Web Page No 2440
15th January 2018
First Picture: Coco at the ringsideSecond Picture: Coco out of costume
Third Picture: Coco on the RailwayForth Picture: Coco travelling
Fifth Picture: Coco’s daughter on her wedding Day
CoCo the Clown
Nicolai Poliakoff was the creator of Coco the Clown, arguably the most famous clown in the UK during the middle decades of the 20th century. Technically, Coco is an Auguste, the foolish character who is always on the receiving end of buckets of water and custard pies. The auguste often works with the more clever white-faced clown, who always gets the better of him.
Nicolai Poliakoff had a remarkable life. He was born in 1900 to a Jewish family in Latvia which at that time was part of Russia. His parents worked in the theatre when Nicolai was born, but both lost their jobs a few years later and to survive, Nicolai started busking from the age of five. in 1908, he “ran away and joined the circus,”. He travelled 300 miles by train to Vitebsk, in Belorussia (today Belarus), where he persuaded a circus owner to give him a job, telling him that he was an orphan with no one to look after him. The director bought his story and placed him under the charge of Vitaly Lazarenko,a clown and acrobat who would become a major circus star in the Soviet Union after the Communist revolution.
Nicholai eventually persuaded his father to allow him to follow a circus career, and he was apprenticed for four years to Rudolfo Truzzi (1860-1936)—son of Massimiliano Truzzi, the founder of the great Russian circus dynasty of Italian descent. With Truzzi, Nicholai studied the fundamentals of acrobatics, trapeze, horse riding, and an array of circus disciplines. Russians are particularly fond of nicknames and Nicholai was called Kokishka by Truzzi, a diminutive of “koshka” (cat in Russian), which in time became abbreviated to Koko—and rendered as Coco when Nicholai arrived in the UK.
In 1915 he was enlisted into the Imperial Army. During the ensuing Civil War, he was conscripted by the Red Army, escaped—only to be conscripted again by the White Army and escape again, disguised as a girl in a troupe of Mongolian travelling entertainers. Finally, when the political situation began to settle down, he returned to work in the circus. By 1919 Nicholai was performing in Riga, when he met Valentina Novikova whom he married and with whom he would have six children. Come 1920 he was working for the newly created (in 1919) Soviet state circus and travelled in the Soviet Union from one circus building to another. By 1926 he had his own circus collective, a small but lively troupe of twenty based in Lithuania. Three years later Nicholai performed at Circus Busch (Before World War II, Soviet performers were still allowed to work in Western Europe.) in Berlin. Having arrived on these shores he served with the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps of the British Army in World War II. He appeared with the Bertram Mills Circus for many years. His clown persona had two distinctive visual features that endeared him to television audiences: his boots, described as being size 58, and his trick hair with hinges in the centre parting, which allowed it to lift when he was surprised.
21 December 1929 to 18 January 1930—Nicholai first appeared for Bertram Mills in Manchester.in 1933–34—Coco’s contract with Mills was extended, and following the Olympia Christmas season. And during the Second World War entertained troops as a member of ENSA
.1946— Bertram Mills Circus reopened after the war and Coco returned. He appeared on tour for every summer season until the closure of the touring show in October 1964. On 21st October 1949—Nicholai and his wife Valentina eventually became naturalized British citizens.
Accidents happened to CoCo in April 1957— During a performance at Chelmsford, Nicholai was knocked over and injured by a vehicle driven by Kam, "the only motoring elephant in the world. In 1959 he was involved in a serious road accident prompting him to devote himself to the promotion of road safety awareness in children. He was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for this work one of the few foreigners ever to receive this honour. However, at the same time he continued to work in the circus in the mid-1960s, seated ringside while selling programmes dressed in his full costume.
He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1962 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at Olympia (London).
1963— He was honoured with the OBE "for services to road safety among children."
He returned briefly to the circus world in 1974, when he toured with the Roberts Brothers Circus.
He died in Peterborough Hospital on 25th September 1974, after a short illness, and was buried in Woodnewton, Northamptonshire. His eldest son, Michael, a longtime circus performer designed figure of Ronald McDonald.As well as Michael, there were five other Valentina: Helen, Nadia, Sascha, Olga, and Tamara. Tamara was the founder, along with her husband Ali Hassani, of the first circus in the UK not to use performing animals.
Olga also became a successful trapeze artiste and owner of a private zoo. Olga was the last remaining offspring of the circus performer Coco the Clown. Her last performance was on 6th Nov 2015
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News and Views:
ON THIS DAY 15th JANUARY 1960-1965
On 15/01/1960 the number one single was Why - Anthony Newley and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was not listed and the box office smash was North by Northwest. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
The big news story of the day was the price of large eggs cut to 3/- a dozen.
On 15/01/1961 the number one single was Poetry in Motion - Johnny Tillotson and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Sunday Night at the London Palladium (ATV) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 15/01/1962 the number one single was The Young Ones - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was The Young Ones - Cliff Richard. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Van Doren guilty in US quiz show fix.
On 15/01/1963 the number one single was The Next Time/Bachelor Boy - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 15/01/1964 the number one single was Glad All Over - Dave Clark Five and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Steptoe & Son (BBC) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 15/01/1965 the number one single was Yeh Yeh - Georgie Fame and the number one album was Beatles For Sale - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.