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Face Your Fears: Chicago Clowns Speak Out, Part 1

By Karl Klockars in Miscellaneous on Oct 26, 2009 7:20PM

As the city prepares for Halloween on Saturday, there's one thing that almost everyone agrees is scary - clowns. But what do clowns around town feel about their lot in life? We spoke with a few to find out - All this week, learn more about our city's collection of mirth-spreaders and balloon-twisters. First up:

twinklesface1009.JPG Mirelle "Twinkles the Classy Clown" Gross

Length of Clown Career: 7 Years
Self Taught or Clown College: Local Clown College
Clown Skills: All-around entertaining, balloon art, face painting, some magic, having lots of fun, general clown curriculum

What made you become a clown?
I had met someone else who was going to clown school, and she said "You should come join me." I said, "No," I'd just gotten out of the military, I was translating Arabic for the government. And I said, "No, I'm happy with not [coming with]." She said, "Here, look at this -" and she had a balloon twisting book. That was what caught me right there. I'd always been enamored with balloon art.

And so I did eventually go to clown school, had a lot of fun, and never intended to do it for a living. Friends found out I was doing it and they talked me into doing their kids parties, they passed my number around, and it's only grown ever since.

Are you aware of when people are afraid of clowns?
Absolutely. It depends on who it is. If it's an adult there's not much I can do. I just chuckle. It happens once in a while. I was doing balloons at On The Border in St. Charles, and I wasn't even in as a clown - I was just dressed up colorful and festive. He had his wife come tell me that I needed to stay on the other side of the restaurant because he was petrified of clowns. Are you kidding?

twinkles1.JPG He ended up leaving the restaurant until I was done with that side of the room. With kids? I'm very, very cautious with kids. Because I know that a lot of times, they've never seen up close and personal, a clown or a costume character. My son was afraid of me the first time I came home from clown school with all the makeup on. So being a mom helped a lot with paying attention to the reactions of people.

I never go running up to kids, or anybody as a clown. I'm not the overaggressive type. Some clowns are like that - they try to be funny by being louder than life. That's pretty much the opposite of who I am. I'm kind of the timid clown - nice and shy. And I won't approach anyone that doesn't want to. I'll have the moms set me up to the side, off in the corner. I won't be in the middle of everything. And I'll send a balloon animal over to them, I just kinda wave every once in a while - and sometimes I'll pretend I'm afraid too. And I just try to make sure that I'm not catching them off guard.

If I see a kid that's freaked out about it, that's really my goal - to make sure that by the end of the party, they're my buddy. And it really always does work.