Clowning Around As A Career?

Photographer Mary McCartney, daughter of Paul and Linda McCartney
He may look like any Dad, showing off for his kids, but David Larible has a lot more up his sleeve, as the star of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

At first glance, the Laribles seem like your average family: doing a bit of sightseeing in Washington, or gathering to watch Dad cook lunch, where he performs a few tricks for his son and daughter.

But for this father, clowning around is more than a casual pastime. It is a very successful career.

In 1991, David Larible became the top-ranked star of one of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's two circus troupes. Today, his face is plastered on every poster, and his signature hat worn by fans of all ages.

Larible is the first clown who has ever really been a headliner in the circus for as long as the circus has been around.

Circus owner Kenneth Feld decided to give Larible top billing over more daring acts like lion tamers, acrobats and tightrope walkers who have traditionally been the circus star.

"It just came that he had real heart," explains Feld, "and I always thought of David, when I saw him, as the clown that you wanted to run up and hug. He is the most lovable clown, and I said, 'This might work.' "

It has, for almost 15 years, and when you watch Larible in the center ring singing and dancing, playing some of the six musical instruments he's proficient at or doing his sendup of a magic act, you can tell that the crowd loves him. But what a lot of these folks don't know is that they are seeing a seventh-generation circus performer.

He was born in Italy, in a city named Novarra, but only because that is where the circus was. His father was a trapeze artist, and his mother, a dancer on horseback, but David Larible had other talents.

Larible says, "I was in a lot of trouble. The word I heard most in my school years was: 'Larible, please get out of the class!' And sometimes they throw me out with tears in their faces from laughing, of course, and say, 'You know, Larible ,that was really funny, but, you know, you got to get out now!' "