Jakarta. Not many Indonesians know that 73-year-old grandfather Mupriyanto was their country's first official Ronald McDonald, being hired by the American fast-food company after winning an audition in 1991.
Mupriyanto used to make and sell wooden and papier-mâché comic masks before starting his career as a professional clown, badut in Indonesian, in 1975.
"That was my first time as a clown. I played at a birthday party for the son of a big-shot businessman," he said.
Mupriyanto said his turn as Indonesia's first Ronald McDonald required him to perform at the fast-food chain's branches across the country.
The first McDonald's restaurant in Indonesia was opened at the Sarinah shopping mall in Central Jakarta.
"I told their recruiter that I did not want to become a clown, but Ronald McDonald. I thought he was the owner of McDonald's, not its clown mascot. I guess the recruiter found that funny and hired me," Mupriyanto said.
Mupriyanto, who was raised in Blitar in East Java, said he was Ronald McDonald for six years.
"I quit as Ronald in 1997. I was making quite good money making masks on the side, so I went back to doing that," he said.
The master clown said he was the first clown in the country to be hired to play at the State Palace, where he entertained presidents and other dignitaries.
Mupriyanto now runs a clown club in South Jakarta and still performs occasionally at community service events.
The old clown is also one of the founders of the Association of Indonesian Clown Artists (Pasbi).
According to him, clowning is not a difficult job, except when no one is hiring.
"Sometimes we had to play just for transport money," he said ruefully.