When Felix achieved his lifelong ambition to be a clown with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, he felt it was time to get married. He was 30-years-old, and had spent the last nine years training to be a classic clown.
The year was 1959, and the famous circus was wintering in Venice, Florida. The owners, John Ringling North and Arthur Concello, had moved the circus from tents to indoor shows a few years ago.
Felix was a thrifty bachelor who saved his money. He dated the same woman, Laura, for two years, and he was very much in love with her. She said she was in love with him and wanted to have his babies.
It was a small, but nice wedding, with mainly family members from both sides attending. Afterwards, they said goodbye to New Jersey, and moved into a one-bedroom house they bought in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
It was more of an investment than a place where they stayed, because the circus was always touring the country. The circus arrived in every city in a precise order. The first train consisted of 22 cars loaded with tents and the workers to set them up.
The second train to arrive was even longer, with 28 cars holding canvas-men, ushers, and sideshow workers. The performers always arrived last in 19 sleeping cars. Felix and Laura had their names written on the wall above their sleeping space in the seventh car.
Felix became a beloved clown who appealed to children and parents alike.
He pushed poodles around in a baby carriage, rode a tiny bicycle, wore a squirting flower that he used on everyone, did acrobatic tricks, juggled everything from bowling pins to toasters, and interacted with the other clowns in funny skits.
One of the secrets of his success was that he was always working on his acts and thinking up new ones. Some days went by when Laura only saw him at bedtime. When they stayed in a city they sometimes got a hotel room for more privacy.
Other performers and their spouses (if they had one) did the same thing if they could afford to. Those who couldn’t afford to, lived in the sleeper cars and tents set up outside near the train.
It was late into their second touring season when Laura started having roving eyes. One of the acrobats, Luigi, considered himself a ladies man and quickly picked up on Laura’s friendly vibes.
It wasn’t long before the two were involved in an affair. Both took every opportunity to be together. She was married, and he wasn’t. They managed to hide their affair for several months before Felix found out.
His first reaction was to confront her about her adultery and ask why?
But as he thought about it the need for revenge grew stronger. Ever since he heard those two acrobats talking about their brother Luigi making time with one of the clowns wives, a hardness settled over his heart.
For the first time in his life he didn’t want to be laughed at.
He didn’t want to hear the gossip that was surely circulating throughout the circus. People were laughing at him because he was a cuckhold. Not because of one of his routines.
One day he saw the two of them together talking by the Tiger cage. He knew who Luigi was now. They held hands for a moment and then parted ways in opposite directions. Felix watched Luigi walk over to his brothers who started laughing when he said something.
Felix watched, just out of sight, behind stacked up bales of hay. An elephant trumpeted loudly, spinning him around in surprise. It’s keeper was bringing food. He walked back inside the big top, picked up some bowling pins, and began juggling them.
His anger was transforming to rage and threatening his sanity. His own thoughts disturbed him. All he could think about was getting the last laugh…
Luigi and Laura were talking about what to do about Felix. They wanted to declare their love to the world. But what was the best way to get him out of the picture? Divorce? Laura didn’t think she could stand the stigma and balked at the idea.
Hot-blooded Luigi brought up killing Felix one day after they were finished making love. Laura acted shocked, but something bad inside her considered the idea. The next time Luigi brought it up she asked, “How?”
A monster was stirring beneath Felix’s clown makeup. He looked in the mirror on his dresser and didn’t recognize the eyes that stared back at him. He sat the jar of black grease paint down. This look was unlike any other clown around.
They called it “Blackface” in vaudeville. He pulled on a wooly wig and looked at the transformation. Tonight was the night. He would settle with his unfaithful wife and her lover.
That same night, Luigi talked his brothers into murdering Felix. He convinced them it was a family thing that needed doing. When they left to look for him, Luigi hurried off to meet Laura at a pre-arranged spot across the railroad tracks in an old lineman’s shack.
Not far behind him, Felix stealthily followed with a knife he stole from the circus kitchen. All Luigi could think about was meeting up with Laura. He never heard Felix come up from behind him!
In a swift vicious stroke he cut Luigi’s throat! He gasped for air and blood bubbled up from his lips. His body teetered for a second then came crashing down on the rough gravel. Felix watched his body twitch in its death spasms and smiled beneath his blackface.
Laura asked the lion and tiger tamer, Victor, if the plan would work. Again. He was getting impatient with her. Being the third wheel in a love triangle is never easy. He assured her the police would be waiting for Luigi’s two brothers and would interrogate them.
Felix would be dead, and Luigi would be left out in the cold.
Victor was right. Luigi couldn’t get any colder than he was. He was wrong about Felix however, who came up behind him, and drew his knife cleanly across his throat!
Laura screamed in horror!
Felix couldn’t stop laughing…
As It Stands, affairs of the heart can often be bloody.