On a serious note
Ringling Bros. Circus clown has firm foundation in Christ

by Ashly McGlone

Unparalleled acrobatic abilities, comedic talent and entertainer charisma all come to mind when thinking of circus clown Bello Nock. What many don’t know is that this world-famous entertainer and his family are first, and foremost, followers of Christ. 

Bello holds the standing title of “America’s Best Clown,” as named by Time magazine in 2001. Currently he is headlining the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey “Bellobration” tour. 

For the first time in the history of the 137-year-old Ringling Bros. Greatest Show on Earth, a tour has been named after a performer and a single performer is carrying the show.

With strawberry blonde locks that literally stand on end, Bello describes himself as, “a living cartoon,” consisting of half daredevil and half comedian.

“A cross between Evel Knievel and Jackie Chan on the daredevil side, with Harpo Marx and Jim Carrey on the comedian side,” the circus clown said.

Though Bello is a seventh-generation circus performer, his wife of 20 years is not. Jennifer and Bello first met in the third grade, dated in high school and were married shortly thereafter. 

Jennifer and their three children travel with him during his tours, staying in a 78-foot-long custom RV. Jennifer home schools the kids using A Beka home school curriculum, which teaches from a Christian perspective. 

Jennifer facilitates a weekly non-denominational Bible study every Friday night. The study typically lasts for an hour to an hour-and-a-half, is fully catered, and averages 50 to 60 attendees of the 330 that travel with the tour.

Ringling Bros. kicked off its two-year “Bellobration” tour in mid-January at Madison Square Garden.  

The tour is very different from the year before, according to Bello.

“There is a light theme where I fall in love with a beautiful girl, and despite being a daredevil, I am afraid to talk to her,” Bello said.  

The performer Bello falls in love with is none other than Wendy Wallenda, wife of Nikolas, of the famous Flying Wallenda family. In addition to performing alongside Bello, both Nikolas and Wendy are regular attendees of the weekly Bible study and are also born-again Christians.

Wallenda comes from a family of Christians. His uncle, Tino Wallenda, wrote the book, “Walking the Straight and Narrow: Lessons in Faith from the High Wire,” published in 2005.

Finding his faith
Bello grew up “a good Catholic boy but didn’t know why,” only attending church on Easter and Christmas, he said.

It wasn’t until age 16 that Bello accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior after speaking with his now mother-in-law.

As a result, Bello has never been, “high, drunk, or smoked anything. God had a plan for me in my life.” According to Bello, he has also never broken any bones, or had any accidents or injuries, “by the grace of God.”

Both seventh-generation circus performers with a legacy of circus royalty, Bello and Nikolas grew up together in Sarasota, Fla. 

Nikolas currently performs with Bello on the Wheel of Steel, a 39-foot contraption that was envisioned, engineered and tested by the two childhood friends.

The stunt, done without any safety nets or wires, leaves Bello and Wallenda whirling through the air in different directions.

Writer Glenn Collins for The New York Times describes the Wheel of Steel as resembling, “an enormous bubble-blower” or “two giant hamster wheels revolving on a central axle,” then the wheels split and double to four before your eyes.   

The Wheel of Steel is known to many as the Wheel of Death due to the elevated danger involved.

Anchored in prayer
Praying before each performance, both men must also “have faith in each other. Our lives are in each other’s hands up there,” Wallenda said. “It’s definitely nice to have another believer there with you.”

Bello appreciates having a fellow Christian in his work environment, too.

“It’s nice to have someone to relate to and to hold accountable,” Bello said. 

Though the touring schedule keeps them on the road 50 weeks a year, Bello and Wallenda attended the Tabernacle Church in Sarasota, Fla. for many years. Neville Gritt was the pastor of the non-denominational Tabernacle church for 32 years until a year-and-a-half ago when he was forced to retire due to health concerns.   

“They are genuine folks. not just showmen,” Gritt said of the pair. “They have stayed very humble and loyal and they seek ways to magnify Him. What they do, they try to do it all to the glory of God.”

To Bello, that means reaching out to anyone.

“We are all made in His image,” Bello said. “From the clean-up crew to the ringmaster to the clowns to the star, we are all equal in His eyes.”

Not all work
Both Bello and Wallenda have been involved in ministry outreaches on both the large scale with evangelistic events like “Circus Maranatha” to smaller scale visits to youth meetings where they share a few stunts and a message.

Wallenda currently attends “Church on the Ranch” in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. under Pastor Jeff Weaver. Weaver was their youth pastor and senior associate pastor at the Tabernacle before starting his own church.

“They use their platform for ministry and they are a big witness,” Weaver said. “First of all they are professionals and they are in the Guinness Book of World Records. When you mix that with the Word of God, you’re just absolutely blown away by what they can do.”

One of Bello’s favorite aspects of what he does is the broad audience he reaches.

“I can tell a joke without any words and four generations can laugh at the same joke,” Bello said. “It is good wholesome comedy, but also cutting edge comedy.”

Published, July 2007

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