Gizmo the Clown Series

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outside Flagstaff, AZ
August 1999

I met Fay from through a mutual friend. She’s 75 and sorta homeless, but not really. More importantly, she doesn’t think of herself as homeless. She’s just doing what she’s always done. That is, being on the road, being around animals and entertaining people.

Fay lives out of the camper on her truck. Depending on where she is, she’ll park at a friend's house or in a campground. In recent years Fay has been spending about 4 months working at a dude ranch outside Flagstaff, AZ. The remainder of the year she stations herself in Las Vegas, southern Arizona or southern California. She comes from a family of entertainers. Her mom and dad were with Ringling Brothers Circus back in the 40's. Fay joined in 1948 and worked intermittently with them for four years between 1948 and 1958.

When she wasn’t with Ringling Brothers, Fay worked with another, smaller circus act. It was here she came up with the idea of doing a burlesque act. She admits to being a “looker” when she was younger. In this act, a pony would strip away her blouse and skirt leaving Fay in a bikini, a rather risque act for the 1950s.

During her time with the circus she learned to train animals. Fay trained Silver in The Lone Ranger tv show, the dog in the recent movie "Maverick," along with other lesser known animal stars for tv shows and movies. She makes a living now training animals.

While roaming the country in semi-retirement, her traveling companions include 9 dogs and a rather obese, black pig named Jasmine. Whenever the opportunity arises she performs a clown act for kids under the name "Gizmo the Clown." Highlights of the act include the dogs doing tricks like jumping through hoops, walking on their hind legs, then walking on their front legs. One of the dogs, Pierre, climbs a small ladder. Actually, Pierre and Money do most of the tricks. They’ve been with Fay the longest. (She gets her dogs come from the pound). Jasmine, the rotund, black pig, doesn't do such exciting acts. He can ring a bell and play dead, however.

One of Fay's claims to fame is that while living in a trailer court in north Hollywood sometime back in the '80s, she sold a llama and ram to some rich black guy. She’d never seen this guy before. The total cost was $2100.00. Because he only had $2000.00 on him in cash, he gave Fay an IOU for $100.00. Turns out, it was Michael Jackson. She’s holding on to the IOU.

I took some friends to see Fay perform and one guy asked "I wonder if she has any idea how tragic all this is?" Others have asked whether she’s crazy. A little fringe yes, crazy no. At age 75 Fay is attempting to bring some joy into people’s lives and she's getting out there seeing the world. It's in her blood, traveling and entertaining, being around animals.

I asked her whether she had any regrets in this life. She smiled and said "none." I then asked her why it is that we are here on earth having this life experience. She responded with "God is it."