Although I laugh and I act like a clown;
Beneath this mask I am wearing a frown.
-The Beatles “I’m a Loser”
It has been a bad time for clowns – you know the kind with the floppy big shoes, the colorful baggy clothing, the makeup on the face, and the requisite bubble nose? With apologies to the great Cole Porter, all the world does not love a clown; in fact, it would seem clowns are on the most wanted list now thanks to what has been dubbed as “sinister clown sightings” all over the country.
My own history with clowns is that I have never liked them; the real truth is that I have been scared silly of the pernicious pranksters most of my life. When I was a little kid (not sure if I was four or five but not much more than that), my parents brought me to the circus. I remember being in the Big Top and watching the elephants march, and there were these annoying clowns running around with big horns making noise, and I wanted to see the elephants – magnificent beasts that were simply ignoring those dastardly jokers.
Later on my father took me to get a hotdog, and as we were standing on a long line I saw a clown in the corner sitting on an overturned crate. He was a rather ubiquitous looking clown at first, but then he took off his big hat, and I saw streaks of sweat running through his makeup. He stared at me with an expression that still chills me, took a big candy bar from his pocket, curled his white gloved index finger, and motioned for me to come over to him.
I shook my head negatively and he kept nodding his head insidiously and moving that finger, and I looked up at my Dad and grabbed his hand. When I glanced back in the direction of the clown, he was gone, but he had left the candy bar on top of the crate where he had been sitting.
Now perhaps my youthful imagination got the best of me – no way; that clown had the most evil expression I have ever seen. Since then all clowns have given me the creeps. Other kids watched Bozo the Clown on TV, but he scared the crap out of me. The legendary Emmett Kelly, the Joker in the Batman TV series, and just about any other garden variety clown made me want to jump out of my skin.
I am certain that there are good clowns out there somewhere; you know, the ones that dress up and go to birthday parties – I just do not want to have anything to do with them. When my kids were little, the last thing I wanted to do was have a clown come to our house for their parties. Now, I don’t want to put my (irrational?) fears into the kids, but truthfully without me even saying anything they haven’t liked clowns either.
My son when glimpsing a supposedly benevolent female clown in an episode of the Disney TV animated series Jo-Jo’s Circus said, “This show is weird,” and (sigh of relief) I never had to sit through that uncomfortable experience again; however, when the kids are hungry and I am occasionally forced into an obligatory trip to McDonald’s, I have to turn away from any images of that smiling rogue Ronald McDonald like a vampire from a cross, or I’m unable to eat even a single French fry.
Because of people like me – and now I am convinced there are more of us than ever – there is even an advocacy movement starting now. Clown Lives Matter is this group of clowns that is out to prove to the general public that clowns are basically good people dressed up in costume and wanting to bring joy to children and adults. While I understand there are good clowns out there in theory, I just can’t embrace it completely enough to put myself into situations where clowns could be present.
All of the reports from across the country about menacing clowns have not helped matters. We have heard from police departments warning citizens “Do not shoot the clowns.” Of course, when you get a story like the one in the NYC subway station where a clown chased someone with a knife, you can imagine a menacing clown like that eventually becoming a target.
My kids have asked if they should be worried or on the lookout for clowns. Trying to calm their fears (while I scan the vicinity for those costumed clods) I said that the police are taking care of it, but I wonder how many rogue clowns are out there waiting in the wings – and the woods, alleyways, and streets to scare the bejeezus out of people.
With Halloween quickly approaching, it should be no surprise that some police departments are warning citizens not to buy clown costumes, which is like telling a kid not to touch the cookie jar. I have no doubt that many people are going to go out to buy all the necessary items in order to make themselves into the ugliest, scariest incarnations of clowns imaginable. To say I am dreading Halloween this year is most definitely an understatement.
In the end you have to wonder about these people who have been dressing up like clowns and lurking in the shadows. Is it to get a vicarious thrill in scaring people? Or maybe they are not playing with a full deck, but it really doesn’t matter. Either way the joke is on us all for giving them so much publicity.
Now excuse me, but I have decided to face my fears and force myself to watch the movie Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Since no one else in the family wants to watch this film with me (they are all pretty much clown phobic now), I am going into the basement alone for my viewing. I am leaving the lights on and may not last ten minutes, but at least I am trying to face my fears, but I’m keeping my Louisville Slugger next to the chair just in case.