Famous Clowns

clown picture - painting of Paul Alpert, aka. Prince Paul

Prince Paul, circus clown

Paul ‘Prince Paul’ Alpert (1913 – 1987)

clown picture - painting of Paul Alpert, aka. Prince Paul

Inducted into the  Clown Hall of Fame in 1992, Paul Alpert became a  famous little person, after gaining a start in clowning in 1933 with the Paul Jung troupe.  The Bangor, Maine native went on to fame as a  Ringling Bros. clown, performing for more than 50 years. He also became a frequent instructor at the circus’ Clown College in Florida.

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Felix Adler with his wife and clown partner, Amelia

Felix Adler, king of clowns

Felix Adler (June 17, 1895 – February 1, 1960) – The White House Clown, King of Clowns

Inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1989.

Felix Adler grew up on a small farm outside of Clinton, Iowa, with his father Joseph and mother Nettie. Some accounts state that he left home and went to join Ringling Brothers Circus at the age of ten or thirteen (accounts differ), although his sister disputes them. (more…)

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The Marx Brothers - Chico, Zeppo, Groucho, Harpo

Groucho Marx biography

Groucho Marx (October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977)

Julius Henry Marx, better known to the world as  Groucho Marx, was born on October 2, 1890, to Samuel “Frenchie” Marx and his wife, Minnie Schoenberg Marx. The third child, Groucho felt tension with his oldest brother  Chico. (more…)

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Circus, on PBS

If you’re not watching the documentary “Circus” on PBS, you’ve nobody to blame but yourself.  It follows the Big Apple Circus during their 2008 season, and features some of America’s greatest active clowns, including Barry Lubin as Grandma, Steve Smith (as guest director), Glen Heroy, and several others.  And as a bonus, the various other acts as well 🙂 (more…)

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George Fox

A History of Clowns

(thanks to Bruce “Charlie” Johnson and The Clown Hall of Fame)


The art of clowning has existed for thousands of years. A pygmy clown performed as a jester in the court of Pharaoh Dadkeri-Assi during Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty about 2500 B.C. Court jesters have performed in China since 1818 B.C. Throughout history most cultures have had clowns. (more…)

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Albert Fratellini

Albert Fratellini, famous European circus clown

Albert Fratellini (1886 – 1961)

Albert Fratellini was born in Moscow to the Fratellini circus family. He and his brothers, Paul and Francois, trained in Russia under one of the Durov brothers. The Fratellini brothers entree lasted 45 minutes. They performed at the Cirque Medrano where many classic routines were developed. A frequent visitor to the Fratellini dressing room was artist Pablo Picasso. Fratellini has been described as a “superb comic actor.” (more…)

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

Requiem for Frosty Little

Biography of Glenn “Frosty” Little (1925 – October 26, 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. (more…)

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Bozo the Clown, portrayed by Bob Bell

Bob Bell (1922 – 1997), WGN-TVs Bozo the Clown

Biography of Bob Bell, WGN-TV’s original Bozo the Clown (January 18, 1922 – December 8, 1997)

(Editor’s note: for fans of Bob Bell, WGN-TV will be showing Special: Bozo, Gar & Ray: WGN TV Classics, on Christmas Eve from 10:00 a.m. Central Standard Time, “A look back at three of WGN’s most beloved television series, “Bozo’s Circus,” “Garfield Goose and Friends” and “Ray Rayner and His Friends.” )

Bob Bell, as Bozo the Clown, in an early photo from Bozos Circus

Bob Bell, Bozo the Clown to WGN-TV’s audience in Chicago, has passed away (December 8, 1997) at the age of 75. I’m not from Chicago, but thanks to the magic of cable TV, I grew up with Mr. Bell’s rendition of Bozo the Clown in the frozen north of Wisconsin. To me, he was Bozo the Clown — pure and simple. (more…)

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Don Burda as Homer with Dee

Homer / Don Burda – last walkaround

(from Richard Snowberg)

Dear Clown Camp Family Members,

We have lost a member of our family. With sorrow I am writing to tell you that Don Burda passed away this morning (Thursday, September 11) at 5:15 AM. I have spoken with his daughter, Denise, and she was able to share with me the arrangements that have so far been determined. Don will have a 1 PM service on October 4th at his hometown church, United Methodist Church, in Friend, Nebraska. A private family burial service will follow. A larger Celebration of Life event will take place in Los Altos, California on his birthday, November 8th. This service will take place in the Burda’s current church, Los Altos United Methodist Church, at 655 Magdalena Avenue. This 11 AM gathering, will be a casual dress event, with attendees welcomed – if they wish, to dress in their clown wardrobe. The pastor has proposed a clown processional to begin this service. Following the service, there will be a luncheon served, at which time an open mike will be available for attendees to share memories and stories of  Don’s life. The family is requesting no flowers, but is in the process of selecting memorial funds that friends can gift in Don’s memory. I will have  further information within, perhaps, a few more days. (more…)

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Staff make up demonstration - after. Back row: Kenny Ahern, Brenda Ahern (yes, they're related -- happily married). Front row: Betty Cash/Peewee, Linda Batdorf/Spin, Jim Howle/Jim

Clown Camp 1998

A pictorial journey through Week 3 of UW-LaCrosse’s Clown Camp

A photo history of the UW-LaCrosse’s clown camp, taken back in 1998 (week 3). (more…)

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