Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Clowning around with BeeRon
“Children lose that awkwardness once they feel comfortable and realize I am a real person,” says Byron.
All the world loves a clown, but BeeRon the Clown, also known as Byron Horne, insists that becoming a clown is a lot tougher than just pulling on a pair of baggy pants and donning a big red nose. It takes hard work to fill those giant clown shoes.
“You have to start being a clown in your heart,” he says. “You have to know what a grand responsibility that is. It’s fun, it’s work, and I’ve found out how to make work fun.”
Byron Horne’s clowning began early in life, and he admits that he was born to be an entertainer. In 1984, when his family attended Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, two of the youth ministers were former clowns. They started a youth ministry in clowning, and to no one’s surprise, Byron signed up. They taught him clown makeup and costuming, he practiced improvising skits, and most importantly, he learned how a clown connects with young children to make them feel comfortable.
If people are standoffish at first, that’s fine with BeeRon. He’s discovered that young children are often standoffish because clowns don’t look exactly like real people. They’re as tall as big people, and they talk like real people, but they don’t look the way real people usually look. Children wonder why this person looks one way and acts in a different way. “Children lose that awkwardness once they feel comfortable and realize I am a real person,” says Byron.
Byron later attended a clowning class at Eastfield College in Dallas, taught by professional clowns from the Dallas area. Each class concentrated on a different clowning skill. Since he already knew about makeup and costuming, his main interest was learning how to develop his clown character. He advises anyone with an interest in clowning to take a course in clowning.
BeeRon also learned how to do magic tricks, how to make those fabulous balloon animals, and how to entertain different groups. The professional clowns shared the do’s and don’ts of entertaining the very young and the very old. More than anything else, they emphasized that being a clown means being special in people’s lives. Your focus is all on the audience, and your aim is to get the audience to smile or to laugh. There is no ego involved. A person should never think that just because they are a clown they can walk right up and say, “Hi there!” in somebody’s face - a potentially terrifying experience. Some people have seen clowns before and some haven’t. Even if they have seen a clown, chances are they haven’t been close enough to take a balloon or to shake hands with one.
“I learned how to act on that,” he laughs. “When I come into a room, I will keep my distance at first. I’ll act silly. I’ll wave. Once I can get a little laugh out of them, I know that it’s fine to go ahead and come closer. You have to be very careful with children. I will usually make a balloon animal while I’m talking to them. I’ll say, ‘Oh, look at this. What am I going to do with this? Here, let me make this for you. Would you like me to make this for you?’ They will be curious about what I’m doing. Their eyes may not be gleaming yet, but I can tell that I have reached them. By the time I make that balloon animal and share it with them, their eyes light up, and I am accepted. They’re no longer afraid of the peculiar looking person with the big red nose. That does it. After that they will come up and hug me.”
Clown characters are important, and there are three major types: the whiteface clown, the auguste clown, and the character clown.
The whiteface clown has a fancy, colorful costume that is perfectly tailored to be the authority figure. He is the straight man who tries to be serious, but often just winds up being bossy in his attempt to control every situation. His uptightness makes him an easy target for jokes and pranks.
Mr. Whiteface is interested in style, and his costume is far more elegant than the other two clown types. He often wears the traditional ruffled collar and pointed polka dot hat that everyone thinks of as the “clown suit.” The whiteface clown gets his name from the heavy “clown white” makeup that completely covers his face and neck. In Europe, whiteface clowns paint their ears red, possibly because of all the nonsense they must always hear from the other types of clowns.
The auguste clown, BeeRon explains, “is also colorful, but not nearly as interested in style as Mr. Whiteface. He often looks like a cartoon character. He tries to be serious, but he is usually kind of silly.”
The auguste clown is a troublemaker. The whiteface clown often tries to tell the auguste clown what to do, but the auguste clown has a hard time doing as he is told. Sometimes he intends to mess up the whiteface clown’s directions and does silly things instead. Other times he wants to do as he is told, but gets confused. He makes mistakes and is incapable of doing what bossy Mr. Whiteface wants.
Mr. Auguste usually wears flesh-colored makeup on his face and neck, but he puts white makeup over his eyes and around his mouth. His eyes, lips and mouth are painted very large and are usually red and black. His costume of bright colors, large prints, stripes, and patterns will fit very well, or it might be much too big or small. Giant suspenders might hold up his baggy pants. BeeRon is an auguste clown.
The third type of clown is the character clown who looks more like a regular person. He may start with flesh-colored makeup on his face and neck, but then add a scraggly beard, a moustache, funny eyebrows, big ears, giant glasses or a peculiar hairdo. Sometimes he is dressed like a hobo, a policeman, or a cowboy. Famous character clowns include Emmett Kelly, Red Skelton, and Charlie Chaplin. Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp character looked like a regular person with a funny moustache and badly fitting clothes. He could convey a lot without saying a word.
The antics of both the auguste and character clowns are constantly causing trouble for the whiteface clown, who spends his time chasing them or trying to correct them.
BeeRon has entertained everywhere from baby birthday parties to nursing homes. He has clowned his way through store openings, hospitals, churches, picnics, festivals, and anyplace else that needed a little fun and laughter.
As far as BeeRon is concerned, we are all children no matter how many years we carry with us. “The best audiences are the ones who like to laugh,” he says. “I would encourage someone to become a clown if he or she has joy in their hearts and if they love kids no matter how young or old. This is a way to share the joy. The dividends are boundless.”
BeeRon was gracious enough to share with us how clowns behave, but he left one question unanswered: How do all those many clowns fit into that one little car?