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fremont couple turns clowning around into profitable careers

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Tuesday, February 26, 2002

By Audrey Wong, STAFF WRITER & Anda Chu, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER, The Argus

FREMONT -- Jenny Kahn used to joke that if she was laid off she could twist balloons to help pay the bills.

Her quip became reality  last April, when she lost her regular job as a technical recruiter and  had to rely on her weekend job as “Cookie the Clown.”

“That was a saving grace,” Kahn said. “I was at Fuddruckers twisting balloons for tips to feed the family.”

Jenny and her husband,  Alan, run 1st. Impression Entertainment Group, which provides magicians  and clowns for various events. The business is based in their Sundale  neighborhood home.

“Alan the Amazing” performs  as a magician and works as a two-person team with his wife at birthday  parties, community celebrations and corporate functions.

Although the economic  downturn affected Jenny’s recruiting career, the couple still booked a  steady stream of gigs. The more lavish corporate fetes petered out last  winter, but the number of smaller events remained stable, they said. 

Last September, Jenny was hired as a consultant to help the unemployed find jobs but continued her stint as an entertainer.

Alan practiced magic tricks  since he was a 13-year-old growing up in San Jose. Throughout his  youth, he performed magic and clown acts at parties, and he supported  himself through college by entertaining.

He graduated from San Jose  State University with a degree in public relations but discovered he  didn't like desk jobs. So about 11 years ago, he returned to clowning  and magic tricks on a part-time basis. 

Because he owns a collection of props, and the business doesn't need an office, the Kahns made a profit right away, he said.

In 1996, the couple decided  Alan would operate the business full time so he could care for their  children -- Rachel, 8, and Jacob, 5 -- while Jenny worked during the  week. Sometimes Alan works with his father, Howard, also a magician and  clown.

Jenny developed a technique  so she wouldn't startle small children when she is in makeup and a wig.  The best way to approach children is to give them their space and give  them time to overcome their shyness, she said.

Alan caters his shows to  different age groups. With younger audiences, he uses puppets and other  props. The couple also creates balloon animals, tells stories and leads  games.

For corporate events, one  of the group's tricks calls for Howard to put a box on Alan's head. The  box then is pierced with arrows and opened. Alan's head is gone.

But the adult humor never turns raunchy.

“We don't do a risque act,” he said. “We still do a family show.”