Pam Moody – New World Clown President in March 2017
WCA Pam Moody – That Fantastically Fun Clown By Norman the Funny Guy
Our incoming president is that wonderful, colorful clown “Sparky” – also known as Pam Moody. For many years she has served the members of the W.C.A. recently as Vice President as well as in other capacities.
What makes clowning fun for you?
The JOY that I RECEIVE from others when I clown. It’s a feeling like no other! The more my audience gives me….the more I want to give back to them in performance/play
Why did you want to become a clown?
Originally I did NOT want to become a clown. Unlike most, I grew up disliking clowns. I had a horrible personal experience with a circus clown when I was 4-5 years old which traumatized me. Later in life, they were starting a clown ministry group at my church. My then 12 year old daughter wanted to be in it…but she needed a parent to go with her. My husband was already participating in the “puppet ministry” with her so it was my obligation to do the clown troupe. Honestly, with her age I honestly felt this might be an 8 – 10 week “phase” for her. (which it was). However, I was HOOKED!
As I prepared my daughter for this troupe….I was trying to keep my expenses very low because I was certain it would be a short-lived hobby. I went to our local theatrical shop and bought her a used “rental clown outfit.” I put off getting anything for me because in my heart I knew somewhere in the basement was a Halloween clown outfit in our “costume box.” The night before our first appearance at church…I went to the basement in search of that awful costume. In order to get to the box, I had to move my husband’s old firefighting clothes (boots, night pants, suspenders, etc). A light bulb went off! I grabbed scissors and cut the heavy liners out of his bunker pants. Put on his old white uniform shirt with the fire dept patch on the sleeve. Found a scrap of Dalmatian fire dog fabric which I tore and tied around my neck for a tie. He had a box of the plastic fire helmets they give away to kids….which became my helmet. I had only invested in a $7 HALLOWEEN yellow wig and Wallah! Sparky was born.
What I did not know at the time was that God had drawn me into this “hobby” against my will…..because he was preparing me for a HUGE event in my life. A year later I was stricken by a crippling episode of “Clinical Depression.” In the weeks and months to follow, I researched clowning online. I attended 2 training events that fueled my desire to clown. What began as therapy led me to a new full-time profession as a clown.
PS: As predicted my daughter stopped participating with the clown ministry troupe 3 months after she began.
How did you develop your fire fighter program?
On Valentines Day, Sparky (who was a fairly sorry looking clown at the time) made a surprise luncheon visit as a “Burning Hearts Inspector” to her husband at the Fire Prevention Bureau. Armed with just enough knowledge of the code, she knew that Mr. & Mrs. Moody had a burning love for each other in their hearts. She was there to ensure that it was a safe and legal burn. At the conclusion of her “inspection” she awarded him with a permit to continue the burning heart. This funny little presentation turned heads in administration. That very afternoon the Fire Marshal gave my husband a flyer for a state fire convention in Illinois. They were having a 3 day “pre-conference” optional course on “Puppets and Clowns in Fire Service.” We went and gained significant knowledge and returned FIRED UP (no pun intended) to start our program.
We spent the next 5 months planning and preparing. We targeted only 4th graders in 4 schools in a territory with the highest fire incident rate in the city. With the school system on board with us, we did both pre and post testing for this core group of students with PROVEN results. This first season only fueled the Fire Department and the City to do what they could to continue this program.
The result was starting a nonprofit organization, L.A.F.S. For Life. (LAFS is an acronym for Life and Fire Safety) Our Board of Directors were all officials in Fire Service with one representative from a local insurance company. We began to obtain grants which purchased an extended cargo van, a trailer, sound system, puppets, staging, etc. For the next 18 years, I presented school assemblies FREE to Des Moines Schools. There were 55 elementary schools in Des Moines alone, so this kept me extremely busy.
Why did you start to do fire safety?
When I began clowning, my husband was a Des Moines Firefighter and was assigned to work in the Fire Prevention Bureau. One of his responsibilities was Public Education. He was serving in our church puppet ministry….and I was in clown ministry. We had proven results on using these tools to present valuable messages. It seemed quite natural to “team up” and work to bring educational safety messages to kids!
What is your favorite type of program to do?
Wow, difficult to answer. That has changed over the years. I love “message based” clowning whether it be in a school or sharing a gospel message. I also love making caring clown visits.
Can you share two favorite stories of places you performed at?
I’ve now clowned twice in India in multiple cities and venues. This was an “over the top” experience for me, unlike anything I’ve experienced in the USA. India has had little to no exposure to professional clowns. The audience believes clowns are SUPER STARS. The reception is like nothing I’ve experienced anywhere else. At the conclusion of one mall performance a pregnant woman approached me at the conclusion of our performance. In broken English, she took my hand and placed it on her very pregnant belly and said, “It is because of you that my baby will be born healthy. That is the first time I have laughed in years.” She touched my soul because circumstances there are so different. She left me wondering if she was in an arranged marriage. Was she unhappy?
I like to visit long-term hospital patients (not kids like everyone expects clowns to be). Stroke patients are my favorite. I was “clown caroling” before the holidays years ago. I entered a woman’s room. She was stone faced. I quickly determined that she was unable to speak. I played a Christmas Carol on my Kazoo, then leaned forward to add some more humor. Unable to communicate she began to cry. I hugged her and held her. It was an indescribable moment. We connected on all levels.
Who were a few of your influences in clowning?
I have had numerous influences over the years. One of the first instructors I learned from was Randy Christensen at Joey to the World in Houston, TX. Years later I have had the opportunity to attend 2 of his Next Step Intensive Trainings. Bubba Sikes, Janet Tucker, Richard Snowberg, Brenda Marshall, Sandy Noe. This list could go on and on. I have been blessed to be able to attend as a student and later as an instructor and be exposed to DOZENS of instructors/clowns over the past 20+ years. Most all of them have left a mark on my character.
Who were your favorite old time movie and tv stars that may have influenced you?
Lucille Ball, Red Skelton, Carol Burnett, Tim Conway, Emmet Kelly……too many to list!
Where does your joy in clowning come from?
I clown because I’m selfish. I derive so much JOY from the reception of the people I’m clowning for. The more they laugh, or respond in any way only fuels my personal level of joy. My audiences GIVE far more to me than I give them!
Why is the WCA such a great organization?
I believe that WCA is a premier clown organization with a significant focus on education. Our Clowning Around Publication is rich in articles on diverse subjects. We also offer some tremendous scholarships to back up our focus on education. The Bo Dino is a huge opportunity to attend one of the intensive schools and the Blab-i-gale will cover your registration to a WCA Convention! Our members are open to helping others. We are constantly striving to determine the wants and needs of our members and working to try to meet those needs in a variety of ways. I welcome hearing from you with your ideas and suggestions to make it even greater! WCA is also a leader in bringing positive attention to the art of clowning in numerous ways.
Why do you think education is such a important part of clowning?
Ongoing education is IMPERATIVE in keeping your clown alive. Leon McBryde used the quote for his “Advanced Studies”……”When you’re green you grow ……when you’re ripe you rot!” Clowning requires lots of creativity. For me, to keep that alive and active….I want to be exposed to as much education and performances as I can. It stimulates my mind to write and create new material. It also helps me to continue to be fresh and motivated. In all of the years I’ve clowned, I always tell people to never pass up an opportunity to take a beginners makeup class! I always learn something from different instructors and products are constantly changing.
Diverse venues you’ve clowned:
A FUNERAL! – One of my biggest challenges. An elderly member of our church was someone that we clowned frequently for at her home, hospital and eventually hospice. Her family requested our church clowns to do a presentation at her funeral. The most difficult venue I’ve ever clowned….but it was fabulous and well received.
Brain Injury Rehab Center – Another difficult venue because there is usually NO response. You have to be your own audience but I became part of their therapy by using the bright colors, music and laughter to help stimulate their brains to recover.
All Clown Worship Services
Keynote Address – I have given several keynote addresses at conferences as Sparky on the value of humor in life and sharing valuable life messages.
Banquet Entertainment – I have been the entertainment at several professional safety conventions.
I have traveled the world presenting lectures to both professional safety organizations in addition to entertainer conventions.
I’m a certified “Laughter Leader” through the World Laughter Tour – I have led laughter classes at local hospitals and elderly facilities. ETC.
Working and raising children as a full-time clown, I’ve had plenty of strange experiences as a clown. The month of October (Fire Prevention Month) was always grueling for me. Many days I would be in makeup 12-15 hours. I’ve had to go to parent teacher conferences in clown. I’ve had a terrible accident on the freeway in my clown van which required me to go to the hospital for treatment in full CLOWN. I’ve been in Pediatric ER with one of my daughters in FULL CLOWN (not what you want to do!) Being attentive in all of these to NOT break character in public. What a CHALLENGE!
Difficulties and Challenges
In February, 2009 my husband was diagnosed with a rare and fatal form of cancer and given a life expectancy of less than 6 months. At that time I packed Sparky away. My time was dedicated to him and I didn’t want to take the chance of being in ER in clown again. I also had temporarily lost my “joy.” Not being joy filled affected my ability to perform. Fortunately, his life continued on for THREE years!! During those years, we stopped fundraising for my school shows because I wasn’t performing. As the months and years passed, we decided to disband the non-profit. Overhead was eating up our profits and I honestly decided that I had reached a time in my life that I did not want to perform at that level. I continue to do school shows when asked. Due to lack of funding by schools, I do more private than public schools. Over the years I took up face painting and that is now what I call my “therapy work.” I LOVE face painting.
article assembled by N.B. Bloging at MagicalMinnesota.wordpress.com