Caroline Simonds – A Hard Act to Follow!

In the early 1980’s I became famaliar with a lovely cafe on a quiet short block in NY’s West Village. The Cornelia Street Cafe was a hotbed of creative people performing, reading poetry and prose and exhibiting their art on the walls of the cafe. One of the performers I met was a lovely, tall and fire eyed woman named Caroline Simonds. Born in Washington DC she immigrated to France at the age of 20 after having graduated from Bennington. Having just come to NY from Paris, she exuded a unique ‘wonderous’ spirit which manifested itself in her performing character ‘Ratapuce’.
Caroline as ‘RATAPUCE’.
She had a new daughter Lailah Melusine Cordiere Simonds that modeled for me a few years later to become the ‘poster child’ of The New York Clown Theatre Festival in 1983.
Laila – Poster Child for NY International Festival of Clown Theatre 1983
Poster Shot for Festival

Caroline had seeked out the ‘masters’ and studied in Paris with acrobat Tudor Bono, mime Etienne Decroux, and music teacher Betsy Jolas and Michel Debost.

In 1971, in Paris, she co-founded ‘The Palace of Wonders’ with street performer, eccentric Jules Cordiere. Her character Ratapuce traveled the globe for 10 years with The Palace of Wonders. After coming to New York she started ‘Pandemonium and the Dragonfly’ performing as a singer, musician, clown and actress.

In 1988 she joined the Big Apple Circus and began a love affair with Clown Doctoring.

Dr. Josette Giraffe was born!

Dr. Josette Giraffe

Being awestruck by Baudelaire,and Camembert she (with a few grants) moved back to Paris to create Le Rire Medicin, the first group of it’s kind in Europe. This highly improvisational team was interactive with the healthcare professionals and had ongoing medical and artistic training. (Read more about Clown Doctors in France  here!) Today Le Rire Medicin is present in 15 French hospitals and employs 80 specially trained professional hopiclowns. Caroline and Le Rire Medicin are presently creating a school to train future hospital clowns. Caroline co-wrote with Dr. Bernie Warren The Clown Doctor Chronicles (Albin Michel 2001, Rodopi 2003and Les Editions Rire Medecin in 2008). She also received one of France’s most prestigious awards in 2002 The Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.


Like I said she is a hard act to follow.

Keep  up the great work Caroline!

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Jim R. Moore


Photographer/Videographer/Recluse Founder of