VeeKay The Clown
Interviewed By: Gringo

VeeKay the clown is a very well known performer. He's been working in television shows, movies and in the circus big top since he was a young child. He was kind enough to take time out of his clown schedule to be interviewed. Once you've read through the article, you should pay VeeKay a visit at his official website.

Gringo: First of all, please introduce yourself.

VeeKay: My name is Diego, better known as Veekay the Clown in English, and Payasito Dieguin in Spanish. I have been a clown since I was eight years old. An Argentine-born Native American. My mother belonged to the Achajemen Nation of the Capistrano Coastal Indians, a tribe of Southern California.

My dream has been to become a dancer and an actor. Because of a learning disability, and rare condition known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (elastic skin/double joints) I was diagnosed as mentally retarded almost from birth, so instead of going to dance school, my dad taught me clown routines. At the age of ten it was discovered that I was not retarded. The stigma remains to this day. However, thanks to clowning now I dance and act.

I have appeared in movies, several TV shows, and TeleNovelas.

Gringo: Do you perform as a clown every day of the week, or is it just a part-time job?

VeeKay: Clowning, and clown related work (writing, teaching, acting, etc.), is a full-time job. On the side I am a webmaster, build webpages, perform as a trilingual MC (English, Spanish, Sign Language), and do voiceovers.

Gringo: How did you get into it in the first place?

VeeKay: I began, at the age of six, performing with a group of local kids at school and local fairs. Our group was a quintet of four African Argentinean kids, and myself. Since I was the only one who was not black, I painted my face black and became the clown of the group. We sang and danced popular traditional African/Argentinean numbers. Our quintet was known as Los Negritos Del Mate (The Little Black Kids of the Mate - Mate is a popular Argentine tea.)

When I was eight years old, a circus came to town, saw our act and put us in the sideshow as a novelty act. We performed for a few weeks, but when it was discovered that it was a gypsy circus, the parents of the other kids pull their kids out of the circus. As a solo act, it did not work as well.

The sideshow director noticed my unusual walking gait, my unique look, odd behavior, and the stigma of being diagnosed as mentally retarded, so he made me into a "Wild Boy". As a Wild Boy, I growled, barked, ate "raw meat," and contorted my body in strange ways. It became a favorite attraction in the sideshow.

The Outside Talker (barker) introduced me saying the following: "Ladies and Gentlemen, look at your children. Love them, hug them, and give thanks to God that you do not have a child like this...!" He did such a good job that often women would cry at the sight of me. Children were terrified.

As part of the circus routine, the Ringmaster would warn the audience saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please no sudden moves, hold on to your children. Do not panic. The wild boy has escaped!"

Suddenly all the clowns would run in looking alarmed. Chasing the clowns was myself, as the Wild Boy. As I chased the clowns, they would go into an acrobatic routine known as the Cherry Berry, supposedly, to get away from me. The crowd realized that it was part of the show, and loved it. As the blow-off, another clown dressed as a safari hunter would catch me on a giant net and carry me off - chased by the other clowns.

Personally, I enjoyed this routine. Then one of the clowns mentioned that when I was in the ring with them, I was a clown in my own right. When the "Wild Boy" was no longer popular, I became a full time clown.

Gringo: If people are thinking of becoming clowns, what advice can you give them to get into the profession? Or is it more of a hobby?

VeeKay: Get a mentor. Look for a professional circus clown, hang around that clown. Look, listen, ask many questions. Take a dance/movement class and a pantomime class. Read books on clowning, physical comedy, character development, and clown makeup application. Experiment with the makeup, and your character. Clown around in front of a mirror and learn how your face moves. Make faces. Move your body, arms, legs in exaggerated ways to see what works with your character. Practice pantomime.

Often, in the circus, the audience cannot hear the clown, therefore the clown must communicate with his body through pantomime and gesticulation. Join a local clown club for support. Find opportunities, fairs, carnivals, theaters, where you can practice your clowning. Remember that a clown does not play jokes on its audience that may embarrass them. Clowns will play jokes on themselves with the audience as their accomplices.

Stay away from "rainbow wigs".

Gringo: Is there still a lot of money to be made in it, or do you do the job mostly for the enjoyment?

VeeKay: Depending on your level of talent and opportunities, there is a lot of money to be made in clowning. For many of us it is a full-time job. And we make enough money to support our families. Some clowns use their clowning skills to become stunt persons. Other clowns, such as Mike Myers, Rowan Atkinson, David Larrible, Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, and Eric Idle can make even more money. Clowning can also be done just for the joy of seeing grown ups and children laugh.

Gringo: Your full performing name is The Zoot Suit Clown. What is the Zoot Suit and how was it created?

VeeKay: My stage name is "VeeKay the Clown - Hug & Giggle Therapist" - but as needed, I perform as Veekay the Zoot Suit Clown or Veekay El Pachuclown. I begun to perform as The Zoot Suit Clown in 1997 as part of a "Salute to the Forties" celebration. It seems that people of all races enjoyed that character and it continues to be the most requested.

The ZootSuit - the dress style known as The Zoot Suit began in the North American east coast. Possibly New York, by African Americans, around 1938. It was an elegant way of dressing, with over sized hats, oversized jackets, and high waited pants with a long silver or gold chain hanging down from the waist. A true ZootSuiter was a dancer, a gentlemen, and a ladies man. He was respectful to ladies.

In around 1939, Cab Calloway begun performing in a ZootSuit. Soon everyone had to have a ZootSuit. It was the coolest and hippest thing to own. Actors, singers, the elite, everyone who was anybody wore a ZootSuit. When the ZootSuit arrived in the west coast, the Mexicans, Asians, and American Indians adopted the ZootSuit. The Mexicans ZootSuiters were called 'Pachucos'.

Unfortunately, by now it was a time of war. WWII had begun. Even though everyone in the United States wore a ZootSuit, in Los Angeles, California, a rumor begun to circulate that "The Zoot Suiters were Mexicans - The Mexicans were of Mexican Indian desenct - The American Indians were of Asian descent - possibly Japan". So anyone of dark skin who wore a ZootSuit was viewed as a possible "Japanese Spy". In 1942, the United State government sent the U.S. Navy to Los Angeles to harass the Mexican Zoot Suiters - The Pachucos. Many were beaten by the navy, sent to jail without being charged for any crimes. The news media called it "The Zoot Suit Riots."

Because of this event, the Pachucos were wrongly labeled as gang members. Today, thanks to a new breed of ZootSuiters, the Zoot Suit is popular again. For more information watch the movie ZootSuit with James Edward Olmos.

Gringo: When I went to the circus a few years ago, the clowns had a car with exploding doors. Are they still part of the act?

VeeKay: Yes, that routine, in various forms is still around. Some exploding clown cars break in twos. Others blow their hoods, some are made for the seats to blow up, sending the clown flying in the air.

Gringo: How has clown performance changed over the years you've been doing it?

VeeKay: At one time, the clowns carried the whole show. You could not have a circus without several clowns. It seems that the other acts were there to give the clowns a break. The clowns were the true stars of the circus. And were given plenty of time to perform. Today, a clown is there to entertain between acts, just as a distraction. Their time is short. Some circuses only have one clown. A true clown needs other clowns to react to, and to play off their gags on.

Gringo: Can you juggle? If so, how long did it take to learn, and how many things can you juggle at once?

VeeKay: Yes, I can do light juggling. But at one time I could juggle clubs, balls, rings, fire, and even boomerangs. Unfortunately, due to rheumatism, I can't do as much. It took me about a month to master juggling. With a good teacher, and coordination, one can begin juggling three balls, or clubs in a few ours. Then practice, practice, practice, and more practice.

Gringo: What sort of specialist tricks and acts can you do?

VeeKay: My most requested routine is the Hula Hoop routine, where I get stuck inside of a hula hoop. The children just love it. Another one is the break-away chair, where I push another clown, who is sitting on my chair, but when I sit on it the chair breaks. It takes me as long as five minutes to fix the chair, to the delight of the audience.

In Spanish areas, my Pachuco character is a favorite. Outside of the circus I perform various magic acts. I also perform other classic clown acts such as "Dead or Alive?", "What's Next?", etc. My forte is "Meet N' Greet" where I talk to my fans one-on-one.

Gringo: What are some of your favourite things to do as part of your act?

VeeKay: I enjoy audience participation. In one of my acts I become a "Child Tamer" where I pick children from the audience and put them through their paces, making them 'talk', 'spin', 'sit', and jump through hoops.

Another of my favorites is physical comedy. Especially an act in which I get stuck inside of a hula hoop. Children love it. As a clown/Ringmaster, I enjoy introducing and interacting with "The Wolf People". The Wolf People are the royalty of the sideshow. They are born with a condition known as Hypertrichosis. They are unique and exotic. They have a website: A ZootSuiter is sometimes known as a "Wolf". So I fit right in.

Gringo: Can you explain what Circus Vargas is, and how did you come to be working with them?

VeeKay: Circus Vargas is one of the few circuses under the big top. It is an old fashioned circus that travels mostly throughout Southern California. Even though the circus ringmaster only speaks English, Circus Vargas is a favorite among Latinos.

In 1986, when I was working at Disneyland, a person from Circus Vargas asked me if I could help out Circus Vargas since they were short on clowns. I began doing a few shows filling in for tother clowns, then I went on to do a few promotions for them. Then, a few years ago, Circus Vargas invited me to be their main promotional clown.

Gringo: Of the other clowns performing today or in the past, which ones do you admire?

VeeKay: Harpo the Clown, Michael "Tuba" Heaterton, Jimmy Graham, Dick monday, Larry "Grandma" Luben, Frosty Little, Heidi Carp, and Aye Jaye are the clowns, that continue to perform today, who were and continue to be my mentors.

Other clowns I admire are Bill Irwin, Rowan Atkinson, Bill Murray, David Larible, Maria Antonieta De Las Nieves, Carrol Burnette, and Daman Wayans. I enjoy their comedic timing, physical comedy, and ability to perform without words.

Past clowns I admire, learned from and who influenced me are Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Harpo Marx, Lou Jacobs, Red Skelton, Cantinflas, Resortes, Luis Sandrini, Capulina.

Gringo: What are the best and worst things about being a clown?

VeeKay: The best thing about being a clown is to see those beautiful smiles of the audience, to hear the laughter, and doing what I love, while being paid for it.

The worst things are being abused by parents who encourage their children to kick the clown. Or parents who scare their children by telling them that if they don't behave, the clown will eat them, or hurt them.

Even thought the book IT is a great book, the movie IT has hurt white-face clowns such as myself. Some people have developed a fear of white-face clowns because of the movie.

Gringo: What theme parks have you appeared at? Which was your favourite - and least favourite - and why?

VeeKay: In the 1980's, Disneyland was my most favorite place to perform. Especially during Disneyland Circus Fantasies, where the clowns took over Disneyland with Mickey Mouse as our leader. Knotts Berry Farm and Magic Mountain are fun to perform at, but we are restricted on what we can do or where we can go.

Gringo: Television, circus performances, fairs or theme parks - which do you like doing the most?

VeeKay: Television and movies are great, it gives me a lot of expossure and makes me a minor celebrity. I have appeared on several movies, and some TV shows such as The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, The Nick Canon Show and Star Trek. I have done a few commercials, and Mexican TeleNovelas.

With my friends The Wolf People, I have appeared on The Sally Show, Animal Planet - The Most Extreme and The Dr. Joy Browne Show.

I enjoy performing in front of a live audience and to get the audience feedback. I love to see the faces, and hear the laughter. Therefore, I say performing in circuses, state fairs, theme parks, and theatre are what I like best. But I'll do a TV appearance, movie or comercial at the slightest provocation

Gringo: In your spare time, outside of the Zoot Suit, how do you like to relax?

VeeKay: In my spare time I enjoy visiting other circuses, going to the movies (sci-fi is best), bowling, dancing, playing soccer and building webpages. As a special treat I enjoying taking myself out for sushi.

Gringo: Our last interviewee, the actor Ed Begley Jr, asks: Can Ed Begley borrow some money?

VeeKay: From a clown? Are you nuts? Don't you know we clowns work for peanuts?

Gringo: Finally, what is a question we should ask the next person we interview?

VeeKay: Can you do anything funny?

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