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The Many Faces of the Great Bill Gillespie (Repost)


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I am reposting this interview with The Great Bill Gillespie which I posted back in July 2013.  I have since had the pleasure of painting his image as “Be-Real-Son” as Watercolor Clown #15 in my series and will post a follow up post to this blog post with the progression of his painting.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a great clown from the Jacksonville Florida area.  He has many different faces of which he has provided photos for us to see. So let’s get to know Mr. Bill  Gillespie – A.K.A. “Toe-Knee” the Italian Clown, “Dr. OH-NO”, “The Honorable Be-Real-Son”, “Box Car Billy” and “Flowers” the clown.

Box Car Billy

1. How long have you been a clown?

Dr.OHNO

Dr. OHNO

I have been a clown since 1991

2. Who inspired you to become a clown?

I was inspired by a clown by the name of “Rainbow the Clown”.  I was in the navy at the time, Cecil Field Fl., and Rainbow entertained at our Squadron Christmas party.  When I found out how much she was paid … and the rest is history.  Really, I was looking for a vocation because in 1994 I would be retiring from the Navy, and since I could do magic and balloons already and there was a bigger call for clowns than there was for magicians, here I am today!

3. Where did you receive training?

I first received training from books, on how to put makeup on and do balloons, in 1991 I went to Gator Clown School here in Jacksonville, FL.  I also went to Advanced Studies put on by “Buttons” McBride , and Advanced Studies on the Road.  I also attended conventions that taught me a lot and other clown schools.  The main school that launched my money making was “Comedy College” in Norfolk VA – it was more about marketing and it taught me an enormous amount.

4.  What people do you give credit to in helping you advance your art in clowning? 

I was helped by “Bubba” the Clown of Orange Park FL, “Freckles” of Jacksonville, Mr. “G” (Jim Green) of Orange Park, FL, “Mama” clown of Ft. Lauderdale, “Blumbo” of Orlando FL, and “Buttons” as you already mentioned – these were my mentors.  There were many others that helped at the South East Clown Convention also that helped shape my characters, and to anyone I have forgot, forgive me, I Love You and keep on Bumping a Nose!

I owe the most to my wife Cindy, without our spouses we wouldn’t even be able to thrive in our art!  Perhaps not as a Mentor but as my biggest supporter!

5. Are you involved with any clown organizations?

I am mainly involved with the Gator Clowns of Jacksonville,(http://gatorclowns.com/) I am the President.

Also, I am involved with Wolfson Childrens hospital, we have a clown group there, I have been going there for 17 years.

I am also a member of World Clown Association(http://worldclown.com/) (https://www.facebook.com/worldclownassociation

Clowns of America International  (http://www.coai.org/) (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Clowns-of-America-International/130589102224)

6. How do you feel your clown has evolved over time? How did you settle on the particular style and design of your clown or the personality you try to project as a clown?

I have developed my many characters over time, through a “feeling.”  My birthday party clown “Toe-Knee” was developed as a big 9 year old kid, kid friendly and silly.  My Chinese character “Be-Real-Son” because I have always since a child loved oriental things… the art, the people, the food, everything.  Be-Real-Son being without a doubt the funniest, drove me to continue to develop it to the point of everyone loving the character.  My other characters I have, Dr. Oh-No was developed when I first started with Wolfson Childrens Hospital, as a hospital clown, looking somewhat like a doctor, with a lab coat and “SCRUBS” hair cover.  I settled on Toe-Knee as a birthday party clown because he is definitely loved by the kids, children don’t really think Be-Real-Son is as funny as do adults.  I settled on Be-Real-Son for clown competition and adults because he wins because he is so funny, and unique.   Also, with Be-Real-Son, once I am in face I become a different person, my inner Chinese takes over.

7. I have learned a little more about clowns and I know there are different types of clowns, What kind of clown are you and what do you feel is your clowns most interesting characteristic?

Two Typestoe_knee_itallian_clown

1st – European Auguste – Just a fun loving jolly happy clown “Toe-Knee”

2nd – Character Clown – My Chinese character “Be-Real-Son.”  Most interesting is everything about him, his looks- Funny, his actions – Funny, just a funny funny goofy looking clown.

berealson

 

8. Have you ever worked in a Circus and if so which ones?

Worked in a Circus – NO, worked at a circus Yes.  I was vacationing in Budapest.  They have the largest in door circus in Europe there.  I was with a friend who was also a clown and we got permission to entertain with balloons, (pre-show) .  It was an experience to entertain somewhere where we didn’t speak the language and they didn’t speak ours.  We met the main character of the circus, a clown from Italy who lived there during the season and then went home to Italy in the off season.  It was fun.

9. What kind of functions are you hired for example: conventions, parties…

100_0942Mainly birthday parties for children, that is the bread and butter in my area.  I do also get hired for conventions and other events. The highest paying event was an event I did for CXS railroad.  They wanted 15 clowns to do face painting and balloons.  The event was in Waycross GA, they were christening a new locomotive and there was a Congressman and other dignitaries there.  Alot of people were there.  All 15 clowns were there for 5 hours – they paid 12 thousand dollars for us to be there – a nice pay day!

10. Do you have bits that are standard in the clown world or do you create your own acts?  

308518_272880542731087_100000274304348_1078261_1050387961_n[1]My acts with Toe-Knee are a mix of different magic performed in a way that is unique to me.  Now, Be-Real-Son – everything he does is unique because he is unique.  I get ideas when I am in character that I don’t get when I’m not.  It is very weird, I become a complete different person as a Chinese Clown.

11. Do you use props?  Yes

11A. If so did you make them yourself?  

I don’t make them, I may change them to fit my character tho.

12. If you are in a parade do you ride anything? Bike, Unicycle, Clown car?

I ride a bike.  I sent you a photo of me on one of my bikes.  I also bring my daschund dog with me, the people love her.  Once they see my dog, they take photos of her, not me.  Again, Be-Real-Son does parades, everyone loves the silly Chinese Clown.

Riding the bike in the parade

Riding the bike in the parade

13. Is there video we can watch of you on the web acting as a clown for us to enjoy?  yes

Toe Knee the Clown making a reindeer out of balloon

Toe Knee

Mr. Bill  the magician video

Here are Bill Gillespies Web sites

www.birthdaypartiesjacksonvillefl.com

www.clownmagicianjax.com.

If you happen to be in the Jacksonville area and you need a great clown – call Bill Gillespie!

Art Prints

I hope you have enjoyed this post about another wonderful clown.  Please follow his links and read more about him on his web page.

Until next time. Happy Clowning!

Thanks to Bill for all his help in creating this blog.

Patty Sue O’Hair – Vicknair Clown artist to the world

psovart@gmail.com

http://portfolio.psovartgallery.com/

Follow my art on Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/pages/PS-OV-ART-Patty-Sue-OHair-Vicknair-Artist/120774855204

Please like this blog and share among your clown friends.  All comments are welcome!

Introducing Pricilla Mooseburger, a.k.a. Tricia Manuel


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TODAY I HAVE THE PLEASURE OF INTRODUCING YOU TO A GREAT CLOWN PRICILLA MOOSEBURGER, A.K.A. TRICIA  MANUEL. SHE RESIDES IN MAPLE LAKE MINNESOTA .  PRICILLA  HAPPENS TO BE ONE OF THE CLOWNS THAT HAS GRANTED PERMISSION FOR ME TO PAINT HER IMAGE. SHE IS WATERCOLOR CLOWN #13 PRICILLA MOOSEBURGER. I REALLY ENJOYED WORKING WITH HER AND I AM SURE YOU WILL LIKE PRICILLA TO.

I will have a follow-up post which will  show the creation of her watercolor painting.  Please take the time to check it out.  Prints are available from “me” the artist or from many of the print on demand sites.  Tricia also benefits from any sale of one of her prints.

SO LET’S GET TO KNOW HER BETTER.

Pricilla Mooseburger

Pricilla Mooseburger

 

1.. How long have you been a clown?

Thirty four years.  Started with Kit-N-Kaboodle Theatre Co. as a beginning clown in the summer of 1982

2. Who inspired you to become a clown?

A shriner named Ron Revak and an awesome clown named Paul Kusterman

3.What people do you give credit to in helping you advance your art in clowning?

Paul Kusterman was my first clown teacher. I learned a great deal from watching Tammy Parish. Heide Karp is amazing. 

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4. Where did you receive training & where did you get your first big break?

Ringling Bros. clown college was my most important clown training.

In the fall of 1982, she attended Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey’s Clown College. Out of 60 prospective candidates, she was chosen by her performance to receive a contract to work for the Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus (RBBBC). She toured three full seasons with the circus, performing as a clown in over 500 performances per year from 1983 to 1985. To further her clowning art, she decided to leave the circus. She was offered a position with Ringling, performing at Disneyland in Circus Fantasy. For its entire three-year run, she performed in the famous theme park. During this time, in the off-season, she developed her skills in Birthday parties, company picnics and did consecutive tours with traveling variety arts stage shows”.  (Reposted from her blog on Mooseburger.com)

Mooseburger 1

5. Are you still Clowning?

Yes, not as much as I would like. I spend my time mentoring and teaching clowning. I write for a clown arts educational e-newsletter weekly and teach workshops on clowning around the country. It is my privilege to run Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp. It is a place where the very best teachers share their talents and love of the art of clowning.   

Camp 1

 

6. Are you involved with any clown organizations?

I have been a member in Clowns of America International and World Clown Association for many years. I have served on COAI’s board and have taught at their conventions. 

 

Clowns of America International        http://www.coai.org/

World Clown Association   http://worldclown.com

7. How do you feel your clown has evolved over time?

In it’s hay day everyone wanted to be a clown. There was good money in doing parties. But there was a lack of education until Clown Camp at the University of LaCrosse in Wisconsin. I was fortunate to be invited to teach there and stayed for 7 years until I started my own clown school Mooseburger Camp. Now there is more education and products available than ever before, however the media has turned against clowns. It chooses to portray them in a negative light. This keeps some people away from finding out more about clowning. Happily you cannot stop the folks who are born with a clowns heart. They still invest their time and energy in becoming a good clown no matter what. The best part is the audiences still love them all the same. 

 8. How did you settle on the particular style and design of your clown or the personality you try to project as a clown?

Truthfully, I felt ugly and unwanted as a child. I do not blame anyone or my parents for this. It was just a child’s perception. When I first put on the clown make-up I liked what I saw in the mirror for the first time. The white face clown made me feel pretty. It was magic. Performing fed my soul. I had some natural talent and some excellent teachers and mentors. I couldn’t help but be a clown. It was in my blood. 

Percilli 123456

9. I have learned a little more about clowns and I know there are different types of clowns, What kind of clown are you and what do you feel is your clowns most interesting characteristic?

I am a white face clown. I have a beautiful costume. I like to do wacky things, many times involving a rubber chicken, music or dancing. When I was young with Ringling Bros. I did a lot of slapstick and pratfalls. No one expected a pretty clown to fall down. It made people laugh.   

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10. Have you ever worked in a Circus and if so which ones? Do you have any great stories which you can share.

I was with Ringling Bros Barnum and Bailey circus from 1980-1985. Then I worked for Ringling at Disneyland in an event called The Circus at Disneyland. As far as stories go there are many of them! Some can be found on YouTube under an Evening with Pricilla Mooseburger. I caught on fire twice as a circus clown!  

11. What kind of functions are you hired for example: conventions, parties.

I am hired to teach. I clown with my local clown club to help out the club and be a part of our local events. 

12. Do you have bits that are standard in the clown world or do you create your own acts?

I can perform the standard skits with my own Mooseburger twist. But I prefer to write my own material. “Bunny Magic”  can also be seen on YouTube. It is my signature piece. I have been doing a version of it for over 30 years.

 View “Bunny Magic Below in YouTube Videos

13. Do you use props?          I love big silly props!

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15. If so did you make them yourself?

For the most part yes. I do buy my chickens, but they often get dressed up and altered. They don’t mind. 

16. If you were in a parade did you ride anything? Bike, Unicycle, Clown car?

I like to walk the parades you get more interaction with the people. But I am thinking about fixing up my bike this year and making it into a clown bike for Pricilla Mooseburger to ride. 

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17. Is there video we can watch of you on the web acting as a clown for us to enjoy?

Lots on YouTube 

18. Do you have any clown wisdom to pass on to fellow younger clowns who are starting out in the business?

You are better than you think you are. Do your best to improve, but get out there and do it! Your heart will shine through your mishaps. Just keep putting yourself out there and soak in all the good you are doing. Remember the people who need you the most may not be your target audience. It could be the grandma and not the birthday child, the person who sees you driving your car or pumping your gas, the worker at the nursing home and not the patient who really needs the clown that day. You are always somebody’s day brightener even if you feel like a failure. 

 19. What are you long-term goals in clowning?

Hand my business down to my children Julia Bothun and DJ Weiss. Do my best to help clowns around the world stay inspired.  and  Example: Become a Ringling Clown.

20. If you can say one word that summed up all your years of clowning – what would it be?    *************Amazing*****************

21.What kind of presence do you have on the web, FB, web page, blog?

Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/MooseburgerCamp

Patricia Manuel on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/patricia.manuel.1422

Web:

http:// www.mooseburgeronline.com

 http://www.mooseburger.com

Phone:

 1-800-973-6277  and  320-963-6277

Art Prints


I hope you have enjoyed this post about another wonderful clown.

Until next time. Happy Clowning!

Thanks to Trisha for all her help in creating this blog.

Patty Sue O’Hair –Vicknair Clown Artist

psovart@gmail.com

Follow my clown art on Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/pages/PS-OV-ART-Patty-Sue-OHair-Vicknair-Artist/120774855204

Please like this blog and share among your clown friends.  All comments are welcome!

The next post will be the painting progression. Check it out!

clown art canvas prints
 

The great Ron “Toto” Johnson (repost)!


Hello Fellow Clown Enthusiast,

I have just this last week completed a portrait of TOTO,  so I am reposting this blog post followed by another blog post showing the creation of his watercolor painting.  The Great Ron “Toto” Johnson gave me the honor of painting his image as part of my new  watercolor clown series.  His painting is number #6 if you’re following along.   Original has sold, but prints will be available soon.

Today we have the great honor of meeting one of the top clowns in the industry Ron “TOTO” Johnson.  I first met Toto on Facebook when I was looking for photos.  He is a friend of Billie Ballantine, whom I have painted and  looking at Billie’s friends led me to Toto.  Toto has been involved with Clowning most of his life and he is really a world renowned clown having traveled around the world clowning.  He has had an amazing life let’s get to know him in his own words.

I asked him a few questions and I think you will enjoy his answers.

1. How long have you been a clown?

I did my very first public performance as a clown just over 35 years ago…June 21, 1977.  I was 10 years old and had taken a clown class offered by the Parks and Recreation Department’s Youth Services in my hometown of Naugatuck, Connecticut.  The class met for a couple of hours 1 day a week after school and we had our “graduation” as part of the Youth Services Fair on the Town Green.

2. Who inspired you to become a clown?

I cannot say any particular person inspired me to be a clown exactly…but I can say that in school I was part of the “Gifted and Talented” program.  (The program was for kids in grades 2-8 who showed exceptional talents in the arts, sciences, etc)  One day per week I left my usual school and was bussed to another school to study all sorts of topics.  The teacher…Eileen Cooper…introduced me to mime, puppetry, and movie making amongst the dozens of subjects and topics we studied over the years I spent in that class.  I found that I loved the performing arts so when I saw an advertisement for the clown class I just had to take it!  I fell in love with clowning during that very first class!

Over the 35 years that I have been clowning I have been inspired by far too many people to even begin mentioning them all…but I will say that I have studied under and worked with Master Clowns Lou Jacobs and Frosty Little.  My Dean at the RBBB Clown College was the amazing Steve Smith.   I have studied under and worked with astounding clowns and performers from circuses, the world of stage performance, etc.  I learn something from every clown I meet.  Sometimes I learn something that is fantastic…life changing…and gives me a whole new perspective.  Sometimes I learn what NOT to do!  I do learn something from every clown…good and bad.

Ron “Toto” Johnson with the Great Lou Jacobs in 1985

3.Where did you receive training?

My very first clown class…in the Spring/Summer of 1977…was put on by the Parks and Recreation Department’s Youth Services in Naugatuck, Connecticut.  From 1981-1985 (my high school years) I learned a lot about clowning by reading every book I could find on the art.  I also joined the Sawdust Clown Alley of the Clowns of America organization.  I learned a lot from members of that club (Leo Desilets, Rob Iassogna, Joe Barney, and others) and by attending clown conventions throughout New England.  I also learned a lot from members of the Harry Houdini Assembly of the Society of American Magicians organization (Larry Parsons, Walt Kilfeather, Joe Lantiere, and others).

In 1985…fresh out of high school…I was accepted into the prestigious Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ Clown College….a 10 1/2 week program…6 days per week…14 hours per day…that taught such classes as stiltwalking, juggling, acrobatics, makeup and costume design, arena choreography, dance, improv, classic clown gags, and much, much more!

Ron “Toto” Johnson at RBBB

Over the years I have continued to take classes…and teach classes…and conventions and festivals around the world.

4. How long have you been a clown?

On June 21, 2012 I celebrated my 35th anniversary in clowning!

5. Are you involved with any clown organizations?

I am a member of the world’s oldest clown organization…”Clowns International” (based in England)…as well as the USA based “Clowns of America International” and “World Clown Association”.  I have been a columnist for the official magazine of “Clowns International”…”The Joey”…since 1999.  I am also a member of “The Midwest Clown Association” and “Circus Fans of America”.  On the local level I am a member of “The Quad City Clown Troupe” (a WCA affiliated Alley of which I am currently the Treasurer), “The Clem Magrum/Del Kiefer” Ring of the “International Brotherhood of Magicians”, and I am the Secretary/Treasurer of the Wayne Fanzen Tent of “The Circus Fans of America”.

Ron “Toto” Johnson

6. How do you feel your clown has evolved over time? How did you settle on the particular style and design of your clown or the personality you try to project as a clown?

My first clown…at age 10…was a silent, cute little Whiteface.  Over the years I found I was much better suited for the slapstick, fall down antics of the Auguste.  I became VERY loud!  I never “decided” what to do or become…it just happened over time.  Just as our personalities develop as people…as individuals…my clown did too.  My clown is an extension of myself.  I am not “acting” as a clown.  I am just being another side of me.  My clown will continue to evolve over the coming years….just as I will too.

7. I have learned a little more about clowns and I know there are different types of clowns, What kind of clown are you and what do you feel is your clowns most interesting characteristic?

I am most certainly an Auguste!  As for my clown’s most interesting characteristic…hmmmm…I don’t really know!  I guess maybe I could quote something a newspaper reporter said about me years ago…

“He is like a Snicker’s bar…half nuts!”

Ron “Toto” Johnson on 9 Foot Stilts

8. Have you ever worked in a Circus and if so which ones?

Just 3 hours after I graduated from Naugatuck High School in Naugatuck, Connecticut in June of 1985 I was on a plane to Orlando, Florida because I was to start clowning at the Circus World theme park the next morning!  I left that job 3 months later because I had been accepted into the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ Clown College.

I was one of 23 students from my Clown College class to be offered contracts to tour with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  From my class 13 went to the RBBB Red unit (including me) and 10 went to the RBBB Blue unit.

After 4 years with “The Greatest Show on Earth” I made my first overseas trip to clown with Cirkus Olympia in Sweden.  By this time I had married Rene’ Coker…whom I had gone to Clown College with, toured with on the RBBB Red unit with, and had a huge circus wedding with in Philadelphia in 1989 complete with elephants as bride’s maids.  Rene’ and I toured as a duo on Cirkus Olympia in 1990 and then added my Clown College roommate and fellow RBBB Red unit clown John Winslow to our act for the 1991 season on Cirkus Olympia.  The circus season ran for 6 1/2 months each year.

Between our 2 seasons in Sweden Rene’ and I performed at the circus themed restaurant “Carnival Plaza” in Tokyo, Japan for 6 months.

(Rene’ and I divorced in 1994 but are still good friends..chat on the phone a few times a year and are in touch very often through Facebook.)

I performed at the “Circus Circus” casino in Tunica, Mississippi for 2 years (1994-1996).  I have also been a “guest clown” and done spot dates with such circuses here in the USA as Alan Hill’s Great American Circus, Carson and Barnes Circus, etc over the years.  I still do some “advance clown” publicity work for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus from time to time too.

9. What kind of functions are you hired for example: conventions, parties…

I no longer do birthday parties in people’s living rooms…but I am available for just about anything else!  Here on the local level I am seen primarily at festivals, fairs, company picnics,school shows, etc.  I teach clowning at conventions and festivals across the USA and the world  Clowning has directly or indirectly brought me to 48 states and 23 countries so far.  I perform at festivals, in stage shows, on-screen, on cruise ships, etc.  I perform on the local, national, and international levels….sometimes as a solo act and sometimes with partners.  I tailor what I do to the needs of the client…balloon sculpting, juggling, “meet and greet’, stiltwalking, magic, clown gags, etc, etc, etc.  I do shows for 20 people…and I do shows for 20,000 people.

A few of the highlights from my international career have been performing at the first ever international clown festival in China, the 2nd international clown festival ever in India, and being the only American ever invited as an “honored guest” of Princess Stephanie of Monaco to perform at “Festiclown de Monte Carlo”.

Ron “Toto” Johnson in Monaco

10. Do you have bits that are standard in the clown world or do you create your own acts?

I use a combination of well-known acts…with my own personal “spin” on them, of course…and of acts I have created myself/with my partners.  While these days I am most know for my solo western themed cowboy Whipcracker act I actually prefer to work with 1 or 2 partners.

Tot’s solo western themed cowboy “Whipcracker”

11. Do you use props?

YES!  I have used HUGE props doing circus work and tiny props when working up close.  My cowboy Whipcracker act brings the best of both world’s together.  The act plays BIG but uses a minimal amount of props…which is wonderful when traveling overseas!

11A. If so did you make them yourself?

I have made many props myself but most of the time I buy them…either “off the shelf” or have them specially made.  I am not the most handy guy with tools!

12. If you are in a parade do you ride anything? Bike, Unicycle, Clown car?

I have ridden in all sorts of “vehicles” for parades…convertibles, fire trucks, etc…but my favorite, of course, is absolutely the traditional circus wagons used in “The Great Circus Parade” that used to be staged in both Milwaukee and Baraboo, Wisconsin!  I do not unicycle very well so I have never unicycled in a parade.  I have walked stilts in MANY parades.  I did not like stilts when I was at Clown College but once I joined the RBBB Red unit I started practicing and ended up walking 6 foot stilts (that’s me on top of 6 foot long aluminum “legs”).  Within 6 months I was up to 9 foot stilts in the show.  I ended up becoming the stiltwalking instructor at the RBBB clown College in 1988.

13. Is there video we can watch of you on the web acting as a clown for us to enjoy?

If you search for me on Youtube there are a few slide shows of me performing in England and China.  I can also be seen in various videos relating to the RBBB Circus 1986-1989.

14.What kind of presence do you have on the web, FB, web page, blog…

My website is www.totojohnson.com

I have a personal page on Facebook but that is now only “open” to folks I reeeeeeeally know.  I have a page that is open to EVERYONE…Ron “Toto” Johnson’s “Colossal Clowns International“…as well as a fan page that was started by a friend/fan in England…We Love Toto Johnson.

Ron “Toto” Johnson was also depicted in 1999 by the great artist Ron Lee.  Here is the photo of Toto posing and the resulting sculpture.

Toto posing

Sculpture of Toto by Ron Lee

I hope you have enjoyed this post about another wonderful clown.  Please follow his links and read more about him on his Facebook page and his web page.

Until next time. Happy Clowning!

Thanks to Toto for all his help in creating this blog.

Patty Sue O’Hair – Vicknair Clown artist to the world

 

 

 

 

 

psovart@gmail.com

http://portfolio.psovartgallery.com/

Follow my art on Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/pages/PS-OV-ART-Patty-Sue-OHair-Vicknair-Artist/120774855204

Please like this blog and share among your clown friends.  All comments are welcome!

The Many Faces of the Great Bill Gillespie


2013-03-03 20.50.10

I am reposting this interview with The Great Bill Gillespie which I posted back in July 2013.  I have since had the pleasure of painting his image as “Be-Real-Son” as Watercolor Clown #15 in my series and will post a follow up post to this blog post with the progression of his painting.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a great clown from the Jacksonville Florida area.  He has many different faces of which he has provided photos for us to see. So let’s get to know Mr. Bill  Gillespie – A.K.A. “Toe-Knee” the Italian Clown, “Dr. OH-NO”, “The Honorable Be-Real-Son”, “Box Car Billy” and “Flowers” the clown.

Box Car Billy

1. How long have you been a clown?

Dr.OHNO

Dr. OHNO

I have been a clown since 1991

2. Who inspired you to become a clown?

I was inspired by a clown by the name of “Rainbow the Clown”.  I was in the navy at the time, Cecil Field Fl., and Rainbow entertained at our Squadron Christmas party.  When I found out how much she was paid … and the rest is history.  Really, I was looking for a vocation because in 1994 I would be retiring from the Navy, and since I could do magic and balloons already and there was a bigger call for clowns than there was for magicians, here I am today!

3. Where did you receive training?

I first received training from books, on how to put makeup on and do balloons, in 1991 I went to Gator Clown School here in Jacksonville, FL.  I also went to Advanced Studies put on by “Buttons” McBride , and Advanced Studies on the Road.  I also attended conventions that taught me a lot and other clown schools.  The main school that launched my money making was “Comedy College” in Norfolk VA – it was more about marketing and it taught me an enormous amount.

4.  What people do you give credit to in helping you advance your art in clowning? 

I was helped by “Bubba” the Clown of Orange Park FL, “Freckles” of Jacksonville, Mr. “G” (Jim Green) of Orange Park, FL, “Mama” clown of Ft. Lauderdale, “Blumbo” of Orlando FL, and “Buttons” as you already mentioned – these were my mentors.  There were many others that helped at the South East Clown Convention also that helped shape my characters, and to anyone I have forgot, forgive me, I Love You and keep on Bumping a Nose!

I owe the most to my wife Cindy, without our spouses we wouldn’t even be able to thrive in our art!  Perhaps not as a Mentor but as my biggest supporter!

5. Are you involved with any clown organizations?

I am mainly involved with the Gator Clowns of Jacksonville,(http://gatorclowns.com/) I am the President.

Also, I am involved with Wolfson Childrens hospital, we have a clown group there, I have been going there for 17 years.

I am also a member of World Clown Association(http://worldclown.com/) (https://www.facebook.com/worldclownassociation

Clowns of America International  (http://www.coai.org/) (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Clowns-of-America-International/130589102224)

6. How do you feel your clown has evolved over time? How did you settle on the particular style and design of your clown or the personality you try to project as a clown?

I have developed my many characters over time, through a “feeling.”  My birthday party clown “Toe-Knee” was developed as a big 9 year old kid, kid friendly and silly.  My Chinese character “Be-Real-Son” because I have always since a child loved oriental things… the art, the people, the food, everything.  Be-Real-Son being without a doubt the funniest, drove me to continue to develop it to the point of everyone loving the character.  My other characters I have, Dr. Oh-No was developed when I first started with Wolfson Childrens Hospital, as a hospital clown, looking somewhat like a doctor, with a lab coat and “SCRUBS” hair cover.  I settled on Toe-Knee as a birthday party clown because he is definitely loved by the kids, children don’t really think Be-Real-Son is as funny as do adults.  I settled on Be-Real-Son for clown competition and adults because he wins because he is so funny, and unique.   Also, with Be-Real-Son, once I am in face I become a different person, my inner Chinese takes over.

7. I have learned a little more about clowns and I know there are different types of clowns, What kind of clown are you and what do you feel is your clowns most interesting characteristic?

Two Typestoe_knee_itallian_clown

1st – European Auguste – Just a fun loving jolly happy clown “Toe-Knee”

2nd – Character Clown – My Chinese character “Be-Real-Son.”  Most interesting is everything about him, his looks- Funny, his actions – Funny, just a funny funny goofy looking clown.

berealson

 

8. Have you ever worked in a Circus and if so which ones?

Worked in a Circus – NO, worked at a circus Yes.  I was vacationing in Budapest.  They have the largest in door circus in Europe there.  I was with a friend who was also a clown and we got permission to entertain with balloons, (pre-show) .  It was an experience to entertain somewhere where we didn’t speak the language and they didn’t speak ours.  We met the main character of the circus, a clown from Italy who lived there during the season and then went home to Italy in the off season.  It was fun.

9. What kind of functions are you hired for example: conventions, parties…

100_0942Mainly birthday parties for children, that is the bread and butter in my area.  I do also get hired for conventions and other events. The highest paying event was an event I did for CXS railroad.  They wanted 15 clowns to do face painting and balloons.  The event was in Waycross GA, they were christening a new locomotive and there was a Congressman and other dignitaries there.  Alot of people were there.  All 15 clowns were there for 5 hours – they paid 12 thousand dollars for us to be there – a nice pay day!

10. Do you have bits that are standard in the clown world or do you create your own acts?  

308518_272880542731087_100000274304348_1078261_1050387961_n[1]My acts with Toe-Knee are a mix of different magic performed in a way that is unique to me.  Now, Be-Real-Son – everything he does is unique because he is unique.  I get ideas when I am in character that I don’t get when I’m not.  It is very weird, I become a complete different person as a Chinese Clown.

11. Do you use props?  Yes

11A. If so did you make them yourself?  

I don’t make them, I may change them to fit my character tho.

12. If you are in a parade do you ride anything? Bike, Unicycle, Clown car?

I ride a bike.  I sent you a photo of me on one of my bikes.  I also bring my daschund dog with me, the people love her.  Once they see my dog, they take photos of her, not me.  Again, Be-Real-Son does parades, everyone loves the silly Chinese Clown.

Riding the bike in the parade

Riding the bike in the parade

13. Is there video we can watch of you on the web acting as a clown for us to enjoy?  yes

Toe Knee the Clown making a reindeer out of balloon

Toe Knee

Mr. Bill  the magician video

Here are Bill Gillespies Web sites

www.birthdaypartiesjacksonvillefl.com

www.clownmagicianjax.com.

If you happen to be in the Jacksonville area and you need a great clown – call Bill Gillespie!

Art Prints

I hope you have enjoyed this post about another wonderful clown.  Please follow his links and read more about him on his web page.

Until next time. Happy Clowning!

Thanks to Bill for all his help in creating this blog.

Patty Sue O’Hair – Vicknair Clown artist to the world

psovart@gmail.com

http://portfolio.psovartgallery.com/

Follow my art on Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/pages/PS-OV-ART-Patty-Sue-OHair-Vicknair-Artist/120774855204

Please like this blog and share among your clown friends.  All comments are welcome!

The great Ron “Toto” Johnson!


Hello Fellow Clown Enthusiast,

I have just this last week completed a portrait of TOTO,  so I am reposting this blog post followed by another blog post showing the creation of his watercolor painting.  The Great Ron “Toto” Johnson gave me the honor of painting his image as part of my new  watercolor clown series.  His painting is number #6 if you’re following along.   Original has sold, but prints will be available soon.

Today we have the great honor of meeting one of the top clowns in the industry Ron “TOTO” Johnson.  I first met Toto on Facebook when I was looking for photos.  He is a friend of Billie Ballantine, whom I have painted and  looking at Billie’s friends led me to Toto.  Toto has been involved with Clowning most of his life and he is really a world renowned clown having traveled around the world clowning.  He has had an amazing life let’s get to know him in his own words.

I asked him a few questions and I think you will enjoy his answers.

1. How long have you been a clown?

I did my very first public performance as a clown just over 35 years ago…June 21, 1977.  I was 10 years old and had taken a clown class offered by the Parks and Recreation Department’s Youth Services in my hometown of Naugatuck, Connecticut.  The class met for a couple of hours 1 day a week after school and we had our “graduation” as part of the Youth Services Fair on the Town Green.

2. Who inspired you to become a clown?

I cannot say any particular person inspired me to be a clown exactly…but I can say that in school I was part of the “Gifted and Talented” program.  (The program was for kids in grades 2-8 who showed exceptional talents in the arts, sciences, etc)  One day per week I left my usual school and was bussed to another school to study all sorts of topics.  The teacher…Eileen Cooper…introduced me to mime, puppetry, and movie making amongst the dozens of subjects and topics we studied over the years I spent in that class.  I found that I loved the performing arts so when I saw an advertisement for the clown class I just had to take it!  I fell in love with clowning during that very first class!

Over the 35 years that I have been clowning I have been inspired by far too many people to even begin mentioning them all…but I will say that I have studied under and worked with Master Clowns Lou Jacobs and Frosty Little.  My Dean at the RBBB Clown College was the amazing Steve Smith.   I have studied under and worked with astounding clowns and performers from circuses, the world of stage performance, etc.  I learn something from every clown I meet.  Sometimes I learn something that is fantastic…life changing…and gives me a whole new perspective.  Sometimes I learn what NOT to do!  I do learn something from every clown…good and bad.

Ron “Toto” Johnson with the Great Lou Jacobs in 1985

3.Where did you receive training?

My very first clown class…in the Spring/Summer of 1977…was put on by the Parks and Recreation Department’s Youth Services in Naugatuck, Connecticut.  From 1981-1985 (my high school years) I learned a lot about clowning by reading every book I could find on the art.  I also joined the Sawdust Clown Alley of the Clowns of America organization.  I learned a lot from members of that club (Leo Desilets, Rob Iassogna, Joe Barney, and others) and by attending clown conventions throughout New England.  I also learned a lot from members of the Harry Houdini Assembly of the Society of American Magicians organization (Larry Parsons, Walt Kilfeather, Joe Lantiere, and others).

In 1985…fresh out of high school…I was accepted into the prestigious Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ Clown College….a 10 1/2 week program…6 days per week…14 hours per day…that taught such classes as stiltwalking, juggling, acrobatics, makeup and costume design, arena choreography, dance, improv, classic clown gags, and much, much more!

Ron “Toto” Johnson at RBBB

Over the years I have continued to take classes…and teach classes…and conventions and festivals around the world.

4. How long have you been a clown?

On June 21, 2012 I celebrated my 35th anniversary in clowning!

5. Are you involved with any clown organizations?

I am a member of the world’s oldest clown organization…”Clowns International” (based in England)…as well as the USA based “Clowns of America International” and “World Clown Association”.  I have been a columnist for the official magazine of “Clowns International”…”The Joey”…since 1999.  I am also a member of “The Midwest Clown Association” and “Circus Fans of America”.  On the local level I am a member of “The Quad City Clown Troupe” (a WCA affiliated Alley of which I am currently the Treasurer), “The Clem Magrum/Del Kiefer” Ring of the “International Brotherhood of Magicians”, and I am the Secretary/Treasurer of the Wayne Fanzen Tent of “The Circus Fans of America”.

Ron “Toto” Johnson

6. How do you feel your clown has evolved over time? How did you settle on the particular style and design of your clown or the personality you try to project as a clown?

My first clown…at age 10…was a silent, cute little Whiteface.  Over the years I found I was much better suited for the slapstick, fall down antics of the Auguste.  I became VERY loud!  I never “decided” what to do or become…it just happened over time.  Just as our personalities develop as people…as individuals…my clown did too.  My clown is an extension of myself.  I am not “acting” as a clown.  I am just being another side of me.  My clown will continue to evolve over the coming years….just as I will too.

7. I have learned a little more about clowns and I know there are different types of clowns, What kind of clown are you and what do you feel is your clowns most interesting characteristic?

I am most certainly an Auguste!  As for my clown’s most interesting characteristic…hmmmm…I don’t really know!  I guess maybe I could quote something a newspaper reporter said about me years ago…

“He is like a Snicker’s bar…half nuts!”

Ron “Toto” Johnson on 9 Foot Stilts

8. Have you ever worked in a Circus and if so which ones?

Just 3 hours after I graduated from Naugatuck High School in Naugatuck, Connecticut in June of 1985 I was on a plane to Orlando, Florida because I was to start clowning at the Circus World theme park the next morning!  I left that job 3 months later because I had been accepted into the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ Clown College.

I was one of 23 students from my Clown College class to be offered contracts to tour with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  From my class 13 went to the RBBB Red unit (including me) and 10 went to the RBBB Blue unit.

After 4 years with “The Greatest Show on Earth” I made my first overseas trip to clown with Cirkus Olympia in Sweden.  By this time I had married Rene’ Coker…whom I had gone to Clown College with, toured with on the RBBB Red unit with, and had a huge circus wedding with in Philadelphia in 1989 complete with elephants as bride’s maids.  Rene’ and I toured as a duo on Cirkus Olympia in 1990 and then added my Clown College roommate and fellow RBBB Red unit clown John Winslow to our act for the 1991 season on Cirkus Olympia.  The circus season ran for 6 1/2 months each year.

Between our 2 seasons in Sweden Rene’ and I performed at the circus themed restaurant “Carnival Plaza” in Tokyo, Japan for 6 months.

(Rene’ and I divorced in 1994 but are still good friends..chat on the phone a few times a year and are in touch very often through Facebook.)

I performed at the “Circus Circus” casino in Tunica, Mississippi for 2 years (1994-1996).  I have also been a “guest clown” and done spot dates with such circuses here in the USA as Alan Hill’s Great American Circus, Carson and Barnes Circus, etc over the years.  I still do some “advance clown” publicity work for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus from time to time too.

9. What kind of functions are you hired for example: conventions, parties…

I no longer do birthday parties in people’s living rooms…but I am available for just about anything else!  Here on the local level I am seen primarily at festivals, fairs, company picnics,school shows, etc.  I teach clowning at conventions and festivals across the USA and the world  Clowning has directly or indirectly brought me to 48 states and 23 countries so far.  I perform at festivals, in stage shows, on-screen, on cruise ships, etc.  I perform on the local, national, and international levels….sometimes as a solo act and sometimes with partners.  I tailor what I do to the needs of the client…balloon sculpting, juggling, “meet and greet’, stiltwalking, magic, clown gags, etc, etc, etc.  I do shows for 20 people…and I do shows for 20,000 people.

A few of the highlights from my international career have been performing at the first ever international clown festival in China, the 2nd international clown festival ever in India, and being the only American ever invited as an “honored guest” of Princess Stephanie of Monaco to perform at “Festiclown de Monte Carlo”.

Ron “Toto” Johnson in Monaco

10. Do you have bits that are standard in the clown world or do you create your own acts?

I use a combination of well-known acts…with my own personal “spin” on them, of course…and of acts I have created myself/with my partners.  While these days I am most know for my solo western themed cowboy Whipcracker act I actually prefer to work with 1 or 2 partners.

Tot’s solo western themed cowboy “Whipcracker”

11. Do you use props?

YES!  I have used HUGE props doing circus work and tiny props when working up close.  My cowboy Whipcracker act brings the best of both world’s together.  The act plays BIG but uses a minimal amount of props…which is wonderful when traveling overseas!

11A. If so did you make them yourself?

I have made many props myself but most of the time I buy them…either “off the shelf” or have them specially made.  I am not the most handy guy with tools!

12. If you are in a parade do you ride anything? Bike, Unicycle, Clown car?

I have ridden in all sorts of “vehicles” for parades…convertibles, fire trucks, etc…but my favorite, of course, is absolutely the traditional circus wagons used in “The Great Circus Parade” that used to be staged in both Milwaukee and Baraboo, Wisconsin!  I do not unicycle very well so I have never unicycled in a parade.  I have walked stilts in MANY parades.  I did not like stilts when I was at Clown College but once I joined the RBBB Red unit I started practicing and ended up walking 6 foot stilts (that’s me on top of 6 foot long aluminum “legs”).  Within 6 months I was up to 9 foot stilts in the show.  I ended up becoming the stiltwalking instructor at the RBBB clown College in 1988.

13. Is there video we can watch of you on the web acting as a clown for us to enjoy?

If you search for me on Youtube there are a few slide shows of me performing in England and China.  I can also be seen in various videos relating to the RBBB Circus 1986-1989.

14.What kind of presence do you have on the web, FB, web page, blog…

My website is www.totojohnson.com

I have a personal page on Facebook but that is now only “open” to folks I reeeeeeeally know.  I have a page that is open to EVERYONE…Ron “Toto” Johnson’s “Colossal Clowns International“…as well as a fan page that was started by a friend/fan in England…We Love Toto Johnson.

 

 

Ron “Toto” Johnson was also depicted in 1999 by the great artist Ron Lee.  Here is the photo of Toto posing and the resulting sculpture.

Toto posing

Sculpture of Toto by Ron Lee

I hope you have enjoyed this post about another wonderful clown.  Please follow his links and read more about him on his Facebook page and his web page.

Until next time. Happy Clowning!

Thanks to Toto for all his help in creating this blog.

Patty Sue O’Hair – Vicknair Clown artist to the world

psovart@gmail.com

http://portfolio.psovartgallery.com/

Follow my art on Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/pages/PS-OV-ART-Patty-Sue-OHair-Vicknair-Artist/120774855204

Please like this blog and share among your clown friends.  All comments are welcome!

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