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The Twisting Business

You talk about how hard it is to make a living as a full time twister. Have you ever thought about how hard it is to make a living as a full time *anything*?
- Larry Moss
Starting a Business Note: good starting place for legal information is the ACLU home page.

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Employing your children

How Many Balloons Should I Take?

Copyrights, trademarks, and balloon art


"Trademarked Characters & Art," 
(an article by Rick DeLung who graciously gave 
 BHQ permission to include it in the Guide)
	Now we get into the area of facepainting familiar objects, people,
characters and items.  Basically it is in 99.99% of all cases, illegal to 
paint, draw, copy or make a rendition of any character, likeness, drawing, 
tracing or photograph that can be identified as a character from Disney, 
Warner Bros., United Syndicates, etc. IS ILLEGAL TO DRAW, USE, FACEPAINT OR 
REPRODUCE these characters.  This means you CAN NOT facepaint any trademark 
like Barney, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, etc.  You can not draw them, 
paint them, color them on kids, or even use a stamp and fill in the open areas 
if they are trademarked characters.  

	Now comes the really gray area:  if a child identifies it as a
trademarked character, then you can be held liable in copyright infringement.  
This is one time where it pays to be a lousy facepainter!  If you are good and 
you do a reproduction of the musical symphony with Mickey Mouse and Donald 
Duck, and the kids can recognize it . . . you could be a world of hurts!  You 
also can not use for profit any product (i.e. puppet, mask or costume) that is 
identified as a character.  If you do things for free . . . MOST will allow 
the use of puppets that have been manufactured by the parent company for non-
paid shows.  You can not make a puppet of Mickey Mouse in your own workshop 
and use it at all.  There are cases where the Disney Company has allowed some 
costuming to go with their permission to a clown who was going to do Free 
Shows Only.  They have also confiscated marionette puppets, costume heads and 
the like from people who go out and wear or use them for profit when they are 
recognized as Disney

	In our area we have a lot of companies that sell "characters" to appear
at parties.  You need to protect yourself from a major lawsuit or worse
from a large entertainment company that has popular characters.  That means if 
you get a call from a mother who wants Mickey Mouse to appear at her son's 
party, it would be illegal to go out "AS THAT CHARACTER".  If you claim to be 
Mickey . . . you are breaking the law.  If you go out as a MOUSE, that is at 
least 30% different than Mickey Mouse then you are PROBABLY okay!  I would 
honestly suggest that you follow my Father's advice to me as a child:  IF IN 
DOUBT . . . THROW IT OUT!  Create your own original characters backed up with 
your own original music and then you don't have to worry!

	To sum it all up, there are things that we need to do as entertainers
to add sparkle to our shows.  Music is one, and facepainting can be another. 
If you do either of these things, I implore you to make sure that you are 
doing the right thing, and not breaking the law.  Many of the companies out 
there may not really care about the little guy, but it is quite simply wrong 
to break the law.  Let your conscience be your guide and do what is best.

Rick "Pretzel" De Lung
2034 E. Lincoln Ave. Suite #101
Anaheim, CA 92806
(714) 632-8182
P.D.A. Productions.  Reproduced with permission.

Hello folks I just recently talk to a lawyer whose expertice is in
small businesses and I asked her the age old question can we get in
legal trouble for doing cartoon charectors like tigger and winnie the
pooh. she did some looking into it and she said yes and no. yes if you
call them their reel names like tigger or goofy but no if you call
them names like 
tigger look alikes, or goofy imposter this way you are saying that
these aren't the real things they just looks like them now this is
fine on it's own but if you want to be evan more careful do this
remember the fine details of the charector like how many stripes
tigger has then either make more stripes or less just don't use that
precise number

Well, just to let you all know out there...the Lyons company in particular does
not feel this way.  They say that it's a violation of the copyright if a child
can even remotely "recognize" the character.

Hey, guess you need to talk to other copyright attorneys. I have 
worked with and continue to work closely with lawyers from Disney, Lyons Group,
Warner, CTW, etc. 
The federal statute says that you may call it Tiggie, Tig, Tiger Cat, 
or whatever for Tigger. No one counts all the stripes, if they eyes are 
not quite in the right position. If the creation (drawing , balloon, 
whatever ) LOOKS LIKE what your are making, IT IS AGAINST THE LAW.
Many companies are NOW starting lawsuits against people who MAKE the 
balloons and people who put these copyrighted "creations" in balloon books. 
Make these at your own risk. Most people will be prosecuted for this.

My opinion is...that we don't have to worry about copyrights when doing
balloons.  We are the "little guy," and these corporations don't usually go
after the "little guy."  If we were mass-producing copyrighted figures, that
would be another story, but just to do a Mickey Mouse or a Bugs Bunny (or a
Tigger, or Winnie the Pooh)once in a while when requested, I don't believe
we have anything to worry about.   The odds of a representative of one of
these corporations seeing you do one of their copyrighted figures, is slim
to nil, and even if they did, if they bothered to do anything about it at
all, they  would send you a "cease and desist order" first.  But like I said
earlier, most likely they would never bother with "small potatoes" like us.
Worrying about copyrights is the least of our stead of creating headaches for ourselves about something that
will (in all likelihood) never happen, we should concentrate on doing our
job the best we can.  And it has nothing to do with "ethics."  When a child
asks for a Barney, or a Tigger, or a Pooh Bear, as far as he is concerned,
that particular figure is "his."  That is "his" friend.  He doesn't know or
understand about copyrights, neither does he care.  All he will care about
is if you tell him he can't have "his" friend, in balloon form, because of
some "stupid rule", made up by some "dumb grown-ups" he doesn't even know.
Come on people, let's get real!  These figures are just like celebrities, as
far as the kids are concerned, "in the public domain."  The odds of Michael
Eisner, or his lawyers, coming after you are too remote to even be bothered
with.  And that's just my opinion...

I know for a fact that is is
wrong as I have spoken to the head of Disney legal on the west coast about
this issue.  Most of your are right that NOTHING will ever happen,
at the most the offender will get a cease and desist order to stop.  Just like
with music, Ascap and BMI  have copyright info and it's very unlikely that 
a small performer will get in trouble... BUT my question is: does it make it right
to do it even though it is a copyright violation ??? To me it is a ethical
question each performer must answer for him/her self !!

We've been through all this before. After consulting 3 lawyers, they all said:
"as long as you call them PARODIES of cartoon characters, you are covered.
Saturday Night Live does parodies, cartoons do parodies, You Do Parodies.

As far as copyrights are concerned....I, for one am one of the people who got
a cease and desist letter from the Lyons (Barney) company.  Let me tell you,
they are out for BLOOD!  I know of 2 people who were "caught" red handed.  The
Lyons company thinks nothing of suing for $20,000.  As for me, I have
absolutely NOTHING to do with making copyrighted figures.  I'm told the Disney
company has scouts out there specifically LOOKING for people who are violating
their copyrights.  I know of one lady who was fined $500.  Now, if you are
willing to take the chance, that's your business. There are lots of other
balloons to do, other than copyrighted characters that I can do...and I can
sleep at night knowing that NO ONE is going to come after me.  I can't afford
it, and I don't think that, if caught, most of you could, either.  Besides,
who wants the hassle of having to pay a lawyer and going to court "just in
case" someone should find out.  Not me!

No!  The small performer is not going to have a whole lot of trouble
when it comes to copyrights.  But . . . those of us who work in and
around the areas that Disney, Warner Bros., etc. DO HAVE TO WORRY!  I
live in Anaheim, California!  So does Mickey Mouse!  Get my drift.  It
may not be likely, but I personally have been stopped from making a
balloon "Mickey Mouse".  My out is I call them "a mouse that looks a lot
like him.  But it isn't the real Mickey Mouse."  Now this may sound
petty, but the "suits" in this area DO LOOK FOR VIOLATORS!

With all of the recent talk about copywrights, I just have to put in my 2 cents.

Copywright laws only apply if you are SELLING unauthorized copies, but if
you are GIVING them away (In the hope of recieving a tip, perhaps...) then
the "Personal Use" clauses come into effect.

For Instance:  If I was at a public celebration and I was charging per
balloon, then making a "copyrighted" figure *would* be illegal.  If I was
at that same celebration, but my 'price list' was a button saying "Tips
Greatly Appreciated!" then I could do whatever figure I felt like doing.  If
someone wanted to sue me, then I would (and HAVE!) tell them to "Go ahead
and try.  I am my own legal counsel, and I charge myself $150/hour for going
to the library to read the local lawbooks.  There is no law prohibiting me
from giving away my art, so unless you can prove that I'm taking business
away from your company,  *YOU WILL LOSE!*" I then point out that I am not a
professional lawyer, so I spend a *lot* of time checking the books.  While
the accuser might be quite willing to go for a $20,000 lawsuit, their scouts
probably aren't willing to face a $5,000+ countersuit for harrassment and
"Malicious Prosecution". 

 B.T.W...  The last is considered a violation even more stringent than
harrassment.  It was intended to prevent a big company from elbowing out a
smaller company by tying the smaller company up in Lawsuits. Before its
inception, many large companies would drive a smaller company out of
business by forcing it to spend too much capital on legal fees, even if the
large company had no real case.  By threatening a countersuit of Malicious
Prosecution, the small company can, and often has, forced the larger company
to pay for the legal fees and court costs of their intended victim.  This
not only put the smaller company back on its feet, financially speaking, but
the damages awarded for the "slander" spread by the larger company have
often left the target company in better financial shape than it was before
the original suit.

I don't think that the Lyons corporation would appreciate the publicity
generated by their failure to squash a "small fry". Remember this, and also
remember to *ALWAYS* insist on a Jury trial.  A Jury is usually, (If not
always!),ready to side with the "little guy" in a dispute.

A few months ago, I had someone complain about my creation of a red-haired
mermaid with a purple halter. (I.E. Ariel from Disney's 'The Little
Mermaid')  I used this procedure, and the self-proclaimed "Scout from
Disney" backed down *Immediately*! By this I mean that he was apologizing
for his rude behavior by the time I left the area of his table.

The bottom line:

*MAKE THE TIME* to learn your local copywright laws.  If you know how to
read this E-mail in less than 10 minutes, then you should be able to learn
your local copywright laws with just an hour or so at your local library.  I
would have to say that the intimidation value of telling your 'would-be'
accusers that you will be representing yourself before the judge will
usually get them to back down.  The knowlege that the law is in your favor
is usually enough to get them to look for easier marks.

*KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!* And be wiling to defend them! This will usually keep you
out of trouble.  If it doesn't, then have the paitience to show the big
corporations that they should not underestimate the little guys! (You'll
probably wind up better than you were before!)

The Lyon Corporation owns all rights to BARNEY and if you have
anyone in costume, doing balloons and turning  any other kind  of tricks -
you can get yourself in VERY BIG TROUBLE.  They have copyrights that are
100% in order and they enforce their rights with both large and very small
companies.  The fines in most cases are not small and the do not just send
warning letter or make warning calls.  They go straight to court.  They
also have people who actively work on the phone trying to trick people who
use the phrase "our purple dinosaur will come to your party and yada -yada-
yada" into saying yes he is just like BARNEY.  Zap you are in court.  Protect
your fanny!  Some of the lawsuits have put people out of business and have
caused huge insurance claims."   STOP WITH THE BARNEY - TODAY.

Since we can't distribute instructions for 
why don't we come up with the opposite? A small, light green (check your
color wheel, light green is 180 degrees from ),
non-extinct mammal, like a mole. We could name it Onearl (the opposite
end of the alphabet from ) (B + 13 = O, etc.).

Then, whenever someone invokes the name of  
you can say, "Due to the litigious nature of certain penurious carni-
vorous reptilian PBS stars, I am unable to comply with your request.
May I offer, by way of compensation, Onearl, the small light green mole?
He's the antithesis of said Tyrannosaur."

Granted, the kids will hate it, but ol' dad is sure to pony up with a fin
in gratitude for your refusal.

* Do you really want to make cartoon characters?

Can we legally make our versions of cartoon characters out of balloons?  

It becomes a serious question of what we can do.  I am not a
lawyer.  I have no background at all in law.  I'm just trying to cover my
butt.  So, I called my lawyer.  We talked about it for a while.  His answer
is that what I do is probably legal (he didn't do an extensive search but
he doesn't know of a legal precedent that would apply).  He thought, after
hearing my argument that it would be ok, but cautioned me that it would
take a lot more research (and money) and his recommendation was to avoid it
if possible.  If you're a small time twister, who's gonna know or care that
you make something that happens to look like Taz?  But if you're making a
living at it, is it worth the risk?  Perhaps.  Some of the folks on this
list do almost exclusively cartoon look alikes to pay their bills.  I'd
hate to tell them to stop.  Just keep in mind
that it could be an issue with the owners of those characters.

An old pro mentioned to me the other night that there was a 
lawsuit filed by Disney re a male mouse w/ black ears.
The artist twisted a replica out of 260's & got sued.
He brought up Mighty Mouse.... won the case.

I for one am searching franticly to find documentation of this case.
Anyone else heard of it, or have a good way of finding it?
It would definitely help those of us that are now saying,
"I can't make you a Tigger, but I will make you a tiger."

The following is from:  , the official rules 
from the US copyright office.  I don't know how close this comes to copyright 
protection in other countries.  Also keep in mind that there's a trademark 
issue involved here.

Works Originally Created On or After January 1, 1978 

A work that is created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or
after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its
creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author's life plus
an additional 50 years after the author's death. In the case of "a joint
work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire," the term
lasts for 50 years after the last surviving author's death. For works made
for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author's
identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of
copyright will be 75 years from publication or 100 years from creation,
whichever is shorter.

Works Originally Created Before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or
Registered by That Date 

These works have been automatically brought under the statute and are now
given Federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these
works will generally be computed in the same way as for works created on or
after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-50 or 75/100-year terms will apply to
them as well.  The law provides that in no case will the term of copyright
for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works
published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not
expire before December 31, 2027.

Works Originally Created and Published or Registered Before January 1,

Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the
date a work was published or on the date of registration if the work was
registered in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a
first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. During the last (28th)
year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The current
copyright law has extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for
copyrights that were subsisting on January 1, 1978, making these works
eligible for a total term of protection of 75 years.

Public Law 102-307, enacted on June 26, 1992, amended the 1976 Copyright
Act to extend automatically the term of copyrights secured between January
1, 1964, and December 31, 1977, to the further term of 47 years. Although
the renewal term is automatically provided, the Copyright Office does not
issue a renewal certificate for these works unless a renewal application
and fee are received and registered in the Copyright Office.

Type up a fake, legal looking paper.  Carry it around in your pocket.  When
a child asks you to make a "Barney", pull out the paper and explain that
its a restraining order that prohibits you from infringing on the Barney
copyright.  I've been doing this for a couple of years now, and so far its 
never failed to get a laugh from mom or dad.  Yes, I know its over the child's 
(unless its an older child), but part of being a clown means being funny to
your ENTIRE audience, not just the three year olds.

I know of some people who have been hit with a
$20,000 lawsuit by the Lyons company.  I know of another who literally had the
Lyons company come in an confiscate his records to see if he was doing
"Barney" at all.  If a child wants a Barney balloon, I just explain that he's 
not available today and would they like a "_______" (you name it.)  

Please, if you are out there doing copywrited characters, DON'T!  The
companies WILL sue you, and there's not a thing you can do to fight them.
According to the Lyons company, anything that can be construed as Barney by a
child is in violation of their copywrite.  Don't take the chance.

Some people in a restaurant asked for a certain cat figure, so I made one.  
then he told me he worked for the company and that the boss would get a kick 
out of the sculpture.  I nearly died!  So in my clown way I said "guess the 
attorneys will like it too - huh?" He said "you are not selling the balloon - 
you are merely working here and working for tips.  We have no complaint with 
that.  You are doing a good job!"  That was about 3 years ago and I'm still 
making that cat and his puppy dog friend!

Living less than 2 miles from Disneyland, I 
don't want to take any chances with a suit from the legal department
of one of the largest (if not largest) entertainment corporations in the
world.  In researching the legalities of doing balloon animals,
facepainting characters, full-bodied characters etc. for Laugh*Makers
magazine,  Volume 14 - No. 6 (February/March 1997).  

And . . . there are two clowns in the Orange County CA area who
have received "Cease and Desist" orders on the spot for
facepainting/full body costume characters.  a wise man once said: "Why take 
the chance?" My advice is: If in doubt . . . throw it out!

After 2 weeks of work, a huge phone bill and gobbs of paper, the verdict is 
  You cannot get permission to do Disney characters because it
goes against strict Disney policies and basically any ideas will be
returned and used at their discretion without any royalties to YOU.
Basically if you call any of their characters by name or sell
anything that you call a tigger etc. you are violating their copyrights
because you do not have permission to do so. However if you make a
balloon and call it bouncy tiger etc. and it is a RENDITION, then they have no
  Warner Brothers is similar but not as stringent. If you are approved by WB 
you can buy a license for a few hundred thousand dollars. 
  Garfield is the only lenient company I know of.
  The nice thing about both Disney and WB is that they consider
balloon twisters small fish not worth frying.
I was told by Disney "you won't have a problem as long as you don't go around 
calling your figures Mickey Mouse or Pluto, and you don't try to use them as a 
promotion.  The minute you use our characters and their copyrighted names, 
we'll be upset." Even if its charity you need to ask permission (which you 
won't get).
  You can also use any character that may have had no copyrights for a
certain period.

The "Fair Use Act" that was passed recently. Basically it is a clarification 
of what is sufficient for a person not to get sued for copyright infringment.
1. Do you do this for profit? 
2. Are you using the same materials to produce this element. 
3. how much of the copywritten element is actually represented in part or 
full. 4. has it affected sales of the copyright holder's products.

It is simple - don't call them a copy written name. 
Don't dress in costumes, use puppets or anything else they have produced in 
any way for profit including stamps of these characters for face painting 
books etc.. out of any materials they have already made them out of and you 
will be safe.
The minute you try to sell a looney tunes party package etc. you are in
for trouble. 
Twist for tips and make a mouse, tiger,duck. running bird or whatever and 
enjoy the fun. If someone calls it a copywritten name tell them "no, this is 
my mouse not -------."

Full time twisting

T. Myers Article

Please understand that the following article was written for and published in True Inflations. The article is copyright T. Myers Magic.

Larry's Response

Other Responses

"What is my profession?"

To the general public, the generic term CLOWN means anyone who 
wears funny clothes and entertains children. Why don't you call 
yourself "Children's Entertainer."

BTW, when someone calls me a clown I usually say:

"Boy I have to get out in the sun. Is my face really that white? Is my 
nose that red? .I really have to wash my face after drinking Kool 

Perhaps some of the clowns of the past played with inflated animal 
parts, but that's not the picture I get of the "traditional" clown.  
You're putting tags of "history" and "tradition" in places based on 
what really is only a few years (2 or 3 decades, max) of ballooning.  
If we're going to base modern characters on a tradition that doesn't 
extend very far, we're really limiting ourselves.

There's an article in the latest LaughMakers about what a 
"traditional" clown is and is not.  I enjoyed reading it since I've had 
this conversation with people in the past.  If you haven't read it and 
you're interested in clown history, you may want to get it.  

look at Steve Martin. He didn't have to be in clown. He did such a 
great job in his shows, and in the movie Parenthood, establishing 
himself as an entertainer who used balloons, and was a natural clown.

I'm not sure if I want to open this can of worms, but I'm going to 
speak up anyway.  You present Steve Martin as an example, and 
even then, you can't seem to decide if he is a clown or he isn't.  I say 
he is.  Does he wear a clown costume and Ringling style make-up?  
No.  But, how many of you have see the Ringling Brothers and 
Barnum & Baily Circus lately?  I went about a month ago.  Most of 
the clowns I saw would not have done well in competitions at clown 
conventions.  They were amazing entertainers with truly unique and 
interesting make-up.  They were not the traditional modern clown.  
Yes, the use of traditional and modern in the same sentence are 
intentional.  I don't believe that what we call a traditional clown now 
has anything at all to do with the traditional clown of a few years 
ago.  When I dress up "in clown" (to me that's any performance 
attire), I often dress up in what I call a traditional clown costume.  I 
just have a different tradition in mind.

You're a clown if you feel 
you are.  You are not a clown because of how your dress 
and what kind of make-up you wear.  I strongly encourage everyone 
to develop their own characters.  Be the entertainer you can be best.  
Don't try to place yourself in an artificial category, or remove 
yourself from a category.  Do your job as an entertainer.  Make your 
audiences happy and you'll be remembered and well rewarded.  
Maybe some of your audiences do see you as being clowns because 
you provide good entertainment.  It's nothing to get upset about.

If marketting is your concern, then avoid the term "clown" altogether 
in your own promotion.  Don't be afraid of what other people call 
you.  As long as you properly describe to them what you do, from 
your dress to your performance style, and they remember your 
actions, you've got nothing to worry about.  I call myself an 
airigamist.  I also call myself a magician, a juggler. and a clown.  I 
market myself as an entertainer and let people know what they're 
going to get when they hire me.

Well, when folks ask me I have a variety of responses:
When in full clown it is obvious that I am a clown, otherwise I am 
a balloonologist (that way I can sound like I had to go to school to do 
this instead of do this to get through school, after all WHO would 
want to inflate balloons for the rest of their life.)

Are you a clown or are you a balloon artist?  If you have to ask the 
question, you should already know you're a balloon artist. I do both.  
I twist balloons as a clown, and I work as a twister out of make-up, 
so I take no offense at anything you've said about either.  As I've 
said in prior postings, when I do it as a clown, I perform differently.

Being a clown embodies a variety of skills that enhance the ability to 
entertain, such as magic, storytelling, balloons, juggling, etc.  Still, the 
bottom line in clowning is the laugh, the entertainment, the 'blow 
off'....and a clown strives to get there, ultimately, without the 
balloons or other "miscellaneous stuff" he carries.  Ideally, it's 
personality and the making funny of a situation that is what makes 
the encounter with the clown most memorable.  This making of that 
moment is the gift a clown strives to give; the balloon is secondary.

I don't mean to imply that balloons or face painting or juggling aren't 
great skills to have, and in fact are often what the employer hires the 
clown to do.  Because so many people do it in make-up, it's become 
expected in many places.  Remember, doing those things doesn't 
make you a clown and being a clown doesn't mean you have to have 
those skills.

From your description, I suggest that you're an entertainer who 
twists balloons.

I want people to know that what we do is not just make balloons. But 
I am having a hard time explaining to customers about how I 
entertain while making balloons. It's difficult explaining to people 
what we do, and why it works well in a party setting. 
You can explain it.  But will they believe you?  It sounds like 
bragging when it comes from you.  It's better to do such a good job 
that your audience does your promo.  They just have to tell their 
friends how great you were.  The party itself is your audition for 
more work. 

Charge more and lose some jobs because of it.  Your price affects 
their opinion of your value.  If they are paying enough they expect 
more than balloons.  You will lose some of the jobs that think they 
just want balloons.  If they get a different twister and are 
disappointed, they will come back.   Maybe balloons is all they really 
want.  Price yourself out of those jobs and prove that you are worth 
your entertainment value.

If your show is good, the more you work, the more you work.  Word 
of mouth ought to drive your number of booked shows up.  In three 
years of working whenever you can, you ought to have more show 
requests than you can do.  If you live in a populous area and you are 
not getting more shows every year, rethink your show.

A friend of mine 'Phil the Pretty Good' is an excellent entertainer, 
does fancy balloons, balloon line work and magic shows.  He's in the 
North East part of the country and in 1/2 a day travel he can get to a 
lot of audiences.  After working balloons for a year he decided to 
raise his prices.  When they said - that much just for twisting 
balloons - he explained they were not paying for the balloons they 
were paying for the show.  It scared some of his jobs off but he 
found them coming back the next year at an even higher price.

On "doing the clown thing" as opposed to being a balloon person; 
I tried the clown thing but I came across
as what they call a lipstick clown - a phoney clown - and real clowns were
polite to me but you could tell they resented the fact that I was a non
professional clown. So I quit the greasepaint9 which was easy to do here in
phoenix where it gets to 112) and dressed nice and concentrated on balloons
and everything has gone great guns ever since. 

In reverse a friend of mine has the clown training and does benefits while his
children make balloon animals. He's just not a balloon person.

Monikers for balloon artists

Balloonologist, Ballunatic - I like these as much as everyone else, but Bob Follmer has pointed out that the folks that coined the terms have also claimed them as their own. Jim Sommers made the word "Balloonologist" his own, legally. The same goes for "Balloonatic." If you read Dwight Damon's book "Balloonatic", you will find on the bottom of page 4 a statement from him that the name Balloonatic is a registered trade name of Dwight Damon, and that all rights are reserved. While the use of the names is perhaps picayune, the same question of ethical practices would hold true for us in this business as for the magicians, who are also having some serious discussions on credits, infringements, etc. It is not my intent to start a battle over this, but to get all of us to think about what we call ourselves without checking it all out. Do we merely go and take a name and say the heck with those that invested in protecting their names, or do we attempt to contact these people and see if we have their permission to use it for ourselves?

In reference to the word "Balloonatic"... I did a search on the word "balloon" on Groylier's(sp?) Multimedia Encyclopedia and found several references to hot air balloons and helium and one on the man Buster Keaton! It seems that Buster did a film entitled _The Balloonatic_ way back around 1922! Hmmm... I wonder if Dwight knows that? So, if you call yourself a Balloonatic, perhaps you could say your a fan of B. K.'s film of the same name? :)

Refusing Service Handling "Balloons are not allowed here"

Refusing Service

Handling "Balloons are not allowed here"

Whenever possible, check beforehand about doing balloons, and be ready to substitute something. Last October, I was all set to do balloons at a big fund raising race for a local charity, and we found out at almost the last minute that the state park it was held in didn't permit balloons. Undoubtedly this was because of the old myths about balloons and animals/birds, but even if you could argue with the government there was no time in this case, and the charity didn't want to make waves with the park Anyway, no problem... I switched gears and spent the day doing face painting.

Don't tell them your balloon pump broke; it gives anyone there, adult and child alike, the mistaken impression that you're unprepared and unprofessional when the truth is you were nothing of the kind.

Be honest with the kids... say the facility doesn't allow balloons <clown shows he's disappointed too> but it's ok because you've got this really neat game <or whatever> you want to show them. Kids are pretty resilient with bigger losses than this...emphasize the game that you're going to do, not the balloons you're not going to do. I think you can sell it to the kids with a minimum of long-term groaning by emphasizing the positive.

MB 12/13/95
SKB 2/11/96
SKB 9/15/96
SKB 9/25/96
LM 12/?/96
LM 1/29/97
MB 4/4/97
SKB 6/16/97
WNL 12/9/97
SKB 12/20/97
MB 7/7/98
MB 7/9/99

Wait, don't go away - there's more! Additional material for this chapter has been saved from posts on the mailing lists. Rather than keeping it hidden away, it has been temporarily placed here until the guide editors get a chance to move it to its proper location in this chapter. Feel free to make use of it.




Strange things (both good and bad)
can happen to anyone at anytime. There are quite a number of
responsibilities one inherits when going into business. Some of these
responsibilities relate directly to Joey's predicament.
One of the biggest responsibilities (besides acting like a professional) is
having good BUSINESS sense and practices. Like any other business (in this
day and age) you need a good lawyer, a good accountant, advertising rep and
good insurance coverage. All of the above relates directly to the old adage
" you gotta' spend money to make money." Yes, all of these business needs
cost money, but if good people and programs are selected wisely for your
business, it is almost always money well spent.

Determine what kind of work you
really want; birthday parties, grand openings, fairs, restaurants, etc.
If you want to be a general performer (willing and able to twist for
whatever they call you for) then you should get a promo shot ($60-$100
max.) and a 1000 or so promo cards from ABC Pictures
( ($90).  Forget about business cards as these mini
lithographed pictures work a heck of a lot better for almost the same
amount of cash.

With your promo info at hand, approach a restaurant (Applebee's,
Friday's, Friendly's) and pitch them on having you work their kids'
night.  Offer to work 2 1/2 hours or so for a small fee.  It certainly
isn't much money for the work, but if you are reasonable good and
personable they will take a chance on such a small figure.  Then when
you do the gig, give EVERY SINGLE CHILD YOUR PICTURE!!!!!  (with phone
number and website of course!)

The phone will start ringing very quickly for birthday parties.  In our
business every sale brings you 10-12 more qualified leads and your
business will snowball.  Forget advertising in newspapers and such.  Try
what I just described and inside of one year you will have most of the
work you want or need.

I have just incorpated my business into an S corp. This is going to save me
alot of money in self employment tax. Some of you may want to think about
doing this, it cost about $500  here in VA with lawyers cost. But will save
alot more in the long run. Check with your accountant.

About your question concerning registering a business name.  I dunno exactly how they
do it in your area, but where I live, you go to the County courthouse, to the 
office that handles business licenses.  Now, in some places they treat
 businesses like dirt (visit New York sometime) but in this county of Virginia 
they're very helpful.  And you ask to register a business name - most 
seasoned businessmen here call it a "DBA" ("Doing Business As...").
It costs me $10, and I can register anything that hasn't been taken - so, no, I can't register 
as "The Coca-Cola Company", but I can register as "XYZ Entertainment" or "Joe's Bar 
and Grill" (even if my name isn't Joe) or as "Fidget the Clown", even if my Mom & Dad 
didn't name me "Fidget" at birth, or even as "Ross MacRae", which is my professional 
name as a magician and not anything like my legal name ... it's a "DBA" and I find that for 
me it helps separate my work and private lives.  Here, when I do that, they call it a 
"fictitious name DBA".  So go register as "Whatever the Clown" and if another "Whatever" 
comes along and hassles you, you can tell him you got to the courthouse first and he'd 
better find himself another name.

There are different types of registration - state and federal. 
Federal takes precedence over State. I used to have my
name registered with the State of Ohio for $20.00 but if I do a birthday
party or company picnic out of the state I would be in trouble. Also for
you to register your name with State or Federal, you have to sign a
waiver stating that you have done a name search (Costs from $300.00 and up) 
and that you could not find anybody else with that name. The oldest form 
of proof stands. The federal registration is best and stands strongest. 
I went to a lawyer and paid $600.00 to have my name legally registered 
which means I can use it in any state and I can sue any other balloon 
worker using my name even if they went to the county and state. It is 
in anybodys best interest who has a name they want to protect to go to 
the Federal. By registering with the Federal you are allowed to put the 
circle with the R next to your name.  You are allowed to put TM next to 
any name whether it is registered or not and the copyright symbol on 
printed material even if you have not secured a federal copyright but 
to use the circle with the R it has to be federally registered or
you can be arrested and fined and sued if someone else had that registered.
(Even if you have a State registration) You can do it with
federal without a lawyer by going to the library and picking up books on
how to do it yourself and it would only cost you about $200.00. I
personally like the idea of safety and knowing it was done right and it
takes a lot longer by yourself than it does with a lawyer. Mine took almost
a year to the day to get and that was with one of the best contract lawyers
in the nation.  Hope this helps. It has been researched and used and My
registration will be up for renewal next year (I will be renewing).

1.  Not charging enough
    All of the other clowns were really mad at me, and I was too busy and
    going in the hole (babysitter...)

2.  Trying to do too much at an hour or 2 hour party; juggling, face
   painting, balloons, and of course a magic show; dumb dumb dumb!
   I could not get it all done which ruined the hostesses time for kids to go
   home and made me look bad, like I didn't really know what I was doing, (I didn't). 

3.  Taking checks
        I have had my share of bounced checks.

4.  Making balloon sculptures for employees at restaurants I worked.
        NIGHTMARE...I though I was never going to leave...One lady had 5 kids
        and wanted one for each one and herself and her boyfriend, (free of course) 
        and she was just one of the employees, I had quite a few others as well.
        did I do it, Yes, they don't call me Sugar for nothing.  I wanted a sweet 
        personality as a clown (to compliment the way I really am).  I have found out
        that if I want to appear to be sweet I have to be not so sweet when negotiating
        with a manager before I start work.

So what I have learned through all of my stupid mistakes is that there is
no such thing as too much planning!!

The phone company offers a service called "distinctive ring" or "RINGMATE."  
It requires only one line, but gives you two numbers.  Each number rings your 
phone differently so you know if it is a business or personal call.  In the 
beginning it was designed so parents could avoid having to take messages for 
their kids.  It only costs about $5 more than just one number.  

My regular phone rings like this:  ring.........ring.........ring.........
The ringmate number sounds like this:  ring-ring......... ring-ring.......... 

Another advantage is that if you have small children that can not take 
messages, just tell them not to pick up the phone when it rings 2 times.   
This gives you a really professional image.  It ALSO works with call waiting!  
If you tie it to an answering machine you can cover your calls even when on 
deliveries or decorating job!

I have a separate line so I can get in the yellow pages as well.

Some friends with home businesses have a home business phone plan where for a 
few dollars a month more you get a second number (but only one line) with a 
business listing, including one yellow page listing in the phone book.

If you have a strictly a residential phone plan, you can usually have the name 
of your choice in the phone book. Maybe if your name is John Smith and your 
clown name is Bozo you could be listed as John "Bozo" Smith in the white 

My home telephone is hooked up to my computer.  I don't use it to talk on a
regular basis.  My "other" telephone line is considered my business phone so 
that I can get a line in the telephone book.  Everyone calls me on this line.  
They ask for "Bizzy" or "The Clown" if they want to talk business.  My 
children and husband are trained to be polite.  But, just in case, I log the 
calls that come in through a caller I.D.  If I don't recognize the phone 
number, I return the call as soon as I check the caller I.D..  I also have a 
pager hooked to my telephone.  When I am away from the phone or the phone is 
busy, It transfers all calls to my pager. This makes it very easy to return 
calls quickly.

If you work from home full time and stay very busy, what do you 
do about phone calls when you must be out for long periods 
of time, longer than makes sense to use an anwering machine? 
I checked into an answering service (so that, at least, a "live" 
person could answer.)  But they can not take action on a phone call.
Does anyone have any ideas? 

When ever I was away from my home based business I had my phone calls
diverted to my cellphone. I paid for each call. This meant that I was
always in touch with my clients. When ever I needed something done
immediately, I called a trusted 'competitor' and had them
do the delivery. I billed the client, so the client remained mine. 
I found it was a win-win situation for me.

When Royal and I are out of town whether on a large job or teaching or
attending a convention, we change the tape on our machine.  The tape says
that we are out of town for whatever reason and that we will return on xyz
date.  We say that we will be checking our machine daily and if they would
like to leave a message, will would be happy to call them back.  Otherwise
they can call back after we return.  Those people who need an immediate
reply will leave a message, but most will call back once you have returned.
All of them will appreciate the notice.  Many times when we have said that
we were at a convention, that spurs more interest from them... "Balloon
Artists have conventions?  And you say you won a competition?  Sure I'd
love to see photos!!"  This only makes you look better in the eyes of your

Balloons are wonderful when handled in a safe manner and can easiily
become a danger when handled in an irresponsible manner.
Therefore, liability insurance is VERY important. 
If something happens, both the performer and the establishment are 
responsible. First they go after the establishment (restaurant, etc), 
and then they pass it along to the performer.  I know someone who
works at Disney World. He put a balloon hat on a woman. A few minutes later
the hat poped and now the woman is complaining that she has lost hearing in
one ear as a result of it.  She sued Disney whose lawyers said that the
balloon artist was independently contracted so if they want to sue anyone,
they would have to go to the balloon  twister (which they did) . The case is
still pending.

Also, ask the insurance agent that covers your house and cars about
performing liability insurance.  Sometimes they can give you a better deal.

The group policies available for clowns have a lot of exclusions and
the $1 million limit is total allowable for GROUP - meaning if there
were several claims at one time for more than that, you'd be out of

The World Clown Association does have a liability insurance which is a
comprehensive general liability policy with coverage of $1,000,000 limit per
occurrence/$2,000,000 total aggregate per event. This is different from the
policy mentioned above which does limit it to the entire group. Our policy
has no deductible and costs $100 / year. Current period May 1, 1998 - May 1,
1999. You can also offer additional insured (malls, hotels, etc.) for $30
each. This program is designed for clowns and magicians. If you are twisting
balloons as either a clown or magician, you would be covered. For more
information on this policy, please contact our administrator, Pat Wilson at
800 336-7922.

The only ones that I know about are the WCA (World Clown Assoc.) and the one
in Minnesota.  For the WCA, you have to be a member of the organization.  You
should check with the organization for coverage etc.  (WCA, P.O. Box 1413,
Corona, CA 91718)

The one in Minnesota is:
Clowns of the U.S., Inc
7732 Cayenne Plz. W.
Woodbury MN 55125
(612) 738-0280

I have not talked to him but I believe that Clowns of the US is group for a
group policy.  The group is the policy holders.  It says that is applies to
clowns in the United States.  I know that it covers performers other than
clowns (twisters and jugglers) but there are some exceptions.  If you live in
Canada or elswhere you will probably not be able to get the coverage.  The
policy renews on April 25 so it is time to send in the money.

Also, ask the insurance agent that covers your house and cars about
performing liability insurance.  Sometimes they can give you a better

The group policies available for clowns have a lot of exclusions and
the $1 million limit is total allowable for GROUP - meaning if there
were several claims at one time for more than that, you'd be out of

The cost of insurance is one of
the overhead prices that you have to buld into your cost structure, just as any
business person must do.

Remember, as a twister, or clown or magician, you are first and foremost a
business person, whether or not you realize it. Only if you do these under the
employment of someone else would you be anything else. 

That said, what you need and should have is Business Insurance, of which
liability is the biggest part, although it may have other pieces of coverage
based on what your business is. Call around and ask for Business Policies and I
am sure you will find one. Mine is through American Family Insurance. One
Million in liability is $200 a year. I consider that to be cheap!

get liability coverage if you do a
lot (or intend to do a lot) of work as a performer anywhere.  That's fairly
standard that anywhere you work they expect you to have your own coverage.
Any contract worker has to be prepared for that.  And, unfortunately, you
can see what happens when you don't have it.

The other side of that is if you have your own liability insurance, you
look a lot more professional than "just another balloon guy."  It helps
lend credibility to what you're doing as a real business.  I think it's a
real art form whether you do it for business purposes or as a hobby.  But
to a lot of people, you're just a guy asking for money to hand out balloons
with a couple of twists.  

I would never twist, even for free, without my liability policy. 
There is just too many things and too many people who are suit happy
today.  The cost for an individual should run about a 100 to 125 a
year for a one or two million general liability policy.  VERY CHEAP in
that I can sleep nights.

World Clown Association  also has an insurance, which runs from May 1,
1999 to May 1, 2000 for $100.00 per year.   The coverage is a Comprehensive
General Liability Policy with coverage of $1,000,000 Limit Per
Total Aggregate Per Event--deductible:  none.  The price remains the same, no
matter when during the year you order the insurance.   Members are required to
join the WC Association :   age 16-60:  $24;   retiree: age 60+ U.S.: $18;  or 
family member:  per person $12.; and will also receive the "Clowning Around"
magazine.   They would also have to wear some minimal costume.   The
Association also includes magicians and puppeteers.  I did receive some information
from them and an application. 

If you need additional information, call 1-800-336-7922 and talk to Pat Lay Wilson,
Administrator for WC Assoc.  She will send you the information and an application.  I
am reluctant to send anyone money before I receive any kind of policy information.  I
understand that is the case with the Felerman Insurance--no information, just send a
$95 check.  Does anyone have additional information or know of any suits Felerman 
insurance has had to cover?  That is a question I asked Pat Lay  Wilson about the 
WC Assoc. insurance and she did relate to me a case she knew mabout.

Entertainers insurance is available from

Al Felerman Insurance
7732 Cayenne Plaza W.
Woodbury MN  05125

I got the phone number from one of the Sorell's videos.
I called him and the insurance runs from Apr. 25 - Apr. 25 each year.
Starting this Apr. 25th it will have $2,000,000 coverage.  The cost is
$95 per year.  There isn't a form to fill out.  Just mail him $95 and he
will send you the policy.

Al Fellerman (The guy is a little rough  around the edges - maybe even rude, 
sells insurance - no membership fees, just $85 a year).
I have had an equal number of people say that he does and that he doesn't 
return calls, so I suppose it is a 50/50 chance that you will get to talk to him.
He is only the agent, not the actual insurer.  The group policy is from
Clowns of the U.S., and the insurance carrier is: General Casuality 
(I believe).  I have never filed a claim, so I can't tell anyone about 
that, I just know that it is a $1,000,000 group coverage policy.

while recently renewing my performer's insurance (I have the WCA 
policy), it caught my eye that the fine print excludes claims for trademark 

In a recent post, I mentioned having a performer's insurance policy. I know 
it's a topic that's been discussed here on the list every now and then, but 
I've received so many private e-mails asking me about it I thought it might 
be an appropriate item on which to post.

There are several performer's insurance policies around. The policy offered 
through World Clown Association (WCA) is the only one I've ever had and so 
it's the only one with which I have any familiarity. I've not yet received 
the updated certificate, so a detail or two of what I'll describe may have 
changed, but it's offered to WCA members by Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. 
It's a commercial general liability policy which costs $100 per year and 
which provides coverage as follows:

General Aggregate:			$2,000,000
Products-Comp/Op. Agg:		$1,000,000
Personal & Adv. Injury:		$1,000.000
Each Occurrence:				$1,000,000
Fire Damage (Any one fire):		$50,000
Med. Expenses (Any one person):	$ 5,000

Again, there are other policies available, and it's a matter of individual 
judgment as to which is best. This is just the policy for which I have 
information here. WCA can be reached at P.O. Box 1413, Corona, California 
91718. Their telephone number is (800) 336-7922.

What records should I keep?
Whether you are using computer or manual methods, try this:  find the
appropriate IRS tax form that you will be using to determine profit/loss
and go to the Business Expenses section.  As an example look at Form 1040
Schedule C:

Now make your accounting categories the same as the Business Expenses
categories on the tax form that applies to you.  It sure saves a lot of 
work come tax time...

If you are not sure which categories apply to you and which ones don't, or
you want to know the tax rules for each category, ask your accountant or
download the applicable publications from

and start reading.  I'm no accountant but I hope this helps,

My CPA specializes in Independent Contractors and small businesses. 
I don't pay hundreds of dollars in unnecessary taxes because my accountant stays up 
to date on independent contractor tax strategies.  Find a specialist that understands 
your particular situation and how to take advantage of it.  We are 
in such a wonderful business as entertainers where so much of what we touch can be a 
deduction. Office supplies, stamps, trips to the material store, auto expenses and on and 
on.  Take a trip to San Diego or San Fransisco to see the street performers.  Go to a 
comedy club or a street fair. There are deductions there.   We can hire our children to sort 
our balloons and wash our cars that we use to go to jobs and clean up our balloon 
droppings after practicing.  Deductions.  Pay that money to a retirement account for them 
and it opens up even more possibilities. If your tax man isn't suggesting and explaining 
these things to you then you need a new tax man.  
I had H"R Block 'type' services and an Atty. do my taxes before and when I switched to a 
CPA that specializes in small businesses I realized how much of my 
income I had been giving away over the years. My CPA says he wishes every one of 
his clients had my entertainment business as a side business as it is so rich with legitimate 
deductions.  Of course legitimate is the key word and I don't know your business or how 
you operate it.  A qualified tax consultant has to give you your personal correct answers but 
when they don't think they could defend you in an audit for internet service I would 
become real suspicious of their advice for the big deductions.  Find one that works from 
confidence not from fear. I think it might be unwise to get into a discussion on this line of 
what is or isn't a 'legitimate' deduction because everyone's business is different and not all 
of this applies to you or anyone else.  I am not giving tax advice as I am not a CPA and I 
have never played one on T.V.  What I am saying is that we should get our personal 
information from someone who is fully qualified and understands our unique tax 
opportunities and not from a run of the mill number cruncher.  I share this information to 
give you an idea of what MY CPA has advised ME for MY situation and business for the 
last 15 years. Your mileage may vary. 

I am a CPA and a clown (yes, they are different!). I have not been in public practice
for a while, but I find it hard to believe the laws would have changed that

>are in such a wonderful business as entertainers where so much of what we touch 
>can be a deduction. Office supplies, stamps, trips to the material store, auto 
>expenses and on and on.  Take a trip to San Diego or San Fransisco to see the 
>street performers.  Go to a comedy club or a street fair. There are deductions 
>there.   We can hire our children to sort our balloons and wash our cars that we 
>use to go to jobs and clean up our balloon droppings after practicing.  
>Deductions.  Pay that money to a retirement account for them and it opens up even 
>more possibilities. If your tax man isn't suggesting and explaining these things 
>to you then you need a new tax man.  

Boy, I would get rid of this guy real quick!  Some of these deduction are
possible if you are incorporated.  If you are incorporated I will apologize
right now.  However, if you are not I'd be very careful of these.  You can
hire your children if you are incorporated, however, you are subject to the
same labor laws as any business would be. You must take care of all the
child labor laws and pay all applicable payroll taxes.  In some cases the
child would also have to file a tax return.  If you are not incorporated,
you cannot deduct payments to family members, only arm length transactions
to outside parties.  As for some of the other deductions, he is correct in
his statement that "There are deductions there."  Again, I think you must be
careful.  A business trip is a business trip.  It is not a two week vacation
that you watched a magician perform.  A business trip must have a
justifiable business purpose with very little personal gratification.  I
know a while back that teachers lost (or were limited on) the deductions
they were taking for trips that related to their subject matter, since they
were not a necessary part of their occupation.

>My CPA says he wishes every one of 
>his clients had my entertainment business as a side business as it is so rich with 
>legitimate deductions.  Of course legitimate is the key word and I don't know your 
>business or how you operate it.  A qualified tax consultant has to give you your 
>personal correct answers but when they don't think they could defend you in an 
>audit for internet service I would become real suspicious of their advice for the 
>big deductions.  Find one that works from confidence not from fear. 
>I think it might be unwise to get into a discussion on this line of what is or 
>isn't a 'legitimate' deduction because everyone's business is different and not 
>all of this applies to you or anyone else.  

With this I agree, however if your accountant does not question you on your
deductions, they will never know if they are legitimate.  My personal
philosophy is to claim a deduction that you are entitled to, but do not 
take a questionable deduction to "cheat" Uncle Sam.  (This is a general
statement and not aimed at the accountant in question.)  Do I deduct my
annual trips to Clown Camp?  In the early years yes, however now I go more
because it is a good time and not a necessary part of my business.  Maybe,
every several years taking a deduction because it helps me keep up with the
changes in the art.  THIS IS MY PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY!  If you can justify the
expense as a legitimate business expense every year than go for it.

The key is justification.  My answer to the original question was:  You can
deduct the cost of the internet only to the extent the internet is used for
business purposes.  The only way to justify it is to keep a log by your
computer and record the dates and time of all usage, and whether it was
business or personal.  You can then deduct your business percent of the
cost.  I'm sorry, I'm too honest of a guy (even when it comes to taxes).

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