Jenkins and Jay Stewart backstage after the show and was very easy to chat with and enjoyed hearing our interests in the profession.

Peter Pitofsky used to hang out with him in Vegas and probably saw abit of the "monkey" he used to be in the early Colgate TV days in Peter.

Milton Berle, Jonathon Winters, Tim Conway, Sid Caesar and Lucille Ball all expressed a fondness for circus clowns and most had some professional connection with circus performers over the course of their career.

Mandy (the Clown) Dalton said...

Thanks Scruffy. The best place to view my full blog entry is and then click on BLOG at the top of the page. On that blog, I have hyperlinks to some stuff that might give you pause.

During the whole mimes suck fad and what makes me feel creepy now is that this stuff comes from a very ugly place in American culture. As a culture, we have no sense of subtlety. The internet is making it worse.

When people take this attitude toward our art or any other, they close themselves off to a huge amount of information and history. The closed American Mind makes for a very homogenized and (Ok I'll say it) crappy knowledge of the very origins of American culture. That could bite donkey turds because it creates fear of other things--and a complete fear of not looking "cool" or "in."

Here's an analogy: after seeing a bad tap dancer someone says, " tap dancers are terrible, I hate tap dancers." Let's say that @$$hole is someone like Johnny Depp (who BTW in real life claims to be severely clourophobic.) Johnny Depp is considered "cool" by the "it" crowd; therefore everyone who wants to be cool (wants to be Johnny, or wants to be liked by Johnny) hates tap dancers. That spreads to other mavens, bloggers, and then wannabes. (See THE TIPPING POINT, by Malcolm Gladwell.) After that, even brilliant tap dancers wouldn't be able to find an audience. Nobody wants to watch tap dancers because they would not be cool if they did watch tap dancers. Some kids who could be great tap dancers wouldn't pursue it out of the fear of seeming very uncool. Suddenly, tap dancing dies in the culture.

The above analogy, minus Mr. Depp, almost really happened to tap dancing in the 70's and 80's. Many were able to turn the trend around, however. For that, thank Gregory Heines and Savion Glover.

We need to face some of the origins of this attitude directed toward us too. A lot of this comes from people taking the visual image of American Circus Clown, associating it with BAD and unfunny clowns (and there are a lot of bad clowns who go around in the full American Circus look and have no idea where it came from or why,) and then these people lump all clowns together in their minds. Sometimes the attitude might have originated with an exposure to a really bad Ringling gag (Dare I say it, not all of Frosty's stuff was pee your pants funny) or a well meaning senior citizen in the mall who puts on what he or she thinks is a clown look.

There's nothing we can do about it except to try to keep working. We're all bad clowns at first and then with luck we improve. It just helps to know how the attitude has evolved. The vast majority of all of the practitioners of any art form suck (take a look at Folk Singers.) Some become successful in spite of their suckitude (take a look at Diane Keaton.) Most practitioners of any art should suck because they should be producing material so the good stuff can float to the top. Most clowns should suck. Most do. Some are brilliant (Shiner, Irwin, insert your favorite in this space.)

At a social event, this is what I normally say when I get hit with the "clowns creep me out" thing:

"I am soooo0000oooo afraid of clowns. I hate clowns. They're just creepy."

"Are you afraid of me right now."

"No you don't look like a clown now."

"You should be afraid. You should be very afraid."

I usually give them the deranged serial killer look to button the line. The idiot either laughs or avoids me for the rest of the evening. Either reaction is a desired result.

Shit, I've spewed again. Sorry Pat, many apologies. I'll go play on my own website now.


Anonymous said...

There ARE, in fact, people who just cannot bear clowns. Perhaps it has to do with the notion that the clown's face is concealed, or perhaps it is the unwillingness to break character, rather like the aversion that most folks have for mimes, or for renaissance faire people. If Diane Keaton dislikes clowns it is her right, is it not? Do you honestly think her book has turned any fresh-faced young kids away from the circus or from clowns? Those that find clowning amusing will continue to do so, while those who do not will remain unmoved.

I should think that clowns might have a better sense of humor about things like that. Perhaps it is time to take ourselves less seriously, no? After all, almost no one who takes him-or-herself (or his-or-her profession) completely seriously rates serious consideration. Lighten up, clowns.

If you dislike clowns you do not automatically lack a sense of history or perspective; you simply are aesthetically displeased with a particular craft. And appreciation of craft is always, ultimately, a matter of aesthetics. You like things or you don't. You are creeped out by clowns or you are not. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

LOL. I agree with 'anonymous'. If someone doesn't think you're funny, you can't debate them and convince them that you are. And the fact is, there ARE a lot of seriously unfunny clowns out there who ARE scary. Slapping on the greasepaint doesn't make a person funny (or noble either).

If someone doesn't like clowns, just shrug your shoulders, have a giggle, and move on. It's not that big a deal.


GregDeSanto said...

Not to belabor this topic, but it reminds me of when "Shakes the Clown" came out and the unroar that it caused among the clowning community. I believe we take our being silly seriously, but when you can't poke fun at what we do, where does that leave us? I remember Bobcat baiting everyone from Clowns of America to the Ringling Clown College to get the rise he wanted in the press...and it worked. Was the film great comedy...doubtful, but it had clever moments and I've seen much worse clown/mime bashing in clown alley itself!

The entire Blue Unit alley went to a theater in NYC to see this film and we laughed louder than anyone.


Mandy (the Clown) Dalton said...

Your right, I'm making too much out of it. Sorry. Please understand I'm just not as hip and cool as the rest of you. I had a horrible childhood. Just thought I had identified a trend. I suck. You're right I don't have a sense of humor. I suck. I really suck. I suck I suck I suck. Can you ever forgive me for being a nerd and a moron. No? I'll go crawl under my rock. I need to get over myself. I'm a horrible bad bad horrible person. I'm not fit to even lick anyone's toe jam.

Apologies for my suckitude aside, as I try to get over myself, and acknowledge that I deeply need a sense of humor, I need to ask another "serious" question:

Has anyone else had the following experience lately? I stopped calling myself a clown to agents and to certain clients. I called myself a 'comic actor' 'physical comic' and just actress (sometimes children's actress.) I saw my bookings go up by 57%. I even designed a website just for agents with no contact info and no reference to clowning. Has anyone else had a similar experience in marketing their shows?

The only reason I'm really interested in it one way or the other is to market my art in the most effective way. I know what it is, and I'd like to change minds, but maybe in order to have the audience, I ought to just call myself something else. I don't know, and anyway, I suck. I have no sense of humor I suck.


Mandy (the Clown) Dalton said...

...and of yeah...

Shakes the Clown was f*&kin' Hillarious!!!!!