It’s not every day a reporter is given the opportunity to write about clowns.
Here at Spotlight Newspapers, we cover town board meetings, board of education events and student projects that earn prestigious awards.
We do not typically cover ballooning, how to count like a clown or tricks you can do with a bunny rabbit.
These are not things an ordinary reporter would cover at the Spotlight, but and I think my colleagues would agree I am not ordinary.
When I decided to write about the art of clowning, I knew I would not be able to sit on the sidelines and watch the experts describe how to make a balloon poodle or properly cover a face in white paint. I was destined to get behind the red nose and actually become a clown.
I requested a special session with Fuddi Duddy, aka Paul Kleinberger, of Loudonville.
In the clown world, Kleinberger is like the Julius Caesar, George Washington and Wizard of Oz of clowning. In other words, he is like a clown king, and really knows his stuff.
Kleinberger, a member of the Electric City Clown Alley, was the most recent past president of Clowns of America International, an international coalition of clowns.
Arriving at his house in Loudonville, I was not only greeted by him, but his wife, Miriam `Senorita Soto` Kleinberger, a retired clown and 2000 recipient of the Clown of the Year award, as given by the alley.
In their lovely home, I couldn’t help but notice a painted portrait hanging on their wall. It was of a man-clown and woman-clown in wedding attire.
Out of fear of being rude, I decided not to ask about the portrait. I mean, come on, how do you ask someone, upon viewing a portrait of two clowns, `Is that you and your wife?`
Soon I realized if I had asked, it would have been completely appropriate, although I didn’t need to because Mrs. Kleinberger told me it was them.
She told me this right before opening up their wedding album to show me that the couple had gotten married 10 years ago as clowns. I have to say, it was the most colorful wedding I have ever seen, and those who were not dressed in clown costume seemed out of place.
After I flipped through the album, Mr. Kleinberger prepared to give me a lesson in ballooning.
He started by putting two kinds of balloons in my hand, showing me the two sizes of long balloons clowns work with. He then took a third balloon and made me a bumblebee then a sword then a poodle then a leash for the poodle then a heart then an alien. He ended with a step-by-step tutorial on puppy-making and let me make a few of the twists myself.
I was swimming in a sea of balloon animals, and I was as happy as a kid at the fair.
Afterwards, we moved to the kitchen for Kleinberger to show me makeup tricks.
I sat down in front of a big mirror while Kleinberger got out all of his tools. He took out a jar of white face paint, a black liner, and a red crayon-type stick. Kleinberger explained to me several different makeup techniques clowns use: whiteface, where the clown’s face is covered in white; Auguste, where the clown’s normal skin is mostly visible, with a lot of white accent around the eyes and mouth; light Auguste, where even more of the clown’s normal skin is visible; and character, where the clown may use as little makeup as possible to represent a real-life character.
Character clowns and light Auguste clowns are commonly seen in hospitals and nursing homes, he said.
I was to become a light Auguste clown.
Seeing as I had never done my makeup as a clown before, though I’m sure my co-workers who see me in the morning would argue otherwise, Kleinberger helped me with the white paint around my eyes. Next he asked me if I always wanted a dimple, and said that today was my lucky day to get one. He let me draw a small black dimple in the center of my chin.
Next, since I have a large bottom lip, the only thing I got from my father, Kleinberger said it would be easy to make my mouth into a clown mouth by adding a little red. So, I drew it on myself. We added a little rouge to my cheeks to accentuate my smile.
Within minutes, I was ready for the final touch — the nose. As Kleinberger explained, the nose is one of the most important features on a clown’s face, and that it is important that a clown makes his or her nose exactly the way they think will represent their clown personality the most. I decided to go with a nice round red spot, covering the tip of my nose.
After my makeup was finished and the Kleinbergers took my photo, proud of what they had made me into, I had one final task before becoming an official clown. I had to make people laugh.
So, I packed up all my balloon-puppies and pirate swords, pat some makeup sealer on my face, and for the first time that day, went into the office.
I got a range of reactions from my office-mates: Those in the advertising department said, `Have you looked in the mirror today?` John McIntyre, the vice president of Spotlight Newspapers, said, `What did you do!?`
But once I got to the editorial department, I was greeted with laughter, smiles and a few flashing cameras.
So that was the day I became a clown. But the joke’s not over. On my refrigerator, I keep the photo that the Kleinbergers took, making my roommates laugh every morning when they go to make their breakfast.