Today is the birthday of Felix Adler (Frank Bartlet Adler, 1895-1960). One of the twentieth century’s greatest circus clowns, he was with the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1914 through 1958, with brief interludes when he stayed away to serve in World War One, and to strike for better conditions.
Distinguishing characteristics included a BIG butt (created with a couple of beach balls), a shiny rhinestone on his red clown nose, and an omnipresent piglet (which he would periodically replace as the circus toured through farm communities by trading them for younger ones when his current one got too large). Adler was known as the “King of Clowns”, played for many U.S. Presidents, and was the first American circus clown to appear on television. He also appeared in Cecil B. Demille’s 1952 film The Greatest Show on Earth.
To find out about the history of the variety arts, 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 check out 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