Richard “Richie” Dunne Interview The Clowns

“Everybody loves a clown” is what Gary Lewis sang in his hit song of the same name, in the mid 1960s.

By the end of the 60’s, Jimi Hendrix proclaimed. “I don’t want to be a clown anymore”.

In the 90’s there are 4 guys who want to be clowns, and love being clowns. Appropriately enough, they’ve named their band “The Clowns”.

They’re fast gaining popularity in Southern California, through personal appearances and self-produced recording projects.

Richard “Richie” Dunne or Dickie Van Dicky as he’s commonly known as, is the founder of the group.

Where are the Clowns?

Send in The Clowns.

Don’t bother.

They’re here!

Q – How did this group get together? You formed the band in 1982?
A – That is correct. That’s actually when the first phone call to Larro (Clowns bassist) took place. I was recruiting him for The Clowns band. I remember I called him and said. ‘Hey Larry , he was a friend of mine from the Navy back in New York and I said, “What would you say if I told you I wanted you to join a clown band?” His answer was “Well I ain’t bitin’ too hard.” But anyway it worked out. He joined the band and we recruited the other mem­bers. But, the first idea for The Clowns hand came from John Lennon. I met him in a downtown Manhattan bar one afternoon in 1971. I was a telephone repairman with New York Telephone at the time and I believe the place was Jimmy’s in downtown New York City. He was in there with two other fellas having a few beers. We started talking. After a few beers the conversation led to music. He said to me that if he ever formed another band, he wanted me to be in it ‘cause I told him I played guitar and sang. He said he was forming a new band called The Clowns Rock ‘n’ Roll Band. We had a good laugh over that. Then, I moved to California many years later. Actually. in “82, two years after his death. I followed through on the idea of The Clowns Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue. It’s sort of as a tribute to John. We try to keep his name alive and his work with Star Peace and all of that stuff. Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon are Honorary Clowns. They have the t-shirts and the certificates. I met Yoko in San Francisco and she called my house after I sent her the T-shirt. So, they are Honorary Clowns.

Q – Why are you known as the Head Clown?
A – I started the group, hence the title Head Clown. Actually, it’s only an honorary title as The Clowns are a pretty democratic sort of group.

Q – Are all the members of the group from the New York area?
A – All of the original members of The Clowns were born in Brooklyn. Little Ricky and myself grew up in the Flatbush section. Avenue D, Foster Avenue, East Forty Sixth Street. Larry and John were born in Brooklyn, but they moved to Long Island when they were kids. They grew up in Lindenhurst.

Q – Were The Clowns influenced at all by the­atrical groups such as Kiss?
A Well, I think probably Little Ricky was. He’s younger than the rest of us. No, not really. The Clowns naturally wear make-up when we play. I was influenced when I was a child by the theater. My Dad was in theater and did a lot of minstrel shows. I remember he used to work the spotlights and he’d sing onstage I’m also an actor. I pursue it whenever I can.

Q – What type of places do The Clowns perform in?
A – The Clowns perform mainly at fairs, festivals, and special events. We’ve been at The Monterey County Fair, the Monterey Bay Theater Fest. For a few years we performed as the band for the Special Olympiatrix out here. We even received a Certificate of Appreciation from Ethel Kennedy for our work with the Special Olympics. We also perform in hotels. We’ve been in stage shows as part of regular theatrical shows. We’ve even had a musical, written for us called “Rock Betty Jean.” It’s all about The Clowns and how we came about.

Q – Could The Clowns get a major label deal? Have you pursued it?
A – Well, I guess anything is possible. The Clowns released an album called “Clown Rock” back in 1988 and we also had a single that came out around 1986. We received a lot of local airplay at that time. Actually, ‘We Belong Together” made it to the Don Kay Reid Show in New York City, so that was like a personal achievement for me. We made a bit of a splash. We never got a major record deal, but, who knows? Anything is possible.

Q – You would like to see this band make it, wouldn’t you?
A – We would like to go to the Topper most of the Popper most as John Lennon told the other Beatles. We feel that The Clowns have already made it, ‘cause our motto is “music and laughter prevents a disaster.” What that means is, combine the two, music and laughter, both equally powerful forces, and you’ve got a very powerful force. We know we make people happy wherever we go. Not only that, but we like to keep the 50″s and 60’s rock ‘n’ roll music alive. We truly believe in rock ‘n’ roll. If I might get slightly political for a minute, in 1982, The Clowns started telling others that there’s only two types of people left, The Clowns and The Clones. Now, with The Clowns you don’t need a red nose or a funny face. It’s people who can still laugh, who still appreciate good music. When you’re laughing, you’re not sad or trying to hurt other people. Then, we jokingly told other people, the final battle of Armageddon will be between The Clowns and The Clones. You know, it’s sort of a war of philoso­phies. Now, you look at today’s headlines and there’s all kinds of things about clones. Cosmic. Kind of makes you think.

Q – So what’s ahead for The Clowns?
A – Next for us, is another album called Clown Rock Two, The Clowns Return. We plan on getting into the studio as soon as I can get the other members of the group to quit ‘clowning’ around and get serious.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved

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