Saturday, July 05, 2008

RED NOSE NY: Joel & Juliet

Joel & Juliet Schaefer Jeske performing together at the Williamsburg Kite Festival. Mc Carren Park, Brooklyn, NY.


Photo courtesy of Robin Estes

"You talkin' to me?"


Photo courtesy of Sandy Weber

Not only was Al Ackerman's walkaround the other day extremely unpleasant, it was also ripped off from Felix Adler.

Uh, Al... why exactly?

CLOWN ALLEY: Cole Bros. Circus, August 17, 1945

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

It looks like Horace Laird is third from the left, that could be Lee Virtue fourth from left and Otto Griebling on the far right with the blurred face.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

IN MEMORIUM: Larry Harmon

Larry Harmon, who turned the character Bozo the Clown into a show business staple that delighted children for more than a half-century, died Thursday of congestive heart failure. He was 83.

His publicist, Jerry Digney, told The Associated Press he died at his home.

Although not the original Bozo, Harmon portrayed the popular clown in countless appearances and, as an entrepreneur, he licensed the character to others, particularly dozens of television stations around the country. The stations in turn hired actors to be their local Bozos.

"You might say, in a way, I was cloning BTC (Bozo the Clown) before anybody else out there got around to cloning DNA," Harmon told the AP in a 1996 interview.

"Bozo is a combination of the wonderful wisdom of the adult and the childlike ways in all of us," Harmon said.

Pinto Colvig, who also provided the voice for Walt Disney's Goofy, originated Bozo the Clown when Capitol Records introduced a series of children's records in 1946. Harmon would later meet his alter ego while answering a casting call to make personal appearances as a clown to promote the records.

He got that job and eventually bought the rights to Bozo. Along the way, he embellished Bozo's distinctive look: the orange-tufted hair, the bulbous nose, the outlandish red, white and blue costume.

"I felt if I could plant my size 83AAA shoes on this planet, (people) would never be able to forget those footprints," he said.

Susan Harmon, his wife of 29 years, indicated Harmon was the perfect fit for Bozo.

"He was the most optimistic man I ever met. He always saw a bright side; he always had something good to say about everybody. He was the love of my life," she said Thursday.

The business — combining animation, licensing of the character, and personal appearances — made millions, as Harmon trained more than 200 Bozos over the years to represent him in local markets.

"I'm looking for that sparkle in the eyes, that emotion, feeling, directness, warmth. That is so important," he said of his criteria for becoming a Bozo.

The Chicago version of Bozo ran on WGN-TV in Chicago for 40 years and was seen in many other cities after cable television transformed WGN into a superstation.

Bozo — portrayed in Chicago for many years by Bob Bell — was so popular that the waiting list for tickets to a TV show eventually stretched to a decade, prompting the station to stop taking reservations for 10 years. On the day in 1990 when WGN started taking reservations again, it took just five hours to book the show for five more years. The phone company reported more than 27 million phone call attempts had been made.

By the time the show bowed out in Chicago, in 2001, it was the last locally produced version. Harmon said at the time that he hoped to develop a new cable or network show, as well as a Bozo feature film.

He became caught up in a minor controversy in 2004 when the International Clown Hall of Fame in Milwaukee took down a plaque honoring him as Bozo and formally endorsed Colvig for creating the role. Harmon denied ever misrepresenting Bozo's history.

He said he was claiming credit only for what he added to the character — "What I sound like, what I look like, what I walk like" — and what he did to popularize Bozo.

"Isn't it a shame the credit that was given to me for the work I have done, they arbitrarily take it down, like I didn't do anything for the last 52 years," he told the AP at the time.

Harmon protected Bozo's reputation with a vengeance, while embracing those who poked good-natured fun at the clown.

As Bozo's influence spread through popular culture, his very name became a synonym for clownish behavior.

"It takes a lot of effort and energy to keep a character that old fresh so kids today still know about him and want to buy the products," Karen Raugust, executive editor of The Licensing Letter, a New York-based trade publication, said in 1996.

A normal character runs its course in three to five years, Raugust said. "Harmon's is a classic character. It's been around 50 years."

On New Year's Day 1996, Harmon dressed up as Bozo for the first time in 10 years, appearing in the Rose Parade in Pasadena.

The crowd reaction, he recalled, "was deafening."

"They kept yelling, `Bozo, Bozo, love you, love you.' I shed more crocodile tears for five miles in four hours than I realized I had," he said. "I still get goose bumps."

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Harmon became interested in theater while studying at the University of Southern California.

"Bozo is a star, an entertainer, bigger than life," Harmon once said. "People see him as Mr. Bozo, somebody you can relate to, touch and laugh with."

Besides his wife, Harmon is survived by his son, Jeff Harmon, and daughters Lori Harmon, Marci Breth-Carabet and Leslie Breth.


Associated Press writers Polly Anderson in New York and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


If there is anyone out there in Rhode Island who will have the Fourth of July parade from Bristol on their ABC affiliate tomorrow morning, would you PLEASE tape it for me???

I'll be up there with my comedy car and would hate to miss any network television footage.


The Stewart Family Clowns, otherwise known as the latest version of The Seaside Clowns--tearing it up on Cape Cod.

Their family show is booked at a few different locations on the Cape this summer--including the Payomet Performing Arts Center in Truro, MA on Aug. 22, and the Harwich Jr. Theatre in Harwich (again) on 8/23&24, and 8/28-31. If you are up their way,
check it out!

Pictured: 2008 Felix Adler Award winner Jay with his wife Kristin (grownups), Karen (10) and Nick (7).

JOE JACKSON JR: Ice Capades, 1943

This looks like it could be a publicity shot for one of the Ice Capades movies of the 1940s.

CLOWN ALLEY: Al Ackerman and Gene Randow, undated

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

What are these two, "The Ku Klux Klowns".


ART LIND: Cole Bros, Circus, circa 1940s

It looks like our photo of Otto in whiteface the other day was actually a picture of Cole Bros. alleymate Art Lind.

THE ARTHUR BORELLA TRIO: Hagenbeck-Wallace, 1927

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

CLOWN ALLEY: Circus Roncalli, 2008

David Larible, Gensi Bezaubert and Bernhard Paul performing their Cupid entree during the current edition of Circus Roncalli.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Find out more about Kirk (and wish him a Happy Birthday) by clicking here.

IN MEMORIUM: Bobby Hakes

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

Bobby Hakes, the man who supplied with a steady stream of classic circus videos, passed away peacefully last Saturday night.

From Bill Strong's YESTERDAY'S TOWNS

Bobby was a retired concession manager, who worked his way up from "candy butcher" to owning his own business.

A little known fact is that he was also a member of Bill Atterbury's "Sky Kings", Sway Pole Act.

Bobby was another of those unique personalities who made our life a "Circus", he will be missed.

He most certainly will.

I was surprised yesterday morning to receive a phone call from Bobby's loving wife of 40 years, Phips (of the Sloan/Yelding family) who thanked me for being a loyal customer over the years and assured me that my most recent order would be on it's way shortly.

I was flabbergasted.

I will never cease to be awed and impressed with the work ethic of real "old circus" type people.

BILLY VAUGHN: With Mike Snyder, Vidbel's Olde Tyme Circus

Photos courtesy of Billy Vaughn

Billy Vaughn and Mike Snyder: two clowns, looking exactly like what clowns are supposed to look like, doing precisely what it is that clowns are supposed to do on an indoor Vidbel date.


A very dapper and dashing young Glen "Kinko" Sunberry

Would someone like to explain to me just how it is that Herman Joseph and Paul Jerome are a team of "solo comics"?

CLOWN ALLEY: Swalley & Warde, 1926

Lawrence Swalley and Bobbie Warde doing the Camera Gag on the Al G. Barnes Circus in 1926.


Producing clown and leader of the Alfredo Landon Troupe of "small statured circus comedians", Mr. Alf Landon.

CLOWN ALLEY: The Big Apple Circus, 2007

Video courtesy of Joel Jeske

"The Big Apple Water Gag" written by Barry Lubin and Jeff Gordon, performed over the years By Grandma, Gordoon, Francesco and done here with Joel Jeske.

For most of the "Step Right Up!" tour the gag was performed by Grandma, Francesco and Jeske as a trio.

THIS is the type of classic clowning that is all too rare in contemporary American circus. Just listen to the kids in that audience!!!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


There are several Ringling photos of folks like Felix Adler and Lou Jacobs in alternate makeups but this Harry Atwell photo purports to be none other than Otto Griebling in n alternate whiteface publicity shot from the Cole Bros. Circus in the early 1930s.


CLOWN ALLEY: Cole Bros. Circus, 1950

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

At the bottom center is Albert "Flo" White, to his immediate right is Danny McPride and on the bottom right is Horace Laird. Other than that I'm not sure off the top of my head.

FUMAGALLI: Big Apple Circus, 2008

Fumagalli and Daris performing "come-in" with the current edition of the Big Apple Circus.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Emmett Kelly cleaning off comedy contortionist Francis Duggan.

CLOWN ALLEY: Ringling, circa 1940s

From left to right: Felix Adler, Lulu Cranston and Paul Jerome and a "bevy of beauties" including Ms. Lola Dobritch.

MARCOS DROUGETT: Ringling, 1965

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

CHARLIE FRYE: Eccentricks 1, 2 & 3

Clips have been posted (with Mr. Frye's blessings) from Charlie Frye's extraordinary Eccentricks series of instructional DVDs.

Each one is like a Master Class with Charlie teaching physical & visual comedy, juggling, magic and other miscellaneous manipulations machinated to amuse and amaze.

The DVDs can (and should) be ordered directly from Charlie himself at his website here.