Roar of the greasepaint.

We’ve been neglecting the Clown File. People who know me know that I dislike clowns. This is a pretty common fear in children, and what can I say? It never left me. For a while I had a Clown File set of pages here, and it got me mail from fellow clownophobes all over these United States.

(Someone also sent me a link that I foolishly clicked, and it took me to a site devoted to clown porn. Yes, people having sex in full clown makeup. No big shoes or floppy pants, although with some truly epic tattoos. These images are seared into my brain, and still make me shudder.)

Once I wrote a column about this, and I got a call from an older man who worked as a clown. All clowns seem to be older men, along with a few younger women. In a whiny, quavery voice he told me it’s tough to be a clown, yessiree, you have no idea. Then he began telling me about “that pervert, John Wayne Gacy,” and how he ruined EVERYthing for decent clowns, and related an incident in Chicago in the wake of the Gacy case. This man, along with a couple dozen other Shriner clowns, were scheduled to do their act at a mall in suburban Chicago. The original plan was for the clowns to spread throughout the mall, delighting shoppers, but the Gacy revelations made that dicey.

“So they told us we had to stick together,” he said. “They made us go in the back door, like a bunch of criminals. Then the shoppers started yelling at us, so we all had to leave. What a lousy day.” At this point I was covering the receiver so he couldn’t hear me snickering. One of my best reader calls ever.

One of my neighbors in Indiana was a dental hygienist, and told of the memorable day, early in her career, when a fairly well-known birthday-party clown came in complaining of jaw pain, “particularly during fellatio.” The dentist blushed and stammered, and my neighbor, young and innocent, said, “What’s that?” It was an uncomfortable moment all around, and every time I saw the clown’s face in advertising thereafter, I thought about …never mind.

I make an exception for my ex-colleague Keryn, aka Twist and Shout the clown. Her specialty is balloons, and can tell the story of the resurrection of Christ using balloons. It’s quite something.

Anyway, clowns. Thanks to Mitch Harper for passing along some clowns in the news items. First, someone is vandalizing the clowns of Sarasota. It’s one of those dopey public-art projects that have been so popular — cows in Chicago, ears of corn in Iowa, frogs in Grosse Pointe. I suppose in tribute to Sarasota’s circus heritage, it’s clowns in Sarasota. And — astonishingly! — someone is hurting them. Who could have seen that coming, eh? Put up 50 icons of childhood terror and then complain when people cut their heads off. I ask you.

Although I did enjoy this passage: The clown whose head was broken off was called Justice B. Dunne, a judicial clown sponsored by a law firm, Nickel said. Police retrieved its head, which was found nearby.

In other clown news, Emmett Kelly Jr. is dead. Say hi to Red Skelton, Emmett.

Bloggage: It’s Festivus time! And now, for the feats of strength.

Posted at 10:04 am in Current events |

17 responses to “Roar of the greasepaint.”

  1. Mindy said on December 1, 2006 at 10:23 am

    I don’t like clowns, either. Never have. As a kid I was taken to the circus and enjoyed every minute of the animals and acrobats. Emmett Kelly Jr. did his famous father’s spotlight chasing act. It broke my seven-year-old heart that he couldn’t catch it, but the other clowns gave me the creeps.

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  2. mary said on December 1, 2006 at 11:16 am

    The balloon animal twister reminded me of another good line in Raising Arizona. One of the escaped cons is in a convenience store, and he gets a package of balloons. He asks the clerk if they are funny shapes, and the clerk says, “No, unless you think round is funny.”

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  3. Jennifer said on December 1, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    My best friend who hailed from Detroit, said Milky the Clown of Twin Pines Dairy was one of the scariest he had ever seen. He said he never liked clowns, but growing up with that one sealed the deal.

    Oh dear… I just found out Milky has his own spot on MySpace!

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  4. colleen said on December 1, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Ok, whose the clown in the fort who, uh, helped increase the hygenist’s vocabulary?

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  5. Adrianne said on December 1, 2006 at 1:58 pm


    A tragic clown misidentification by a rookie staff member led to my favorite correction at the Times Herald-Record. Huddles the Clown called me all in a huff. It seems she was misidentified as “Strawberry the Clown” in a photo that went with a story about a carnival for kids with the XP disease (they can’t go out in daylight). When I started laughing, Huddles was NOT AMUSED. Here’s the correction:

    Michele Pedreira appeared as “Huddles the Clown” at the XP carnival in Campbell Hall on July 14. “Strawberry the Clown,” Patrice Ciaccone, did not perform at the carnival. This information was incorrect in Saturday’s editions

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  6. Dave K. said on December 1, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    Unfortunately, this discussion reminds of an old rugby song, (Large quantities of alcohol required.)
    “Glory,glory John Wayne Gacy,
    There’s no room in his crawl spacey…”
    I really can’t go much further but you get the idea.

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  7. Jason said on December 1, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    One of the talk show hosts here in Pittsburgh (Doug Hoerth, if you must know) is fond of telling a story about working for a radio station in Florida in 1979.

    He was on the air when the news director burst into the studio and demanded to break into the program with a bulletin.

    The bulletin “sounder” came up — big, pompous news music — and the news director, as somber as a judge, intoned: “Famed clown Emmett Kelly is dead. More details at the top of the hour.”

    His excuse was that a lot of retired clowns live in Florida. Some of them apparently work in radio news departments.

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  8. joodyb said on December 1, 2006 at 3:01 pm

    don’t forget the flying pigs of cincinnati!

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  9. brian stouder said on December 1, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    The Mary Tyler Moore show had a very funny episode where Mary cannot stop laughing at Chuckles the Clown’s funeral (he had been mashed by an enraged elephant in a circus parade, or some such unfortunate event) – until the eulogist notices her barely restrained laughter and approvingly comments on it…causing Mary to burst into tears!

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  10. Jennifer said on December 1, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    I thought Chuckles was dressed as a peanut and the elephant tried to shell him…

    And David K.- I think you need to share more of the song.

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  11. Mitch Harper said on December 1, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    The rugby song would not be the only one about Rosalynn Carter’s favorite clown. You can sample this:,+Jr.

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  12. Joe Kobiela said on December 1, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    They have taken John Wayne Gacy and put him into prison.
    No longer will he fill up little johnny with his jizzem.
    and the tenents of his crawlspace they all lie against the wall
    and they never go out on Saturday night they never go out at all.
    You ever get down to O’sullivans during a Rugby party in the late 70 or early to mid 80’s????
    Joe K

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  13. Dave K. said on December 1, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    Re: John Wayne Gacy…Leave it to little brother Joe to fiil in the blanks! At least he didn’t publish the lyrics to “These Foolish Things”, “Rodriguez the Mexican Pervert”, or “MaryAnne Burns(The Queen of All Acrobats)”. Three cheers for the old Black and Blue!! FWRFC.

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  14. Joe Kobiela said on December 1, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    I still remember one of the lines from the mtm show
    A little song
    A little dance
    A little seltzer down the pants.
    Try utube that show is probley on there
    Joe K

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  15. Jennifer said on December 1, 2006 at 7:05 pm

    Joe K- I remember that song as well and say the lyrics often. 🙂 I think it’s one of those secret answers to the meaning of life…

    Thanks as well for the lyrics of the other song. My inner 12 yr-old, who seems to be at the controls today, needed them!

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  16. Marcia said on December 2, 2006 at 11:02 pm

    Ears of corn in Iowa? What, the Dublin, Ohio version isn’t good enough to warrant a mention?

    Anyway, clowns, ick. Where do I start.

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  17. Carter said on December 5, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    You can’t have a decent clown diss-cussion without paying homage to Dr. Demento and and Kinko the Clown. There’s even an Indianapolis mention in the sing-songy little ditty.

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