A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

What's Up with the Phobia about Clowns?

A Capodimonte clown from Italy from
The Juggling Jacksons collection

       My most recent Battle of the Bands post on my blog Tossing It Out makes me wonder about the aversion to clowns that is so rampant with many people these days.  There are so many adverse reactions to clowns or the notion of clowns that I find it somewhat puzzling why so many people feel this way.

        Being around show folks and circuses as I was growing up, I was frequently around clowns and comical performers who portrayed clown-like personas.  Clowns often played starring roles in television shows that I enjoyed watching.  There was Clarabell the Clown on the Howdy Dowdy Show and even Bozo who starred in his own regional children's TV shows and a cartoon series.  Clowns were never fearful images to me when I was a kid.  On the contrary a clown sighting would cause me to light up with happy feelings.

       The business world has capitalized often on clowns as spokespersons and advertising draws.  Many a grand opening or special sales event has included a clown as part of the festivities to pull in families.   Then there is the most famous clown spokesman of all, Ronald McDonald of the McDonald's fast food chain.

       Clowns have a history that goes back to ancient times.  In the 20th century clowns were perceived to have a strong function of marketability to family audiences and have been popular icons in film and children's entertainment.  Though a natural inclination toward shyness in young children probably caused some apprehension when initially confronted by clowns, the realization of the sense of fun and silliness typically caused them to warm up to clown characters.  What happened to turn these positive feelings into ones of fear?

        Starting in the 70's the media began to present clowns as villains and horror figures.  This more than anything else probably had a bearing regarding to the public reaction to clowns.  Also, the entertainment mediums such as circus in which clowns played a major role have somewhat fallen out of favor with the general public.  Clowns continue to be hired as birthday party entertainment, but probably more out of tradition known to the parents rather than anything the kids want to experience.

         In the early 50's my parents attempted to use the clown gimmick to expand their booking potential with their juggling act.  They had high quality beautiful clown costumes made that never got used many times in performances, but served us for years as Halloween costumes.  The booking agents apparently didn't seem to want a clown juggling duo or perhaps my father's work schedule didn't coincide with the show opportunities.  I don't recall ever hearing why the clown gimmick didn't work for them.

        During the 70's there were a few rock acts who used the clown persona or similarly made up characters with varying degrees of success.  One of my favorites was The Hello People, an act that performed as mimes interjecting humorous mime routines with some very fine music.  The Scottish band The Sensational Alex Harvey Band had a somewhat sinister, but funny clown on lead guitar.  Then of course there was the most famous make-up band Kiss who took the scary clown persona to a new fright level if indeed they can be even be considered as clown performers.

        Sometime in 1977 I encountered a clown troupe from Bowling Green, Kentucky who not only were the centerpiece of a stage show that performed in their region, but also performed as a rock and roll band while in their clown outfits.  They were a credible performance band that focused on the old rock standards such as Chuck Berry tunes.  I enjoyed them but their musical talents seemed to be lost upon the mostly children's audiences to which they were performing.  The front man for that clown band was one Broadway the Clown who continues to perform his clowning to this day though I'm not sure if he still performs as a musician.  At the time I met him I bought a couple of art prints that featured him in clown character.   Over the years those have left my possession as they ended up with my first wife.  

A Ron Lee clown figurine from the collection of
The Juggling Jacksons

         Personally I think clowns have gotten a bad rap in more recent decades.  My parents had a nice collection of clown figurines and pictures.  My siblings and I added to their collection each Christmas and on other occasions.  Ironically, years later after my father had passed, my mother admitted that she didn't like clowns and wasn't particularly enthralled with the collection even though she continued to display them around her house up to the time of her death.

        Now my brothers and sisters and I are dividing the clown collection among us.  A few of my favorites will now reside in my home office.  I still like clowns and these mementos from my parents collection will provide some happy memories for me.

         If you don't like clowns, why do you think that is?   What has been your favorite clown character?    Is there any type of theme for which you collect figurines or other items?


Saturday, August 1, 2015

An Afternoon at the Fair

Super Star, Freak Out and KMG Booster, night 02
Super Star, Freak Out and KMG Booster, night 02 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      Last Saturday we spend the afternoon at the Monmouth County Fair in Freehold, New Jersey.  This was a relatively small fair by comparison to the fairs I grew up around.  For the most part it seemed to be composed of 4-H exhibits, food vendors, and a moderate sized carnival.  The grounds seemed well-attended though not uncomfortably crowded, probably because we were there somewhat early and I would assume the crowd became larger at night when the carnival ride lights would offer a more festive and colorful atmosphere and the weather was cooler.

       My earliest fair memories go back to 1955 when my parents worked on the girlie show of the Goodings Amusements at fairs in Knoxville, Tennessee and Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia.  My father took a few weeks summer vacation in order to work these engagements.  I was four at the time and remember very little of their stint as carnies.  However the experience instilled in me a longing for the carny life.

       In the early 60's my family would spend a good bit of time at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, California.  My parents would either be working their juggling act or my sister would be performing with the troupe from the dance school where she took lessons.  I was along for the ride mostly, but I benefited in being able to see the fair for more time than I might normally have in just a day's visit.  That fair in San Diego was a real beauty with an outstanding grounds that had permanent structures of class quality which was a far cry from what I'd see later at the more traditional fairs in the Midwest.

     This time in the mid-60's of playing dates at fairs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and elsewhere is where my mind reverts to the most.  The sights, sounds, and smells of the county fair are revived when I go to a fair these days.  Whether a big state fair or a small county fair, my memories take me back as my mind is flooded with the sensations of those years.

       As I think about it even now I realize that there is so much to write about that it can barely be touched upon in a single blog post.   The New Jersey fair that I attended last weekend was fun for my grandkids and an enjoyable little outing for me.   We only stayed a few hours and left as the sun was heading toward the horizon, but still a couple hours from setting completely.

       All of those fair memories amount to another idea for a memoir that can be written one day.  Not right now while I'm on vacation, but I think I need to get this writing started.  After all, as The Band sang on their album Cahoots, "Life is a carnival" and as the carnival that sets up for a brief few days when fair time comes, tear down will come before we realize it and the carnival moves on.