Today is the birthday of Jack LeClair (1890-1971). He started out in vaudeville in 1912 with a comedy acrobatic act called the LeClair Trio with Al Stern and Tad Tosky. Most of his career was spent as a circus clown, though, first wirth Rentz Brothers, then Campbell Brothers, and finally Ringling Brothers, which he stayed with for 31 years. He became a friend and frequent collaborator of the famous Ringling Bros. clown Felix Adler work. During the winter layovers, they would work in vaudeville together as Adler and LeClair, the Odd Pair”, doing comedy crosstalk and dancing. LeClair is credited with inventing many classic circus clown gags, some still in use today, such as “Blowing Up the Fat Man.” In the 40s he groomed his son Jackie (b. 1927) to take over the family business, and he himself retired from full time travelling to the Milwaukee area, although he continued to perfom occasionally. As far as I can tell, Jackie is still with us. See his web site: http://jackieleclaire.com/
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc