Share This Page

Zelienople resident sends strong message as World's Strongest Clown

| Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Tommy Toman has been a professional baseball player, a physical education teacher for special needs children, a bodybuilder and a marathon runne. But he found his true calling as Buffo, the World's Strongest Clown, a role he has been playing for more than 30 years. File photo
Submitted
Buffo, the World's Strongest Clown, has been entertaining crowds of all ages for decades.

He's known in the Midwest and around the world not by his ability to twist balloon animals, although his renditions of such creatures are impressive, but by his sheer strength and message of well-being as the world's strongest clown.

Tom Toman, better known as Buffo, the World's Strongest Clown, has been “out clowning around” since the 1970's. Buffo has been seen walking on glass in his bare feet, breathing fire and even balancing children on a chair from his face.

Entertaining people by juggling clunky items such as bowling balls and lit torches and spreading a positive message as a full-time job is truly an experience unlike any other, according to the Zelienople resident. But Buffo's favorite part of his hazardous gig is not honing the skill to accomplish such perilous tasks, but the reaction of the crowd, consisting of every age group.

“Visiting sick kids in hospitals and doing shows where the parents will come up to me afterward and say ‘Oh my gosh! I saw my kid laughing for the first time in weeks… they're here for a transplant or they've got cancer,' and for a few minutes maybe even the parents have a little bit of a break from real life ... so that's pretty rewarding,” Toman said.

Toman's passion for entertaining people around the world by his antics is only part of his lifestyle.

Toman played professional baseball and was drafted out of high school in 1974 by the Chicago White Sox organization. The career .244 hitter spent six seasons playing for Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox affiliates. The husband of 35 years spends time ballroom dancing with his wife and is passionate about becoming a great dancer.

“I'm an all-or-nothing guy,” he said. “I'm all-in or I'm all-out. When I'm in, I'm a psycho, I have to be the best at whatever I do. Every day in between whatever shows I'm doing, I am practicing my steps. I became obsessed with it.”

Toman's home in Zelienople is a log cabin. Toman, who is of Native American descent, owns a teepee standing at 60-feet-by-33-feet. He and his family celebrate Thanksgiving annually in the tent fitting nearly 50 people dressed as Native Americans and Pilgrims.

Before taking on his role full time as Buffo, Toman was a physical education teacher in Pittsburgh.

Toman's sharp sign language ability was commended on a national level when he did a show at the White House in front of George H.W. Bush in sign language.

Toman chuckled over the reaction from security over his dangerous props that he tried using for his performance.

“You go through secret service clearance and then they asked me, ‘What's that hatchet for, what's that meat cleaver for?' I said ‘juggling,' and they go ‘not today it's not.'”

Since beginning his career as the World's Strongest Clown more than three decades ago, Buffo has seen many generations of people and how the world has changed. One thing that has stayed the same, according to Buffo, is the demand for the joy a clown can give.

“As long as there are mimes around we're not the lowest on the list,” Toman joked. “I think the more upset or depressed people get, the more need there is for joy and happiness.”

Toman created a legacy of his own by inspiring his audience with positive messages and strength endurances. After his career is over, Toman joked that he will not be remembered by his formal name, but by the title he created after wanting to spread happiness to the world.

“My wife calls me Buffo, my mother calls me Buffo, my brothers and sisters call me Buffo, my nieces and nephews call me Uncle Buffo ... I've kind of melded into Buffo, the World's Strongest Clown, and Tommy Toman. It's kind of a combination of the two.”

For more information on Buffo, the World's Strongest Clown, visit www.buffo.com/

Alex Klukaszewski is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.