Big Top Clown
- One of the first regular circus programs in the 1950s (and the
longest running circus series on TV) was BIG TOP/CBS/1950-51 with
live circus acts originating from the Convention Hall (the "Armory")
in Camden, New Jersey.
The program starred Jack Sterling as the Ringmaster and costarred a
very young Ed McMahon who later earned fame as the longtime sidekick
of Johnny Carson on NBC's THE TONIGHT SHOW.
The BIG TOP show opened with the camera focused on the top of Ed McMahon's bald head
and the words "The Big Top." As Ed raised his head to face the camera, his
big red nose lit up and flashed "CBS Presents."
In his clown act, McMahon was the straight man to the poor
schlemiels to which everything happened.
As a "Big Top" clown, McMahon wore an emerald green satin opera
cape, oversized checkered pants, two different colored shoes with
great big toes sticking out, a bald wig fringed with red hair, pair
of wire specs to hold on the nose that lit up, big black eyebrows, a
painted beard and big white lips.
BIG TOP (also known as "Sealtest's Big Top") moved from
Saturday night to weekday afternoons and became extremely popular with children
from 1951 to 1957.
The show's theme song "The Big Top March" was composed by program's
bandleader, Joe Basile (aka, "The Brass Band King").
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