Warwick Beacon / Cranston Herald
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Lon Cerel has been clowning
around for 25 years now and is still a bit surprised tat
he has been able to make a living at it.
"I wanted to be a doctor when I was a kid, but my
parents wanted me to be a magician - and you know how
parents push," he said with mock sincerity.
Cerel said he has been lucky in his career but perseverance
and a gift for self-promotion account for much of his
success, as well as his ability to appeal to people of
all ages with his wholesome, family-oriented clowning
"I appeal to kids, but I also know that it is the
grown-ups that do the hiring, so I try to put something
in for everyone," he said. "A lot of my act
sometimes goes way over the heads of the kids, but the
adults appreciate it. Sometimes people will come up to
me and say, 'That was a great act for the kids, but I
liked it, too.' Well, that's the point. I go for the whole
Cerel has built his career around an intense appearance
schedule that takes him to fairs and conventions all over
the country, and a long list of companies that use Cerel
at sales meetings and trade shows, not to mention schools
where he combines magic and learning to promote reading
and morals values from kindergarten to fifth grade.
But it is the places that consistently call Cerel back
again that have made it possible to build a career.
"I have been performing at the Warwick Mall for 25
years," said Cerel. "Twenty-five years ago I
was eating tuna out of a can but I never did anything
but magic since I left college. So, you could say I'm
an overnight success after all those years."
Cerel is a big fan of classic children's television shows
like Captain Kangaroo, Rocky and Bullwinkle and even the
nearly forgotten Pinky Lee from the 1950's.
"I am a big fan of Pinky Lee," he said. "I
have his picture on my wall at home. I didn't see the
original shows but I have watched a number of old kinescopes
of his work. He was great."
Cerel said he was amazed to meet the legendary Jay Ward
in person once. Ward was the producer of Rocky and Bullwinkle,
and Cerel ran into him in his studio's gift shop.
"I was amazed that he looked so much like the caricature
of himself used on his show," he said. "After
I spoke with him for a while, he said 'I have got something
for you,' and gave me a cel (an animation drawing) from
the show of Bullwinkle as a magician. I have that hanging
up as well."
Cerel was also lucky enough to strike up a lasting friendship
with the late Henny Youngman, who did a "forewarned"
for Cerel's book, How to Blow Up Animals
A Beginners Guide to Fun With Balloons.
"Nowhere but in America can a man come from a poor
family, and help that family by shining shoes and selling
newspapers and look toward a dream - and finally that
dream has come true, where he is one of the best loved
men in the entire nation. But enough about me... I've
known Lon Cerel for over 15 years. Lon does with one balloon
what I do with a one-liner. Take Lon's balloon book -
Lon lives in Johnston, having moved there from Warwick
after he married Sandy (Boyer) Cerel, an actress and one-time
teacher at the George Peters School in Cranston.
"We met while performing with the Kaleidoscope Theatre
and we became friends," he said. "She retired
from teaching and now is a full time actress. She understands
Cerel modestly credits his success to being a "big
fish" in the small pond of Rhode Island. In spite
of his pre-med. education from Providence College, Cerel
has never looked back and regretted his decision to go
into show business.
"I found something to do that I enjoyed and I get
paid to do it," he said. "Luck had a lot to
do with it, but I always prepared myself for opportunities
when they did come. I guess you could call me a general
practitioner of magic."