Bim Bom was a Moscow circus clown duo consisting of IvanSemenovich,Radunsky(1872 – 1955) (as Bim) and various “Boms”, active intermittently from 1891 up until at least the World War II. Their clown act was enormously popular, but often banned or censored due to its satirical political content. Each act would begin with an original song and dance performed by Bim. The duo has been called “the most popular entertainment in Civil War Moscow”.
Bill Ballantine (1910 – 1999)
Born in 1910 in Millvale, Pennsylvania, Ballantine was introduced to circuses by his father, a member of the Mystic Shrine and once mayor of their home town. Mixing sawdust and grease paint with the sparkling tarnish of the music hall next door to his childhood home, Ballantine developed a lifelong hunger for show business.
After graduating from high school, Ballantine found work in sign shop, painting posters for local movie houses, and after several years, began attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, beginning his long career as an artist/illustrator and later writer. He traveled with Ringling Bros Circus during the 1946 season and then, finally, in 1947, he decided to bid a temporary farewell to the workaday world of publishing and run away to the circus.
Earl Chaney (March 6, 1945 – )
Earl Chaney – Mr. Clown – has been making children of all ages laugh for over twenty years.
He perfected his clowning talent in Clown College. Earl Chaney went on to become one of the best-loved clown characters with the Ringling Brothers Circus from 1972 through 1975.
After leaving the circus to pursue his own business interests in the clowning field, he played throughout the United States from 1975 through 1984 with Buttons’ Clown Alley and American Contemporary Clowns. During this same time, Earl Chaney was the original Ronald McDonald. He was seen on many McDonald television ads, for over 20 years. He has also conducted clowning lectures for such prestigious organisations as Clowns of America, The World Clown Association, The Shriners, and others from coast to coast. Spreading his knowledge through joy-filled lectures continues to be a big part of his business. (more…)
Sixth-generation circus performer Giovanni Zoppé has nothing against the modern lions-and-tigers-and-bears spectacle of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, or the Vegas-style slickness of Cirque du Soleil. He just doesn’t think high-concept shows like those capture the essence of the circus. “If somebody came to see our show, they would see what the circus was like a hundred years ago”, says Zoppé, a part-time Pilsen resident and performer in his family’s theatrical circus. Though he only recently returned to Chicago, Zoppé’s roots tie him to the Midwest – he was born in the parking lot of WGN studios following a family appearance on Bozo the Clown in 1966. (more…)
Frank Oakley, aka. Slivers, 1871-1916
Frank Oakley, also known as Slivers (1871 – 1916) was the most popular circus clown of his generation. Born in Sweden, both of Oakley’s parents were concert singers. At the age of 14 he began to practice as a contortionist and at 16 he joined his first circus. His parents convinced him to enroll at the University of Michigan but two years later Oakley was back under the big top.
His first show was Andrew MacDonald’s Circus, but in 1897 he joined the Ringling Bros. Circus. Before the turn of the century, Oakley performed with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, followed by three seasons with the Adam Forepaugh & Sells Bros. Circus (1900â02). Oakley returned to the Barnum & Bailey Circus for four seasons (1903â07), where he reportedly earned up to $1,000 a week. (more…)
Harold “Happy” Kellems (1905-1987)
Happy Kellems was a tramp-character clown, minstrel, and vaudeville performer. A native of Evansville, Indiana, he began his entertainment career in medicine shows, joined by longtime partner, Van Wells. Together they moved to vaudeville and burlesque and then turning to minstrel shows, which became their great love. (more…)