CATLETTSBURG— Michael Polakovs spent 40 years clowning around.
Decades spent as Coco the Clown garnered Polakovs a lifetime achievement award Saturday. He was honored at a 40-year reunion of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, during events at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wis.
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Polakovs described himself as humbled by the award, which was voted on by alumni of the clown college.
Greg De Santo, a fellow clown college alumnus and an organizer of the reunion, said Polakovs performed for years with Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus. He was instrumental in the formation of the college, De Santo said.
"Coco has been a great inspiration for so many generations of clowns," De Santo told The Daily Independent in Ashland. "He did it for so long and did it so very well."
And many of Polakovs' routines are still being used today by clowns, said De Santo, a clown for 23 years.
Polakovs, who will be 86 in February, is retired. His health is fragile and he gets around with the aid of a motorized wheelchair.
Michael Polakovs was born in Latvia, backstage at a circus where his father, a prominent clown in Europe, was performing. He grew up in England and joined his first circus at 14.
Polakovs was brought to America by the Mills Brothers Circus and joined Ringling Brothers in 1961.
Polakovs received the lifetime achievement award from the daughter of Lou Jacobs, another famous Ringling Brothers clown who went on to become a professor at the clown college.