Friday, March 30, 2018

Clowns Just Want Some Love; Fear, Dislike, and a Catalina Island Memory

It’s the worst time in history to be a clown. They just want you to love them again. - The Washington Post: “There’s no secret that clowning is taking a hit. It’s not something new,” former Ringling clown and International Clown Hall of Fame founder Greg DeSanto offered in his keynote address to the 36th annual convention, a tribute to Ringling Bros. “The kitsch thing to say is ‘I’m afraid of clowns.’ What do you think I’m going to do? Make you laugh?”
Washington Post reports on the current reputation of clowns. (thanks to Tim Binnall for tweeting about this article.)

Clowns go back a long way in human culture. Humans dressed to stand out, and act out, in ways we can't during our mundane existence. Already an inversion -- and the darker, creepier side of clowning is just another inversion. Everything has a dark side.

I disagree with Clown Hall of Fame founder Greg DeSanto, who is quoted above -- that it is "kitsch" to say one is afraid of clowns. I'm not afraid of clowns. (Unless, of course, a scary psycho murdering clown along the lines of American Horror pops up in my bedroom at three a.m.) I don't like clowns. There's a difference.

I understand the idea behind clowns, it's just that I find the whole thing forced, and there's a hint of frenetic sleazy shenanigans surrounding everything I can't get past. I find clowns suspicious.

There's always been the darker side, from the chain smoking surly malcontent hanging out by the tent in his long underwear and streaky clown face, to the above mentioned serial killer clown.

However, my husband and I both remember Cappy the Clown. (Jim Natarno.) My husband's brother worked for him for a short time. Cappy was a good person, who had a sad childhood in some ways.  My memories of Cappy are good ones; as a child, we were entertained by him on the boat ride to Catalina Island. I wasn't afraid then, nor had dislike. Or suspicion. (Here's a nice memory of the same boat to Catalina, and Cappy. While the author doesn't have a particularly good memory of Cappy, it's still a nice piece.)

My personal feelings towards clowns now probably come from a lot of sources. My father's memories of being in the Tom Mix circus were not pleasant ones. I've had literal run-ins with rude, harassing clowns. (Maybe because it's just Eugene, who knows.)  I don't like circuses -- or zoos -- it seems weird to me that we're supposed to find something funny while you hear the roaring of captive big cats
in the background.

Clowning takes on different aspects; people dress up as something other, representing exaggeration, humor, absurdity. Liberating at times, scary at others. Often little kids are terrified of a costumed human acting silly and crazy around them.

Everything has its other side. The dark and secret shadow that is always there. Clowns aren't any different.

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