During the last day of the 2018 Taste of Melrose Park, held this past Sunday, the popular Harpo the Clown opened up (in his own way) about his life as a performer. Silently, he presented one photo after another of the people he’s made laugh throughout his nearly 50-year career.
He mimed or silently mouthed answers to a barrage of questions, sometimes writing out his responses.
Harpo (he requested that we refer to him by his professional name) was born in Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park and grew up in Bellwood.
In 1970, he graduated from Proviso East High School, where he played baseball with Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico.
Harpo, who lives in California, drove three days from his home to be at the Taste, an event that he’s attended each year for nearly a decade now.
The trip is both business and personal sojourn. Harpo started out as a clown 42 years ago, in Slicker Sam’s Restaurant in Melrose Park and he’s been a full-time clown (with a serious clientele) ever since.
If you look closely, you’ll see a patch bearing the seal of the President of the United States of America stitched onto the sleeve of Harpo’s costume.
He got that seal working parties and golf outings for former president Gerald Ford in the 1980s and 1990s in Vail, Col., a small resort town at the base of a mountain, and in Palm Springs, Cal.
Harpo’s many photos also show him with a veritable who’s who of politics and culture — Eugene Cernan, the astronaut and fellow Bellwood native; former president and first lady George H.W. and Barbara Bush; Playboy founder Hugh Hefner; entertainer Liberace; and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
Many of those photos are taken on golf courses, so I asked, ‘Ever golf with President Ford?’
Harpo nodded his head and, gesturing as if he were on the green, tee’d off.