Technically, Coco is not a clown but an 'Auguste' - that is the foolish character who is always on the receiving end of buckets of water and custard pies. The Auguste often works with the cleverer white-faced 'clown' who always gets the better of him. Coco, whose real name was Nicolai Poliakoff, was born in Latvia in 1900. His parents worked in the theatre when Nicolai was born, but both lost their jobs a few years later and, in order to survive, Nicolai started busking from the age of five. In 1929 Nicolai, or Coco as he was then called, came to England with his young wife Valentina and began working for Bertram Mills' Circus. He left the circus temporarily to serve in the British Army during World War II, but returned straight afterwards. He performed before royalty all over the world and received a medal from the Queen for his years of work in promoting road safety for children.