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Wednesday, May 15,2013

Class clowns

Lansing-area schoolmate of Carol Burnett looking forward to reunion

by ALLAN I. ROSS
You’d never know you were looking at Carol Burnett’s yearbook photo unless you scanned the bottom of the page for her name. And even then, you’re like, “Could there have been two Carol Burnetts who went to Hollywood High School in 1950?” 

“Yeah, she looks different in person, but I knew it was her as soon as I saw her on TV for the first time,” said John Davis, the yearbook’s owner. For years, the Haslett resident’s biggest claim to fame was that school connection with the comedy icon. Well, his biggest claim to national fame, at least. The 83-year-old is better known around town as Cubby the Clown, appearing at many local parades and charity events since he graduated clown school in 1990.  

“That’s my real face,” he says, pointing at a recent picture of himself in makeup and a clown nose. “I’m in disguise right now.” 

Davis has a ticket to see Burnett, 80, tonight at the Wharton Center for her “Laughter and Reflection” tour, which is being billed as “a conversation with the audience.” Davis got his ticket soon after some of his friends told him about the show. 

“I started shaking all over when they told me,” he said. “I had to sit down.” 

Although he’s actually three years older than the comedy icon, Davis graduated a year ahead of her from the famous Los Angeles public school, which is also the alma mater of stars such as Mickey Rooney, John Ritter and Anthony Anderson. Davis said he and Burnett had no classes together, but she was the change-giver for his milk cart in the school courtyard and the two of them were “friendly.” But could that twinkle in his eye belie the remnants of an ancient crush? 

“Oh, we were both really quiet in school, but we used to talk to each other. And you see what she wrote me when she autographed my book,” he said, flipping back to the front cover. Yep, there it is: “John —You´re a really great guy —I hope I´ll see you often. Love, Carol Burnett.” 

“I wonder if she’ll recognize me.”  

After graduatoin, Davis served in Korea and moved to Michigan, where he married and had three children. Burnett, meanwhile, went on to Broadway and the talk show circuit before launching her award-winning sketch comedy show, “The Carol Burnett Show,” which aired on CBS from 1967-’78. 

Davis contacted Wharton’s management about a meet-and-greet, and a Wharton spokesman confirmed that Davis will get to see his old friend again. And he´s got it all planned out. 

“When I meet her, I know what I’m going to do.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a red foam ball. “I’ll say, ‘I can make people laugh without saying a word,’” and pops on the clown nose. 

He smiles widely. “Ehh?” 

Maybe there´s something in L.A.´s water. 

“Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett”
7:30 tonight
$85-$35
Wharton Center
(800) WHARTON
whartoncenter.com

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