Floyd V. Creekmore, better known as Creeky the Clown, died last weekend after decades of making people laugh and helping sick children feel better.
Creekmore, of Billings, was 98.
"Creeky was my mentor," said Lucky Seibert, a fellow Al Bedoo Shrine clown. "He was always striving, and he'd always help you" at clown competitions.
"The clown group grew up around Creeky," Seibert said. "It's sad to lose him."
Seibert said he offered to apply clown makeup one last time for his old friend for use during Creeky's funeral, but Creekmore elected to be cremated.
"He made a lot of friends nationwide with his clowning," said Clint Frank, of Billings, whose clown name is Cuddles. "He was kind of the godfather of Al Bedoo clowns."
In 2012, Creeky earned a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's oldest performing clown. Born July 14, 1916, in Fergus County, Creekmore had been performing since the 1980s and was recognized in February 2012 as “the oldest clown still working” at the age of 95 years, 6 months.
His fellow clowns knew Creekmore not only as a performer, but as a teacher of clowns.
“He taught us by the way he did things,” said Jim Nasby, who’s known as MADD MAXX when he’s sporting clown makeup. “He taught us how to throw a pie right.”
Nasby recalled Creekmore's 90th birthday celebration. He was so popular that his friends threw him five separate birthday parties, Nasby recalled.
“He and Betty were a wonderful couple,” Nasby said, noting that Creekmore’s wife died two years ago at age 96. “I think part of the reason he died was of loneliness.”
Creekmore told the Billings Gazette in 2004 that he joined the Al Bedoo Shrine and donned makeup and oversized clothes and shoes because he had a nephew in the Shrine Hospital in Spokane, Wash., “and I decided right then that I wanted to help out,” Creekmore said.
Creeky was honored in 1993 when the International Shrine Clown Association named him Clown of the Year. He said a career highlight was the time he and 16 other clowns picked up Red Skelton at the Billings airport and drove the comedian to his hotel. Skelton was so impressed with the clown entourage that he spent time swapping clown stories with them in the hotel lobby.
“He was so spontaneous and funny,” Seibert said of Creeky, his friend and mentor. Seibert said he recently took first place at the Pacific Northwest Shrine Clown Association competition — a feat made possible by Creeky’s absence.
“I did what Creeky used to do,” Lucky the Clown said. “His mind was so sharp. He would come up with gags, and then he’d teach us how to make the gag work.”
During one competition about 15 years ago, Creeky rigged a card table to collapse on cue, which the audience found hilarious. But at the crucial moment, the card table failed to collapse.
“When your props don’t work, they don’t work,” Creekmore told the crowd, walking off the stage — to laughter and applause.
Frank — aka Cuddles — remembered one clown convention when another clown hadn’t prepared a routine for the two-clown skit competition. “Ten minutes before the competition started, Creeky told the guy, ‘Come with me, and we will have a two-man skit.’ They ended up taking second place. That’s the kind of guy he was — so full of ideas.”
Seibert said many fellow clowns are expected to attend Creekmore's funeral — but not in full makeup, and certainly not in comically large shoes.
“I’ll wear a red silk jacket,” Lucky said. “It’ll be kind of hard to smile.”