Friday, September 27, 2013

Paul Jung -- Everybody Doesn't Love a Clown

Jung (ca. 1950). Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey
Jung (born 1901 in Dayton, Ohio) was eight years old when he left school for vaudeville to perform an acrobatic act with his brother.  In 1916, the 15 year old quit the act to become a clown with the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Jung stayed with the company until 1924 when he returned to vaudeville ultimately going back permanently to the circus in 1934.  Dubbed by his peers "the King of Clowns," the ex-vaudevillian was a "producing clown" who created some of the most funny and recognizable skits ever performed under the Big Top.  Jung devised the "Fireman, Save My Child" routine where a bevy of madcap midgets attempted to rescue another midget from a burning building.  In his "Adam Smasher" routine, a giant clown is placed in a crusher, the machine started, and six midget clowns in identical outfits emerge.  In another circus classic devised by Jung, a fat woman is placed in a reducing machine and a midget emerges.  In yet another gag, a midget is stuffed into an outsized cannon and "shot" across the circus floor to float down unharmed from the top of the tent.  After sustaining a serious hip injury, Jung turned his permanent limp into laughs by training a duck to waddle after him with a similar gait around the arena.  With wife Elsie, a former high wire performer, the man described as "a combination of an engineer and a gimmick builder," operated the Laugh Factory in Tampa, Florida.  There, Jung created gags and built machinery to rent to circuses and ice shows.

Elsie Jung (1953) .  Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey
In April 1965, the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Baily Circus was performing to standing room only crowds of 18,000 plus in New York City's Madison Square Garden.  As he had done for the past eight seasons, the 65-year-old clown stayed at the Forrest Hotel, an unfashionable address at 224 W. 49th Street, one block from the Garden.  On the morning of  April 21, 1965, fellow-clowns became concerned when the ever punctual Jung failed to show at curtain time.  A bell captain, acting upon their request, let himself into Room 1211 and found the body of "the King of Clowns," lying face-up and stretched across a narrow entry way into the bedroom, covered by a blood-soaked bedspread.  Jung, clad in pajama bottoms and an undershirt, had his hands tied behind him with a cloth.  Death was caused by a vicious bludgeoning about the head and face.  The room showed no signs of forced entry and Jung's money and valuables were apparently undisturbed by the killer.  Informed in Tampa of her husband's murder, Elsie Jung sobbed, "It's that terrible New York City.  It's like a jungle."  Homicide detectives interviewed some 1,500 persons before charging two Harlem residents, Allen Jones, a 24-year-old unemployed laborer, and his girlfriend, Marian De Berry, 21, with the murder on June 6, 1965.  Both had police records, De Berry for prostitution.  Detectives maintained they beat Jung to death with the brass nozzle of a fire hose from the midtown hotel then robbed him of $40.00 and a typewriter to support Jones' dope habit.  In August 1966, De Berry cut a deal with prosecutors in which she agreed to finger Jones as the clown's sole killer in exchange for pleading guilty to a lesser charge of third-degree assault.  Damned by De Berry's testimony, Jones was convicted of first-degree murder on October 17, 1967 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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