Date of Birth: 6 april 1954, Croydon, Surrey, UK
Birth Name: Trevor Pharo
Trevor Pharo was a south coast sales executive who became better known to younger customers as Bingo the Clown.
As Bingo, Pharo made clowning history in 1985 by staging the first ever International Clown Convention, when, for a weekend, the staid seaside town of Bognor Regis became “Clown Town”. Local policemen wore red noses and some 100,000 visitors turned up to watch a huge street parade, led by Bingo, and enjoy seminars in slapstick, tumbling and custard pies given by masters of the craft.
The conventions continued for about a decade until funding ran out, attracting the support of stars such as Ken Dodd, Jeremy Beadle, and Norman Wisdom, who opened the 1988 convention. One year the local council estimated the event had attracted 200,000 visitors and as many as 700 clowns, 300 of whom had flown in on a specially chartered flight from the United States.
Bingo was the first British clown to entertain Arab audiences in Kuwait, and he made numerous stage and television appearances, most notably at the Children’s Royal Variety Show at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1988.
But his career was not without controversy. In 1989 he was accused by his fellow clown Bluey (alias Blue Brattle) of bringing their calling into disrepute after he had appeared in clown costume on Kilroy to discuss whether clowns were paid enough. He was said to have infringed the rule that a clown should never be serious when wearing motley, though some of his colleagues appear to have reacted badly to his suggestion that some involved in the business were more interested in profits than entertainment. Pharo brushed off suggestions that he should hang up his red nose. “Of course I’m serious from time to time even if I’m in full make-up,” he said. “I can’t forever be dropping my trousers.”
Trevor Pharo was born at Croydon, Surrey, on April 6 1954 and fell in love with the circus when Billy Smart’s came to town in 1972. After leaving school he helped Smart’s by persuading shopkeepers to put circus posters in their windows and, while working as a graphics and printing supplies salesman, eventually founding his own business, learnt the rudiments of clowning from Billy Gay, the circus’s advance publicity manager who doubled as a clown.
He began to take on weekend clowning jobs at children’s parties and local carnivals and amusement parks. As his reputation grew, he travelled abroad and appeared on stage and television.
He raised large sums for charities, including the Variety Club of Great Britain, the Anthony Nolan Trust, and the children’s charity Dream Flight, giving up his own holidays to accompany planeloads of children, many terminally ill, on a “holiday of a lifetime” to Florida. In 2000 he was presented with an award at an international clown convention for his charitable work.
In 2009, to raise money for a care centre in Brighton for people with HIV/Aids-related illnesses, he promoted two “adults only” nights of entertainment under the big top of Zippo’s Circus. The shows featured some of the circus’s top stars, led by ringmaster Norman Barrett, alongside a line-up of local cabaret regulars . Music was provided by the Brighton and Hove Gay Men’s Chorus and the “alternative” panto star Robert James, “the Naked Singer”.
Trevor Pharo’s marriage to his wife Angela was dissolved, and in September this year he married his partner, Ian Bromilow.