With a little bit of magic and some classic comedy, the Garden Grove Elks Club clowns entertained about 50 cheering students last week at the Mardan School for the learning disabled in Costa Mesa.
Amid riotous laughter and shouts from the audience, the clowns Jo Jo, Gertrude and Marcella pulled colorful handkerchiefs from empty cans, performed sleight of hand tricks with foam balls and pulled assorted gags from their multicolored trunk of goodies.
These were three of the 56 Elks clowns who perform every Wednesday at various convalescent homes, special schools and a Garden Grove McDonald's. They also perform at parades, the Special Olympics, hospitals and cookouts.
Bob Hamilton, known as Gertrude to his fans, has been clowning around for 12 years, including performances at the Magic Castle club in Hollywood.
"We feel we're lucky that we can do it and fortunate that we're not on the receiving end. It's our way of helping the community," he said.
Clowns Jay Malm and Donald DeWitt agreed that satisfaction was the main reason they donate their time. "We enjoy interacting with the kids and feeling good about it," said Malm, who was voted California Clown of the Year in 1985.
Dick Schnetzer, program director for the Mardan School, said the clowns' visit might help the children deal with their own lives less seriously; many of the 70 students there have learning disabilities coupled with social or emotional problems.
Following their comedic routine, the trio hopped in their bright yellow clown car and sped off to the Garden Grove McDonald's where they perform balloon tricks and entertain every Wednesday. The third stop of the day was the Huntington Beach Convalescent Hospital.