|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?