In a world that too often seems fixated on doom and gloom, pain and suffering, controversy and sarcasm, and the next mass tragedy — there’s Thelma Davis to the rescue, thank the Lord.
That’s because the Columbus-born Davis, who has had her own share of hurdles in life, has thrown herself into a line of work in which her foremost goal is to simply make people happy and bring ear-to-ear smiles to their faces, if only for a short while.
The entertainment name the mother of two grown daughters uses is “C.C. The Christian Clown,” and the tools of her trade are an unflappable personality, colorful outfits and face paint, and the ability to relate to those a mere 1 year old to the ripe age of 100.
“I love to bring joy to people. I love dancing,” said Davis, 58. “Just like Superman, you put on that cape. When I’m C.C., some people say I’m always bubbly. But the joy of the Lord really is my strength.”
The Ledger-Enquirer visited recently with Davis, aka C.C. The Christian Clown, to talk about her vocation, which is supplemented with some cleaning jobs that include the Columbus Airport. She also has had some tough times, surviving two brain hemorrhages without surgery, going through a divorce, and losing her father and a close nephew.
This interview is edited for length and clarity.
Q. How did you come up with your clown name?
A. “It was going to be C.C. The Clown Around. But I was at Damascus Way in 2001. That’s the shelter, and me and my girls were in our room and that name, C.C. The Christian Clown, came to me. They was very nice to me at Damascus Way. I was there during the holidays, and I thought it was the saddest time to be somewhere. But we got so many presents. ... The way the Lord’s been working in my life, He’s just been there for me.
Q. There are times when you don’t feel so happy?
A. Yes. Two months ago, I lost my nephew. He overdosed on heroin. I almost didn’t want to be a clown, but people came to me and said to keep going.
Q. So being a clown is not only for others, but for yourself in a way?
A. Oh, yes. People come to me and say ‘thank you for what you do.’ I love Uptown Columbus. Mr. Richard Bishop hired me seven years ago in August, and I’ve been clowning around since. And Mr. Ross (Horner) is doing great ... I get so much business from working Uptown.
Q. So you’re downtown quite a bit with Saturday Market Days and other events?
A. Yes, the food trucks, the concerts. Even in Phenix City, I work at the amphitheater, the Moon Lake. Any events that they have, they support me. I also do the Fourth of July celebration at Fort Benning.
Q. What do people say when they call you about being at an event?
A. They say we have a clown, but we heard about you. Or they say someone said you need to get Miss C.C., she dances and just don’t stand there and make balloons. I’ll be all over the place. I do the rodeo in Russell County every year for the kids. I don’t get too close to the horses, now, because I don’t want to upset them. Mr. Heath Taylor, the sheriff there, he’s wonderful.
Q. You also do private events?
A. Yes, things like birthday parties. I do so many parties, and kids are always coming up to me ... Especially the parents, they say, remember you did their first birthday. And they’re about 5 or 8 or 10 years old now. I’m going to be doing a birthday party that weekend after Thanksgiving for a little girl named Madison. She’s going to be 1. She probably won’t know it, but she’ll have the pictures to share for her first birthday.
Q. Do you sometimes experience a little anxiety from very small kids when they see you for the first time?
A. I always pray before I go to any event, and I hold the child or walk with them the whole time. It’s such a thrill. They settle down. I blow my horn, and they get so excited that it takes their worries away.
Q. What other types of places can you be found?
A. I do grand openings. I go to Covenant Woods and Phenix City Parks and Recreation. I do Parkwood Health Care in Phenix City, the nursing home. I work with many nursing homes, so there’s no age limit.
Q. How long do your events last?
A. Some can be an hour, but they are mostly about two hours.
Q. What is the busy season for you?
A. Right now is busy. January through March is sort of slow, so I mostly visit my family. I work, work, work and take a little time off and plan for the rest of the year. Right now, the fall festival time through Christmas is a good time, because I make the reindeer (balloons) with the red nose, and the candy canes.
Q. How do you come up with your different costume designs?
A. The Lord gives me ideas. I mostly make my own outfits. I do look at other clowns, too, but I don’t want to copy them, because some things they wear don’t look good on me. And whatever skin tone you have, you’ve got to go from there ... I used to stick with one color wig. But now, particularly at Fourth of July and patriotic events, I wear the red, white and blue stuff. Right now is Thanksgiving. That’s why I’m wearing the orange fall colors.
Q. Do you have to get in a particular mental state of mind to be ready and energetic for folks?
A. How do I prepare myself? I pray and say Lord, let it be all You and not all of me. Especially for birthday parties, I’m so scared because of all the attention that’s right on me, and I just take it from there.
Q. Are you shy at all?
A. Oh, no. I’m not shy. I won the “most wittiest” (student) in high school. I’m from Class of ’77 at Spencer High School. And you guys do the Page One Awards every year. If you look at drama in the Class of ’77, you’ll see me.
Q. How long does it take you to get dressed up?
A. I like to take an hour. I could do it in 30 minutes, but I love an hour because I’m very serious about it. My eyes, my nose, everything, I want it to pop. The other clowns told me, too, to use a little powder because in the summertime you will sweat.
Q. What’s the most challenging part of what you do, the summer heat?
A. The heat … but I always think about what Jesus did for us and then it becomes a piece of cake.
Q. But it can become hot and steamy at times in the summer?
A. Oh, yeah. But I know I’m going to go home to my house and get in my car (and cool off). I just love that Uptown, and the surrounding area is letting me do this and that, I’m living my dream. I’m really, really, really living my dream. I’m doing what I love to do.
Q. What goes through your head when you’re in character, so to speak?
A. I’ll just be myself, and I love to be happy and make my balloons. The kids love my balloons, and they love puppies and swords. Even though they know I have some made already, they always ask me to make some more. So I dance and make the (balloon figures) behind my back.
Q. Do you see the mood of people change as you’re entertaining them?
A. Oh, yes. Sometimes people are so rude, but I still smile. This one lady said, you know you didn’t make that (balloon figure). That’s when I heard the voice of the Lord say, Thelma, go ahead and make one without looking. When I did that, her mouth opened because she was so shocked. And I’ve been doing it ever since. That was about two years ago.
Q. How long can you continue to clown around with people like this?
A. As long as I’ve got a breath in my body, even if I’m in a wheelchair. In fact, we’ve got another clown (in town) who uses a walker. He’s been here for a year now.
Q. So the world could use a few more good clowns?
A. I think so. There’s too much drama going on. Depression is real. When I got my divorce, I would cry. But you’ve just got to cry and go on. If you let the Lord be there for you, He will be there. My car was tore up one time. I was so sad. And four years ago I lost my home, but you can’t tell that because as I’ve got Jesus, I’ll get through that. ... The joy of the Lord is my strength every Saturday I get out there in Uptown.
Q. So making others happy as a clown is indeed therapy for you?
A. You have no idea. It really helps. I don’t want nobody’s pity because as long as I’ve got Jesus, I’m good to go.
Q. Finally, what’s the most rewarding part of your clown work?
A. Bringing joy to people and myself. It really helps uplift me. Just like Proverbs says, laughter doeth good like a medicine.
Hometown: Columbus, born at The Medical Center
Current residence: Columbus
Education: 1977 graduate of Spencer High School; studied at Jones College in Jacksonville, Fla., becoming a certified nursing assistant in 1985; also studied speech, theater and drama at Chattahoochee Valley Community College
Previous jobs: Was primarily a military housewife early in her adult life but worked in child-care centers at one point; aside from her clown work now, she does some cleaning jobs, including at the Columbus Airport
Family: Two grown daughters — Crystal Lott (who was born on her mother’s birthday), and Verna Davis
Leisure time: Enjoys spending time with her family and cooking out; also has a passion for doing landscaping work for both herself and others; and attends The Bridge Church on Second Avenue in Columbus