Newspaper Archive of
Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island, Washington
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September 30, 1981     Mercer Island Reporter
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September 30, 1981
 

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MERCER ISLAND REPORTER, Wednesday, September 30, 198] Page A8 III I ~r i Pepper Kaminoff. above, clowns around with Pixie Hill nursery school students, left to right, for the nursery-schoolaudtence at Luther Burbank Park. (Photos by Dave Ekren) In the circus or on the Island, Pepper the Clown doesn't By NANCY GOULD Here he was in the Reporter of- fice -- this 32-year-old man per- forming handstands on a chair and the splits on the rug. touching his elbows to the ground and lifting imaginary weights above his head In between, he paced the floor as he talked. Pepper Kaminoff, mime and former circus clown, could not sit still His lean. lithe body is perpet- ual motion, sometimes of unusual sorts: like when he folds himself inside a barrel: or balances atop a six*foot ladder: or rides an ele- phant, hoists children onto his shoulders, or skateboards on his , hands l This guy really moves. Literal- ly. Pepper hasn't stayed long in [one spot since he graduated 14 years ago from Mercer Island High School, He played gypsy handyman up and down the coast in a truck for a year: joined Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus for an- other year: studied with a French master mime for one year: per- formed in the Big Apple Circus in New York for a short time: served as official clown for the Olympic games in Montreal: and taught mime and clown movement work- shops at colleges throughout the U.S. and Canada. His last stop was Ontario. where he performed on Canadian Sesame Street Now the peripatetic Pepper's come back home. bringing with : him Susan. his wife of two months. "l'm not exactly coming back as the Prodigal Son. but l'm return- ing because my family and oldest, dearest friends are here." he says. He wants to teach, perform and do some television work. and pursue his goals of a permanent home, family, shop and library. The latter two may sound inci- dental, but they are extensions of Pepper without which he dies a little. While on the road he's not had the luxury of either, and "working with my hands and ex- ercising my mind are as important to me as performing." Pepper likes to construct his own props and gags, and was known as "'the lending library" when he was with the circus. "A day without books is a day without sunshine," is his theory. Michael Fallquist. 4, Scott Humphries, 5, and Jason Fllmn, 5. sneeze at laughs PEPPER WAS ACCEPTED to learning body movement tech- clown college in 1972 and trekked niques, I'll form a class. And 1 plan to Venice, Florida. to learn his bag to perform within a month at of tricks, Mercer Island Library." He had a background in gym- The secrets to Pepper's ex- nastics from the University of tremely limber body? He dresses Washington, he'd been a magician warm, with plenty of layers of on Mercer Island since age 12, and clothing, and he stretches every he was used to the rigors of travel, day. But for the rest. he's a mute mime. *'Those tips are my stock in With 40 other clown hopefuls, he trade," he explains, was taught acrobatics, dance, yoga. mime. nutrition, make-up, At Luther Burbank last Thurs- 1'HE GREATEST SHOW on unicycle and elephant-riding and day, a crowd gathered to watch earth, playing in Seattle last week. other harlequin antics, Almost two white-faced Pepper put that is a fond memory for Pepper from months after they began training, "stock in trade" into action. He the early 19"/0s, he said. 20 from the class, including Pep- did his gymnastics with the ladder "It's an incredible lifestyle. Cir- per, were selected from the 40. and barrel, tripped over his over- cus folks are always on the go, ex- sized shoes. "and scared the ducks pending high energy levels and Then the fun began. Pepper re- away with my painted face. Ani- members one day when the "very constantly meeting new peo- reals think any brightly-colored ple About a dozen or so clowns mad" caged gorilla got out for a creature is ready for a fight." he and I Lived on a 100-foot car of the while. And the day the Bulgarian explained. circus train. My personal space acrobat encouraged him to do a He won over most of the Pixie was three-by-three-by-six. With no bandstand at a great height, then Hill nursery-schoolers by creating stepped aside to watch Pepper fall animals from balloons and giving window. Which became rather on hisface. confining," a *'Pepper-Upper" to five-year-old The clown ponders why he "ran*'1 was doubled up with a hurt Scott Humphreys. who stood atop away from the circus" after one knee and it was time for dancing Peppers shoulders, A couple of season with the troupe, lessons. There was no sitting out. the toddlers kept their distance, "I guess l'm more private than The show must go on." wary of the Santa Claus-type rays- public. And I wanted more train- It was during Pepper's seasontery man with rainbow-colored ing. The circus is a very struc- with Ringling Brothers that Mas- suspenders. lured show. where a piece is set for ter Clown Danny, "a very tough the year. You do the same routine guy who was my guardian angel," "CLOWNING IS A serious busi- every night, and if you intrude four taught Pepper his barrel routine, ness. you see," says Pepper. feet into someone else's space on Here Pepper contorts his body in "There's complex psychology at the floor, they don't like it. and out of the barrel Like a mole in work when you're trying to enter- "The circus is a tough life. I his winter home. lain someone. My brand of physi- worked with Gunther Goeble-Wil- Despite all the circus adven-cal humor is on a very primitive Liams, the animal trainer who's tures, Pepper moved on. He puts level. How often do you see par- the star of the circus. And I saw on his best Jewish mother accent ents or adults rolling around on the him do a show when he was really to explain it: "The circus is no ground as I do?" sick. It's all true about performers place for a good Jewish boy like Serious it may be to Pepper, but having to be real troupers." me," he says with no regrets clowmng also is gratifying to him. Everything is well-practiced, "When I feel vacant and I con- precise, on time and rigorous. To WHAT LIES AHEAD back in nect with the crowd. I'm ener- withstand the grind, circus per- his hometown for a recycled pret- gized. Once, after I had performed formers usually pay special atten- zel? for a group of deaf children, they lion to their nutrition and body- "As long as some part of my all lined up and asked to shake my building. Pepper became famous body moves, I'll still earn a living, hand. It was an incredible feeling on the circuit for his "greenI don't confine myseff to one Life- for me," bombs." the high-protein drinks time career or medium. Should a That was all in a day's work for a he concocted, group of people be interested in seriously funny man. Below, Kaminoffpez rms a handstand 7 r .i t --- don't be leftOut! 232-1990 2448 76th S.E. | | We r, clve Oeggn,r,g ~deos th(~ ca~ choose your OUtiOC~ w~Out drown*rig ~O ~r bucket ~ur~-f~Je ~r~cJ ~I'~OCi~S and IDI*~C~ It~Gl i=~ter~ O~ Qorken 0 ro0~, 4"~101P$1 wOver, ~ c~c~ds ir~, tO cr~3tct~ CI~v (:~eco~ o~cI wOOd IDhnd$ tO cornp;emer~t your most elegant furr:ffo'e A,'O ~e hove ~em o~i at so~e orzces that Wtti (~ve vO~ :Q~eos THRU NOV. 8lh ,co -ngs ~'ve CC, 0%