Learning how to clown

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 31, 2000


Monday, July 31, 2000

ASHLAND, Ky. – With his signature hat and hair that would stand straight up, Michael Polakovs, otherwise known as Coco the clown, spoke to a room full of children and adults at the Ashland Area Art Gallery’s Clown Workshop Saturday.

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During the workshop, the world famous clown gave a talk, performed tricks and helped youngsters put on makeup and costumes.

Even the adults got into the spirit of things. Some put on full face make-up, red noses, false ears and funny hats.

"The adults enjoyed this as much as the kids," said Janet Lester of Ashland.

One of the adults getting into the spirit of things was Karen Thompson. After helping her granddaughter Brittany Cremeans into a costume and makeup, Thompson made herself up with a white face and blue hearts on the cheeks.

"We wanted to see Coco. That was a highlight for today," Mrs. Thompson said.

Mrs. Thompson, several of her grandchildren and her mother, Billy-Jo VanNostran, clown for area parades and civic activities.

Many of the adults attending the workshop said that they remembered Coco from their childhoods. The clown is best-known for his work through the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Polakovs worked for the circus in the ’60s and ’70s. Six of his 11 years with the circus were spent doing special promotions. As a star of the circus, Coco’s clown face was used on posters, advertisements and artwork.

While putting on his makeup during the lecture portion of the workshop, Polakovs talked about his years in the circus.

"It’s not the makeup that makes a clown," Coco said. "Clowns are made behind the makeup. The clown comes out in the gags that you do to make people laugh. "

Polakovs was born in Russia, and moved to England with his father, who was the original Coco. While the senior Polakovs who made the clown famous in Europe, Michael Polakovs brought Coco to America.

The workshop is part of a program to introduce children to the arts.

"We’re fortunate to have someone with Coco’s experience living in the area," said Brenda Keathley, gallery director. "We would like for children to become familiar with the art gallery."