One of the events that was listed yesterday, on This Day in History was that on July 21, 1947, Loren MacIver’s portrait of Emmett Kelly as Willie the Clown appeared on the cover of Life magazine. This sent my mind off in several directions. My first thought was that I didn’t know which portrait of Emmett Kelly this was, as I have seen a few over the years. So I headed to Google and searched for the portrait….I found this 1947 Emmett Kelly painting by Loren MacIver at Kenyon College’s Digital Kenyon. But what I didn’t find was a cover from LIFE magazine….
The second thought that popped into my mind was the Murray Mclauchlan song ”Sweeping the Spotlight Away”. I went to Youtube to find a video of the song. I found one and I will play that video at the end of this post. But while I was searching for the song, I found this video of an appearance of Kelly on the Carol Burnett Show…….
Doesn’t look like Weary Willie does it! I also found, though, that on page 42 of this issue there was a story about Emmett Kelly and appearing with the story is this portrait by Loren MacIver…..
After I was showing my oldest son, Nick about all the above, he said he had no clue, who Emmett Kelly was, so for those of you in the same boat, here’s some background!!
Emmett Leo Kelly (December 9, 1898 – March 28, 1979) was an American circus performer, who created the memorable clown figure “Weary Willie”, based on the hobos of the Depression era.
He started working as a clown full-time in 1931, and it was only after years of attempting to persuade the management that he was able to switch from a white face clown to the hobo clown that he had sketched ten years earlier while working at an art firm.
“Weary Willie” was a tragic figure: a clown, who could usually be seen sweeping up the circus rings after the other performers. He tried but failed to sweep up the pool of light of a spotlight. His routine was revolutionary at the time: traditionally, clowns wore white face and performed slapstick stunts intended to make people laugh. Kelly did perform stunts too—one of his most famous acts was trying to crack a peanut with a sledgehammer—but as a tramp, he also appealed to the sympathy of his audience Full Biography
Thinking about all of this,I imagine that there are many of you who don’t even know what LIFE magazine was!! For those of you who are THAT boat….
LIFE was an American magazine that ran from 1883 to 1972, published initially as a humor and general interest magazine. Time founder Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936, solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name, and shifted it to a role as a weekly news magazine with a strong emphasis on photojournalism. LIFE was published weekly until 1972, as an intermittent “special” until 1978, and as a monthly from 1978 to 2000.
As I read about the origins of Life, as a humor and general interest magazine, and not the magazine that I remember, the one with all the cool cover pictures, etc. I saw that one of the editors was playwright Robert Sherwood, who I remember as….
…. one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table. He was close friends with Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, who were on the staff of Vanity Fair with Sherwood when the Round Table began meeting in 1919. Author Edna Ferberwas also a good friend.
Sherwood stood six feet eight inches tall. Dorothy Parker, who was five-feet four-inches, once commented that when she, Sherwood, and Robert Benchley (who was six feet tall) would walk down the street together, they looked like “a walking pipe organ.” When asked at a party how long he had known Sherwood, Robert Benchley stood on a chair, raised his hand to the ceiling, and said, “I knew Bob Sherwood back when he was only this tall.”
You gotta love that Dorothy Parker!! Anyway, I could go on and on…. I already spent too much time just looking and reading about the 1972 issues of LIFE , which you can check out here! McGovern in the Victory suite in July 21st issue, that would be the only time he’d spend in a Victory suite that year! But that’s a story for another day. How about that music now!!
- A Review of “Sad-Face Clown: Emmett Kelly” (iloveclowns.wordpress.com)
- BetteBack: Emmett Kelly Clowns For Bette Midler (bootlegbetty.com)
- Coulrophobia the Irrational Fear of Clowns (infobarrel.com)
- BetteBack December 2, 1977: Bette Midler Enlists Emmett Kelly For Television Special (bootlegbetty.com)
- Weary Willie Was A Shriner (sharkeydude.wordpress.com)