Bummer Reality

BY: Frater Bovious

“When is a clown not a clown?”
“When is a clown a person and not a construct?”

(CARROLLTON, TX – Cradle of Civilization) The topic of clowns was addressed in another blogger’s post titled “This will explain much”. In the post, clowns famous and infamous were noted, and the question asked, “Fear of clowns?”

My daughter is afraid of clowns. As an evil dad, I once slid this picture under her bedroom door when she was 13 or 14:

Actually, I had blown up the image and cropped to just that thing there with the weird eyes. This was the cover of a book written by Theodore Sturgeon titled, The Synthetic Man. And the opening line was something like, “Horty was eating ants.” Naturally, at the age of 10 or 12, the whole thing was irresistible. “A synthetic man?” I had to look up synthetic. “Horty?” “Eating ants?” I was seduced.

When I slid it under the door, my daughter emoted, “Daddy, that’s not funny.” I of course laughed hysterically. Perhaps maniacally.

The story’s original title was The Dreaming Jewels, and it was published in Fantastic Adventures, with this image:

What is common to both is the jewels. The eyes of that clown thing, and the jewels being held up by that woman. Both images, and both titles, are actually related to the story. I leave it to the reader to decide which one is more disturbing. Did you notice the grotesque images in the background of both covers? That’s part of the story too.

My daughter’s clown phobia has at least two external focal points – It, by Stephen King, and Killer Clowns From Outerspace, a movie she watched at a friend’s house and which she found horribly frightening.

Now, I watched Bozo the Clown and Hobo Kelley as a kid. The first everyone probably knows, the second may have been local to where I lived in California. Suffice to say, they were not in the least frightening.

But they were examples of the two species of clown.

Bozo wore outlandish colorful clothes, with exaggerated red hair and giant floppy shoes. Hobo Kelly was, well, a hobo. Also female, which struck me as odd as a kid. Hobos or bums were men. A woman hobo, well, that just didn’t seem right. I guess she fell through the glass floor to equality…

There are commonalities to both species of clown: exaggerated make up and red noses. Red hair seems pretty common as well. And clowns are frequently depicted as either irrationally happy and surprised, perhaps insane, or as terminally sad and some will have tears painted on their faces. And the red nose, a sign of alcoholism?

I remember kids in grade school poking fun at someone with shabby clothes. This whole clown thing seems to have some root in making fun of the less fortunate. Drunk bums are something to point at and laugh. This seems to have been merged in some way with the idea of the court jester, or fool (or retard?). Perhaps this is where the two strains of clown come from. I can’t help but think about how kids would laugh at the mentally retarded. Something inside us that needs to feel better about ourselves else makes us be horrible to the less fortunate.

And yet, the first time I accidentally came across a hobo, it was scary. And funny.

One night when I was about 18 my friend and I saw what we thought was an abandoned wheel chair in the service alley behind a strip shopping center. We thought it would be cool to have a wheel chair we could roll each other around in. So, we went to rescue the chair from it’s state of abandonment. But just as we were about to grab the chair, we realized what we thought were just some old clothes on the seat were in fact a legless man, sleeping. For some reason it scared us, and we ran like scalded cats back to our car. Startled, yet laughing. The people in the car waiting for us were like, “What?!” “He has no legs!” “What?! Who??” “Go, go go.”

We found the whole thing frightening and funny. But what, exactly, was funny about a homeless legless man in an alley at 1 in the morning? We entertained ourselves with images of dumping this guy out of the wheel chair, and him coming after us. We laughed for quite a while.

What were we laughing at? Our escape from gruesome death by a legless maniac? Or just the absurdity of it all? Probably both.

In “real life” there are no clowns. They are synthetic people, an amalgam of several different things, the poor, the hungry, the mentally deficient, the criminal. Objects of derision. We make fun of the things that scare us. Things like being homeless. Or psychotic.

I can’t get that song out of my head right now, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers…”

Who was that guy in the wheel chair? What is his story? Was he Jesus?

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6 Responses to CLOWNS FOR CHRIST

  1. Relax... says:

    Well said, but gosh darn, you may’ve just rattled my love of clowns!! I never looked any deeper at them than as their being some of the lesser healers of mankind. I.e., who decides to be a clown or act the fool, if not expressly to redeem some of our worlds’ darkness by opening the psychic diaphragm so that we laugh on the inside, too?

  2. Relax... says:

    I KNEW it. Clowns are a Catholic thing! Yay!

  3. Dan Taylor says:

    I enjoyed the post, but the song “Send in the Clowns” is morbidly going through my head.

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