Clown College Reunion on the Cape– “Chuck-centennial”
I’m hanging around with 50 Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Clown College (RBBBC) Alumni this weekend on Cape Cod. It’s a little overwhelming. Clowns of all shapes, ages, and classes are here. Clown college started in 1968, and went up until 1997, there are over 1500 alumni of the school. Of course, some have passed on, some have stopped clowning (or caring about clowning) but many are still working.
It’s great to see all these people who I share a common schooling with. I’m here with my 3 year old son, on our first Dad/Son Roadtrip (my wife stayed home to work) I told him we were going to my clown college reunion, and I think he expected more people in clown noses, instead of a bunch of adults drinking and swapping stories. A lot of other people brought kids, so there’s people to play with, anyway!
I can’t recount everybody who is here, but suffice to say if there was a Ringling Clown Hall of Fame, a lot of the folks here would be in it. From my class alone (1989) there are 6 people out of 54 – Jay Stewart (the organizer, and my clown college room mate), Mike Smith, Me, Kathie Horejsi, Lorraine Gilman, and Matt Coes. Also here are Ruthie Chaddock, Steve Smith, Peggy Williams, Al Rios, Chris and Gina Allison, Watson Kawecki and Christina Duenas, Greg & Karen Desanto, Lisa Lewis & John Lepiarz, Pat Cashin, Ted and Beth Lawrence, Lara Heidtman, and that’s just scratching the surface.
Last night was the opening party. There was a very moving remembrance of Ted Ferlo, with an amazing slideshow prepared by Chris Allison, along with a couple of letters from his widow and his former room-mate and partner Joel Heidtman.
Also, last night was the first event of the “Chuck-centennial”- the 100th anniversary of Chuck Jones, master animator and inventor of the Coyote/Roadrunner, Pepe Le Pew, and dozens of other characters. Chuck Jones’ grand-daughter talked about the work of Chuck Jones and then showed a presentation, which included 4 of Chuck’s best cartoons “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 century”, “Bully For Bugs,” a Roadrunner/Coyote cartoon, and a cat and mouse cartoon (don’t remember their names)
It was the first time that my 3 year old son had ever seen these cartoons, and he was laughing uproariously, (and sometimes really scared) by the show. Mostly scared by the explosions. At some point I noticed some of the clowns watching him watch the cartoon, because the way he watched is 100% the way we want our audiences to watch. With a full and believable heart.
I think I’ve written about this before, but Chuck Jones came to my clown college class to speak about comedy, and one of the things he said impressed me enough that when I went searching for company names, I wanted to pay homage to Chuck. What he said was this: “You have two choices– you can walk through a funny door– or you can walk through the door funny.” Which is why I called my company the “ACME” clown company.
Tonight is a roast of Steve Smith, former dean of Clown College, and Chuck Jones’ Talent Development Coordinator.
It’s going to be a lot of fun!
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