Saturday, September 23, 2006

Fabulous Freak Brothers (and One Sister)

Photo courtesy of Ron Jarvis

Ron Jarvis sent this photo, which at first glance looked to me like a 1968 Moby Grape album cover, but which he assures me is a photo of the 1973 Red Unit Clown Alley of the Ringling show. It looks as though it was taken on the night they were all busy driving ol' Dixie down. Where was the First of May party that year? Gettysburg?

He then challenged me to name as many of the clowns out of makeup as I could.

I got two. By process of elimination that must be Peggy Williams in the center.

And there is no hiding the fact that that COULDN'T be anyone but Billy Baker down in the right hand corner.

As for the rest of them, they look like roadies for Blue Oyster Cult. GET A HAIRCUT!

It's obvious that Irvin Feld and Bill Ballantine hadn't thought to include "Long-haired freaky people need not apply" to the early Clown College applications.

He shoulda had a sign!

Happy Knapp

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

Who is he? What did he do? Where did he come from? Where did he go?

Does anyone out there have ANY information on Happy Knapp?

And would those in the back with their more sophmoric senses of humor PLEASE stop giggling about his name and emailling me about what a "Happy Knapp" would cost in Thailand!!!

The Prince and the Kindergarten Teacher

Photo courtesy of Jeff Darnell

This from Jeff Darnell...

"Prince Paul out of makeup chatting up my kindergarten teacher, Mrs Love, at the "circus party" in Greensboro. This was held at my folks house in 1980 when I played my hometown in the 110th edition. The CBS circus special hosted by Michael Landon was watched by all on something very state of the art back then..... a VCR (Beta Max)"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Felix Adler 1947

World War II is over. Having made the world a better place, the vets have returned home and the baby boom is on. It's just before the explosion of television, so it's a good time for the American circus industry.

It's 1947, Felix Adler is on the cover of the Ringling program looking EXACTLY like a post war, three-ring circus clown should and all is right with the world.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Toby Takes a Tubby

This looks to me to be Toby Ballantine (son of clown, author, artist and longtime Clown College director Bill Ballentine) performing a riff on Lou Jacobs' classic riff on Buck Baker's bathtub gag on an Ohio Shrine date in the late 70s/early 80s.

Jimmy Armstrong

Photo courtesy of Robin Estes

Jimmy Armstrong, longtime fixture on the Ringling and Beatty shows as well as many, many Shrine circuses.


Photo courtesy of Robin Estes

I'm currently working on a Shrine show alongside Tony Nock, son of Pio Nock, seen here (in checked jacket and green hat) in the John Wayne/Rita Hayworth film CIRCUS WORLD.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mike Coco on Mills Bros.

I don't remember if I've posted this one before...

It's obviously Mike "Coco" Polakov, possibly with his own son, probably from the mid 50s when he was with the Mills Bros. Circus before he joined the Ringling show.

Blinko and Flo

Two perfect examples of the rapidly vanishing/nearly extinct classic American whiteface circus clown: Ernie "Blinko" Burch and Albert "Flo" White on the Ringling show in the 50s.

Mark Anthony on Clyde Beatty

A young Mark Anthony on the Clyde Beatty Circus (the railroad show, NOT to be confused with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus) in what looks to be the late 40s to early 50s.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Jeff Darnell Photos of Lou Jacobs, 1983

Photos courtesy of Jeff Darnell

These photos came in from my new friend Jeff Darnell last night.

I'll let Jeff tell you all about them...


By way of introduction, my name is Jeff Darnell...... Clown College class of '78 and former Blue Show clown in the late 70's and early 80's.

I joined the CC faculty in 1983 and later did advance clowning in the south eastern US.

Tom Dougherty and I were classmates in 1978. My family and I had the pleasure of a visit with Tom at my home in Durham, NC last week while he was en route to Des Moines from Savannah. We had a blast digging up stuff from the collection of things from my Ringling days. The Slivers Oakley scrapbook discovery has had an impact on Tom..... and amazing "ripple effects" on my clown, "JD." After a long period of "dormancy" in the performing world, Tom is encouraging me to "return to the ring" of sorts..... and dust off the skill sets of my past.

I recently walked through a two year Hospice experience with my Dad. This journey has squeezed and stretched my heart&soul in many directions. One thing that's being revealed to me is that the timing is now right to begin the second half of my "clown journey."

I have some things on the back burner that will soon be heating up!

For those of you who don't know me, I left the Blue Show to begin the adventure of getting my degree in furniture design and construction with a minor in Psychology at Appalachian State University. I met my wife, Judy, in Boone while working as RAs in Frank and Hoey Dorms. We have a daughter named Allie. She is in the 8th grade.

My veins still had sawdust in them after touring full time with the Blue Show and I returned to Clown College in 1983 to teach make up, stilt walking, and drive the CC bus. I still have flash backs to the Class of '83 "theme song" that was sung over and over and over and over and over and over and over en route to the Venice Villas at night...... and in the morning too. "Do wa diddy diddy dum diddy do!"

I had the privilege of sitting at the feet of George Shellenberger in the prop department down at Winter Quarters. I made it a point to soak up his homespun wisdom..... and was always in awe of his incredible ability to visualize..... then build some of the coolest, and of course the sturdiest, props that would usually make it out on one of the tours. George could do this from a small "doodle sketch" on a pad or just by listening to a clown/student describe what he wanted the prop to do.

I also had the honor of sharing a common wall with Lou Jacobs during the fall of '83 while we occupied the back two condos at the Venice Villas. We were right beside the pool. I will always remember his gracious response to a plate of fresh pineapple I cut up for a Sunday afternoon lunch. He said, "that's good!" Then he smiled and said "thank you." He was a man of few words. His twinkling, "Santa Claus" eyes did most of his talking and this will forever be remembered by me. Our world is a better place because of the mark he left on our hearts!


Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

Peluza, a clown on the Shrine circuit in the 1950s who modeled his makeup and costume after Jimmy Stewart's character,Buttons, in the film THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. I know, strange choice because most professional clowns agree that Stewart's makeup was the nadir of effective clown makeup design and his character, as noble as his motives may have been, is arrested for the murder of his wife at the end of the film.

But the image was used heavily to promote a wildly successful film that did win an Oscar for Best Picture, so I can see why someone might try to capitalize on that.

Bill Strong tells me, "Peluza has received much criticism over that, but regardless of the fact, he was a very good clown."

Jules Turnour

If you ever see a copy of the book AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A CLOWN by Jules Turnour on eBay, snap it up!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Felix Adler by Cowboy Mike Keever

Photo courtesy of Cowboy Mike Keever

I need a smile today.

Things are not going my way at the moment and I was looking for something to post for today that made me smile both inside and out. This is it. Its a painting of Felix Adler done by Cowboy Mike Keever.

To paraphrase Steve Smith, "It makes me smile all over".

I apologize for it being sideways, that's how it was received. I still haven't figured out how to correct that on my new mac but I have a few days at home this week, so I hope to get a little more "mac savvy".