Tom King left the corporate world for the clown world by accident.
He had a heart attack, he said, when doctors told him his current job as a retail security guard was too stressful.
“So I started clowning,” he said. “The next thing I knew I was doing it full time. I’ve traveled all over the world, been to the White House and at one time, was one of the top 25 performing clowns in the world.”
King, from West Virginia, is in town because the circus is in town. Next week, Oct. 15 and 16, the Cole Brothers Circus of the Stars will be set up at 1000 S. Morrison Blvd in Hammond. Shows are for 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. both days.
Mario Vitali, marketing director for Cole Brothers, said this is the fifth year the circus has come to Hammond.
The draw, he said, is always the tigers and elephants. This year they have nine tigers and five elephants.
The Circus of the Stars travels up and down the East Coast, although Vitali said Louisiana is the furtherest west they go.
“We’re having a pretty good year,” he said. “Everybody wants to come to the circus now especially with the economy. It’s two hours of fun-filled entertainment, and it’s the one place where parents can bring their kids and not have to worry about being offended.”
Vitali, who’s in his 14th year as marketing director, said overall, it’s just a lot of fun. King agrees.
As he strategically bends a blue balloon into a recognizable poodle, he calls the circus life an interesting one.
“You get to see people, meet people, travel and you get paid for it,” he said.
King, who has been clowning now for 25 years, says he’s on the road for nine months of the year and home for the other three, as are most who work with the circus. This is his first year with Cole Brothers, although the company has been in the business 128 years.
King can do it all. From shaping balloons to walking on stilts to juggling to unicycling to performing magic. He says it’s an exciting life on the road.
“We have some 40-odd trucks in our caravan, and some are for animals and some are for supplies,” he said. “We are totally self-contained. We have our own generator and our own cook tank. We don’t even have to leave the lot.”
But you won’t see him at the circus. King is an advance clown and works seven days ahead of the circus visiting schools and daycares.