Holiday: a one-woman show

Laughs: Carol Spaulding, clown and founder of Everyday's A Holiday, is an award-winning entertainer.

January 02, 2000|By Joni Guhne | Joni Guhne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Carol Spaulding set off a metal detector at the annual lighting of the national Christmas tree in Washington, she was only clowning around. Seriously.

What ensued could have been a cross between a Secret Service training film and the clown act Spaulding had gone there to perform as agents searched her -- from the top of her red wig to the bottom of her crinoline petticoats and red pantaloons.

The cause of the alarm was eventually pinned down: Spaulding's clown shoes were fastened with big, metal snaps. Beeeeep!

As the wife of a retired federal security officer, she understood the drill after touching off the alarm: Searches are a price one must pay to entertain, among many others, the president of the United States.

Spaulding, 49, of Riva is proprietor of a business called Everyday's A Holiday -- and decked out as Holiday the Clown, she's its performer.

Spaulding says her clown fascination, which has led to her livelihood of nearly 20 years, goes back to falling in love with the circus as a little girl, attending the Clyde Beatty show with her grandparents in Philadelphia.

As a woman, her introduction to entertaining children came from an unexpected source: working as a flight attendant for American Airlines. On cross-country flights, it became her responsibility to amuse children traveling alone.

"I kept a supply of puppets and cardboard airplanes in my purse," Spaulding recalls, telling how she would put on spontaneous puppet shows to the delight of the children.

Marriage, and a move soon after with her husband, ended the airline career and Spaulding found herself looking for a job where she could regulate her hours and be at home with her children, Shelly and Scott.

She taught preschool for a time, and parents of her young pupils -- recognizing her talent -- began to ask whether Spaulding would organize parties in their homes.

"Before I knew it, I was in the entertainment business," Spaulding says, "but being a clown was not part of my original plan."

She put on themed parties -- about princesses, mermaids and pirates, and eventually the circus.

Over the years, she developed 40 characters and made elaborate costumes for each -- but customers clamored for a clown, and when she finally added one to her repertoire, she named the feminine, beautifully dressed lady Holiday.

Her elegant outfits have contributed to her winning a wall full of first-place trophies in clown competitions. And her renown as a seamstress apparently is spreading. About 20 clowns from around the country buy costumes from her, she says.

"What used to be a male-dominated field is now a woman-oriented business," says Spaulding -- who, as mid-Atlantic director of the 3,500-member World Clown Association, keeps up with the antics of 750 area clowns. A majority of them are women, she notes.

She is also a member of Clowns of America, whose six-time former president, Lou Walston, a clown since 1966, described Spaulding as "an excellent performer."

"It's her strong personality that makes her such a good clown," Walston says. "She reaches out to the audience."

He also praised her wardrobe and makeup, saying, "She wears different color wigs, and I frown on that. I'm a traditionalist. Clowns wore red wigs in the old days, but they do things differently today. And the wigs look good on her."

"I've been in the business for 19 years, and I'm still learning," says Spaulding, who sees much more to clowning than sporting a red nose and floppy shoes, painting faces and handing out balloons. "It takes an entertainer who knows what she's doing to be successful."

Another peeve, she says, is the way clowns are treated. "We've allowed this art to be bashed in the United States. In other countries, we are respected," she says.

"I was recently at Johns Hopkins entertaining a room full of Alzheimer's patients in wheelchairs, and I had them laughing," says Spaulding, who believes such a response comes only from a true art.

"When I stop at a red light, I have people honking and waving and smiling. Maybe with more clowns, there would be less violence."

She might be adding a new face to her act -- planning next summer to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a ventriloquist.

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