May 19, 2004

Seeing this webset made me think about, of course, clowns.  My mom was fascinated by clowns, one in particular.  His name was Emmett Kelly and he was with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.  We went to the circus a couple of times when it came to town.  It would be at the Owensboro Sports Center once in a while.  Emmett Kelly was supposedly one of the best clowns ever and was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame, as was, I noted, Red Skelton, who I adored.  I never thought of Red Skelton as a clown, but as I look back now, I can see it.  Emmett Kelly was a clown for 55 years.  He was also heavily into the Masons and Scottish Rite.  Somehow, I never really think about clowns having a life outside of the circus and especially not participating in venerated rites. 

Emmett Kelly Sr.How do you get to be the "best" clown?  I have to know this.  What differentiates an average clown from a truly great clown?  I remember Emmett Kelly used to do the "sweeping the spotlight" act where he takes a broom and chases the spotlight around on the floor.  It was entertaining, but I can't see getting all choked up about it.  I never found a bunch of guys getting out of a tiny car via a trap door under the stage all that funny, even as a child.  I guess I never really got the clown gig at all.  I know the make up is a form of artwork and that supposedly, a true clown has someone apply his makeup after he dies and he is buried that way.  I've also heard that no two clowns have the same makeup and that it is something of a trademark.  I also get the impression that not just the circus thing, but the clown thing is a culture in and of itself.  Maybe that's why I don't get it.  That's Emmett Kelly over there, by the way---->

Some people are afraid of clowns.  After my son, Joe, saw Poltergeist, he had a little clown terror going on for a while.  I imagine that was exactly what Spielberg was going for.  Thanks to that movie, clowns and trees were forever listed in the Scary Shit Hall of Fame.

They are scary enough that there is actually a therapy for Clown Phobia.  I know, I know, it's in the get the frig outta here department, but check it out.

Evidently, this is a serious problem.  But then, Eric once dated a girl who was terrified of balloons, not in that "don't you EVEN pop in my face, balloon, OK?" way but in that high pitched shrieking, "Oh My GOD get it AWAY FROM me" way that should only be reserved for hatchet killers, Martha Stewart and snakes.

Clowns are, by nature, liars anyway.  They paint on smiles when you know they are unhappy sometimes or else they paint on severely sad faces to make us feel all bad when you know sometimes they just had a particularly excellent day and aren't sad at all.  It's like they are manipulating our emotions.  And to what end?  Why would they want us to feel sorry and bad from them if they were having a good day?  Hell, a clown who is particularly good at it (and have we decided how that is rated yet?) probably has a summer home in Aspen and banks in triple digits upward and he wants to elicit that kind of "awww, poor clown" emotion out of me?  WTF?  Like I don't have enough to worry about and now this rich fake sad clown is trying to get me to shed a tear for his melancholy heart?  Stupid, manipulative clowns. 

And what sadistic ass decided that this was an appropriate toy for a little kid?  Anyone who has introduced one of these devilish devices to their young child knows good and well that the kid is going to be mesmerized by the plinky plunky music and just when they're starting to jam with it, KABAM!!!  A scary clown flies out of the box and scares a pile into their diapers while the parents laugh like mad.  Talk about your kid torture.  It takes weeks for a kid to warm up to this toy and even then, they cringe and brace themselves in terror when it gets to "thought 'twas all in fun" KABAM!

Did you know if you are a professional clown, you are supposed to have Clown Insurance?  Does State Farm carry that?  Are there different levels of Clown Insurance liability for what kind of clown you are?  Do scary, lying clowns have a higher premium because people might try to beat the shit out of them?  What kind of monthly payments would this guy have? 

Did you know there there is a website called  I didn't start it and am unaffiliated with it.  I wonder if they raised the Clown Insurance rates merely by their existence. is about people who are afraid of clowns.  This guy got busted by Larry Harmon Pictures Corporation for having a "No Bozo's" zone.  The webmaster had to take down his picture of Bozo the Clown and he was smited by the company for his "Anti-Clown" sentiments.

Willard Scott played Bozo for a while.

Captain Kangaroo was both Clarabelle the Clown (from Howdy Doody) and The Town Clown (from Captain Kangaroo). is a gallery of scary clowns.  The webmaster advises you to click on a clown, then stare at it until the horror really creeps up on you. Repeat until mad.

I loved the show "Chicago Hope," which like so many others, I never saw in prime time and only saw in syndicated reruns.  In one episode, Mandy Patinkin ("My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.") donned a Pierrot kind of clownwear and sang "I Dreamed A Dream" in a really freaky, creepy falsetto that scarred me for life. I was never able to look at Dr Jeffrey Geiger the same way againI was harmed, I tell you.

I mean yikes.  Pierrot and Harlequin are the scariest clowns ever.  It's like French kabuki.  These guys are ALWAYS sad and yes, we're supposed to worry about them because, alas!  They are tres' melancholy.  Well, whahhhh!  Eat some croissants laced with prozac and shut le hell up.

Shields and Yarnell are the only mimes that haven't pissed me off to the extreme. How ridiculous is it to create a whole career field around annoying people?  Mimes on stage can be interesting and entertaining, but the ones that follow you around and bug the crap out of you are perpetuating a tradition that should have been stomped out a long time ago.  When Opus from Bloom County beat a mime to death with a loaf of olive bread, it should have been justifiable homicide.  Shields and Yarnell were fun to watch.  They get a hall pass in the "clowns suck" school.  It probably helps that Robert Shields is gorgeous and Lorene Yarnell was totally inoffensive.  Robert Shields was also discovered by Marcelle Marceau and studied with him in Paris.  He's known as "San Francisco's Original Street Mime," which means he was the first one in SF to follow you around and bug the shit out of you.  What a bummer.

The breed of clowns for which I do have full respect are the rodeo clowns.  I'm not even a rodeo fan, but it's easy to see that not only are these guys hunky and studly, but they work their clown butts off while the riders get all of the glory!  All Hail Rodeo Clowns!!  They are FEARLESS!

When I was trying to figure out (for an hour) how to spell Pierrot, I, of course, contacted that bastion of cultural literacy, Kate, from "A Cynic Soaps Up."  She's likely the most educated friend I have and I knew she'd know.  I continued writing and as it turned out, Georgia found the spelling for me minutes before Kate signed onto AIM.  Still, Kate and I had a wonderful conversation, which included a fine story about mime harassment.  I'll include it here to let you into my world for a little while:

katrina: hi

kate: at your service

kate: what's up?

katrina: I was at a cultural dilemma point

katrina: but I finally figured it out

kate: ok

katrina: I tried for over an hour to come up with the word Pierott

kate: what was it if I may ask?

katrina: Pierrot rather

katrina: because I'm writing a journal on why clowns suck

kate: i hate clowns

kate: it's not that I hate clowns exactly

kate: I just donít "get" clowns

kate: never have

katrina: because it's stupid and you aren't

kate: thank you

kate: lol

katrina: no worries

katrina: let me know if you ever need for me to sort anything like that out for you again

katrina: I'll be more than happy to oblige

kate: i certainly will

kate: would you like to hear my mime story?

katrina: of course!

kate: i was in New Orleans on business

kate: had dinner with an author

kate: and we were walking around the French quarter afterwards

kate: taking business

kate: (she was doing the first book EVER published on AIDS)

kate: anyway I digress

kate: this asshole mime comes up

kate: and starts doing his "show" in front of us

kate: we smile politely and walk around him

kate: he freaking follows us

kate: and jumps in front of us and starts his crap again

kate: I explain politely

kate: that we are having a discussion

kate: he wont leave us alone

kate: hounds us for two blocks

kate: when I

kate: say "look you freak, I was polite

kate: I asked to be left alone

kate: and if you don't leave us alone the next time you try to

kate: speak it will be as a castrata"

kate: meanwhile my author

kate: has dug through her purse and pulled out her mace

kate: and threatens him

kate: lol

kate: it was hysterical

katrina: lol

katrina: I love it

kate: I never do stuff like that

katrina: can I use that?

kate: but he was invading our space

katrina: yeah!

kate: oh yes feel free

katrina: my point exactly!

kate: i mean geesh

kate: if you agree to go to the circus

kate: you accept that you will have to endure the clowns

katrina: absolutely

kate: but a person should be able to walk down the street clown-free

kate: oh and emmett kelly

katrina: especially after letting the clown know he's on thin ice

kate: i never understood the allure

kate: very thin ice

katrina: me either

katrina: Mom was mesmerized

kate: and you know I cut people a ton of slack

kate: but once i have been polite and you continue to be rude

katrina: yes, you are most generous *cough*erica*cough*

kate: the gloves are off

katrina: and who can blame you???

kate: btw the book was best seller

kate: for a health care book

katrina: did she mention the mime at all?

kate: c everett koop did the foreword

katrina: wow!!

katrina: can you imagine what it would be like to talk to C Everett Koop?

kate: no, but she did thank me profusely in the credits for making the book possible

kate: i had dinner with him

katrina: NO

katrina: WAY!

katrina: Thou Art Goddess

kate: yep to celebrate publishing the book

katrina: Amazing

kate: people tend to think science publishing is boring

kate: but I got to meet a lot of interesting people

katrina: I mean, mustn't that guy know anything about everything?

katrina: It's a wonder his head doesn't explode

kate: yes, but he is very modest almost shy

kate: i have found that most truly successful smart people are modest

katrina: That's why people like myself are never Surgeon General.  "LISTEN TO ME!  LISTEN TO ME!  I KNOW EVERYTHING!"

katrina: hmmmm

kate: especially in the sciences

katrina: I am doomed to failure, for I am totally immodest

kate: because of the same book I also had dinner with morgan fairchild

katrina: in the sciences, anyway

kate: which is not quite as impressive I know

katrina: OK, what's wrong with that picture?

katrina: she doesn't strike me as the science type

kate: she was one of the first celebrities to be an activist for people with AIDS

katrina: I see

kate: she's pretty smart and very well read

katrina: interesting!

kate: i want to know

kate: who started this clown thing?

kate: was there a clown lobby?

kate: that shields guy is now an artist in sedona and runs a gallery there

kate: i saw him on some hgtv show a few years ago

katrina: is he gay?

kate: he was even creepier in real life

katrina: you are such a remarkable gaydar

kate: why thank you

katrina: but he looks so yummy!

kate: although sometimes I am off

kate: but creepy

kate: I mean really creepy

katrina: I mistakenly thought he and Lorene were married

katrina: but there is no mention of it in the bio.  Just that they are still partnered professionally

katrina: which led me to wonder

kate: wasnt he married to his partner?

katrina: I thought so

katrina: but it's very carefully worded in all of the bios I've found on him

kate: I remember an article in people a billion years ago

kate: that they had a "mime" wedding in sf

katrina: ah!

katrina: interesting!

katrina: thank you

katrina: did you hear about the interviewer who asked Karen and David Carpenter where they first met?

kate: omg

kate: in a gay bar of course

katrina: and when I was in ENGLAND mind you

katrina: (LOL)

katrina: someone called into an interview with Paul McCartney and asked if it was true that he was in another group before "Wings"

katrina: Barry Took was doing the interview

katrina: and I thought he was going to choke

katrina: PM was most gracious

kate: it us amazing what people DON'T know

katrina: the caller was a teen, so it made sense in a way

katrina: but still

kate: especially in england

katrina: Another interviewer in England kept calling Liza Minelli "Judy"

kate: and clown college?

kate: what the hell is up with that?

kate: the thing is when you tell people you donít like clowns

katrina: and did you ever see Mandy Mantinkin in Piorret-wear?  singing falsetto "I Dreamed a Dream?"

kate: they assume you are afraid of them

katrina: screaming nightmares

katrina: EXACTLY!

katrina: there is a difference in fear and repulsion

kate: did you ever see rudy galindo in his skating peirrot costume?

kate: or ennui

katrina: no but I'm frightened just thinking about it

kate: to me clowns are not interesting enough to inspire fear

katrina: disdain?

kate: that could be the word

kate: although people who love clowns

kate: are a bit frightening

katrina: how about the clown collectors?  *shudder*

kate: clown placemats

kate: towels

kate: ashtrays

kate: plates

katrina: yeeks

katrina: on the I Hate Clowns site, there is a quote, "Take care and aim for the nose."

kate: lol

katrina: and the big shoes

katrina: phallic exaggeration, much?

kate: just a little

katrina: and to emulate gin blossoms on their noses?

kate: and all those clowns in the tiny car?

katrina: a birthing nightmare

kate: it's a world i do not understand

kate: and donít care to

katrina: nor I, my friend

kate: someone once told me that

kate: because I am so cynical I miss out on so many wonderful things

kate: in life

kate: this person collects clowns

katrina: ARE so many wonderful things in life!

katrina: there you go

kate: if I am missing out on the wonder of clowns-so be it!

katrina: do you regret missing the bountiful joy of clown collecting?

kate: thankfully there is therapy which has helped me through

kate: lol

katrina: I'll bet if you trade in your cynicism, a UPS truck will pull up to your apartment and gift you with boxes and boxes of clown paraphernalia

kate: probably and the Marie Osmond doll collection, too

Then we went on to discuss her mother's statue of Jesus with replaceable thorns and the fundamentals of soap watching psychology. 

And with that, I'm outta here.

Stupid clowns.


Much love,

PS:  The house sale closed YESTERDAY, so as far as I know, it's over.  Whew.  Thanks for all of the support!