Clowns are interesting people. I remember being a bit overwhelmed by them when I went to the Ringling Brothers circus the first time with my Dad. Their brightly painted, distorted-featured faces and outlandish costumes were fine at a distance, but when they approached closely, I remember snuggling against Dad.
My second favorite clown as a kid was Bozo. He was a local clown on WBZ/Channel 4 in Boston and his show aired live every weekday afternoon at 5pm (just before the Mickey Mouse Club). I never missed him. I liked Clarabel on the Howdy Doody Show, too, but who didn't. He didn't say much, but then clowns didn't have to.
There are several famous clowns: Pagliacci's clown, Emmett Kelly (the world's saddest clown), Ronald McDonald, of course, and who can forget Pennywise in Stephen King's novel, It (even though you'd like to). I particularly like clown fish … very colorful …. and I always liked Judy Collins singing Send in the Clowns.
Rodeo clowns are not only interesting, but they're pretty daring. As the agitated, angry bulls charge and gore their way around the arena, and broncos rear and stomp, these guys taunt them, keep them distracted and jump inside barrels or climb walls to stay out of harm's way. Not my idea of a fun job.
It's my Dad's birthday today. He died long ago, but his image and antics remain firmly and sweetly engraved in my memory. My Dad was a funny man. He was a joker and a comic. He loved to make people laugh. He was the New Year's baby at a party one year, complete with diaper and New Year's banner. He dressed in drag a few times to the delight of his fellow party-goers. He even painted on a white face and an over-exaggerated smile and became a real clown sometimes, my favorite clown. He entertained at kid's parties and Christmas parties. He enjoyed being a clown as much as the kids enjoyed him. My little sister would watch in amazement as he applied his make-up and was transformed from her Daddy into Jeep the Clown, right in front of her eyes … and then scream in fear. At age 3, she was not a clown daddy fan.
So we raise a toast to my dad, Norman, tonight. Hope he's keeping busy, clowning around up there and keeping them all laughing.