March 20, 1962 - December 21, 1997
At the age of five, this Hall of Fame inductee went to the circus with his family, and on the way home told his Mother: "When I grow up I want to be a clown!"
David Pizzuti was born March 20, 1962, in Pueblo, Colorado. His loving family included his parents, an older brother and an older sister. Surprisingly, David's family did not move around too much, even though his father was career military, retiring with the rank of Colonel after 37 years, primarily in the Army Special Forces. David grew up in Thornton, Colorado, just north of Denver.
David realized he was gay while in high school, and first came out to his brother and sister, and somewhat later to his parents. David did not make a big deal of it, and neither did the family. His parents both feel fortunate to have been raised in families that were non-prejudicial. The "Special Forces" friends of the family didn't give a damn either! During his junior year in high school, David unfortunately began to have problems with some of the students who may have suspected he was gay. David spoke with his instructors, and received permission to attend Metro State College to finish his senior year of high school, and begin to receive credits toward his freshman year of college.
At the age of 21, David competed at the first "Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo" in Denver. This was in 1983, prior to the formation of the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA). David only competed in the Wild Cow Riding event, and he did not make the full six second ride on either day. IGRA was incorporated in 1985, and David's second rodeo competition was the 1986 "Arizona Gay Rodeo". This time David scored a 73 on Saturday, and an 83 on Sunday. But that score of 83 put him in 6th place for the day, behind scores of 90, 88, 87, and two 85's. David had also entered the Wild Cow Milking competition, but due to the inability to find cows who would give milk in January, that event was canceled for the entire weekend.
David must have decided that if he couldn't win with a score of 83 he might as well become a clown. Based on information from old rodeo programs, the first documentation of David performing as a rodeo clown was at the first "Bay Area Rodeo" which was held in Hayward, California in September 1988. It is possible that he had performed at previous rodeos, but the rodeo clowns were not always listed in the programs. In 1989, David performed at the Los Angeles and San Diego rodeos, and after that he was invited to many rodeos across the IGRA circuit. In 1991, a photo of three IGRA rodeo clowns, David, Barry Barnes, and Dwight Whitt, was on the program cover for the IGRA Finals Rodeo held in Wichita, Kansas. Through his first few years performing as a rodeo clown David was really enjoying what he did. But he also knew the importance of the Rodeo Bull Fighter in protecting the contestant.
Sometime in 1991 or 1992 David began to compete in Bull Riding at a few small professional rodeos. We don't know if he ever made a successful ride, but we do know from a news article that David said he never made any money. After competing at a Kansas rodeo in 1992, David located a used 150 pound barrel. He took it home; made some repairs and redecorated it; and instantly became a Barrel Man! David learned what needed to be done by watching and talking with other Barrel Men. In 1993, David got to know a stock contractor in La Junta, Colorado, and became their Barrel Man; traveling to rodeos in Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma. After that things just took off!
In January 1994, David entered the "International Finals Rodeo 24 Contract Acts Competition" held by the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) in Oklahoma City. The competition was held over several days, with each day focusing on different rodeo skills, such as: Announcers, Specialty Acts, Clowns, Bull Fighters, and Barrel Men. The competition was judged by the bull riders, other rodeo cowboys, and all the competitors. David was named the IPRA's "Rookie of the Year" and won the title of Top Barrel Man. With the win David received $800, Top Barrel Man belt buckle, and was quickly offered nine contracts to perform on the IPRA rodeo circuit.
Even though David was busy working the IPRA circuit he continued to perform at IGRA rodeos. In 1993 he was at seven IGRA rodeos, and in 1994 he performed at six IGRA rodeos. It is unknown how many professional rodeos David may have worked after 1994, but at one time he confided to his sister that he was considering giving up the professional rodeo circuit because he was sure that if they knew he was gay he would be rejected.David moved from Denver to "Death Valley National Monument" in California when he was offered a position in the Human Resources department for the "Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch," one of the park concessionaires located at Furnace Creek, California. Not many people live full time in Death Valley, and David was soon part of the community. In May 1997 David was placed on the ballot and was elected to represent the Death Valley area as a Director on the Southern Inyo County Hospital's Board of Directors.
Over the years, David was frequently listed in the IGRA rodeo programs as the Clown, though he was occasionally identified as the Bull Fighter. The last three IGRA rodeos that David worked were the San Diego Gay Rodeo, the Atlantic Stampede, and the 1997 IGRA Finals Rodeo which was held in Phoenix. David was listed as the Bull Fighter at all three of those rodeos!
David's parents had been attending the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association's "National Finals Rodeo" in Las Vegas for more than ten years. In 1997 they went several days early in order to spend some time with David at Death Valley. When they arrived, David told them that he had been having some internal problems and had been seeing a physician in Las Vegas. Two days before the rodeo David had severe pain and his parents took him to the hospital in Las Vegas. David was there for eleven days, and then was transferred by air medevac to San Francisco. After waiting six more days for a liver transplant, it was determined that it was too late. David passed away on Dec 21, 1997 at the age of 35.
David's family returned home with broken hearts to plan his memorial service. They did not realize how well David was known and respected in the community-over 500 of his friends and acquaintances attended his service. David's body was cremated and his ashes were placed in many locations throughout the world, including Corona Ranch Rodeo Arena in Phoenix, Hansen Dam Equestrian Center near Los Angeles, Del Mar Fairgrounds rodeo arena near San Diego, Coal Creek Rodeo Park in Aurora, Colorado, Horseman's Park rodeo arena in Las Vegas, a holy mountain in Tibet, the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy and in a necklace around his mother's neck.
During the week when David was competing for the Top Barrel Man title in January 1994, David's mother bumped into his first grade teacher while shopping at a mall. His teacher asked what David was doing, and his mother replied that right that minute David was working as a Rodeo Clown and Barrel Man. Twenty-six years after having David as a student his teacher replied: "So, David finally got to live his dream of being a clown!"