In mid-September, 1975, I got on a plane to Sarasota, Florida to attend the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College. My seatmate was a young woman named Barbara Hunter - she was also attending Clown College. We both lived in the DC area and had introduced ourselves already, so it made sense to take the same flight and sit together.
On the flight down, we got to know each other better. Barb had graduated from high school that year; I had graduated from college the year before. She was from a military family and had lived all over the globe, including Liberia; I was not and had not. She was tiny and slender and athletic; I was none of those things. She called Clown College "RB3C2."
We hit it off and decided to see if we could be roommates.
Turned out we could, and we were assigned to a room at the Venice Villas, the motel where all of the student clowns stayed.
We got along fine, although Barb was not happy with my potty mouth and hippie ways. I toned down my language and refrained from smoking dope in the room, and she turned a blind eye to my, um, romantic behavior with one of the male students. She was already very good at acrobatics; I was very good at hurting myself.
She got a contract; I did not. We hugged when she got the news and I was sincerely happy for her.
We met again a little over a year later, when we both clowned for the Famous Hunt Circus. (THE FIRST ALL FEMALE CLOWN ALLEY!) It was a fun, stressful, fantastic, awful summer. We grew close, but lost touch again after that season.
She became an aerialist, while I continued clowning. We left the road at about the same time and continued our separate lives.
We reunited last year when another Clown College buddy organized a Zoom call with members of our class. It was lovely to see her! Barb landed in Lawton, Oklahoma, and was the costume designer for the Lawton Community Theater. She was still tiny and slender and funny, and it was great to see her again. We had several more Zoom calls over the next few months; sometimes she came, other times she was busy with the theater. It was clear that she loved doing the costume work.
On April 28 2021, she died in her sleep. Heart failure.
We were all shocked. She had no symptoms, never mentioned heart problems. She rode her bike everywhere. How could it happen?
And yet it did.
Rest in peace, old friend. See you down the road.