Among the many circus-performer tribute plaques on St. Armand's Key, there's one to circus clown Barry Lubin, aka Grandma the clown, on the "ring of fame".
Why are there so many tributes to clowns in an upscale shopping center on a tiny island in the Gulf of Mexico, you might ask? Because the island was once owned by circus magnate John Ringling, who purchased it in 1917 and deliberately had St. Armand's Circle constructed in a ring shape (a subtle nod to the circus ring.) When the Depression hit hard in the 1930s, Ringling decided he could no longer afford to maintain the island and so he gifted it to the city of Sarasota.
But Grandma, yeah. She frightens me. But then again, she's a clown, so, duh. And in drag, no less. According to Circopedia:
Barry created his Grandma character at the Ringling Bros. winter quarters in Venice, Florida. Not strong on physical skills, Barry had to come up for the show with character that could stand out by itself. The "little old ladies" who strolled the boardwalk in Atlantic City—including Barry's own grandmother—provided the inspiration. Thus Grandma made her debut on January 1, 1975 in The Greatest Show On Earth, where Barry performed until 1979 in both its Blue and Red units.
Barry was featured in the movies Big Top Pee-Wee and My Life and has appeared in several TV shows, including four appearances on the Late Show With David Letterman. His directorial credits include comedy segments for music videos on MTV, the Snappy Dance Company in Boston, and CBS's Circus of the Stars. He was also a creative consultant for NBC's long-running sitcom, Cheers. His proudest accomplishment, however, remains his successful headstand on a whoopee-cushion on the illustrious stage of Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Most of the Kilwin's-slurping tourists and their cotton-candy-chompin' offspring walk right past Lubin's plaque without even noticing it, let alone pausing to read it. And even if they did, they still wouldn't grasp the anxiety-inducing awesomeness of Grandma from the meager information (and lack of a picture) on the plaque. Well, now you know. No need to thank me; it's what I do. Sorry in advance for your nightmares.