Some of you may remember the old fashioned “House of Horrors” at the CNE in the 1960’s era. I do and funny as it may seem, this attraction is the real beginning of my career as a professional clown. Now if you think this is funny, read on.
Back when I was about five the family loaded up the car and headed for the “Ex”, for the yearly stroll through the food pavilion and midway. During our midway stroll, my Dad in all his wisdom, suggested that my brother and I do the house of horror thing. Yeah right old man. I’ve just been permanently traumatized by those freaking mirrors in the house that only the bravest could find their way out of, and now you think scaring the piss out of me is a great way to end the day. And they say kids are dumb, right!
I protested as best I could to no avail. ” You are going and you will damb well like it” was my old mans best impression of an anti-Dr Spock parenting reply. Well trust me when I say I would prove him wrong.
John and I jumped into the trolley and before I could say, this sucks, we were whisked into the dark tunnel of horror. I lasted about thirty seconds when all control of my bladder went straight down my pant legs. I wasn’t my fault. I blame the idiot who jumped out and yelled. Just as we rounded the second bend this skeleton with a loud voice entered into my personal space and that was that. I had water rolling out my eyes and even worse, I had wet myself, and the ride had just begun. John hugged me as I closed my eyes.
Thankfully the ride ended as we crashed back into the real world, sans monsters and other therapy inducing creatures. I still had to face dad, wet pants and all. He would not be a happy camper when he saw my pants. I was back to being scared.
Suddenly this huge clown, that was walking by, stopped and looked my way. I was crying. He ambled over, ruffled my hair a bit. He didn’t even noticed my soaked pants! He simply leaned down, pulled out the biggest comb in the world, and combed my hair. “Its OK kid, your doing just fine.” , then disappeared into the crowd. I was actually smiling again.
Even dad noticed my transformation. He lightened up and simply patted my shoulder as mom took me for a change.
Many years later, during my homeless years I discovered busking in Victoria British Columbia. I was broke as all get out as I sat watching this mime entertain the tourists strolling by the inner harbour. This mime had a hat on the ground and it was filling up with bills and coins.
Holy Crap! ” I can do that!”, I told myself. I knew I would have to get make up, then the cash was mine! Simple!
Well not so much. Little did I know I was closing in on a new life lesson. Nothing is simple. But at the time my heart was in a joyous state. I was motivated!
The first thing was to panhandle some coin so I could get make up.
Eventually I raised the needed capital, sourced out a joke shop called “Franks” and began a journey that has lasted a lifetime.
Frank was this middle aged guy with a great English accent. I told him of my plan to be a mime. He laughed as he gave me some good advice. He told me to save my money because mime was an art that took years to perfect. I told him I was broke and hungry now and didn’t have years.
This was followed by one of many acts of kindness that I would encounter over the years. Frank gave me a free clown make up kit and two bags of suckers. He suggested I do a clown and hand out suckers for donations. Frank also told me to get some funky cloths from the Salvation Army Thrift Store to create a costume.
I thanked him profusely. He simply told me that he liked the fact that I was trying to do something. Wow,
I have never forgotten Frank. Little does he know the magnitude of his kindness. God does, and so do I.
Well after I got my costume together I headed to the harbour and after sneaking into the world renowned Empress Hotel for a make up session in the public washroom, I began day one as a street performer.
Disastrous best discribes what was about to take place. Funny now when I’m sitting here sharing with you all, but not at the time.
I had scored this huge monkey puppet and was so stoked. I briskly walked through the front lobby of the Empress, right through their famous “High Tea” to the astonishment of about thirty drop jawed, blue bottle hair, old ladies. I just had to laugh. The looks on their faces almost caused a reenactment of my pant wetting of so long ago. My spirits were soaring.
Once outside I proceeded across Government Street and nervously hid behind the James Cook statue that guards the entrance to the inner harbour. Just as I got comfortable I saw this mom pushing a stroller. The child in the stroller was a little girl of about two. I steeled my nerves and got ready to make her day.
“HELLO KID” I yelled as I leaped out from behind Mr Cooks statue. Lollipop in hand and my monkey puppet going spastic, I extended the sucker towards this now screaming kid!
BAM, Bam! Lady, I’m sorry, stop hitting me, please, shit, OK, I’m leaving! This was my first day of clowning and it was not all I was expecting.
As this very pissed of mother and her beautiful wailing child disappeared I slid down the wall of the harbour, bewildered, embarrassed. This guy was busting a gut laughing and, in retrospect, asked the funniest question ever. “That didn’t turn out very well, did it?”
I replied, “nope, I don’t understand what happened ” The guy, through bouts of laughter informed me that I scared the crap out of the kid because I jumped when I should have simply waved and calmly let the kid respond. This guy then suggested I do some studying on clowning. I asked him where. Again he started cracking up. ” What’s so funny?” I asked. ” You pal, you are killing me!” ” Do you see that fancy building over there?” “That is the Provincial Library, and I’m sure you will find books on clowning.” He gave me a buck and walked away, still giggling and shaking his head.
I took his advice and began studying the art of clown that very day. Today I can honestly say that it has been the most rewarding career. When I’m performing I am in my happy place. I make between $150. To $300 per hour, depending on the gig. Most of all I learned a valuable lesson that day. Nothing is easy but if you persevere and are committed to success, you will find it.
When in makeup I was able to hide, thus let out the real person inside. Slowly I discovered that I was OK, not simply a blight on society. As I got better, I taught myself magic, balloon sculpture, face painting and guitar. Each time I progressed in my art, I grew, not simply as a clown, but as a person. I discovered me, and for the first time in my life…I liked me.
I’m sitting here typing away as my eyes are beginning to mist up! One clown many years ago, combing a little boys hair, Frank, laughing guy and their acts of kindness did so much. God Bless them and you as well. Blog at ya soon. Cheers.