Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Clown Is a Clown

Elmo feeds me popcorn.
Getting drilled on the fire drill (I'm at left).
In about 1978 or '79 I was assigned by the features editor of The Roanoke Times to join the Ringling Brothers Circus, which was in town, to be a clown for a day. The editor said, "You are the natural choice."

This is one of my all-time favorite assignments because, frankly, it was, indeed, a natural for me. A clown named Elmo was assinged to teach me (I just know he loved that! Probably did something awful to get the assignment) and he did. The No. 1 rule? "Don't ever touch a clown if he's not expecting it." I had just touched him. I didn't do it again.

Elmo put on my makeup, reminiscent of Emmett Kelly, the sad sack clown once played by Henry Fonda in a movie.

During the course of the schooling, I learned to ride an elephant named Mollie (sweet little gal). We did the big parade at the start of the performance and then I dismounted and got busy with routine after routine. The one pictured above right right is a wild firefighting scene. I'm holding the newspaper for some reason. Don't recall why. Maybe it was predictive of what newspapers would become (oh, that's a cheap shot!).

I think what touched me as much as anything else during the hours-long performance was getting face-to-face with small children and really being  a clown. Then having them ask for my authgraph: "Danbo." Kinda like "Dumbo" only different. They laughed. I did, too.
Mollie and me ready to roll.

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