Just Pappa

To the world, he was a legendary clown. But to me, he was the father who still inspires my life and work.

By staff April 23, 2014

By Dolly Jacobs

My father, Lou Jacobs, is a legend among clowns. And although now deceased, he is still recognizable to millions of people around the world. He entertained audiences at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey for more than 60 years before retiring from performing at age 84. But to me, he was just Pappa.

When I was five years old there was an outdoor circus event at the Ringling Museum. My father put his make-up on my sister and me so we could be part of his act. The act involved my father dressed like Mae West and us siblings as a dachshund (where my sister and I would be inside as the head and tail). My sister was older, so guess who got to be the back half!

When I got inside the costume, I remember it was very dark and hard to bend forward while walking in unison. Halfway down the track I tripped and fell, started to cry, got up and ran in the opposite direction…back half and all! Apparently it was hilarious but since then, I never had the desire to be a clown.

Growing up, there were many wonderful fishing trips at Myakka State Park or at a nearby lake or on the Ringling Bridge. Pappa would patiently untangle my lines and help me put the shrimp on my hook. He spent more time helping me than he did fishing himself. How I miss those days.

I grew up to have my own professional circus career performing an aerial act. I could always count on him to be standing on the sidelines to cheer me on. I know he was proud of me. I only hope he knew how very proud I was of him, too.

I wish he could see all that my husband, Pedro, and I have accomplished in building The Circus Arts Conservatory whose mission is to preserve the circus arts and honor the legacy. It is because of his example, encouragement, guidance and inspiration that I am the person I am today. I will hold his love in my heart forever.

"Queen of the Air" Dolly Jacobs is an aerialist and co-founder and associate director of The Circus Arts Conservatory.

Filed under