Saturday, December 24, 2011


Thanks to Kenny "The Great Gumbini" Colombo and the 1976/'77 Blue Unit Clown Alley of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Merry Christmas to one and all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

CHARLIE BELL: Hunting Gag (August 14, 1947)

Photo by Sverre "Bex" Braathen, courtesy of the Illinois State University Digital Collection 

Charlie Bell and Peanut preparing to perform their classic Hunting Gag on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Jimmy Armstrong can be seen in the background

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Can anyone identify the two clowns in this clip? Does anyone know the year?

Monday, November 07, 2011


And now an important message from me...I just want to clarify a few points about the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center. It is clear that some people do not know all the facts and backstory of how I came to be the chief cook, bottlewasher and keeper of the props, wardrobe, stories and memories of clowns past, present & future here at the ICHOF. The quick version is I was asked to help this organization at a time when it was about to, in no easy words, "go-away". Financial troubles, Board problems and this amazing collection of artifacts tucked away in storage units not being seen by anyone. With the help of dedicated friends, clowns, performers and the community of Baraboo, WI, the ICHOF became a reality, and once again a proud monument to the lives and careers of clowns, world-wide.

Since our opening on May 21, 2010, we have cleared up the back taxes, become current with all our bills, created a complete inventory of every artifact in our collection, re-structured our board to include a mix of local merchants and business members who share our mission and passion and believe in the good that a museum celebrating clowning can do. And the clowns themselves. Every time there has been a need, the professional clown community has stepped up. EVERY time. Whether it's trust in me, or belief in the mission to preserve our shared history or just something as simple as wanting to help and to be able to say to themselves that they did do something to help an art form that has given so much to our lives.

With an institution that dates back to 1986, there is going to be history attached. Most of it good, but some not so much. All we can do in the present is to learn from the past and not repeat those mistakes. Many great clowns helped start this idea of a depository of physical items relating to clowns, but really what makes these "items" important are the stories that bring them to life and honor the performers who dedicated their lives to this thing we call clowning. From a museum business stand point these items are what give our collection "value". We have to insure them. We have to care for them them. We have to be responsible caretakers for these items so that future generations can see and learn from these artifacts of those who came before us.

That being said, it needs to be stated very clearly that unless a written document on ICHOF stationary,dated & signed by both parties is present indicating that a item is on "loan" to the ICHOF, it is the current Board of Directors and Executive Director position that any and all items currently on display or in the collection of the ICHOF are the sole and complete property of the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center, a 501 (c) 3 organization. Wisconsin law allows for a seven (7) year period in which an item in the care of the institution (ICHOF) has not been reviewed by said owner, it is implied that ownership of said item becomes the property of the institution caring for its physical being and financial worth. In laymans terms, for example, if an item was loaned/donated back in 1989, and no contact about that item has been made since the date, and no paperwork can be produced to verify any agreements between the two parties, the item is the sole property of the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center.

We take the business of operating a not for profit museum very seriously. From the time I have taken over as Board President,(October 2009) I have waived all salary compensation and our board worked diligently to correct our business model and return the organization to financial solvency. They have also agreed to not receive any items on loan or consignment. Any exceptions are duly noted in our files and are done with Board approval. To date there is only one exception on file.

As we move forward and continue to grow and add to our collection, I would hope this policy will not deter anyone from making a contribution of historic clown related artifacts. More importantly, one should know that any item given to us will be treated with respect, displayed with the knowledge of where this artifacts falls in the vast history of clowning, and be seen by generations of people who might just walk away having learned something about clowns that will affect them for the rest of their lives.

So ends my story for today. I cannot begin to thank everyone who has helped us on our mission to see the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center become a living, ever changing place to honor clowning. I hope that if it your desire to help in any way, ideas, suggestions, volunteer, financial contributions, you will do so, and know your efforts are appreciated and welcomed by a very grateful Clown Hall of Fame.

In Laughter-

Greg DeSanto

Friday, October 28, 2011

CLOWN ALLEY: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey (Circa 1960)

Photo courtesy of Chipper Lowell (Chuck's son and a world-class comedy magician) 

Arne "Red" Honkola at the piano and Chuck Burnes as the saloon girl in Paul Jung's Western Gag.

(Chuck Burnes himself writes to tell us that this photo was taken during either the New York or Boston dates)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

SLIVERS OAKLEY: Ringling Bros. Circus Poster (Circa 1900)

This lithograph - perhaps the only surviving example - was printed by the Courier Litho Company for the Ringling Bros. Circus about 1900. This particular poster sold at auction in September of 2010 for nearly $5000.00

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Photo courtesy of Michael Johnson 

Glenn "Frosty" Little and Duane "Uncle Soapy" Thorpe at the Chicago Ampitheater

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I don't think it was the creator of this clip's intention but this piece very clearly illustrates the difference between what clowning is supposed to be... and what it all too often is. It's not a fashion show or a fetish party... it's clowning. You have to DO something.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

MICHAEL "COCO" POLAKOVS: Bellevue Hospital, New York City (1960s)

Michael "Coco" Polakovs performing at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey benefit show at New York's Bellevue Hospital, an annual tradition throughout the "North Era", in the 1960s. Coco told me that this colorful harlequin checked outfit was custom made for him in England and was his very favorite costume.

Friday, September 02, 2011

BILLY VAUGHN: Photos From His Induction Into the International Clown Hall of Fame

Photos courtesy of Noah Van Denburgh 

Billy Vaughn accepting the plaque inducting him into the International Clown Hall of Fame from ICHOF Executive Director Greg DeSanto in a ceremony which took place Friday August 26th during the 2011 Circus Fans of America convention in Newburgh, NY. A wonderful retrospective video of Billy's career (courtesy of ICHOF board member Sandy Weber) was screened and fellow circus clowns Scott O'Donnell, John Kennedy Kane and Michael Karp were in attendance.

Congratulations, Billy. Well deserved! 

Friday, August 26, 2011


Congratulations go out to Billy Vaughn who will be inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame today in recognition of a circus career that has spanned decades and is distinguished for his exceptional qualities both inside and outside of the ring.

Truly a clown's clown, the honor is extremely well deserved and very happily bestowed.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

KELLY-MILLER 2011: Don't Miss It!

I saw a circus yesterday that made me wish I was seeing the current edition of Kelly-Miller again. I said it before and I'll say it again, dagnabit: The current edition of Kelly-Miller is just about as good a traditional circus as I've ever seen.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Wouldn't it be great if we unlearned all of the deeply, profoundly "important" lessons that we've learned about clowning and just simply tried to make people laugh?

Friday, August 05, 2011


For those of you wondering why the posting here have slowed, I am busy re-launching ICHOF inductee Bob Keeshan's classic television creation, Captain Kangaroo.

Click the title of this post to be taken to our Facebook page, click the link here to be taken to our website and blog.

ICHOF: Front Page News!

Funny business: International Clown Week has Baraboo busy smiling

By Ed Zagorski, News Republic

Greg DeSanto, executive director of the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center in downtown Baraboo, adjusts a display of Bobo the Clown's famous wardrobe. Bobo, who stood 6-foot, 3 inches tall and weighed 240 pounds would take six dogs, a skunk, suitcase and trumpet with him inside the small electric car, which still runs today. Ed Zagorski / News Republic

Clowning around is no joke to Greg DeSanto, executive director of the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center in downtown Baraboo.

"This is not a job for me," he said. "I love coming here."

But this week is something special for DeSanto. International Clown Week began Monday and runs through Sunday.

The original National Clown Week proclamation, signed by President Richard Nixon on Aug. 2, 1971, is on display at the facility.

"It's great to have a week like this because clowns have been getting a bad rap, especially with some of the horror movies that are out there," DeSanto said.

"I want people to walk away from here with a respect for clowns. Clowns or comedic figures have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years in different cultures throughout the world."

DeSanto said the definition of a "clown" fits more than just those who wear big, red noses, floppy shoes and colorful wigs.

"You have Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Jerry Lewis," he said. "You also have the Clown Prince of Baseball, Max Patkin, and the Clown Prince of Basketball, Meadowlark Lemon," DeSanto said. "Those folks had other careers which led them into clowning. They just had different venues to showcase their acts."

DeSanto said a few television personalities earned their start by playing clowns.

He said that long before Ed McMahon began calling out "Here's Johnny!" on the "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," McMahon wore clown makeup and a wig before the opening of each episode of "Big Top Circus" on CBS in the 1950s.

DeSanto also said before Bob Keeshan played the beloved "Captain Kangaroo," he was the first to play Clarabell the Clown on "The Howdy Doody Show."

"Television needed people who could work on these types of programs devoted to children," DeSanto said. "Some of these guys already had television experience, like Willard Scott, the weatherman, who played Bozo the Clown for a time in the 1960s. Willard also played Ronald McDonald, too."

DeSanto, who plays Greg the Clown, said he has met a lot of the clowns whose photos hang from the walls inside the International Clown Hall of Fame.

"Their memories should be shown and shared with the younger generation," he said. "It's just one big family here, and their stories should be kept alive."

Pat Cashin, who serves on the board of directors of the International Clown Hall of Fame, is doing just that with his blog at, which he said brings people together from all over the world to talk about clowns and their different art forms.

"I started the blog about five years ago and we have between 400 and 500 hits a day on it," he said. "We have about 5,000 posts, where people from around the globe post their pictures, stories, old news articles and even videos of family members who were clowns in the past."

Cashin said the site helps to drive the art form of clowning forward virtually, like the clown colleges did physically for those who took part in them.

"The site puts older clowns in touch with young ones from all over the world," Cashin said. "It has become real handy for professional clowns to share their stories."

He also said the site has boosted the reputation of Baraboo's International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center.

"There is no permanent clown museum in the world that can touch what Baraboo has," he said. "Clowns from around the world are sending their things to our museum, and it's great because it helps to show what clowning really is."

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Thursday, August 04, 2011


Number Two In a Series 

Why are clown "walkarounds" referred to as "walkarounds". The term most likely has its origins in the pre-three ring circus minstrel show days...

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


 Number One in a Series

I know what you've heard. I know what you've read in books written decades after the fact by people who never worked in the circus. This seems to me to be the most likely origin of the term "First of May"...

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

SAM FERLO: New York Times Article

Please click the link below for a wonderful article on Ted and Mary Beth Ferlo's son Sam following in his father's oversized footsteps and attending Circus Smirkus this summer.

Monday, August 01, 2011

INTERNATIONAL CLOWN WEEK 2011: August 1st - 7th

 From the desk of Greg DeSanto, Executive Director of the International Clown Hall of Fame...

August 1st thru the 7th is designated "National Clown Week" by Joint Congressional Resolution, approved October 8, 1970 and signed into law by President Richard Nixon on August 2, 1971.

In part the proclamation reads,
"Whoever has heard the laughter of a child or seen the sudden delight on the face of a lonely old man has understood in those brief moments mysteries deeper than love.

All men are indebted to those who bring such moments of quiet splendor-who redeem sickness and pain with joy. All across America good men in putty noses and baggy trousers following a tradition as old as man's need to gently touch the lives of his fellowman. Today, as always, clowns and the spirit they represent are as vital to the maintenance of our humanity as the builders and the growers and governors... "

The International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center is proud to help celebrate the laughter this week with special events to include a display of the original proclamation signed by President Richard Nixon, guided tours of the largest collection of clown artifacts in the world and on Saturday, August 6th, a celebration of Lucille Ball's 100th Birthday with a trivia contest at 1:00pm, daylong video highlights of some of Lucy's funniest moments, and face painting.

The Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center is a 501 (c) 3 organization, and is located at 102 4th Avenue, Baraboo, WI 53913, right on the historic downtown square. Hours are Monday to Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm, admission is $5.00. For more info call 608-355-0321.


Monday, July 11, 2011


Kimmer and Victoria are exploring the United States by RV for 52 weeks. They recently visited the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center in Baraboo, WI and shared their experience.

Friday, July 01, 2011

RYAN & STEVE: Kelly-Miller Circus (2011)

Video courtesy of M Lane Talburt

I saw the Kelly-Miller show a few weeks back in Secaucus, NJ and, from the moment it started til the finale, it was probably the very best circus (outside of Big Apple) that I have seen in 15-20 years!!!

Gone are the lackluster "thrill" acts of a few years back, replaced with an extremely well-paced, well presented performance that puts the rest of the industry to shame.

The near capacity audience was ecstatic... and so was I. This was the circus that I've wanted to take my son to for almost nine years. The one that has the smell of elephants and cotton candy, has funny clowns and great acts presented with a professional attention to detail. This is showmanship! This was a real honest-to-goodness CIRCUS under canvas!

It was wonderful to see.

Check the Kelly Miller website to see when the show is in your area and DO NOT MISS IT!

Friday, June 24, 2011 returns July 1st, 2011.

A one month vacation isn't too much to ask after 5 years, is it?

Monday, June 20, 2011


The International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center and its Board of Directors are proud to announce the their selection for the 2011 Induction into the Clown Hall of fame- Mr. Billy Vaughn!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELMO! will return soon but I had to come back from vacation to wish a very happy 60th birthday today to my good friend Dean "Elmo Gibb" Chambers. Today marks another milestone as he celebrates 35 years as a professional clown.

As a "baby clown" graduating the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College at the Venice Arena

At the center of the Blue Show Clown Alley of the Greatest Show on Earth in 1977.

On a Shrine Date in New York State in 1981

The longtime Advance Clown for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus

On Hoxie's Great American Circus

As Producing Clown for Beatty-Cole 

At the Clown College Reunion in 1987

At the Showfolks Circus with Sandy Kaye

With Shane and I at Michael Rosman's Circus Camp

In the Showfolks Alley
Happy Birthday, Elmo!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I'm loading the car for the long drive to Schenectady, New York to visit the Electric City Clown Alley tonight and share a lot of rare clowning videos and some stories.

CLOWN ALLEY: Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus (circa 1970s)

Shorty Hinkle

Lou Nagy

Jimmy James Plott

NO JOE'S CLOWN CIRCUS: 2011 Promo Video

Folks, this is what a professional promo video looks like. Joey's marketing material is always top notch but I think that he's really outdone himself this year.

Monday, May 23, 2011

CLOWN ALLEY: Four Kings and Some Joker (Circa 1940s)

Charlie Bell, Emmett Kelly, Felix Adler, Frankie Saluto (in Chaplin makeup) and what appears to be someone else in Paul Jung's makeup and costume. Does anyone have any background on this?

FREDDY "ALEX" ACERO: Shrine Circus (2011)

Sunday, May 22, 2011


After a few deeply heartfelt words from John's son Eric McConnell, John's family and friends held a good thought or memory of John and released a multitude of balloons heavenward.