Even clowns can fall in love.
Barry Lubin first created the character Grandma in 1975 when he performed with the Ringling Bros. Circus. He guffawed over to the Big Apple Circus in 1982 and brought his beloved act with him, which he has performed for 25 seasons.
However, this year will be Lubin’s last year as Grandma. Actually, Lubin won’t be performing as Grandma — another accomplished clown, Mark Gindick, will, because Lubin is in Sweden.
That’s where his heart has taken him. Lubin, 59, has fallen in love with a Swedish woman who worked in the circus’ wardrobe department in the 1990s.
In Sweden, Grandma will continue to perform in the ring as well as on television, but for the Walton, NY, based circus it made sense for Grandma’s reign as star to come to an end, said Philip Thurston, a spokesman for the Big Apple Circus.
“Grandma is moving to Sweden to be with the woman he loves,” Thurston said.
So Grandma the character — not the original — will come, with the rest of Big Apple Circus crew, to Cunningham Park for a nearly monthly stint of “Grandma’s Farewell Tour” from May 22 through June 17.
In the intimate tent no one sits more than 50 feet from the action. Flying Cortes, from Colombia, shows off his daring leaps and flips on the trapeze. Scot Nelson and Muriel Brugman from the States put together a humorous manikin act and Anna Volodko from Russia twists and shimmies on the aerial rope.
The audience can also marvel at the well-trained fleet of Arabian horses, dogs and the unlikely “pet” porcupine. Also, of course a big spotlight will be shone on Grandma, the clown — after all it is her farewell tour.
The circus’ executive administrative asistant, Will Jeong, originally from Elmhurst, says his favorite act is Swiss performer Melanie Chy’s hand-balancing routine.
“The way she is able to hold her body up with one arm— just the strength amazes me,” he said. “It‘s kind of intimidating.”
Jeong joined the circus’ administrative staff in 2005. Touring with the production marked the first time since moving from South Korea when he was 3 that he had traveled outside of New York.
As part of the behind-the-scenes team, Jeong has traveled all along the East Coast. His favorite stop was Atlanta — he reveled in the southern culture, he said.
Jeong heads new-hire payroll and sets up network connections with the various box offices along the circus’ route. He said running off to the circus isn’t always like the book “Water for Elephants” would have the public believe.
He works in an office. That office is located in a travel trailer, which he says suits his restless personality, and his boss is a former clown, but nevertheless it is an office job.
“It’s like being anywhere else,” he said.
Jeong used to work as an usher in the Big Top, when he first joined the circus in 2005. However, in his current administrative role he doesn’t interact with the performers often — though he is in charge of driving the 15-passenger van, which schleps the Chinese and Russian acrobats and trapeze flyers to the shows.
“The performers are segregated — it’s kind of like movie stars and fans,” he said with a laugh.
He also said the performers and non-performers work different hours. He works 9 to 5 and the stars go on stage at night.
“Show hours are different than work hours. So I’m alone in the evenings, but it gives me time to clear my head,” he said.
Jeong uses his extra time to produce music; “I’m a sample and beat person.”
He also just recently earned his tattoo license, and has aspirations to grow that into a career.
Big Apple Circus
When: May 22-June 17, 43 performances, times vary
Where: Cunningham Park, 196-22 Union Turnpike, Fresh Meadows
Tickets: Prices start at $15