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People Top 5
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PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- March 28, 1977
- Vol. 7
- No. 12
A Tv Star Becomes a Clown and Goes from Riches to Rags
As part of a government-financed free theater, Hutchins and a group of actors perform free in schools, parks and senior citizen centers. He earns only $900 a month, but the work is steady. "I don't miss the series. It was going to jail every day," says Hutchins, 44. "When I walk down the street some people still recognize me as Tom Brewster, but that's all that is left of that time of my life."
When Sugarfoot folded, Will was earning $1,000 a week. "My world crashed," he says. "I had just bought a $4,000 Porsche, but I began to get acquainted with unemployment."
Hutchins, a native of Los Angeles and a Korean war veteran, didn't work for two years. He did occasional TV bit parts and co-starred in two short-lived series: Hey, Landlord! and Blondie. Then he read a magazine article about a man who gave up everything to be a clown. "At that time I didn't have much to give up," he says. A friend got him a job with a small circus. "We traveled in an old car—an old clown, a young one and me," says Hutchins. He called himself Patches after his grandmother's dog. "I remember my first night as a clown. The old clown slapped the makeup on me and sent me out to warm up the kids. I was scared at first. Luckily, I knew some small magic tricks and soon had them laughing. I learned."
Now divorced from Chris Burnett, Carol's sister, Hutchins lives alone in a modest house in Hollywood Hills. He insists he isn't sorry that stardom passed him by. "I don't have the energy, the push and the drive to succeed," he confesses. "Besides, I know a lot of stars who don't seem happy. I would rather clown around and see happiness on the faces of children."
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