Behind the greasepaint
Sacramento clown Dolly Dimples is as vivacious and bright as her neon pink and purple hair. Though she’s only been clowning for a little more than three years, she has already won international and regional awards for her skits and parading acts. She loves to perform for kids, but thinks adults can enjoy a little clown love in their lives as well.
Do you have any birthday-party meltdown stories?
Yes, I do. I once was hired for a birthday party in a beautiful home, and the kids were about 7 or 8 and were so excited to see me. I introduced myself to the kids and the parents, but as I looked for the birthday boy to give him a little gift, he was nowhere to be found! We looked and looked, and it turns out he was under the table, scared out of his mind, would not come out. I don’t think I saw the birthday child at all after that during that party. (Laughs.) So parents, make sure your kids aren’t terrified of clowns before you hire one!
Ever been to the circus?
I probably have, but frankly I don’t like circuses—mainly because I am very much of an animal advocate. I don’t like zoos, either. I know they serve a purpose, but it just bothers me to see animals caged up or see animals do things they weren’t meant to be doing.
How’d you become interested in being a clown?
I have a cousin in Missouri who’s been a clown for about 20 years. She invited me to the [Emmett] Kelly [Clown] Festival in Houston, Missouri, and told me they had a clown school there and told me to check it out to see if I liked it. I went costume shopping the next day and found this gorgeous, hot-pink Shirley Temple wig. I bought it and built my whole costume, like, everything around that wig. I knew it was fate from when I saw that wig.
What does one learn in clown school?
You learn about the history of clowning, the etiquette of being clown, the different types of clowns and, of course, you also learn typical clown things like makeup, ballooning, etc.
There’s more than one type of clown?
Yes! There are basically four types of clowns: the Auguste clowns, which are the goofy clowns with flesh-colored skin, red nose and makeup around the eyes and mouth. They’re the ones usually getting the pie in the face. The whiteface clowns, which are more of the elegant clowns, they’re the boss clown. Another type of whiteface clown is a classic whiteface, and they don’t really clown. They are the beautiful, sort of “don’t touch me” kind of clowns. Then there’s the hobo clown, which is usually a sad clown. And then you have character clowns, which dress up in different costumes and their makeup just complements whatever costume they’re in.
What kind are you?
I’m a whiteface clown. I could never be a classic whiteface clown. I love my pink wig too much. I started out as an Auguste and didn’t like it so much. It just wasn’t me; until I learned the differences between the clowns, and then it all made sense!
Walk me through your makeup routine.
My makeup routine, from beginning to complete costume, takes me about an hour. I start off pulling all my hair back. I have to get my face really, really clean to put on white face paint or greasepaint, which usually depends on where I’m going. Then I fill a sock with baby powder and pat it … and it sets it! Then I take a Q-tip to get through the grease or face paint to put on the other features like eyebrows or eye shadow. I usually put blue eye shadow and have very pink cheeks. I put the nose on last. I leave the tip of my nose bare so that my cute purple nose can fit on there without slipping off from the paint.
Why do you think people are afraid of clowns?
Well, Stephen King hasn’t exactly been any help. What’s funny is my sister is afraid of clowns. What’s even funnier is that she’s a stuntwoman! She shouldn’t be afraid of anything! (Laughs.) I don’t really know where the fear came from. I do think teenage girls act like they’re afraid just to get attention. The fear really isn’t as common as people think it is. I think many people just don’t like them and that translates into fear or something. We’re nice people though, I promise.
What scares you?
This is going to sound silly, but mimes. I don’t like ’em. I think I’ve decided it’s because they don’t talk—and I don’t trust anybody that doesn’t talk. They’re amazing at what they do, but they just freak me out.
What do you do when you’re not in costume?
I love spending time with my grandson, riding my motorcycle and being with my dog. They complete me.