Wednesday, 7 August 2019
NAME THAT CLOWN
If you've read any of my previous updates you'll know that one of the main protagonists in Cockerings is an aged, alcoholic Polish clown called Bozo.
We go a long way back, Bozo and me.
In fact, he's been with me, in notebooks and unpublished short stories for over twenty-five years. And I was delighted when Cockerings was accepted by Unbound because it meant that I could now share him with the world. However ...
It suddenly occurred to me that, with Bozo going public, I'd better check that there isn't a real Bozo that I might offend. After all, clowns may not be as popular as they once were, but I'd hate to damage someone's career. So, first things first, it was off to East London to check out the Clown Egg Register ...
Holy Trinity church in Dalston is home to the Clowns’ Gallery Museum, run by Clowns International. That's Joseph Grimaldi there in the stained glass window.
It's a tiny little place full of memorabilia and photographs crammed into three small rooms. But what I was interested in was the register - an archive of ceramic eggs painted to record clowns' personal makeup designs - like a kind of copyright record. The practice started in 1946 when a member of Clowns International (then called the International Circus Clowns Club) called Stan Bult painted the clown faces on emptied-out chicken eggs as a hobby. It evolved into a useful record of faces for posterity, as well as a way to memorialise the great clowns of yore.
Bult painted around 200 eggs in total, and while most were lost and broken over the years, 26 of these fragile originals can be found at Dalston along with another 46 ceramic eggs on permanent display. The rest of the clown egg collection is held at Wookey Hole in Somerset,
I first learned about the collection when a fictional version of it appeared in an episode of the classic British 'spy-fi' series The Avengers. There's a series 7 episode called (Stop me if you've heard this one) But there were these two fellers in which a young John Cleese runs the Clown Egg Registry and is visited by Tara King. I long believed it to be something made up for the show but then, to my delight, I discovered back in the 1990s that it's quite real.
The registry at Dalston caught the attention of photographer Luke Stephenson in 2007 and he published a book of his fantastic photographs of the eggs, taken at Dalston and Wookey Hole.
It's a great little book and, to my delight, it contained no Bozos. And nor did the museum at Dalston. Further researches showed me that there was no registered clown working in the UK under the name.
But, and it's a big but, when I looked further afield I realised that there was no way I could use the name. Because, you see, in America Bozo the Clown is as well-known as Basil Brush or the Chuckle Brothers are over here.
The character was created by Alan W. Livingston and portrayed by Pinto Colvig for a children's storytelling record album and illustrative read-along book set in 1946. He became popular during the 1940s and served as the mascot for Capitol Records. The character first appeared on US television in 1949 portrayed by Colvig. After the creative rights to Bozo were purchased by Larry Harmon in 1956, the character became a common franchise across the United States, with local television stations producing their own Bozo shows. Harmon bought out his business partners in 1965 and produced Bozo's Big Top for syndication to local television markets not producing their own Bozo shows in 1966, while Chicago's Bozo's Circus, which premiered in 1960, went national via cable and satellite in 1978. Performers who have portrayed Bozo, aside from Colvig and Harmon, include Willard Scott (1959–1962), Frank Avruch (1959–1970), Bob Bell (1960–1984), and Joey D'Auria (1984–2001). Bozo TV shows were also produced in other countries including Mexico, Brazil, Greece, Australia and Thailand.
Worst of all, the character inspired the creation of both Ronald McDonald and Krusty the Klown in The Simpsons and featured in 157 episodes of his own animated series called Bozo: The World's Most Famous Clown!
It appears that I couldn't have picked a worse name if I'd tried.
So now poor old Bozo needs a new name. Sob.
Tell you what ... have a think about it and we'll have a competition.
NAME THAT CLOWN.
Answers on a postcard (or comments below) by September 1st and I'll pick a favourite and sort out something nice as a prize.
Oh, and pledge on the book please! Let's make it a reality.
Signed Super Patron Paperback
Launch Party Ticket