News: Local clown buoyed by Ringling visit

Often you hear about clowns cheering up people doing hospital visits, this is about clowns cheering up… other clowns!

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Cheers from a clown: Local jester buoyed by Ringling Bros. visit

Thursday, April 05, 2007

By Jim Six
[email protected]

WOODBURY, NJ After years of clowning around to raise the spirits of boys and girls of all ages, Al Cunard had the tables turned on him Wednesday.

Cunard, 70, recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, was visited in the hospital by two clowns from the Ringling Bros. circus.

Cunard, who lives on a street in Deptford Township named for his family, is the patriarch of the Cunard Family of Clowns. His kids grew up in clown makeup. Now his kids and their kids about 14 strong, according to Cunard’s wife, Linda wear the greasepaint for special appearances during the year, often joined by cousins and friends.

You’ve probably seen the ragtag band of clowns in a parade or at a celebration in the area over the years a fire truck, a train, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles and even baby carriages spread out over a sizable portion of a parade route. The rear was always brought up by Cunard himself, recognizable by his distinctive hairdo a small thatch of gray pompadour that curls backward from a head covered with otherwise close-cropped hair.

In recent years, two man-made knees have kept him from walking parade routes, but an electric “handicapped scooter,” as he calls it, has kept him close to the people he has spent his adult life entertaining.

“The interesting thing is that in recent years, people just want to touch you,” said Cunard during his meeting with clowns Gautham and Andrew in a fifth-floor solarium at Underwood-Memorial Hospital here Wednesday afternoon.

“They just all stretch out their hands to me,” he said.

Cunard is proud of the family’s reputation. He has never advertised and there is no official phone number to contact him for clown business, but there have been times when the family has done 200 bookings a year. In fact, one year, they did 30 appearances between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He bragged about the time they had more than five appearances booked in one day, traveling 250 miles total to get to them and weren’t late for any of the performances.

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