Clown Pair Fired by Circus-Circus

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Cuddles and Canoli, the Circus Circus clowns who have entertained guests at the Reno hotel-casino and served as community ambassadors for more than a decade, have been told to take a hike.

The clowns are the latest victims in a round of layoffs of upper- and middle-management at the casino in the wake of distressed financial reports, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Wednesday.

In recent months, the hotel's director, manager, entertainment director and publicist have been let go, the newspaper reported.

Circus Circus is owned by Las Vegas-based Mandalay Resort Group.

According to company financial reports, the Reno property posted a dismal net profit last year of $3.64 million, down $4.76 million - or more than 56 percent - from 2002.

Doug Mattice, who portrayed Canoli, and Cindy Hammond, who was Cuddles, were veteran employees who received full-time salaries and benefits.

They received their pink slips April 2, Mattice said.

"We'd meet and greet, do special events, escort people to conferences, do balloon animals, face painting," Mattice said. "We were the ambassadors of goodwill for Circus Circus."

John Marz, Mandalay's senior vice president of marketing and events, said the layoffs are a casualty of northern Nevada's struggling gambling industry.

"Indian gaming in Northern California has affected Reno, and we, along with other companies, have had to make some difficult management decisions to cope with the decrease in our customers coming over the hill," Marz told the newspaper.

Mattice, who had worked at the casino since 1985, portrayed Canoli full time since 1990.

Hammond, a 24-year employee, said she had just received a pay raise, new clown shoes and was already in costume when told she was being let go.

"I just kind of went blank, in shock," she said. "I said, 'Well, do you want me to work today?'

"And they said, 'No Cuddles, just sign here.'"