Friday, September 12, 2008

CLOWNFEST '08: Greg DeSanto Video Presentation

Pictured left to right (top row) Vince Pagliano, Pat Cashin, Greg DeSanto (bottom row) Karen DeSanto, Leon "Buttons" McBryde and Jim Howle

Thanks go out tonight to the Clownfest folks, Greg and Karen DeSanto, Leon McBryde and Jim Howle for a wonderful evening of rare clown video and an even rarer opportunity to hear Leon and Jim's first hand road stories of those days when the "traditional" Ringling Alley was first mixed with these new, so-called "Clown College" graduates.

"And a great time was had by all..."

GENE LEWIS: From Chuck Burnes and Rick Whelan

Photos by Jannette Rainwater, courtesy of Michael Rainwater, Chuck Burnes and Rick Whelan

During a recent correspondence Rick Whelan wrote to Chuck Burnes...

I grew up in Plainville, CT. As you may remember, Ringling played there quite frequently during the 1950s. They wanted to tap the central Connecticut market but couldn't return to Hartford because of the bad feelings caused by that devastating circus fire in 1944.So I grew up watching Ringling almost every summer, and I guess I got hooked. And when I struck up a friendship with Gene, that made it even sweeter. I often wonder when Gene passed ... and where he is buried. The last address I had for him was a trailer park in La Puente, CA. Do you happen to know any details of his last years?

As a youngster, Gene really fascinated me. We became penpals and this correspondence lasted over ten years. I had hoped to become a circus clown some day - just like him! Now I'm 63 years old. I didn't become a clown, but I was an actor for 15 years and I often think Gene had a great deal to do with this.

The last time I saw Gene was at the old Madison Square Garden in the late 1960s. By then was in college and had decided to try acting. Gene was so happy for me ... he was always telling me to get as much education as I could and I think he thought acting was a much more "respectable" profession than clowning ... although I'm not sure, even at my age, I could ever agree with that. I think the great clowns of the world are the supreme artists of our time: Otto Griebling... Emmett Kelly... Felix Adler... Lou Jacobs... all brilliant!
Gene was born in Bloomington Indiana (or Illinois?) He was in vaudeville with a guy named Frank Faylen who later went on to have a movie career. Faylen's most famous role was the taxi driver in the Christmas classic "It's A Wonderful Life". When vaudeville went bust, Gene joined the circus and Frank went to Hollywood.
I'm just wondering if you knew Gene during your years with the circus. Any information you could give me about his life and personal history would be greatly appreciated.

All the best,
Rick Whelan

And Chuck replied

Hi, Rick! Sure! I knew Gene very well! A really terrrific guy!

I was on the Ringling show from 1955 thru 1961 - seven full seasons in all. In fact, I met my wife there!

Gene had a trailer in a little trailer park with lots of other circus people close to downtown and I frequently saw him in off-season, as well!

I know he was in vaudeville with Frank Faylen because whenever we played Madison Square Garden, Frank would visit a few times each year.

Both gentlemen ask that if anyone out there has more information on Mr. Lewis (Jackie LeClaire, we're looking at you. sir) to please step forward and share it with the group!



Enclosed you'll find...

A photo of Spider and Jacko Fossett taken when we were with Robert Bros Circus in 1958

One of Jacko Fossett taken on the Stage Circus in 1956

And a photo taken about 1935 of my father and his brother with Bandbox Austin & son Len (Spider)

Sue Lenz


Please click the title of this post to be taken to a recent blog entry by Spumco's John Kricfalusi, creator of Ren & Stimpy, and his thoughts on creating memorable and enduring characters. Everything he is saying about cartoon characters is just as applicable to clown characters...

Thursday, September 11, 2008


The second in the series of compilation DVDs is now at the plant being duplicated and I've been told will be ready to ship starting tomorrow.

To order a copy from eBay, please click here.


I'm not going to say anything about it this year.

This is the first anniversary of 9/11 where I haven't had my skin crawl all day from the memories.

I'd like to keep it that way.

CLOWN ALLEY: Mills Bros. Circus, undated

Photos courtesy of Bill Strong

It looks like Nicholai's son, Mike's brother Sacha Coco down front.

The long legs, most likely used as the blow-off to the Balloon Chase.

KEKINO: Cirque Barletti

Kekino and his trumpet.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Clowns for change?!?

Never before has there been a presidential candidate that so desperately needed change!


Photo and comments courtesy of Raffaele de Ritis

From Raffaele...

Amleto Cagna and his son Ginetto were among the clowns of Circorama Orfei in Italy in the late '60s-early '70s.

I remember perfectly their act: they were some of the very first clowns I saw in my life.

This picture comes from the Circorama Orfei program magazine of 1971, the same year Fellini filmed them there.

Amleto, today 86, works in a café in his hometown, Parma.

BILLY McCABE: Beatty-Cole Publicity Photo, 1960s

FELIX ADLER: Ringling, undated

The "King of Clowns" pauses to tie his king-sized clown shoes.

JIMMY ARMSTRONG: Hamid-Morton, Beatty-Cole, 1959

Jimmy Armstrong prepares to perform the Army Gag on a miserably wet afternoon on the Hamid-Morton, Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus at Palisades Park, NJ in 1959.


The Popey trio of musical clowns.


New eBay items listed today!

Clown College Coveralls!

Giant Comedy Boxing Gloves!

"Circus Clowns" Pants!

Monday, September 08, 2008

MYSTERY CLOWNS: Unknown Show, Undated

Photo courtesy of Bill Strong

CHARLIE RIVEL: Festival of Cubelles

A giant Charlie Rivel puppet as part of the Festival of Cubelles, Spain, the city of Rivel's birth.


Photos and comments courtesy of Raffaele de Ritis

From Raffaele...
Gerard Vicaire opened his shop in Paris in 1931, closing it in the early 90s. All the European white clowns of the time had costumes made by him.

Few years ago, the historian Genis Matabosch from Spain designed in Barcelona a wonderful exhibition in collaboration with Mr.Vicaire himself. The exhibition is still displayed sometimes.

It was put together recently at the Albacete festival last Spring.

A wonderful catalogue is available, with all the designs, sketchs and photographs of the Vicaire costumes and clowns.

Two pictures of Alberto "Grisou" Caroli Jr. at Cirque d'Hiver
wearing his uncle Francesco's marvelous costumes.

The new show there is expected to open in October, running thru March.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

COUNT POPO DE BATHE: From Verne Langdon

Photos and comments courtesy of Verne Langdon

Count PoPo De Bathe at the 1955 San Mateo Fair by Ansel Adams

Besides nurturing some of the finest puppeteers in America (Bob Mills, Jerry Juhl, Luman Coad and Tony Urbano just to name a few), the little kiddieland park in Oakland, California known as "Oakland's Fairyland" harbored a grand traditional whiteface clown who quit the road to settle down in Herb Caen's Bagdad-By-The-Bay.

Count PoPo De Bathe was a fixture not just at Fairyland but various San Francisco department stores of the day, including Macy's and The White House.

He was a veteran UNICEF entertainer whose Punch & Judy work was second only to the legendary Jay Marshall, who incidentally built PoPo's set of P&J puppets.

I had reason to do some background on PoPo, and received immeasurable help from Fairyland's resident Archivist Randal Metz. Here for you and your readers is PoPo's obituary plus a few photos of Count Popo De Bathe (he looks familiar, doesn't he?)

I've seen him in several pics on your site, albeit unidentified.

Now you know who he is!, meet Count PoPo!

- Verne Langdon

PoPo with Mrs. Morris' Monkeys

Count De Bathe out of makeup

Count De Bathe with Michu

A 1973 article stating that his props were sent to the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT.

His 1981 obituary.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Count PoPo De Bathe!


I'm sure someone out there knows who these two are.