Teardrop_IconIt’s been a while since I’ve shared an experience with everyone. I feel that this one should be shared.

Dr. Maladjusted and I were working in Boston. My Horoscope that day read.
“Today the Celestial energy will be trying to teach you something. Specifically it will be teaching you how to share with others. But first you must go to a place where you truly want to share something of yourself. Give other people a chance to know you.”

Toward the end of the day we walked past a room that turned my head. In the room was one of those chrome cribs with the clear plastic tops on it. Inside the crib was a person, by the size, I thought to be 8 or 9 years old. I did recognize that they were probably in for facial reconstruction. I prepped Mal as to what we would see and asked if she was up for singing a song. Mal agreed.

Little did I realize that when we got closer, the person, who we found out later, was a 12 year old girl – had no face, hands or feet. No eyes, no lips, no nose.

The patient was very difficult to look at, yet like a train wreck, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
NO Eyes, Nose, Mouth, Lips, Cheeks, or Jaw. You could see into nasal cavities, a throat, and maybe a tooth? I have seen a lot in my 19 plus years at Children’s Hospital, but this had been the most physical and traumatizing?

We stood at the door and started to play music. A simple little “soft-shoe” like song, with accents of burps, squeaks, farts, whistles, chicken, dog and pig sounds.  A lullaby arranged for guitar and instruments that we clowns play so well?
The patient placed her, what we thought were hands, up to the side of her head.

A music lover no doubt?

She screamed! It was more like a squawk from a large bird. I’m guessing it was her way of telling us to “Get Out”?We kept playing a little bit more. She slowly pulled her hands down and moved a little to the music, then started moving like Stevie Wonder at the piano.  – Who Knew?

She then thrust her arm through the bars. I didn’t know if she was flipping us off, or pointing to the door? Her arms went back to her head and we took that as our cue to leave.

Mal and I found the Child Life Specialist who apologized for not warning us what we had just witnessed.I explained that we had a wonderful “connect” with her with the music. The CLS eyes lit up and we both said at the same time, “It was the child within that we were taking care of.”                                                    I think the rest of the staff was taken back a little bit with our excitement.

It was wonderful news, that we were making a difference. So to make a long story even longer.

Mal and I went back once more. . .”When all else fails, ‘Slay em’ with a waltz!’”. . . a sweet song  titled ” I Think You’re Wonderful ”

Again the patient thrust her arm through the bars, only this time I reached out and held her Hand? (It was more like a hoof. It had a split and some kind of fingernail almost like a goat’s foot.) She bent it down and pulled my hand towards the bars and just kept it there. I melted. We finished the song, and we left.

Both Mal and I , looked at each other through tears and in shock.
No matter what we have been through in life – “We GOT NOTHIN?”

Her face, or lack of, haunted me enough to call our emotional hygiene person. We talked about this wonderful experience and my associate explained that we might of been the first to ever engage this girl with something?

I still can’t figure why she would reach outward, instead of withdrawing?
We also talked about, who knows, at what level she is mentally. What was going on in her mind?
Music, and silly little sounds? . . . A TOUCH. . .

Bubbles, Juggling, Magic, Physical Comedy, Foam Noses and Stickers wouldn’t do it.

I do know this. She experienced JOY.

When you stop to think about of all the people in this girl’s life of twelve years, Clowns were the ones that were able to connect with the inner child.

I suggested we give her a nickname. . . . . . “Beautiful”

I wanted to go see her again. She had already been discharged… No Goodbyes, No closure. There is no need.

She left, leaving an incredible contribution to my life, our work and this art of Clown Care!

Did I ever say “I love my job!” ?


A Deeper Look at Humor and Healing


This is a video created by Sara Hoover (A graduate student of the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine 12/12/13).  The school’s  mantra is “Long days, Late nights and gallons of coffee”

After phone calls from coast to coast, she interviewed with a variety of clown programs  and people associated with this work. When she called me to do the interview, I was happy that she  had chose me for this piece.

Sara ran through the gauntlet of red tapes, permissions, Hippa rules, Hospital rules, Patient Confidentiality, and a few more that I can’t remember. Every where she went seemed to be a brick wall. The clock was ticking and she had less than a month to put this together.

Her approach was completely different than most media. Sara wanted to try and capture the “Character of the Clown Doctor”  – not the organizations or how the work is done.

The video is not funny yet it does make this work – “Real”

“Happy Hour”

These are  some of the results from the program I loving called “Happy Hour”.

Happy Hour

Happy Hour

I was able to visit and perform for  a local Alzheimer Care Center.

My first visit (Which I found to be one of the most beneficial to both clients and staff) began with a tour of the facility. I saw Day Rooms in all 3 wings.

In the first Day room, residents were watching a movie and all greeted me with a “Hello”. They were headed to the Dining room for other musical entertainment.

The second Day room was filled with family members, staff and 7 or 8 residents that seemed to be in various stages of focus.

I started with some songs and a health care  assistant started with hand clapping. Within a half hour, people were dancing and singing. A joyous time, music can change the energy of a room; relieve stress in clients, family members and staff.

I was asked to visit a patient’s room and  I was told she never comes out of her room.

When I arrived at the door I saw a woman sitting in a chair watching television.  I went in with my guitar and asked if I could play a song for her.

She said, “Yes”.

The TV was turned off and I started playing. She started moving and grooving in her chair then she got up and started to dance like she was on stage. Staff came to the door, to witness the “Happening. The woman invited the staff to join in with the dance.

The health care assistant signaled me to come outside the room. I continued to play and she followed me out of her room to the Day room on that wing. She continued to dance. I played a couple of more songs down and then I was asked to visit a room at the end of the hall.

A patient was on Hospice. He was an older man on oxygen and asleep. He had 4 family members at bedside. I stood at the foot of the bed and sang “Old Bones”” The Torch” and “Happy Trails to You”

It was surreal and special.  The family thanked me. I left and felt that the very first “Happy Hour” was a success. What a difference and hour can make !

The second “Happy Hour” was in the Big Room (Dining room). Clients came in from all three wings. Wheel chairs, walkers, canes and escorts. The staff had seated them in a theater style setting. I stood in the corner and did more of an impromptu show.

There were approximately 30 -40 clients in attendance, including my dancing friend who never comes out of her room.  Although they seemed to be engaged with my songs and a polite audience, I felt I got more interaction in “the smaller houses”.

My third time there, I played the Garden. Again 30+ clients and staff gathered around under the awning. Some of the clients remembered me from last month.

We were up close and personal. More clients sang and people danced. A truly “Happy Hour” for all.


Like a Brand New Baby

Just Marjy and Me

Just Marjy and Me

One of the rewards of working with a seasoned audience in an aged care facility is meeting “Living History” and the most famous people you’ll never meet.

I was recently working in a secured facility and met a man who was 102 years old. A class Act.  He and his wife came to this country and did a juggling routine that brought them through the vaudeville circuit and many nightclubs and circuses. They played the Ed Sullivan Show.

I mentioned I was from Boston and he asked if I had ever been to Blinstrub’s Village ( a night club that opened in the midst of the Depression 1933 and destroyed by Fire in ’68. ) Every one played there from Frank Sinatra To the Everly Brothers. I had the pleasure  of seeing Frankie Valley and the Four Seasons there . .

“They were very good to us there – They would feed us.” He grabbed me by my shoulders and said, “It’s so good to hear an old comedian!”

I’m not too sure if I should take that as a compliment, but I will.

I told him he looked great for a hundred and two and I asked “How do you feel?”

He replied ” Like a new baby! I have no hair! – I have no teeth!  And, They just changed my diaper! ”

And he called ME an old comedian.

Miles of Smiles

As hospital clowns, we perform for an audience whose challenges range from  chapped lips to terminal illness. Naturally, this brings up a mix of emotions, both good and bad. Looking over notes I sent to my colleagues over the years, I recently found myself reflecting on the feelings I’ve experienced over the years.

We were happy when we learned that a baby we knew was going to get a new heart.

We were proud when we saw her after she received the new heart.

Sad was how we felt when we thought about where the new heart had come from.

Crushed described us as the doctors took the girl with the new heart off the  machine and she died.

I know that when we accept all these feelings, we get wonderful inspiration and renewed commitment to our work.

And we get  joy. Plenty of it. It comes in many ways, but sometimes as scribbles crayoned by little people who don’t even know how to write (that doesn’t stop them from adding their “John Hancock” to these masterpieces.) So every time I put on my clown feet, I remember: These shoes carry miles of smiles!

Pardon Me?

Nurse Moose and I were visiting patient rooms on one of the surgical floors one day when we came upon a young dad sitting beside a small boy. The father looked at us and then asked his son if he would like to sit with him and listen to the clowns sing a song. The boy agreed.

Moose and I fumbled through “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” asking the patient “What did he have on the farm? What kind of animal? What does that animal say?”

The boy, thumb in mouth, responded: Cow/Moo. Cat /Meow. Dog/Woof.

Then we switched to that perennial toddler favorite, “Wheels on the Bus,” and again found ourselves struggling to remember the lyrics.

But we gave it our best: The Lights on the bus go Blink-Blink-Blink. The Horn on the bus goes Beep-Beep-Beep.  ” What’s next,” I asked the little boy.

I heard: “You guys suck.” I looked at Moose, who said, “Pardon me?”

The boy spoke. Again I heard, “You guys suck.” I look at the father — could he interpret?

Dad patiently explained: “Open and shut. Open and shut. The doors go open and shut!”

Of course! It’s clear Moose and I have too much baby powder stuck in our ears!

Cancer Schmancer

I don’t have much good to say about cancer. But, in my experience, there have been some positives.

When my Mom needed chemotherapy for colon cancer, I took her back and forth to her treatments. We would often stop for lunch or dinner after these sessions and this time together gave us a chance to know one another better and have a closer relationship.

Then, during a trip to the Bahamas with my wife, I felt something on my back as I toweled off after a swim. I thought nothing of it, but it grew larger. Two months later, I was diagnosed with stage IIIC malignant melanoma.

I tried to stay positive throughout the whole ordeal. My war cry was “Cancer schmancer — at least I’m healthy! I’ll either beat it or die trying!” I was offered a clinical trial. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

After a monthlong course of daily IV chemo, I gave myself injections at home three times a week.

My mother passed away.

A second lump metastasized  into my lymph nodes.

After my fourth indoctrination ( that’s what I call an operation), a clown friend told me that I had been “blessed ” with cancer so that I would know what patients feel — inside and out. I believe him.

Another friend, a nurse, asked: “Do you know what makes a good nurse? A sense of humor and an incision.”

I had a lymph node section under my right arm, and stopped all chemo treatments. That was in 1999.

Humor in the healing process really works, and I have the experience on a personal and professional level.

There isn’t much fun in medicine, but a hell of a lot of medicine in fun.


Dr. Gonzo phoned me while I was driving to work that Tuesday 11 years ago. He told me a plane had just hit the World Trade Center towers in New York, and he suggested that I turn the car around and head home. But I was almost to the hospital, where Dr. Koo Koo, my partner for the day, was waiting. I kept going.

It seemed like each minute that went by that day, things got worse. The second plane, the second tower. The Pentagon. Another plane down in Pennsylvania. Hell on earth and nothing to laugh at. We didn’t know what to do. So we sat and waited.

After lunch, we decided to suit-up and give the hospital a “wash.” This is our term for starting at the top floor and working our way down, playing soft music and blowing bubbles as we stroll the corridors.

As we made our rounds, we were greeted by many of the staff, who said, “Thank God ! You’re here.”

Were we  just enough distraction for them to turn off the TVs and get back to a somewhat normal hospital routine?

9-1-1. These are numbers we will never forget. God Bless America.