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Children / Colorado Livin'

Blinky the Clown, Denver TV icon for more than 40 years, dead at 91

The Emmy award-winning television clown who wished Colorado children a “Happy Birf Day” every day for more than 40 years died with Russell “Blinky The Clown” Scott, who passed away Monday at age 91. His daughter said he died from complications of pneumonia.

Scott created a Colorado legend and legacy as Blinky, a red-nosed, plaid-jacketed, pouty-mouthed goof whose gentle humor made a would-be thief temporarily reform his ways and whose safety tips prompted generations of children to look both ways before crossing the street.

From 1958 to 1998, countless children began their days as Blinky greeted them with his “Good morning/Glad to see you!” song. Scott’s career as a clown grew from sketches he performed for children who came to see the elaborate miniature circus he maintained at his home.

“Dad was incredibly artistic,” said daughter Linda Scott Ballas, who with her husband Steve, owns Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs in Denver.

“Everything was to scale, like one of those model train layouts. He hand-carved the elephants, a gorilla, put little motors under the plywood table that would move the animals in a circle, move the trapeze act and the barkers. It started out for me and my sister, but the more involved Dad got, we weren’t actually allowed to touch it.”

Scott’s employer at a Colorado Springs Sears store heard about the circus layout and invited him to put it on display at the appliance department where he worked. Scott put together a clown he called Sears-O, who became the prototype for Blinky.

Children loved Sears-O. Local television producers, looking for stars for a new medium, invited Scott to host a children’s show, but Scott didn’t agree until Colorado Springs’ KKTV offered to let him write and produce the show — as Blinky, not Sears-O. (A photo display at Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs shows the progression of clown faces that Scott developed in the transition from Sears-O to Blinky.)

Scott, who sewed his own puppets for the show, went on to produce and host nearly 10,000 shows over four decades, moving from Colorado Springs to Denver’s KWGN-TV in 1966. From the moment he walked into the TV studio, he was Blinky, not Scott, handing out the Blinky’s Fun Club Safety Tips cards that became one of his trademarks.

“He gave me one of his safety tips cards when I first went into his antiques shop,” said Andrew Novick, who still emails an MP3 of Blinky’s birthday song each year to a friend.

When the Denver County Fair made its debut in 2011, promoter Dana Cain brought Blinky from Bear Creek nursing home in Morrison to host a Blinky’s Fun Club Reunion.

By then, the earliest members of Blinky’s Fun Club had children, and sometimes grandchildren, of their own. Some parents, fortunate enough to be among the handful of children featured on stage during the daily birthday song, were even luckier to escort their own children to those special stage seats. (At that point, the elder Blinky veterans found new meaning in his safety tip to “Mind Mom and Dad.”)

“Blinky’s Fun Club” went off the air in 1998, silencing Blinky’s staccato voice. He continued to run his South Broadway shop, which drew some celebrities, including a member of ZZ Top — “Dad didn’t have a clue which one he was, and they all look alike” Ballas said — and Michael Jackson, who he did recognize, securing an autograph.

Among his favorite stories was one about a man who talked him into staying open until midnight “for a very special person.”

“That evening, I made some coffee and waited until about 12 o’clock,” he recounted in a 2011 Denver Post interview.

“Pretty soon, this car pulled up. Not a fancy car. But Liberace stepped out,” Scott said. “He came into my store and bought a few things for his own antiques store in California.”

Scott operated his store until 2008, when he sold it and auctioned off its merchandise.

Another one of his favorite stories from that period was about a note he discovered when he came to work one summer morning.

“I opened it up,” Scott recounted in the same Denver Post interview, “and it said, ‘Dear Blinky, I was in your store a few days ago. I was coming in with the intentions of robbing you at gunpoint. But when I heard you were the real Blinky, I said to myself, ‘I can’t rob this person. I sat on Blinky’s lap when I was 5 years old.’ ”

Services are pending. Survivors include daughter Linda Scott Ballas of Denver and son Larry Scott of Littleton; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Daughter Susan Scott Besaw preceded him in death.

Claire Martin

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  1. I was on his show! My friend’s b-day party in kindergarten – 1980! So much fun! That guys was awesome and will be missed. RIP, Blinky!

  2. So sad. I watched the show all the time. I was never on, but always wanted to be.

  3. The only clown that never frightened me.

  4. R I P Blinky…thanks for the memories!!! Watched you every morning while growing up.

  5. What an incredible loss! But- a full life that brought joy to many! Rest in Peace Blinky!

  6. Me and two of my cousins were on the show!!

  7. Our class in school went on a field trip and was on the show he was great. He shared with us he was also the dude on the day time I think he wAs a captain but I can’t remember. What the name of the show was. Kids show He did that show too as another actor.

  8. Visiting his show, sitting in the birthday circle, and watching his caricature artist make a drawing of my brother.

  9. I was on with my brownie troop and played the trumpet pretend to a music track! Was so cool, probably why I went into TV!!!

  10. For the Scott family…You can be sure that MANY of us, here, remember…stay well…may he rest in peace.

  11. Favorite memory was when our Uncle Wayne, who was a Denver Fireman, appeared frequently on Blinky’s show to teach kids about fire safety.

  12. I remember seeing Blinky as an adult at the Ringling Brothers Circus sitting a few rows ahead of us, I was as excited to say hi to him as I would have been as a child. RIP friend!

  13. AWWW…Rest in Peace Blinky! Many “birf”days celebrated with you–on TV and in the studio. You were the BEST! ♥

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