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. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The King and the Clown

It was a three show day in Japan. The first show I noticed a man in a wheel chair with his wife. They were both dressed very nicely and looked quite distinguished. He was really enjoying the show and was paying particular attention to me every time I made an appearance. People were around him making sure he was well taken care of. 
 We started the second show and I noticed he was still there enjoying the second show as much as the first one. In between shows I saw him backstage mingling with some of the other performers. I just assumed he was just a circus fan who knew some of the people.
 After the third show the producer of our show told me this man would like to meet me. Who was this person? Perhaps a government person? Or maybe another producer?  Either way, I knew he was some one important. 
 He introduced himself as Mr Okabe, a well known artist in Japan who especially loved to paint clowns. The first American clown he painted was "Blinko" Ernie Burch. In fact this painting hangs in the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. They became good friends and visited him many times over the years until his Ernies death in 1997.
 Blinko was a clown known for wearing 2 1/2 " long eyelashes. Bobby Kaye told me that those big eyelashes he wore were cut from tin cans! Can you imagine how that must have felt to wear those every day? I shared this with him and he thought that was amazing. 
  He first met Chuck Sidlow when he was boss clown for Ringling. Mr Okabe was visiting and asked to meet the clowns, especially Lou Jacobs. Chuck obliged and brought him into the alley.  It was something he never forgot.

   A few years later Chuck went to Japan with Ringling.  Mr. Okabe visited the show and found Chuck again. Chuck fell in love with Japan and decided to stay. During that time they had become very good friends. 

   Later Chuck moved back to America and went to work for Circus Sarasota. Mr Okabe came to see the show and once again they were reunited. Out of respect for Lou and his family, and the way Dolly and Pedro were carrying on the traditions of circus. He volunteered to paint the poster for the next years performance of Circus Sarasota. 

 When he heard I not only knew Chuck but that we were good friends and sometimes partners he couldn't believe it . We talked for about an hour about people, circus, and his artwork.
 He had written a chidrens book ten years ago about a clown and a King. The illustration of the clown in the book came from his imagination. He happened to see a poster of our show with a picture of me on it. He realized instantly I was the clown he had dreamed of ten years before! Not exactly me, but a close similarity. 
 He couldn't believe he had found the clown from within his mind! They got in his car and drove 2 hours just to be able to meet me.
 He asked if he could come back the next day and do a sketch of me. What an honor this was for me to do this for an artist who was so well known. The next day, as he was drawing me we talked
about a huge mural he was doing of clowns. One of the clowns was the clown from the book. He wanted to replace that clown with me. 

 After that he presented me with a copy of the book signed for my daughter and a loose interpretation of it in English. It is a treasure I will always keep in a special place within my heart. 

1 comment:

  1. Mitch, this is a beautiful story!! It's such an awesome feeling when we do something seemingly so simple, that touches someone so deeply. I'm so glad that this man found you and let you know how this touched him...