A peek behind a big red nose

When Lorette Pinto travels, she totes around hefty bags crammed full with large red shoes, a bright red wig and sparkling false eyelashes.

When Lorette Pinto travels, she totes around hefty bags crammed full with large red shoes, a bright red wig and sparkling false eyelashes.

On this trip she’s left the tiny car (with 14 of her closest friends piled inside) parked in the garage.

But she has an endless supply of coloured handkerchiefs; of course, they’re all knotted together.

She has tin labeled “Peanut Brittle” that actually contains … you guessed it, spring-loaded snakes.

She has a set of coloured ropes that mysteriously join themselves together when she utters the magic words.

And most importantly, Pinto, a.k.a. Winnie the Clown, is quick with a joke.

“I wanted to get here in the worst way,” the Cleveland, Ohio-based Pinto says with a sly smile while performing in Whitehorse.

“I took Air Canada and that was the worst way.”

Although the airline lost her luggage en route to the Longest Days Street Fair, she’s got more than a few tricks left up her puffy, polka-dotted sleeves.

“I’ve performed in front of four presidents,” she says. “Of course they were on Mount Rushmore — nobody laughed.”

All joking aside, Pinto has an impressive CV borne through 27 years of big, red-nose-to-the-grindstone hard work.

She has performed before the US president three times and hopes a fourth is in the cards; she says the current administration needs a smile.

She’s also performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, at Walt Disney World; she’s been on the Today Show and she’s worked with the second-largest circus in the US, the Royal Hanneford.

She’s performed everywhere from nursing homes to hospitals to weddings

Today she runs her own clowning business under her trademark name, Winnie the Clown, and wears many hats — in self-promotions and management — other than the floppy yellow one she dons when she’s performing.

She has a raft of stickers and business cards that she tucks into bills, like the electric and phone, before sending off the cheques.

And that innovative marketing strategy has found her gigs at more than a few kids’ birthday parties.

After nearly 30 years of clowning she’s dealt with her share of hecklers, and is undeterred by the age group most feared in clowning circles — the dreaded three year olds.

“You learn to read people,” she says. “You have to keep interacting and throwing things out at the crowd.”

And, like most professionals in their fields, she makes it look easy.

More than the red nose and funny shoes, a good clown needs a lot of training and a lot of heart.

“Anyone can dress up, anyone can paint their face,” she says. “But children can see through it if you’re not really doing it.”

In the past week, she’s been performing at spots all over downtown Whitehorse.

She began her stint beside the Old Log Cabin Church last Friday where tots and kids in shorts and sunhats crowded around her as she taught them how to apply the thick grease paint she uses to whiten her face and outline her features.

“What colour do you think I should make my lips?” she asks the dozen or so onlookers.

“Red!” is their unanimous reply.

“Like lipstick,” says one little boy.

“But boys don’t like lipstick,” says another.

“My brother likes lipstick,” a little girl answers.

Pinto smiles at their banter as she takes out a white sports sock full of talc and coats her face with powder to set the make-up.

After performing in Whitehorse Pinto will put her big red feet up for a rest.


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