Wednesday, July 22, 2015

PAUL JEROME: Obituary in the White Tops (November/December 1960)

"The small procession left the administration office of Arlington National Cemetery at 1 PM November 21, 1960. It wound through the beatutiful landscape of our burying grounds of our nation's defenders. Past the Tomb of the Unknowns on its way to its final destination.

Grave 4675 Section 12 were the cold numbers describing the final resting place of Paul Jerome James, clown for years with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. The procession was met by a Navy chaplain at the gravesite, while on a nearby knoll the ceremonial Firing Squad stood at rigid attention. Services were conducted after which the traditional three volley salute and the playing of Taps by a lone bugler were heard. Then the mortal remains of Paul Jerome were lowered into their final resting place.

Present at services were only three persons, members of the Circus Fans Association. The only flowers, a wreath of circus roses from lifelong friend Emmett Kelly. A rather sad ending for a clown applauded by millions and known to many for his wide white collar and flashing red nose. "

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

KIRK MARSH: Circus Sarasota (July 11, 2015)

"There is a moment in each person’s life that most of us don’t remember, but parents dread; the moment when magic ceases to exist for a child. For years children live in a blissful ignorance believing that Daddy can fix anything broken, Mommy can kiss away any injury and, when all else fails, there is always that wish they’ve been saving since blowing out last years birthday candle.
Eventually that changes. Four-leaf clovers become weeds and shooting stars become meteorites. Eventually, “Prince Charming” becomes the reason daddy insisted she carry pepper-spray.
Eventually . . . but until then, we delight in letting them enjoy the magic.
“Eventually” came on a Saturday for my 5-year old daughter, Alexis. To be precise, it was Saturday, July 11th 2015, at 5:45 pm EST when she faced the death of her magic.
To call Kirk Marsh a “clown” is like calling Michael Jordan a basketball player. It’s accurate, but begs for an asterisk. He is an amazing performance artist that gives the greats like Charlie Chaplin and Harpo Marx a run for their money. We saw him at the historic Asolo Theater at the Ringling complex in Sarasota, Florida.
Kirk Marsh entertained the audience that evening uncanny with antics and performances between the various acrobats and jugglers. His official performance however was saved for the finale.
Alexis was so excited, I could barely restrain her loud belly-laugh or keep her from yelling out comments: “It’s behind you, silly”. Occasionally he would scan the crowd and bring someone on stage as part of the act. When he started scanning the crowd, Alexis became so excited she thrust her hand in the air determined to become a part of this incredible show.
I’ve never seen her so serious. She was not waving her hand and carrying on, but instead, was careful and strategic. She thrust her hand up as soon as he started looking, sat straight up in her chair and remained perfectly still and quiet. She was giving him no excuse to overlook her.
There was a curious confidence about her. She was certain she would be picked because she wanted it more than anyone else and, as we all know, magic rewards pure desire.
Part of Kirk’s act was throwing his hat into the crowd. When they threw it back he would catch it on his head. Surprisingly, he threw it directly to me. Alexis exploded with excitement and she told me she wanted to throw it back.
However, we were too far from the stage and it would be impossible for her to ever throw it back that far. The audience waited for me to do something with the hat. Not wanting to delay the show further, I threw the hat toward stage and hoped she would forgive me. I missed. (Like I said, it was far). Kirk threw the hat back for a second try.
I tried to avoid looking at Alexis but I felt her little hand on my leg and I heard her soft whimper, “Please, Daddy. I want to throw it”. I silently cursed that damn clown for putting me in such a position. I looked at Alexis as my mind raced to find a solution, “I’m sorry, sweetie. It’s too far.”
“Daddy, please . . .” I threw it and Kirk maneuvered so it landed on his head. I was relieved that the ordeal was finally over.
As I turned to Alexis, the look on my daughter’s face was almost more than I could handle. It was a combination of disbelief and disappointment like I had just cooked the Easter Bunny. “But, Daddy, I wanted to throw the hat.”
At that moment, every father’s nightmare became my reality. I saw my little daughter mature in front of my eyes as she fought back the tears like someone twice her age, that I had most assuredly caused. I could see the magic leave her eyes as she realized her dream would not come true. It didn’t matter how many prayers she offered or how many birthday wishes she made . . . I saw a single tear roll down her cheek as she turned away from me.
Kirk Marsh was working his way around the crowd now, obviously looking for another volunteer. Alexis looked at him, but then looked away. She sat back down in her chair and, for the first time all night, did NOT raise her hand.
I was devastated. What did I do? Had I been responsible for killing the magic? What could I have done differently? What could I do to repair this and return the magic?
The only thing I could think to do was embarrassingly childish. I closed my eyes and made a silent wish: “Please mend my daughter’s broken heart”.
I opened my eyes to see Kirk looking directly at Alexis. The devastated look on my daughter’s face told the whole story to whoever was kind enough to notice. Kirk had noticed and he leaped forward, reaching his hand out to my daughter.
At first she stood frozen, not quite believing what was happening to her. She had been chosen! Within seconds the shock dissipated and she was again able to move. At that moment Alexis flashed a smile I will not soon forget and reached out to take his hand.
On stage she was a natural. Together they brought down the house and, for a brief moment, Alexis Marie Bowser was the star of the show. She was performing with her favorite Clown and creating a memory she will never forget.
I am indescribably proud of my daughter. I too will carry that moment with me for the rest of my life. Also, I will never forget the kindness and perceptive instincts of one very special clown, Kirk Marsh. Beyond his talent as a performer his is undoubtedly one of the kindest human beings I have ever met.
He noticed my daughter and singled her out of the entire crowd. Kirk could see how much it meant for her to be up there. He took a risk, but his only concern seemed to be making one small girl smile instead of cry.
Soon after, when retelling the story, Alexis said, “He had to choose me”. I asked, “Why did he have to chose you?” and she replied very matter-of-factly, “Because I wanted it more than anything, Daddy”.
One day soon, Alexis will realize that pixie dust is just cheap glitter that is difficult to get off of your clothes. On Saturday, July 11th, 2015, Kirk Marsh pushed off that realization for at least one more day. He gave her a miracle and recharged the magic in her life for a little longer.
Kirk, wherever you are you have the undying gratitude of a father who also believes in magic again. Thank you!"
          - Michael Bowser