It's Late

Letterman's just begun and I am awake; have been all evening. Nope, not even a sleepy-eyed nod off on the sofa. I used to stay up way late at night during my circus days, especially the first year when I helped tear down the big top. I'd finish the second show, change my clothes and take off my makeup, and head into the tent to haul quarter poles. After that I'd hang out until time... Read more →

The Aztec God of Flight

Meet Billy Barton, aka Mr. Sensation. I met Billy in 1976, my first year running around with circuses. He was an amazing person and I adored him. Billy was in his late forties in 1976 and still doing his signature cloud swing act, as Prince Najvez, the Aztec God of Flight. It was a wonderful, scary, exhilarating act. A cloud swing is kind of like a trapeze, only it does not have a fixed bar... Read more →

In A Blizzard, Uphill, Both Ways!

It's damn cold outside. RIght now it's in the mid-twenties with mind-numbing wind chill. Reminds me of the winter I spent with Voorheis Brothers Circus in Michigan, living in my van. (Cue twinkly flashback music...) Yes, it was the dead of winter in Michigan. I was doing advance work for the show, then meeting up with them to clown. I knew it was going to be ass cold while I up there, so I prepared... Read more →

Shower Power

It's hot. It's humid. It's summer in Washington. It reminds me of my circus days, when I traveled around the country in the heat and humidity and the only air conditioning I had was... none. Circus tents get beastly hot in the summer, even when the sidewall is pulled up to let in whatever scanty breeze might be floating around. I think I was sticky the whole summer for three years running. On the first... Read more →

Welcome To Summer

The sky is dark with clouds and rain is pelting down, soaking the unwary who thought that bright sunlight would be here all day. A streak of lightning zigzags down in an instant followed by the thunder, Hello! There's electricity in the air; power all around. Welcome to summer. I know; technically it's still spring. The turn of the season doesn't happen until our anniversary, two weeks and a couple days away. The wind's picking... Read more →

Ten Things About Memorial Day Weekend

We had a very full, very fun weekend! Here are ten things about it: 1. It was hot -- high 80s all three days; today may have nudged 90. 2. We saw two movies: The Man Who Would Be King and Date Night. Both were good. TMWBK is a classic, of course, and Tina Fey and Steve Carell were wonderful in Date Night. 3. I had lunch at a fancy joint with my older sister,... Read more →

Home On The Road

When I was on the road with the circus, I lived in a van. No, not under a bridge out by the airport. My van was a 1973 Ford Super Van, which I named The Fool Bus. I really wanted to paint it school-bus yellow, but Earl Scheib charged more than I had for that little indulgence. Instead, I spelled out "Fool Bus" on the side in shiny stick-on letters from the hardware store. It... Read more →


My first day as a circus clown was April 1, 1976, George Matthews Great London Circus. I stepped up into the rickety old converted school bus that served as a rolling bunkhouse for the clowns and the prop crew, full of nerves and hope. There, in the middle bunk on the left side of the bus, lay a tall guy with a long ponytail. I introduced myself and he stuck out his hand and introduced... Read more →

Tell Me Why You're Scared Of Clowns

I belong to a Clown College graduates listserv, and lately there's been quite a good discussion on it about clown makeup, costumes, and why kids are scared of clowns. Some of the folks lament the trend toward more minimal makeup, preferring the old-fashioned full clown makeup, complete with wigs, gloves, big shoes, and loud costume. Others think that the more minimal makeup is the way to go, particularly if the clowning is close to the... Read more →

The Day Rex Blew The Show

Those of you who have read The Book may remember the scene where the lion bites the trainer during the show. It really happened. The show was playing Anniston, Alabama, on a rotten lot overrun with tall weeds. Because the steel cage took time to set up, the lion act went first. They appeared in the center ring. It also took time to tear down, which is why the clowns went next, in the other... Read more →