Frank Curry, circus producer and rodeo clown dies at 71

By | August 16, 2012

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Once a renowned rodeo clown and bullfighter, innovative circus producer Frank Curry died on July 28 in Bowling Green Kentucky. He was found, according to his family, near the entrance to the city’s Hobson Grove Park, a recreational facility in a sylvan setting.

In his rodeo days, Curry was billed as The Manhattan Matador. During his early circus years, he was vice president of marketing for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. However, as creator and producer of the Ronald McDonald Circus, considered his crowning achievement, he was known as a ring master of creativity whose physical stature was enhanced by a ready smile and a white felt Stetson.

Born in New York City in 1940, Frank Curry was the son of Mr. Francis R. Curry, an attorney and his wife, Eileen McCarty Curry, an activist in Roman Catholic charitable organizations. His grandfather was John F. Curry, leader of Tammany Hall in the politically tumultuous years from 1929 until 1934 when New York State Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President of the United States.

Like most who were children of the late 1940s-early 1950s, Curry watched the new “magic box” that was television. Children’s programming at the time featured Westerns with stars such as Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gail Davis as Annie Oakley and Clayton Moore and X Brands as “The Lone Ranger and Tonto.” Children also spent time with cheer clowns like Clarabelle on the Howdy Doody Show, and troupe members appearing on the Sealtest Company’s “Big Top” and Claude Kirchner’s “Circus World.”
As a teenager, he began sneaking into Madison Square Garden, then on 50th Street and 8th Avenue, to see in “real life” the rodeos and circuses he had only seen on the little screen. There he met rodeo clown idols The Cajun Kid and Buck Legrand and legendary German-born elephant trainer Hugo Schmidt whose career advice was “You make good elephant man.”

After being an independent rodeo clown and a Ringling Brothers marketing executive, Curry conceived The Ronald McDonald Circus, a live entertainment he would create and produce.

His goal was to produce a successful enterprise that was affordable for families at the same time that it was the best in quality, versatility an vigor. His goal was realized, as exemplified by an engagement in 2003 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. During seven performances in a four-day engagement, the show garnered more than 85,000 attendees, a record number for such an event.

A Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated for Frank Curry at his parish, Saint Ignatius Loyola Church, in Manhattan on Monday, August 13. A memorial service will be scheduled in the fall.

Curry is survived by two sisters, Ann Curry Marcato, an advertising consultant, and Barbara Curry, a writer, as well as two nephews and numerous cousins.