The purpose of this blog is to share stories from the road of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown Alley. With this resource we can relive those days and have a better understanding of the transitions within Clown Alley over the years. I feel historically it's important to share these stories for future generations. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What a face!

Makeup!!!!!! This was like hearing reveille in the military. Every morning we would get the call. You see they wanted us in makeup every day so that we would get used to it. Not only did we have to learn makeup, we learned to make noses out of latex rubber. What better people to teach makeup than Bobby Kaye and Keith Crary. Both of them were meticulous when it came to makeup and costume.

 Bobby was a gentle man who was very receptive of the Clown College, and and what it meant for the future of clowning. He a true Master of his craft. He would take you under his wing and slowly nurture you along. Keith was a fun loving guy who never seemed to have a worry in the world. The precise way he put his makeup on was unbelievable. When he finished, it was if he measured each little mark on his face to exact size and shape, with the precision of an architect. He's in Hollywood now has won many Emmys and other awards for his make up designs.

  The first thing I needed to know was whiteface or auguste. The whiteface was a more magical sort of clown. The auguste was more of the fall guy.  When I speak of  the two types I'm speaking from a traditional sense, not todays standards. There was also a third type called the character. He wore very little makeup. This was one Irvin Feld  didn't particularly care for, so it wasn't really pushed too much. 

These days those lines aren't as strict. In fact the whiteface is almost gone, and the character is more popular than ever. Funny how things change. The auguste seems to be hanging in there. We spent hours mugging in front of mirrors trying to find the shapes and wrinkles with different expressions, searching for that one unique look that was only yours. I had a hard time deciding which one was best for me. Whiteface? Auguste? Which one? 

Noticing my frustration Bobby would calm me and assure me patience would win out. One morning he came in and told me he had dreamed of a makeup design that would work for me. It was white on the bottom blending to flesh on top. He painted the eyebrows on me with their familiar forlorn look. He also told me one should be short and one long. This is one thing which has never changed in 35 years. Thanks Bobby.

 When it came to noses I always wanted a small ball nose about the size of a ping pong ball. As everyone was molding all of these fancy noses I tried to make a mold of a perfect round nose. As much as I tried I couldn't get it too look right. Again frustration set in. Keith came to me and said, "Why don't you just use a ping pong ball." So I did. 

The ball was thin and had an edge that would cut my nose. I decided to make a mold of my real nose. I could then just glue the ball over the latex piece. If you look closely you can see it in the picture. I still use the same look of a small round nose the size of a ping pong ball. Thanks Keith. Some things never change.

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