Ardmore resident Dan Summers really did go to clown school and he will answer if someone calls out “Joey.”
“You could say I am a clownologist,” said Summers, who lives at Ardmore Village, a retirement community. “I studied everything to know about clowning.”
Clowning was something Summers picked up later in life. About 15 years ago, the New Mexico native decided to enroll in clown classes at East Central University in Ada. With tuition help from Ada’s Trinity Baptist Church, Summers learned the art of “balloon sculptures,” telling a joke, the wardrobe of a clown, music and, most importantly, how to bring a smile to faces of all ages.
It was on graduation day, Summers says, that he decided on his clown name.
“It came to me on the day of our clown initiation,” Summers remembers. “We had to get up on stage and introduce ourselves. I said ‘Bangles T. Clown’.”
The T stands for “the,” Summers said.
With clown school finished, Summers became a “Joey,” a term clowns use to refer to the profession in honor of Joseph Grimaldi, known as the father of modern clowning.
Summers, as Bangles T. Clown, embarked on a career of performing at birthday parties, various celebrations, parades and store openings. His clown skills called him to partner with Christian missionaries. He traveled to Mexico and Malaysia with costume, balloon supplies and a hand-carved pinewood flute for his international performances.
“In Malaysia, the kids called me Monkey Man,” Summers says. “When I did this monkey sound, they absolutely cracked up.”
Summers said the Malaysian children also favored balloon time, since many had never seen a balloon before, let alone seen it being twisted and tied into an animal.
During his 15 years of clowning, Summers said he made thousands of sculptures. The most requested balloon animal was a parrot.
“I would make it and have the kids hold out their finger straight,” Summers says. “The parrot would sit on their finger. I always joke this is the only way I can give a person the bird.”
Summers said he enjoyed the transformation process into Bangles T. Clown. It would typically take him between 30 minutes to an hour to put on his face paint, red nose, wig and special uniform that included a fun vest.
During performances, Summers would tell jokes, show off his origami skills and play the flute. He “did a little bit of a lot of things.”
“The worst part was the jokes,” Summer says, “people always wanted to tell me jokes. Some of them were pretty good, but some were not.”
Today, Summers continues to the play the flute for various events at Ardmore Village and will answer when one calls “Joey.” With a smile on his face, he recalls fondly the sound of laughs he heard from children and adults when performing as Bangles T. Clown.
“The best part is the kids,” Summer says. “Some of them can really touch your heart. There was one time I was working with the Special Olympics and I told the children I had to go. This one girl stood up and said ‘don’t go’ with such a sad look. That will get you.”