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Requiem for Frosty Little

Biography of Glenn “Frosty” Little (1925 – 2010)

Glenn “Frosty” Little was born in Genoa, Nebraska in 1925.  He received his nickname (which later became his clown name) from his grandfather, who compared him to Jack Frost, due to his love of playing in the snow.  At the age of 7, Frosty Little saw his first circus, which instilled a life-long love, although he didn’t follow that path for many years. “All the clowns wore white faces, white-starched suits and red caps. I remember thinking I`d like to look like those guys.” He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, where he was wounded, and learned how to juggle from his fellow convalescing soldiers.  In 1950, he married his wife, Patricia, with whom he had 2 daughters.  Prior to becoming a clown, he also worked as a postal worker and as a land surveyor.

Glenn "Frosty" Little, inducted into the 1991 Clown Hall of Fame

Glenn “Frosty” Little, inducted into the 1991 Clown Hall of Fame

From 1954 to 1956, he performed as a clown at a local amusement park on weekends, wearing a rented costume. In 1956, he went into clowning full-time after he was hired by the Joe King Circus, with which he toured the Rocky Mountain States for half of the year. The rest of the year, he freelanced as a clown at birthday parties and special events. He continued working for the Joe King circus for seven years until it closed in 1962. Frosty continued to work for other circuses, wanting to join the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus, but the Ringling circus was having financial problems, which prevented them from hiring new clowns, until Irving Feld purchased the Ringling circus in 1967.  In 1968, Feld created the Clown College, to have the existing clowns teach a new generation — and Frosty Little was in that first graduating class in 1968.

In 1970, Frosty Little was promoted to “Boss Clown” of his unit, and from 1980 until his retirement in 1991, he was the circus’ “Executive Clown Director”, overseeing clowns in both units, and writing new gags for the clowns to perform. In his lifetime, he has written over 300 gag routines. In his later career, Frosty Little also served as an advance man for the circus. From 1980 until its closure in 1997, Frosty Little also taught at the Ringling Brothers Clown College. In 1988, Little also helped establish the Ringling circus’ first overseas touring unit, based in Japan. During his career, he performed with celebrities including Barbara Mandrell and Dick Van Dyke, and performed for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and U.S. President Richard Nixon. He also appeared on 12 Ringling Brothers television specials.

In 1983, Frosty Little was named “Master Clown” by the Ringling organization, only the fourth clown ever to be so named (after Otto Griebling, Bobby Kaye, and Lou Jacobs – Little’s mentor). Frosty Little remains the last person ever to have been awarded the title.  Little was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1991.

Frosty Little wrote a book on his experiences as a clown, titled Circus Stories: Boss Clown on the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus for More than 20 Years.  In 1977 Little was asked by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune what he would do after he retired from the circus. Little replied, “Leave here? Are you out of your mind? I’m never going to leave here. I’ll always be a clown.”

Enjoy this photo gallery of Frosty Little.

 

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