Thursday, May 13, 2010

....Adventurous veteran finds: Life is a circus....

....Clowning around with the circus, from left: Justin Portillo, Lance Brown and Sean Davis....

Thursday, May 13, 2010 2:53 AM


Thousands of miles stretch between the sandy battlefields of the Middle East and the sawdust-covered circus rings of America.

Yet one soldier bridged the distance and became a clown.

Sean Davis, 37, will perform as one of "the Heavies" when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus arrives at Nationwide Arena.

While in the military, the Chicago native served in the Persian Gulf War with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines - an infantry unit - for four years starting in 1990.

"I enlisted my junior year of high school and had delayed entry," Davis said. "I graduated in June 1990, and, at the beginning of August, I was on my way to San Diego for boot camp."

The military and the circus both offer challenges, he said.

"Being in the circus is a live-action adventure. I get to meet people from other parts of the country. As we travel by train, I get to see parts of America that the majority of Americans will never see."

Both pursuits also provide an adrenaline rush.

"I actually get to sit 35 feet up on a trapeze bar and flip backward and bungee," he said. "And this year's version of the circus has a lot of magic and illusion, so, in addition to that, I also get cut in half."

How did a former Marine turn into a clown?

The answer isn't just a cliche: He ran away with the circus.

After receiving an honorable discharge, Davis - back in Chicago - worked the night shift as a security guard at a hotel.

"It was there that I kind of got sucker-punched by Cupid because I met a girl who had just become a dancer with the circus," he said. "Before the show left Chicago, I was offered a job with the floor crew. It was in the process of that that I ... auditioned for Clown College."

His love affair with the circus outlasted his other relationship.

Upon his graduation from Clown College in 1995, Ringling Bros. had two touring shows: the "Red Unit" and the "Blue Unit."

Davis was given a contract to work as a Red Unit clown. The dancer was assigned to the Blue Unit.

"Unfortunately, our romance was very, very short-lived," he said.

His family questioned his judgment at first but has since accepted his life as an entertainer and taken pride in his occupation.

Even his 9-year-old daughter, Alexis, loves what her dad does - even as a big, burly clown.

Davis, who is divorced, is eagerly awaiting summer: After the end of the school year, his daughter will spend time with him.

"She is very much looking forward to coming on the road and traveling with the circus," he said of the second-grader.

"And I'm looking forward to showing my daughter how the rest of the world lives."