Glen Little, Better Known as Frosty the Clown, Dies at 84
Glen Little, in full makeup. He was in a select group who earned the circus's "master clown" designation.
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Published: November 4, 2010, NEW YORK TIMES
Glen Little, better known as Frosty the Clown, who performed at the White House and was a teacher and mentor to a generation of clowns with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, died on Oct. 26 in Kimberly, Idaho, near his home in Burley. He was 84.
His wife, Patricia, confirmed his death.
Mr. Little was the last of four Ringling Brothers clowns to earn the circus’s “master clown” designation, and the last surviving member of that select group.
Peggy Williams, one of Mr. Little’s protégés, described him as “kind of a drill sergeant, but in a comedic way.”
“He insisted that you always look your best, even on a Saturday after three shows, that you never looked disheveled in front of the audience or ruin a kid’s fantasy of a clown,” Ms. Williams said.
Mr. Little was the circus’s executive director of clowns in 1986 when an About New York column in The New York Times described him meticulously inspecting his charges before a performance while wearing “full clown regalia.”
After scolding lackadaisical and inappropriately attired clowns, Mr. Little, perched on a tiger cage, said, “Sometimes it’s tough to get them to take me seriously.”
Glen Gordon Little was born on Dec. 5, 1925, to Elsie and Glen Little in Genoa, Neb. He was given the nickname Frosty because he loved playing in the snow as a child.
After high school he joined the Navy in 1944. An injury in 1945 led to the removal of part of his right lung and an honorable discharge.
Mr. Little married Shirley Moss in 1950; they divorced in 1970.
He began his capering career with the Joe King Circus in Colorado in 1956 and opened his own clown business in 1962.
Mr. Little’s persona combined two styles of clown: the whiteface, more dignified and usually the boss or straight man in a gag; and the auguste, prone to wearing garish, oversize clothing and more often the butt of physical jokes.
In 1968 he spied an opportunity for the big time: Ringling Brothers’ new Clown College in Venice, Fla. He graduated with the inaugural class in 1968 and landed a coveted job with the circus at the age of 44.
In 1970 he was promoted to boss clown, a job he held for the next decade.
He met his second wife, Patricia, in 1971 while the circus was in California, and they married three weeks later in Chicago.
Mr. Little became executive director of clowns in 198o and held the job until he retired in 1991, the year he was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame. He taught at Clown College during most of his career.
In 1983 Irvin and Kenneth Feld, the owners of Ringling Brothers, designated Mr. Little a master clown. Only Otto Griebling, Bobby Kay and Lou Jacobs had received the honor before him. Mr. Little also performed repeatedly at the White House, where he met Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Little is survived by a brother, Dixon Little, of Northport, Fla.; a daughter from his first marriage, Tawnya Wiseman, of Greeley, Colo.; and a daughter from his second, Roxanne Webster, of San Diego.