Photos by Gabriela Alonso; Beaulux Productions, LLC
SQUEEZEBOX SOCIAL: This timeless shot gracefully illuminatesJune in the Naked Clown Calendar.
By David Templeton
Balloon sculptures are a staple of any well-trainedclown's tool kit, and any clown worth his or her salt can make aballoon sculpture hat—but when have you ever seen a clownclad proudly in balloon-sculpture briefs or balloon-sculpture braand panties? Other than an after-hours party at the RinglingBrothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, there's really only oneplace to see clowns adorned only in multicolored latexballoons—or feathers, flowers and suggestiveaccordions—and that is inside the Naked Clown Calendar, afundraising effort of the Clown Conservatory at San Francisco'sCircus Center, class of 2008.
Devised as a project to benefit the Judy Finelli Fund, whichworks with the Florida-based Multiple Sclerosis Foundationassisting people with MS to accomplish dreams of all kinds, theyaim to raise $1 million in 2009. The Judy Finelli Fund was createdto honor the center's cofounder, whose diagnosis of MS in 1989 hasrendered Finelli a quadriplegic, halting her ability to perform herlegendary juggling, but hardly dampening her ability to inspire herstudents.
One of those students is LaRena Iocco, born and raised inSebastopol, who graduated in June from the Clown Conservatory andis now actively applying for a position as a working clown indozens of traveling circuses around the country. Her talents arecurrently on display in the new Naked Clown Calendar, which isexactly what it sounds like: photos of clowns baring lots of skin,but in entertaining, clown-based ways, arranged into a 16-monthcalendar, with 21 clowns participating.
"I am August," says Iocco. "Well, my clown partner Lindsey and Iare both August." In the photo, which conjures recollections of old1960s folk music albums, Iocco, in full clown makeup, is perchednaked on a park bench, her more sensitive areas tastefully coveredby the guitar she is playing, as Lindsey B. Jones, reclining on thegrass, plays a small ukulele. The rest of the calendar is a playfularray of poses and postures, all of them clever, some of themingenious, most of them celebrating some acrobatic or introspectiveaspect of the fine art of clowning.
"It all started with a lot of us sitting around after ouracrobatics class one morning," Iocco says, "talking about how greatwe all felt and how we all seemed to be in much better shape,physically, then when we'd started school there. It's a veryphysically rigorous program at the school. And someone jokinglysaid, 'Now's our chance to shoot a nude calendar to celebrate ournew bodies!' The idea took off from there."
With student Chad Benjamin Potter taking on the project asorganizer, the clowns soon decided to make the calendar afundraiser for Finelli's fund. "Judy is one of our most amazingmentors from school," Iocco says. "She teaches the weekly circusskills class at the clown conservatory, with an assistant. Shecan't perform the skills anymore, but she has an encyclopedicbreadth of mental knowledge, so she gives the lecture and somebodyelse does the physical demonstrations. We all love Judy."
Fae Kievman, who grew up in Petaluma and who is featured for themonth of May, has been enrolled at the school for the last twoyears, and as a tattooed-contortionist-clown-in-development,similarly prizes the time he's spent with Finelli as a mentor.
"Judy has been such an incredible inspiration to me," Kievmansays. "Knowing her has been an incredible blessing. Because of her,I've gained a lot of confidence in developing myself as a clown andpreparing to take my act out into the world."
In his photo, Kievman is posed on a rocky beach, looking allserious and Poseidon-like, wearing little more than a starfish.
"What I like about the calendar," he says, "is that there areall kinds of different clowns in it, big and small, short and tall,skinny, not skinny—and I'm in the not-skinny category. I'mthe 'big clown,' which is great in the picture, because it has thisstoic quality. I'm this giant clown, preparing to take over theworld."
Asked what he'll remember most about his day of shooting on thebeach, Kievman laughs.
"Well, I was basically naked, for an hour or more," he says."What I remember most is that it was cold!"
To purchase the Naked Clown Calendar or to get moreinformation, visit the website at www.nakedclowncalendar.com.Calendars are also available for purchase at the Circus Center, 755Frederick St., San Francisco.
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