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Laguna Woods students learn to release their inner clowns

By Jamie Johnson


As a youngster, Lorraine Chambers wanted to run away with the circus. Now she’s fulfilling that dream: She’s a student in the Clown College put on by the Laguna Woods Senior Clown Alley.

“Being a clown is a bucket list item,” Chambers said. “When I was 14 years old, I wrote to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to go to Clown College, and they wrote back to thank me but I was still too young.”

Village resident Margo Bender is teaching Chambers and eight other wanna-be clowns in the Clown College at Clubhouse 2, revived this year after a pandemic hiatus.

In the 12-week college, students learn clown history, makeup, costuming, skits, joke telling, face painting, balloon art, magic tricks, puppetry, and interacting with members of the audience.

Once they complete the college, the new members are honored with a fun graduation. This year’s ceremony is Saturday, April 23, at Clubhouse 7. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., and all are invited.

Clowning around may be all fun and games, but it’s serious business to Bender. She graduated from Clown College in 2018 and chose the clown name Curly Q. She recently taught the class the art of clown makeup.

“This is not a ‘fun’ class, but very interesting,” she said. “These ladies have never done clown makeup application, which is very, very different from our daily makeup. … I know from experience the students are concentrating.”

In the class, Bender goes through all the steps of creating the perfect clown face. Each student is given a box with face paint, glitter, brushes and other supplies.

The students have the freedom to create their own clown makeup, along with name, costume gear from the Clown Closet, and overall personality or specialty the clown will adopt.

Even though the makeup class is part of a serious program, the key is for the students to have fun, and they did just that, creating fun makeup designs, with bright colors and creativity that shined through their work.

It was the desire for fun that brought the students to the Clown Alley in the first place. Many joined the club for a change in their lives, for more laughter and for a sense of community. The wish to bring joy to others is strong among the students.

“I wanted to do something interesting, something which I had not done before. It’s creative, fun and challenging,” said Laiping Yuen.

Student Shermane Frei agreed: “I wanted to be a clown because I love to laugh and be around happy people. Plus I want to bring some kind of happiness to those who are suffering.”

For Chambers, who adopted the clown name Lucky LaLaLa, being a clown is like a “special timeless Halloween every day.”

But she, too, has another reason, perhaps a result of the pandemic: “In these changing times, we need friendly clowns more than ever for people to be entertained in social gatherings, especially after this two years’ pandemic pause.”

To contact the Laguna Woods Senior Clown Alley, email [email protected] or call 949-339-7841.

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