For Pat Stevenson the clowing business began when a friend asked her to paint faces at a child's birthday party. She'd been a painter, and said she figured that if she could paint canvas, she could paint faces.
"The person who had asked me showed up in clown, and I thought clowning looked a lot more fun than sitting there painting faces," Pat said.
That was back in 1996. But ever since, 58-year-old Pat Stevenson has spent at least part of her time as the clown Patty Cake.
"Now I can say it's definitely more fun clowning," Pat said. "It's great doing silly magic and bringing smiles to kids' faces."
Her husband Thom Stevenson, a 60-year-old retired Verizon Communications engineer, got into clowning much more recently — he's only been at it about three years.
"Believe it or not I got drafted. It was in Olney when Kelly Miller [circus] was in town, on a Memorial Day," Thom said. "They were down some clowns and I said 'Alright, I’ll dress up and do that.'"
And that's how Skootchee the clown was born.
"It was kind of neat, it's the first time I’ve ever been out and a lady came up and tapped me on the shoulder," he said. "'She said 'I want to become a clown—is it ok if I watch you? How long have you been clowning?' ... 'About an hour,'" he had responded.
But in reality, it's been longer than that, he said. "I think I've been a clown all my life."
Pat, who's worked 40 years in a day job with the Baltimore Life Insurance Company, is also the Boss Clown in her "alley:" Freestate Clown Alley No. 30.
"A group is called an 'alley' from the old-time mud shows where the clowns were actually put behind wherever they were performing. They didn’t even have their own trailers, they were put in the alley," Pat explained.
She said that she's not the only clown with a day job in her alley. The president of the group works in human resources for the Little Sisters of the Poor; and one clown is an FBI agent.
"I often wonder if she's packing heat in her bloomers," Pat joked.
Pat said that although some clowns do work full-time, she and Thom have gone a different way.
"We’ve gone the way of Caring Clowns. We perform in hospitals, nursing homes, and we've recently been coordinating with The Archdiocese of Baltimore and work with their developmentally disabled at a summer camp called Camp Glow," Pat said.
Pat and Thom, who grew up in Hamilton and Dundalk respectively, have lived in Cub Hill for more than 20 years. They raised two sons here, and now have two grandsons and four granddaughters.
"[Two of] our grandaughters who are 11- and 9 1/2-years-old were clowning with us until their friends started making fun of them — we’re hoping to get them back," Pat said.
"They will come to nursing homes with us. Whether or not they’ll dress up they are card-carrying members of Clowns of America International."
Say what you will about Parkville-Overlea's cutest couple, but they are definitely active in their community.
You can catch them at hotdog night and spring fling at Villa Cresta Elementary school, the Parkville Town Fair, and Victorian House on Taylor Avenue. Patty said they also perform at Heart Homes in Lutherville "at least once, sometimes two or three times a year."
If you catch up with this couple of clowns, be sure to ask about Pat's specialty balloon animal—which she describes as a monkey in a banana tree—and, if you're interested, the alley is always looking for new clowns.
This article has been edited to reflect the correct number of grandchildren—four girls and two boys—originally printed as two girls and two boys. Patch regrets the error.