LEWISTON – I am a scary clown.
I never would have guessed it. I mean, I know I’m not the biggest ham, but I laugh a lot. I love children. I have a generally agreeable personality.
When Lewiston City Manager Jim Bennett let word out that he was willing to make up a reporter for the Kora Shrine Circus at the Colisee on Saturday, I readily volunteered. “Cool!” I thought. “A day in the life of a clown!”
Little did I know.
I showed up at the Colisee at 11 a.m. Saturday and made my way to a room on the top floor. Clowns in various states of makeup were lounging around, taking a break between performances.
I was greeted by Bennett, who was dressed as his clown alter-ego, “Ginjo.” He wore a bright red, blue and yellow clown suit, with a yellow wig, huge shoes and a clown hat.
“Are you ready?” he asked. I was still trying to reconcile this clown with my public-official image of Bennett.
But I composed myself. It was now or never.
Within minutes, I had a black-and-white-striped tank pulled over my head and a nylon cap over my hair, and I was seated before “Bow,” otherwise known as Michael Blais of Dick’s Plumbing and Heating in Sabattus. Bow, a clown makeup expert, is the Boss Clown.
He had an extra outfit and decided I would be done up as a whiteface. Turns out there are four official clown types: whitefaces, with very white faces; augustes like Ginjo, who wear colorful makeup and costumes; hobos, who are smiley in their tattered clothes; and tramps, the sad clowns.
Bow began by smearing white “grease” makeup on my face. It was surprisingly light, and once set, surprisingly resilient. He covered my entire face – eyelids, brows, lips – in white, then led me to a trash can, over which he patted big clouds of baby powder on my face with a powder puff. I would later be sprayed in the face with water to set the makeup and powder for good.
First, though, I would have lips painted on, and my eyebrows would be created with a black Sharpie marker.
“That’ll come off about October,” chided “Dusty,” a friendly hobo (Paul Boudreau, director of the Lewiston Public Works Department). As it turned out, the marker stuck to my makeup instead of my skin.
I was given big, red clown pants and rainbow suspenders, black-and-white-striped knee socks, and a bib with a black-and-white polka-dot bow.
The coup de grace: a flaming red-orange wig with a bald spot and hat attached.
My name tag: Bubbles.
I was one scary clown.
Scariness, Ginjo said, is actually one thing any good clown is very conscious of. There are clown rules about this and other concerns. Two big ones: step back if a child looks afraid, and hold your hands high in photos so everyone knows where they are.
Clowning around is work, as I will soon discover. Ginjo and the crew already have put on one performance today, and there will be a third before their day is through.
I head down to the circus floor with the Kora Klowns, and, following Ginjo’s lead, I begin shaking hands, slapping high-fives and signing circus books with my new name.
I haven’t quite worked up to any goofy dances or acts, but I’m relieved when most kids smile at me, many looking kind of awestruck and delighted. I realize that they have no idea I’m anyone other than a clown.
Only one young boy tells me, “I know that’s a clown suit,” as if he knows exactly what I would look like in my normal-person duds.
At least he wasn’t scared.