Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

December 7, 2009

Michael Polakovs, a.k.a. Coco, dies at 86

Catlettsburg — The circus world is mourning the passing of one of its legendary figures.

Michael Polakovs, a.k.a. Coco the Clown, died Sunday night in the intensive care unit at. King’s Daughters Medical Center. He was 86.

Polakovs died of complications from a stroke. According to his daughter, Michelle, his death was caused by a massive brain bleed that followed a stroke.

“He went the way he would have wanted — quick and pain-free with family around,” she said.

Polakovs, who lived in southern Boyd County, was a giant in the world of clowning.

He spent his entire life performing in circuses, was highly respected by his peers and was major source of inspiration for several generations of clowns. A number or the routines he developed are still used by clowns worldwide.

His back story was as colorful and interesting as his long circus career.

Polakovs was a second-generation circus clown. He inherited the Coco character from his father, Nicolai Polakovs, who was known as the King of Clowns in Europe and was decorated by the Queen of England for his achievements.

Michael Polakovs was born in Latvia, backstage at a circus where his father was performing. He grew up in England and joined his first circus at 14.

Polakovs was brought to America by the Mills Brothers Circus and joined Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1961. He performed center ring for five seasons before becoming the circus’ advance clown — a position that involved going to towns where the circus would be performing to promote it in the local media. That job landed him on numerous radio and television programs.

But Polakovs was perhaps best known for his role in developing a clown that would become an enduring cultural and advertising icon.

In 1966, the McDonald’s Corp. hired Polakovs to design Ronald McDonald. He designed the outfit and makeup that is worn by the character to this day. He also appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as Ronald McDonald and appeared in the first eight TV commercials that featured the character.

Text Only
Local News
  • Flatwoods mayoral debate set for Tuesday

    A public debate among the candidates seeking to become the next mayor of Flatwoods will take place next week.

    April 22, 2014

  • Ashland couple indicted on grave violation charges

     A man and a woman from Ashland have been indicted for allegedly stealing brass flower vases from graves at Rose Hill Burial Park.

    April 22, 2014

  • South Shore clerk gives updates on city building bids, sewer project

    City officials may not have to wait much longer to move from their temporary offices on Main Street into a shiny, new building.

    April 22, 2014

  • Fate of stray animals in Carter County questioned

    Stray animals in Carter County may be disappearing because no one seems to know exactly where they are going.

    April 22, 2014

  • Recovery center finds home

    The mayor of Grayson said he isn’t concerned about the money a new recovery center will funnel into the city, although he is deeply appreciative of what the proposed facility may be able to offer “people who really need help” recovering from the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.

    April 22, 2014

  • Olive Hill man charged with shooting wife during dispute

    A Carter County man has been arrested for allegedly shooting his wife in the neck during a domestic dispute.
    Robert Tackett, 47, of Olive Hill, was lodged in the Carter County Detention Center on Monday, charged with attempted murder-domestic violence, Kentucky State Police at Ashland said.

    April 22, 2014

  • Two of three Greenup commission seats on ballot

    Two of three commission seats are up for grabs in Greenup County this fall, and both will involve primary contests to determine the ballot lineup in the November election.

    April 22, 2014

  • 0423attmurder_tackett.jpg Olive Hill man charged with attempted murder

    A Carter County man has been arrested for allegedly shooting his wife in the neck during a domestic dispute.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rotary updated on Alliance

    Ed Neely, president of the Ashland Rotary Club and chairman of the Ashland Alliance, addressed Rotarians in both capacities during the Monday meeting to give an update on the organization’s recent progress.

    April 21, 2014

  • Prater has been satisfying fans’ hunger for 40 years

    Debbie Prater has satisfied thousands of athletes’, parents’ and fans’ snacking desires for nearly 360 months.
    That’s just about 40 years of serving nachos, popcorn, chili dogs, water and soda from Lewis County’s football, basketball and baseball concession stands, and Prater is retiring after this year’s last pitch.

    April 21, 2014