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October 31, 2016 Poetry

Clowns Weren't Creepy in 1921

Rolf Potts

Clowns Weren't Creepy in 1921 photo

At least, not in the pages of Billboard Magazine,
Which chronicled showbiz scuttlebutt in the days
When entertainments were an in-the-flesh affair.

There, one might learn that Austin King, the singing
Clown of Al Barnes' Trained-Wild-Animal Circus,
Had secretly wed Miss Vera, the troupe's prima donna,

Or that Horace Laird's Chester Clown Academy had won
An exclusive contract to thrill holiday-season shoppers
With a new act in Philadelphia's finest department store.

John Denier, who had first donned face-paint in 1849,
Was set to retire, at age 91, in the city of New Orleans,
Which had anointed him caretaker of the local gun club,

While Wiggy Williams of Ringling, and Snapper Garrison
of Barnum-Brothers, had outsourced their comedic savvy
to the Universal Film Company of Hollywood, California.

It was not all glamour, of course: Shorty Floyd of the Sells-
Floto Circus caught diphtheria in Dayton, and Harry LaPearl
Left the Fraternal Order of Comiques to start a sign business.

But life was good for clowns back then -- even for Fred Salmon,
Whose musical blackface act for the Campbell Circus of Barnegat
New Jersey was only creepy when reconsidered in hindsight.


image: Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM) / Via retronaut.com