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Question of the Week: Clown

by Susan Henderson on January 14, 2008

Do you have a memory involving a clown? I want to hear it.

*

Wednesday, Lance will interview Monica Drake, the author of CLOWN GIRL. And P.S., he’s also going to do Friday’s Weekly Wrap because he has some news to share!

{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

djtuffpuppy January 13, 2008 at 11:41 pm

I was raised in a family where my Dad managed a McDonalds. My toy boxes were filled with Happy Meal toys featuring Ronald McDonald. My personal favorite was Grimace who I think promoted Milkshakes. Also, Fry kids. Creepy.

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lance_reynald January 13, 2008 at 11:49 pm

for about a year I constantly told my Dad I was going to end up here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ringling_Bros._and_Barnum_%26_Bailey_Clown_College
I also took to wearing big shoes and golf pants with the pockets filled with thin balloons…
I thought myself very buster keaton…
guess who ended up in therapy?

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Nathalie January 14, 2008 at 2:42 am

Not old memories. I never even saw a circus before going to see Cirque du Soleil for the first time 6 or 7 years ago. I am not terribly fond of traditional clowns (I did saw a few on TV, back in the days when I had access to one) but I quite liked the ones at Cirque du Soleil, their play on absurdity was quite endearing.

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aimeepalooza January 14, 2008 at 8:38 am

No real memory of a clown. Well, except that I never thought they were funny and I just didn’t get them. Actually I remember being at a birthday party with a clown and thinking, “gross.” She had big feet, bad makeup and ugly hair. I also thought she was really fat because of the way her pants were made. I couldn’t believe she would leave the house looking that way. I was more a princess girl than a clown girl.

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Kimberly January 14, 2008 at 9:17 am

My story isn’t about clowns, per se, but an embarrassingly insensitive and immature moment of my life.

Years ago, a colleague told me about her fear of clowns: not just scary Stephen King / Poltergeist clowns, but ANY clowns. I just couldn’t comprehend that kind of irrational (to me) fear and as a joke, on her birthday, I got a bunch of completely innocent (to me) children’s clown-themed decorations, thinking I would show her the friendlier side of clowns, and decorated our shared office with streamers, party hats, cake plates, napkins – the works.

That was the first time I actually saw someone’s heart stop.

Not my proudest moment, to be sure.

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Aurelio January 14, 2008 at 10:21 am

Informational bit: Ringling College has become one of the best animation schools in the world. No kidding!

So is your news that you finally joined up?? (If so, I want a balloon animal.)

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Aurelio January 14, 2008 at 10:32 am

Hmm, I have no clown story. We never went to a circus, and we had too many kids in the family for my folks to ever spring for anything as extravagant as a birthday clown.

Oh wait! I have a slightly related story…

When I was in high school, everyone cool had long hair, so I decided I’d join in, but my hair is quite curly. It doesn’t get long, just big. I wore big hair for a couple of years, thinking, while I was not quite cool I could pass for cool in a pinch.

I finally got sick of it and it short again. When one of my friends saw me, he said, “Oh good, you cut your hair. Now you don’t look like Bozo the Clown.”

Two years I wore a clown suit and didn’t even know it. (I wonder if I actually scared anybody?)

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robinslick January 14, 2008 at 11:47 am

I don’t have a clown memory other than I always thought they were in the same food chain as mimes.

If I see one, I cross the street to get away from them.

Happy peppy people scare me.

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Nathalie January 14, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Some shock therapy! Did she ever explained why she was so scared?

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Heather_Fowler January 14, 2008 at 1:10 pm

I once bought an impressionist painting at a gas station corner art sale with $5.00. It happened to be a clown, but what I liked about it was the evocative nature of this clown, the tear (singular) falling down the face of my pastel and muted friend. My family, loving to find a fixation, then felt I was “into” clowns. For years, I got presents of clowns. I hated most of them. Most memorable was this enormous yarn clown that was bought at some church craft fair and you were to hang it from your ceiling since it sat on a round hoop. It had a white plastic face. It scared me a bit, but was so believed to have enchanted me, I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. At the time, as well, I had parakeets–budgies. These I would sometimes take out to hold and sometimes they would fly free. It was difficult to catch them. The other thing was, they gravitated toward the hoop with the big clown and landed there, inches from the ceiling, where I had to take a long object and gently nudge them off that perch. They always shit on the clown’s head, but since no one could see the clown’s head, I feared this was not enough reason to get rid of the clown. I developed an alternate collection of french masks and finally got all the clown stuff out of my room–but the french masks were something I could get my family to think I was into without hurting their feelings about the 2 year clown gifting that I had never embraced. I like clowns–in the circus–but not as decor. There is one exception: My best friend’s mother once made me a beautiful french clown, which I have in my red bathroom to this day. I also like the song, “Send in the Clowns.” I also like clowning around. But please, no yarn, no birdshit, no hoop, no scary white masks. This is a reasonable request, right? 🙂

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lorioliva January 14, 2008 at 1:27 pm

What I do remember about clowns is watching Bozo with my sister on the living room floor as we were children. She even had the same Bozo as the picture above. We loved watching Bozo…which gave our mother a little reprieve once in a while!

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EkEkEkEk07 January 14, 2008 at 1:49 pm

my friend had a clown at his ninth birthday party. the clown was mean, and i didn’t like him because he didn’t have a round nose. he just painted a red dot on the tip. he played simon says with us and made a balloon animal for danny, the birthday boy, but didn’t bring enough for the rest of us. we walked him to his car and he lit a cigarette. i asked him if he’d show up at my party and he said i’m too old for clowns. he yelled at us for talking too much and said, “can you just let me get the hell out of here?”

i worked at a camp in florida and disney characters would come to breakfast once each week. one morning, they brought in the clowns instead of mickey and minnie. it was very moving to watch the kids play with the clowns. they were very good clowns with round noses that were red and squeeked.

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Kimberly January 14, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Nope – hated ’em so much, she wouldn’t even tell me why.

Damn, I feel badly about that.

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Lac D. Su January 14, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Are Santa’s considered clowns? If so, I’ve seen a few of them in my days and they are the funniest when they’re drunk! Scary too.

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lance_reynald January 14, 2008 at 2:16 pm

your mention of paintings brought this to mind:

http://www.amazon.com/Clown-Paintings-Diane-Keaton/dp/1576871487

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lance_reynald January 14, 2008 at 2:17 pm

send in the clowns, eh?

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Juliet January 14, 2008 at 2:17 pm

The only live-clown I’d seen was in a burlesque show. She was lovely. However, my ex husband had a number of porcelain clown dolls which he kept in a glass cabinet. I had the bejeebers scared out of me one night coming home tipsy and walking into a dark room with the streetlights shining on a clown who was wrapped in chains. The doll was supposed to convey the clown’s struggle with his inner torment, however, all it did was convey terror at that time.
Since then, I avoid clowns like mad.

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Heather_Fowler January 14, 2008 at 3:07 pm

I would like a balloon crown and a pair of balloon fairy wings, please. 🙂

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass January 14, 2008 at 3:12 pm

I have hazy memories of my imaginary friend, who was a clown. Toward the end of our friendship he turned mean and would make faces at me. I don’t think he wanted to go away.

I haven’t liked clowns since.

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David Niall Wilson January 14, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Sort of a very odd memory involving clowns. I have a friend, author Wayne Allen Sallee, who actually corresponded with John Wayne Gacy while he was in prison. He also attended the execution, trying to come to some understanding of how a man could be what Gacy was … anyway, I wrote a story titled “Wayne’s World,” where another man – dressed as a clown, like Gacy used to do for the Jaycees, waiting outside…also insane…believing that if he tried hard enough, right at the moment of Gacy’s death, he could step in and take over Gacy’s world.

Years later, Wayne told me why my story creeped him out so much…and I had no idea of this when I wrote it. Apparently there was a guy dressed as a clown at that execution, and he seemed very much as if he might be stalking Wayne…very creepy guy. Sometimes it is just a little TOO real…

DNW

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Erin January 14, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Once I had the pleasure of meeting a very strange couple who both happened to be little people. We had life-changing conversations together like “the difference between midgets and dwarfs”. The couple had three sons who had all long since grown and left the nest. Well, two of them had grown and left, the youngest had grown as much as a midget grows and then he left too (I say midget because the couple used the term themselves). So this one day when I was making a visit to Mrs. Midget, she had me cue the VCR. She wanted me to see a documentary that was done on her son – the little son. I guess he had a horrible time growing up as a this type of minority so as soon as he turned 18 he ran out and joined the circus. I thought this was cool because how many people do you know who really go out and join the circus? I know, right? Well, he did. Then one day, some network decided to do an entire hour long documentary on circus clowns and Mrs. Midget’s son was their number one feature. It was kind of cute to see how proud Mrs. Midget was of her son, but also a little unnerving for some reason. Anyway, I learned in the documentary that the circus put him through clown school where he was taught that each clown had to have a unique name and face. I can’t remember what name he chose for himself, but I remember he was a sad-faced clown. I never realized that no two clowns are alike; at least not professional clowns. Did anyone else know this? Also, the circus is very welcoming of little people. Mrs. Midget’s son said that he had never been happier than he was when he was traveling with the circus. The circus had become his family. You could say this is all very stereotypical, but if you ask me, stereotypes exist for a reason…

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Deidre January 14, 2008 at 4:12 pm

My poor brother hates clowns. When he was little, between ages 2 and 8, he had a clown picture on his bedroom wall. My parents thought it was really pretty, but it was a seriously scary looking clown. When he was old enough to reach it, my brother would turn the picture around to face the wall. So now, being the loving big sister that I am, I have to give him fits about it. I made him a scrapbook page of clown “stuff”. One of the pictures on it said, “Can’t sleep, clowns will eat me.”

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chuckles January 14, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Clowns were not really part of the landscape in my childhood but I did have a variety of Bozo the Clown paraphernalia, most notably a bop-doll which was the only thing I was pemitted to punch the bejezus out of. But my favorite Bozo item was a book, my first favorite book, called “Too Many Bozos” by Lillian Moore, about a boy who shared my name and who yearned for a dog to name Bozo. He eventually got his wish, and I, too, eventually got a dog to name Bozo – a sweet little female terrier mutt. From then on, all bozo-ing was an attenuated homage to my quadipedal buddy. To this day I’m a bit offended by anyone using the appellation “bozo” disparagingly. But to her credit, the good ol’ girl never did put on a particolored tutu and prosthetic nosehorn and try to douse me with a bucket of confetti. Then again, considering her actual dousing propensities on the green shag rug of my childhood bedroom, maybe that would have been an improvement.

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Heather_Fowler January 14, 2008 at 7:03 pm

My clown painting was very sedate. 😉 It was a sad clown. After hours clown. Oh, and I forgot, love the song “Tears of A Clown.”

xo, 🙂
H

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Heather_Fowler January 14, 2008 at 7:06 pm

P.S. Maybe, then, it is happy clowns that most often freak me out. Kind of like a Wet Seal Regional Manager I knew once when I worked retail in high school… She wore no clown make up, but that smile–it was creepy. In fact, all people that seem too happy can seem creepy… Like cultists. Oh, but wait, we were talking about clowns… Ha! Sorry, starting to freak myself out for a second…. LOL~!

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SusanHenderson January 14, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Hey, all you lovelies, I see your comments in all the different threads and will respond to everyone tomorrow. Doing lots of emotional work as I start Round 2 of the book edits, so be patient with me. Also, thank you for being here!

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Monica January 14, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Nice to see all the comments, the conversations! Clowns are intense things–or would that be people?
I like the comment about having years of long hair, looking like Bozo…Don’t we all have our “clown years,” when we look back? Man, I remember when I had those big 1980’s Sally Jesse Rapheal kind of prescription glasses, and then the shoulder pads, and sometimes I’d put on a jacket with shoulder pads over a mock turtle neck with shoulder pads, and it seemed stylish at the time, but I weighed next to nothing, a stick hidden under a mound of shoulder pads. That’s a clown suit.

There’s a really lovely movie out on DVD called “When the Sea Rises,” about an older (middle aged? I always hate that term, but that’s about it) woman who works as a traveling performer of sorts. She’s a contemporary French variation on a clown. It’s terrific.
-Monica

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Sarah January 15, 2008 at 12:39 am

Kimberly, I think that was me!

I am terrified of clowns, can’t speak about them. They are the creepiest children’s invention EVER. Hands down. Clowns are too, too creepy for me to even stay long on this site today. Eek. Let’s just say poltergeist only begins to cover it. I’m hyperventilating while I’m writing about it and looking at that creepy, creepy image on the Park!

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Kimberly January 15, 2008 at 9:07 am

Sorry ’bout that, Sarah! (Sheesh! Talk about latent guilt…)

Oh, and a moment of shameless self-promotion. my new short film got it’s first festival acceptance! For all of you in the Greater Chicagoland area, I hope you’ll come out and play!

(I don’t want to hijack this thread, so feel free to visit that link above for all the details! Or leave me a note on my blog to let me know you’re coming!)

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Kimberly January 15, 2008 at 9:12 am

Isn’t that fascinating? After years on the film festival circuit, I have seen more short films about clowns-as-imaginary-friends-who-leave-them than any other single subject. No kidding, I can remember seeing at least seven different ones, from various countries around the world.

Kinda makes me wonder what that’s all about.

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Heather_Fowler January 15, 2008 at 9:31 am

That is devastating! One should be able to count on one’s imaginary friends for unconditional love and a smile. I always wanted an imaginary friend. Odd, with the magical realism I do, that I could never come up with one I could believe in. I’m sorry your clown went all Chucky on you, Carolyn. Hugs!! H

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Erin January 15, 2008 at 11:01 am

what is this? i’ll be in chicago the 18th – 23rd. i’ll be staying in downers grove but i’ll be all over the city and i have a car, so i can go pretty much anywhere. i assume the details are on your blog, but if you get a chance will you email me the info?
erin.packham@rxamerica.com
(sorry, i know you didn’t mean to “hijack” the thread but i can’t visit your blog cuz i’m on my work computer and they block any url with “blog” in the mix.)

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Kimberly January 15, 2008 at 11:25 am

The film will be screening at some point during the weekend of Feb 29 – March 2. (Specific dates/times still TBA)

I hope you can make it! 🙂

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cungena54 January 15, 2008 at 12:17 pm

I have always loved clowns .and had the chance once to see the famous Russion clown Popov.he was a genius! just to look at his face made me laugh.and somethimes when I´m sad I try to picture him which does bring a smile to my face.
Once when visiting the US I went to the Circus Museum at Baraboo in Wisconsin and here they have a wonderful exhibition of not only their famous artists (Ringling Brothers Circus)but some great potraits of clowns .

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Noria January 15, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Wavy Gravy–clown/activist/ice-cream flavor–was a fixture of my childhood. I went to school with his son and some of the other kids who lived at the Hog Farm commune. I also attended the summer camp Wavy Gravy directed, Camp Winnarainbow. He had rainbow-colored false teeth.

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 7:42 pm

The fry guys were creepy. Look what you could have done with all those toys!

http://thorndon.co.nz/mcdonaldstoys1995.shtml

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Hee. That is an awesome story. Better go in the new book!

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 7:46 pm

I’d like to see Cirque du Soleil.

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Yeah, I’ve never met a clown that made me laugh.

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Ha! Oh no. Please don’t do that with me and snakes! (“Look, they’re just the cute skinny ones with no poison in them!”)

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 7:49 pm

Awww. And who thought I could like you more than I already do!

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 7:55 pm

I think I’ll drop my clown memory into Robin’s thread. When I was a kid, I was scared to death of going to the basement, and one reason for this was a bright pink Picasso painting of a clown/harlequin that was nailed right onto the concrete wall. There was this long flight of wooden stairs with no backs to them, leading to the basement, and inevitably, about halfway down, the dehumidifier would kick on. The clown watched you the whole way down the stairs.

Now, weird kid that I was, I would make up little scenarios, like: If you breathe in at any point while in the basement, the clown will enter your body; or if you don’t go all the way to the bottom stair and back up (not breathing), you’ll go to hell. I’m the same with snakes. I’m absolutely terrified to the point of hyperventilating. And yet… who is the very first person to poke one with a stick?

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 7:59 pm

That is so funny when people decide you are now “into” something, and then you’re swamped! (What is a Wet Seal Regional Manager??!)

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 7:59 pm

A happy clown story!

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:02 pm

Very funny about the round noses.

Do you guys remember the party clown / pony party scenes from Lucy Grealy’s memoir? Love that book!

http://www.amazon.com/Autobiography-Face-Lucy-Grealy/dp/006097673X

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Lac! You’re here!

And since Lance has seen more Santas in his lifetime than anyone here, I think I’ll let him answer your question.

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Your story is enough to give me clown phobia.

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Oh. My. God. Carolyn, start writing that story!

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:09 pm

That is fascinating!

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:13 pm

I didn’t know that about clowns – that they’re supposed to have an individual persona.

The circus and New York City are very welcoming of outcasts.

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Isn’t it amazing no one thought to take it off the wall during those 6 years? Poor kid.

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:17 pm

Looks like your first favorite book is a collector’s item:

http://www.biblio.com/details.php?dcx=134446166&aid=frg

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:19 pm

Um, Monica, you realize you must now show us the Monica-as-Sally photo. Have to.

I’ll check out the film.

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:21 pm

My snake phobia’s like that. All I have to do is think of them and I can feel them slip up a pant leg or I see one dart around the corner.

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:23 pm

It’s an amazing documentary! Gail Siegel and Elizabeth Crane are in Chicago, too. And Greg Boose. And…. (add your name if you’re in Chicago.)

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Nice to see you here!

I had to look up this Popov. Here he is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iedTnII23c

And he’s in the clown Hall of Fame: http://www.theclownmuseum.org/inductees/93induct.html

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SusanHenderson January 15, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Noria, I’ve missed you!

Here’s your Wavy Gravy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wavy_Gravy

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PurpleWizardBBW January 15, 2008 at 9:28 pm

You’d have thought, wouldn’t you? lol It’s funny now, because he’s 41, but, alas, no clown pictures for his kids. 🙂

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Heather_Fowler January 16, 2008 at 12:18 am

Oooh. A scary phenom of a multi-store manager, who was usually an anorexic type woman with ample expensive make-up, super-trendy clothes in a size 0-3, an overabundance of perfume, and likely, an MBA holder moonlighting as an it girl, whipsnapping lesser it girls– or hard-scrapper, who had worked her way up the ladder of trendy clothing store with video wall hierarchy (assistant, full, district, regional) by either A. selling all kinds of ugly things on hapless non-shoppers unfortunate enough to meet her hard-sell head on, or B. being so pretty and slave-driving to all who work under her that, *California accent whisper to other salesgirl* “She is totally the next to move up. Can’t you feel it? Oh my god, Sunshine, you are like, so right! Carla, the store manager is terrified of her. She’ll definitely get more stores…”

I was the secret nerd sales employee (closet lit freak) there. *big grins* Worked with a lot of cheerleaders. Oh, and the Regional, she was usually an ex-cheerleader, too. I had a Regional once who eye-gaze pressured me to try and sell a size 4 woman a size 11 dress, “With a jacket clip, yeah? It’ll look great!” I cringed. I almost wept. This dress laced up the back. A jacket clip? She was smoking crack! The poor woman bought the dress, too! ;( My most embarassing, cringe-worthy day as a sales person, being forced to sell that woman that dress. But, I must say, that RM, she was scarier than clowns. Even ones on hoops. With white plastic faces. Dawn doll with green leg scary. The scary you get when bugs creep over your skin and you can’t see them. Ach! Okay, happy good thoughts. Happy good thoughts… Self-traumatizing again. Pay no attention. LOL! 😉

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lance_reynald January 16, 2008 at 4:08 am

we love us some drunken santas….

especially hundreds of them.

suit up kids, You’ve got about 11 months to train for the next event!

http://www.santacon.com/

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LaurenBaratzLogsted January 16, 2008 at 10:28 am

I’ve been giving some thought to running in the next Danbury mayoral race, and it is all because of clowns.

Back in my wild days, I went one Halloween to a costume party contest at a favorite pool bar. I went as autumn, an entire season. I painted my cheek to look like a leaf, I put leaves and twigs in my hair, I used a glue gun to cover a huge cape with leaves of all colors, and even glue-gunned a tiny stuffed squirrel to my shoulderblade. The then-Mayor of Danbury blew in at midnight to award the prize, which was a trip for two to Bermuda. I wanted that prize. But who won? A pair of girls dressed as clowns. Clowns! But I had gone as An Entire Season! Do you have any idea how hard it is to stalk and strut a pool table in an outfit like that?

Recently I told that story to a friend, citing it as an example of how corrupt all CT mayoral politics is. Really, nearly all of them wind up in jail. That’s when my friend suggested I run for office and now I’m seriously considering it, thinking to run on a platform of Immigration & Education. I even have my stump speech in my head. So, if I ever do actually run, I’ll have two clowns to thank for it.

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SusanHenderson January 16, 2008 at 11:36 am

Unrelated (except for the creepy factor), there are a couple of YouTube’s up for Neil’s Coraline, which most of you know, is being made into a movie:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o63NrCIiYEw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAwNA8-Rs3U&feature=related

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SusanHenderson January 16, 2008 at 11:38 am

I would have given you the prize, Lauren, and I hope you’re serious about running for office!

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SusanHenderson January 16, 2008 at 12:49 pm

Now watch his kids will be mad at him because he deprived their childhoods of clowns.

xo

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David_Niall_Wilson January 16, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Finally figured out how to log back in. Yeah, fascinating, but kind of creepy. One thing I failed to mention was that when I wrote the story, I was in the US Navy, out at sea. I’d just shattered my left elbow out on the beach, but the medics on the ship said it was bruised. For almost a week and a half I wandered around with a shattered arm – only 800mg Motrin and a hot water bottle to ease the pain…and in that haze (and with coffee) I wrote “Wayne’s World,” as well as my poetry series “Cities of Light and Darkness” about European places I visited…the poetry was published as a broadside collection by Kelp Queen Press…

DNW

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EkEkEkEk07 January 16, 2008 at 2:28 pm

the grealy book sounds really interesting and moving. i think i’ll pick it up tonight.

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chuckles January 16, 2008 at 8:12 pm

it sure is, and that “slightly soiled and torn” copy is a lot like my own edition – which my 2.5 year old son now often requests that I read to him as a bedtime story. It is disconcertingly moving to read to him from a book that meant so much to me, and to have him enjoy it so much again.

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Greg January 17, 2008 at 11:51 am

I’m totally in Chicago. Please remind me when this film is coming!

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lance_reynald January 18, 2008 at 3:50 pm

I’d say the highlights here are some of the best:
http://drunkenrampage.com/event_pages/december/December.html

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