James Allen, better known as TV clown Rusty Nails & the inspiration for The Simpsons‘ Krusty the Clown, has died. He was 87.
The ordained Baptist minister and local Oregon television personality got his start as Rusty in 1957 on KOIN, continuing on KPTV and KATU through the early 1970s. He frequently made live appearances in the region, with his last occurring in 2006.
He was known for his singing, piano playing, celebrity guests, and the cartoons & Three Stooges shorts shown on his shows, as well as his 1998 autobiography, Send in the Clowns.
However, once he took off the makeup, he lived a private and inconspicuous life. An April 30, 1961 article in TV Prevue Magazine said, “Jim Allen is fortunate; he is rarely recognized out of make-up. In fact, once his show is over and he has removed Rusty from face and figure, he can walk unmolested through crowds of children in KPTV’s lobby who have just witnessed his show.”
Still, his fame in the Northwest inspired Oregon native Matt Groening to create a character based on him, Krusty the Clown, who first debuted in a Simpsons short on The Tracey Ullman Show in January of 1989, voiced by Dan Castellaneta. Groening has emphasized that while Krusty is oftentimes deviant and depressed, the real clown was anything but. He was pure, unadulterated entertainment – and will be sorely missed by the countless lives he touched.
The cause of death was congestive heart failure, according to his daughter Jody. Allen is also survived by his wife of 60 years, Georgia; his three other children Leslie, Ken, and Desiree; and nine grandchildren.
[via The Hollywood Reporter]