Whiteface Clowns

George L. Fox

George Fox, the American Grimaldi, famous white face clown

George L. Fox (1825 – 1877)

George Fox

Known as the American Grimaldi, George L. Fox introduced Grimaldi’s style of violent slapstick and topical satire to the American stage. He transformed it into a distinctly American style of humor reflecting the events of his day. (more…)

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Uncle Otto

Gene Lee, aka. Cousin Otto – famous circus clown

Gene “Cousin Otto” Lee (1920 – 2016)

Inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1992, Wisconsin’s first Hall of Fame inductee, who was born in Milwaukee, logged his 50th year in clowning in 1991. Gene Lee’s clowning career included early stints in Cole Bros., Cole Bros.- Clyde Beatty and Ringling Bros. Circuses. His mentor, the famous Otto Griebling, helped give Lee his clown name, “Cousin Otto“, because he seemed like one of the family. Known as “America’s Favorite Relative“, (more…)

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Arthur Vercoe Pedlar

Arthur Pedlar – famous English clown

Arthur Pedlar (1932 – )

Arthur Pedlar

Arthur Vercoe Pedlar was born into a Congregational family and lives in in Southport, Merseyside, England. He was educated at Leighton Park School in Reading, Berkshire, England, a Quaker school. He first became interested in clowns when he visited the Bertram Mills Circus in 1938. At school he discovered that he could communicate silently with an audience as a tramp clown and developed “Vercoe” the clown. (more…)

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Bobby Kaye

Bobby Kaye – inducted into the 1991 Clown Hall of Fame

Robert Smiley, aka. Bobby Kaye (1908 – 1983)

Bobby Kaye - 1991 Clown Hall of FameBobby Kaye was inducted into the 1991 Clown Hall of Fame.  He was born on May 29, 1908 in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, USA as Robert Smiley.

Originally, Robert Smiley ran away from his home in Lewistown, Pennsylvania to join the circus at the age of 16.   His father, a country doctor, convinced him to first try at least one year of college.   Robert did so, and then left school to join the circus again. Entertaining must run in the family, as his brother Joe was a magician, and brother Walter was a musician. (more…)

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Joseph Grimaldi as Clown

Joseph Grimaldi, father of modern clowning

Joseph Grimaldi (December 18, 1778 – May 31, 1837)

Inducted into the 1990 Clown Hall of Fame, Joseph Grimaldi was one of the greatest English pantomimes. His father was Giuseppit Grimaldi (died 1788), an Italian dancing master and pantomimist. Joseph’s stage debut was at 3 years old in a dance at Sadler’€™s Wells, London’s famous variety theater. (more…)

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Painting of Marcel Marceau by Jim Howle

Biography of Marcel Marceau, (Bip the Clown)

Marcel Marceau – Le Mime Marceau – March 22, 1923 – September 22, 2007

Marcel Marceau miming as BipMarcel Marceau is known the world over as the famous mime, Bip.   He is widely recognized as having been influential in restoring the art of pantomime in the 20th century.   Many people know him through his work on television and film, or as the head of a famous European mime school.

But less people know of him as a French freedom fighter during World War II, a man fluent in three languages, a man whose father was murdered by the Nazis in the Auschwitz death camp, a man who served as liaison to Charles De Gaulle. (more…)

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Francesco Caroli, famous European whiteface circus clown, in costume

Francesco Caroli, European white face circus clown

 Biography of Francesco Caroli (September, 1922 – May 18, 2004)

Born in San Donna di Piave, Italy, he worked with his brothers’ equestrian act in England at the Great Carmo Circus and Blackpool Tower Circus before World War II. In 1939 they were in Germany with the Circus Jakob Busch when the clown act walked out. Busch asked the Carolis if they could fill in with a clown number. Although they were skilled in in various circus arts, none of them were professional clowns, but they agree to make the attempt. Enrico, Ernesto, and 17-year-old Francesco hastily put together a number. Francesco took the role of the elegant white-face clown in sequinned costume.  The act was a success, and the Caroli brothers began incorporating clowning into their equestrian act. Eventually, they became some of the most popular clowns in Europe. (more…)

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Francesco Caroli, famous European whiteface circus clown, in costume

The whiteface clown – clown types

Character of the white face clown

The white face clown, a.k.a. the classic clown or the whiteface clown, is the clown most people first think of when they hear the word “clown.” Associated with the  circus, the whiteface clown is the most intelligent of the clowns, and is typically at the top of the pecking order.  The Whiteface clown will typically be the ringleader, who will order around the other clowns, and who has his “clownishness” revealed either by his own ineptness or by that of his underling.

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Ernie Burch - Blinko

Ernie Blinko Burch – famous circus & casino clown

Ernie Blinko Burch (1929 – 1997)

Ernie Burch - BlinkoBorn around 1929 in Linden NJ.   At age 15, he ran away from home and followed the  Ringling Bros. circus to Georgetown Texas.   He eventually joined them as   a whiteface clown.   Over the years he was with several   top name circuses. Ernie appeared in 17 scenes of the movie “The Greatest Show on Earth“. It was  Cecil B. DeMille who gave him his clown name, Blinko, because of the 2-1/2″ green eyelashes that he wore. Ernie used a  whiteface make-up, and his eyelashes and treble cleft in the middle of his forehead were his trademarks. (more…)

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Rebo the clown, portrayed by Bev Bergeron

Bev Bergeron, Rebo the magic clown

Beverly “Rebo” Bergeron (?? – present)

Rebo the clown, portrayed by Bev BergeronEveryone has seen a clown twisting a single balloon into a dog — but who did it first? The answer, unsurprisingly, is Bev Bergeron, in 1959. But he first came to national prominence a year earlier, in 1958, when he created Rebo the Clown to co-star with Mark Wilson and Nani Darnelle in the television series, Magic Circus and the Magic Land of Allakazam. (more…)

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