R.I.P. Blinky the Clown: Remembering Russell Scott in photos and videos
Clowns, as we all know, are terrifying. But somehow, at least two generations of Colorado kids managed to suspend their fear (for the most part, anyhow) when it came to Russell Scott, aka Blinky the Clown, who spent more than three consecutive decades on Denver TV. He died yesterday at age 91, but he left behind memories, plus photos and videos like those on view below.
Scott wasn't a simple man, as Westword's coverage of him over the years demonstrates. Take this excerpt from "Tears of a Clown," a 2004 piece about a documentary looking at his singular career:
Russell Scott in his early eighties.
Photo by Paul Tantrow
Who's had the longest continuous run on Denver television? Russell Scott is first by a big, red nose. As Blinky the Clown, Scott hosted Blinky's Fun Club, a proudly anachronistic Channel 2 kiddie program, for 33 years. Although Scott has been absent from the tube since 1998, when former Channel 2 general manager Bill Ross shuttered the Fun Club, he's making a TV comeback tonight thanks to videographer Brian Malone, whom Blinky serenaded with his signature song -- "Happy Birfday to You!" -- when Brian was a tot.
Malone's documentary, simply titled Blinky, starts off as a valentine but turns into a more complex portrait. Narrator Bob Palmer, himself a TV veteran, tells how Scott went from building miniature circuses to starring as Blinky, the self-proclaimed "safety clown," on Channel 2 beginning in 1965. All went well until the early '80s, when the husband-and-wife team of Michael Berg and C.J. Prince, aka Otis and Zelda, became Fun Club regulars. Scott didn't like this attempt to offset Blinky's slapstick with educational substance. "Education was being shoved down our throats!" he grumbles at one point. Berg and Prince, meanwhile, objected to what they saw as Scott's egotism and antiquated, sometimes crass humor. They recall an incident during which he allegedly tried to convince an obese woman to gobble some ice cream even though she was diabetic. Scott disputes this claim, but he doesn't deny missing the spotlight. The documentary concludes poignantly with the eighty-something Scott in full Blinky regalia, glad-handing people on the 16th Street Mall.
Several years later, in 2010, we wrote about a Tennessee-based sculptor who created a wax likeness of Blinky for a possible future museum exhibit. Here's a photo of his amazing work:
As the sculptor's devotion indicates, oodles of folks recall Blinky fondly -- and while his programs no longer air on broadcast TV, many snippets are preserved on YouTube, including a montage assembled in honor of his ninetieth birthday last year. Watching it and the other clips below, Coloradans of a certain age will be filled with nostalgia, and those too young to have seen Blinky during his prime will marvel at shtick from another time and place.
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