Send in the Clowns

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Tears of a Clown.&uot; &uot;Send in the Clowns.&uot; &uot;Be a Clown, Be a Clown.&uot;  That baggy-panted, big-shoed figure of fun appears in our songs and our movies, from Charlie Chaplin’s beloved &uot;Little Tramp&uot; in the silent era to modern movie clowns like the rubber-faced Jim Carrey.

August happens to be National Clown Month. The positive side of clowning is alive and well in Butler County, where several card-carrying, certified clowns spread goodwill and joy among young and old alike.

Mister and Missus Clown

Husband and wife Rochelle and Thurston Mosley, who live in rural Butler County, have several things in common. They enjoy working in their church, Mt. Pisgah in Georgiana, supporting disabled veterans through DAV activities and participating in community events like Old Time Farm Day and the Butler County ACS Relay For Life.

The two retirees have something else in common: they are both clowns.

The pair attended clown school in Birmingham where they mastered the art of making balloon animals, conducting magic tricks, creating skits and generally putting smiles on the faces of those they visit.

The love for clowning around goes back a long way for Rochelle.

&uot;I’ve always loved dressing up. Halloween was always a favorite holiday. I used to work for the state and people would see me drive down the interstate in these crazy costumes; you would see them doing a double take,&uot; she laughed.

With the couple’s keen sense of humor and love for community, becoming clowns seemed a natural fit.

As part of their clown training, each had to develop a special clown persona, complete with makeup and costume.

Rochelle’s alter ego is fiery-haired clown &uot;Gingersnap,&uot; while Thurston incorporates his own disability into &uot;Gimpy,&uot; a benevolent, bespectacled soul in a bright fluorescent-hued suit.

The two make appearances at hospitals and churches, at schools and libraries around the area.

Gingersnaps took part in a south Butler County lawnmower race last year to raise monies for First Baptist Church of Georgiana’s building fund. Gimpy visited the children at the Greenville-Butler County Public Library to share jokes, magic tricks and more with the youngsters.

&uot;Remember, God loves the clown in all of us,&uot; Gimpy told the children with a smile.

Smiles for sick children

Another local clown school graduate, Linda Holley of Greenville, dresses up as Mimi the Clown. The Senior Services director for L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital was inspired to become a clown after meeting the colorful figures who entertained the youngsters at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, where her grandson was a frequent patient.

&uot;I knew I never wanted to do this for money; I wanted to become a clown to give back to others. And it’s a lot of fun,&uot; Holley said.

Holley enjoys visiting hospitals and nursing homes and putting smiles on the faces of people like Zach Till, a young cancer survivor at a Cancer Survivors’ Luncheon in Greenville.

Some do fear clowns, a fear psychologists base on the fact a clown's true identity is hidden beneath the rainbow-hued hair and elaborate makeup, not to mention the macabre picture painted by slasher clown movies and books-turned-into-films like Stephen King's &#8220It.”

There’s no reason to be afraid of the folks who choose to clown around Butler County. They do what they do for the love of laughter and community.

‘We brought joy'

&uot;The Old Gym Players participated as clowns for the first time in the Homecoming Parade at Greenville High in 1971, as I recall,&uot; retired teacher Roberta &uot;Bobbie&uot; Gamble recalled.

&uot;It was quickly put together. A few of us put on costumes, did makeup and walked the parade route, throwing out candy…when I returned to GHS in ’81, I decided I was too ‘long in the tooth’ to walk the route, so I lined up a car and rode in full clown makeup and costume.&uot;

With her Theatre Arts students walking alongside, also in full clown regalia, tossing candy to the elementary school youngsters who lined the street leading up to the old gym, Gamble said she &uot;felt a connection with all those children I didn’t know.&uot;

&uot;It was amazing seeing the expressions on the faces of the viewers; they seemed to love the clowns that we were. Maybe it was just the candy, but I don’t think so…I think we brought joy. I know making up the black and white faces of my &uot;kids&uot; was a hands-on experience in which I experienced a love I have never forgotten.&uot;

Gamble, the Mosleys, Holley and other local clowns would likely agree with the following words found in the proclamation made by President Richard Nixon in 1971 for the first National Clown Week:

&#8220The clown leaves happiness where he goes, and takes misery away with himŠsurely the laugh-makers are blessed: they heal the heart of the world.”