I was talking with some friends the other evening. The discussion turned to a debate over which is scarier: snakes or spiders. I am not thrilled with either but given the option I would say small spiders are okay...as long as I can squish them with my shoe. Jumping spiders are OUT. Snakes, are not that bad as long as I don't have to remove them from my toilet, kitchen or car. It is nearly impossible to squish a snake with a size nine shoe. However, we all decided that there is one thing even scarier than spiders or snakes. Please keep in mind, there was a member of law enforcement, a fire fighter, a former ER nurse and a mother of two teenage boys. We are not easily scared.
Except by clowns.
So, as it is officially summer and summer is the time of reruns and parades in which Clowns are a staple, I present to you...
|See the woods behind the post? That is where they will find your body...|
Could someone tell me – just when did clowns become scary? You mention 'clowns' to any adult I know and they turn pale, wring their hands and change the subject faster than a Congressman at a press conference.
I use to love clowns. The clowns I knew growing up were the happy, non-threatening variety. Red Skelton's Clem Kadiddlehopper, Captain Kangaroo's Town Clown and the grandfather clown of them all – Emmett Kelley. These clowns were loveable bums just trying to get by. They stumbled through my favorite television broadcasts trying to solve problems in their bumbling mute manor. I could relate to their clumsiness in the way that only a middle schooler who tripped over the vault horse could. I just wanted to give them a big hug.
And I guess, this is where the notion of scary began to evolve. As an adult I wonder, why would anyone in their right mind want to hug a grown man wearing all that makeup and baggy clothes? There is no doubt that these clowns smelled – most likely of 40 ounce malt liquor. It is now obvious that all three were probably members of some hobo-fueled street gang whose weapon of choice was disarming charm. Their gang sign was the pantomime for a train whistle and they most likely had tattoos of the various balloon animals they created.
I look at the clowns that my children watched growing up: Ronald McDonald and Bozo. One is trying to kill everyone with 'happy' meals full of artery clogging fat. Never mind that his organization provides housing for sick kids and their families. You scrape away all that goodie-two shoes stuff and you have a modern day Hansel and Gretel Witch luring children to his french fry play place.
And then there is Bozo. It was while watching Bozo's Circus that I began to notice the subtext, behind the makeup, the poorly masked disdain for all those screaming kids. He would call strange children down from the audience and on local cable television ask them to play with his balls in exchange for 'a surprise'. Really?
Driving home from work a while back I noticed a sign stapled to a telephone pole. In dripping blood red text it advertised Clowns...and more!! WHAT! From the shaky penmanship the sign looked to be the work of some demented mental patient who recently absconded from his cushy padded cell. I have no doubt that the poor mom who answered that ad thinking she was adding a touch of whimsy to her three-year-old's birthday would wind up buried in the woods beyond the post. Thinking it was just me, I mentioned the sign to a number of people and the reaction was the same: shocked speechlessness followed by talk of happy places and hiding under their beds.
As an adult, the clown, just seems to be the embodiment of all we teach our children to beware of. Grown adults masking their true selves behind makeup dressed in intentionally deceptive big shoes; they are obviously up to no good. Stephen King used a clown as the consummate image of evil in the book "It". John Wayne Gacy painted picture upon picture of clowns...and we all know how well he turned out. Yet we insist on inviting clowns to birthday parties and allow them to fill the gaps between floats in parades. They stroll the pavement at fairs with their squeaky balloon animals and offer 'whiffs' from their squirty lapel pin flowers. In fact, at a recent event I saw an entire busload of 'Clowns for Jesus'. I am pretty sure Our Lord would not have the following He has now if He wandered the roads of Jerusalem in face paint and asked lepers to 'honk my nose' for salvation.
And think about it. The word 'clown' is never used in a flattering manner. You have 'clown' pants and 'class clown' . If a woman wears too much make-up she looks like a 'clown'. Face it- when was the last time you called someone a 'clown' and meant it in a complimentary manner?
As a child, I had no idea of the scary crap waiting for me in the big wide world. But now, after years spent working in hospital emergency departments and surgical venues, years spent raising children while married to a member of law enforcement, very few things truly scare me. But I must admit, outside of Sock Monkeys, clowns are number one.
I have no doubt that those practicing the art of Clowning will take exception to my thoughts. And that is fine. Just pack yourselves into that tiny little car that miraculously seats seventy-five and keep on driving. With any luck you'll do us all a favor and run over a pack of SockMonkeys on your way back to where ever it is that you keep those giant shoes.
(first posted 03.23.2011 The Clowns! sign disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared. I had nothing to do with it. Really.)
(My apologies to the person who posted that sign...oh, who am I kidding. Clowns are just plain scary. If you are crazy enough to post your phone number on a sign advertising clowns you are asking for trouble.)