No Laughing Matter These Days

Once upon a time, clowns were benevolent figures of laughter and joy.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, American children followed the animated antics from the Bozo the Clown a tv personality each week. The cartoons were designed by local presenters comprised as the carrot-topped Bozo. One was Willard Scott, later for being weatherman while using NBC Today show. Willard Scott had also been the first-ever Ronald McDonald, making his debut appearance in a very 1963 TV ad for your burger franchise.

Flash forward a decade, to Cook County, Illinois (strangely enough, the venue of one in the first McDonald’s restaurants). A character calling himself Pogo the Clown is usually a popular attraction at community events. Meanwhile, men keep going missing…

Underneath the clown makeup and clothes can be a psychopath named John Wayne Gacy. In between appearances as Pogo he strangles to death 34 victims. He doesn’t wear the clown outfit when he kills, but his alter-ego of Pogo forever shifts the image in the clown in popular consciousness. Almost overnight, clowns become scary, with Gacy paving the way in which for numerous portrayals of bad clowns in literature and film, particularly Stephen King’s It.

King’s novel was released in 1986 and would be a huge seller. In 1990, his nightmare creation, Pennywise the Clown, was taken to the small screen in a very miniseries. Also in 1990, a Florida woman, Marlene Warren opened her doorway to a brown-eyed clown bearing flowers and balloons. The clown shot her hard and drove off in a very white Chrysler. The clown’s victim died 48 hrs later. The killer, a lady, eluded capture over a quarter century, however she’s serving time for murder.

The nineties and noughties saw chilling portrayals of The Joker, the green-haired prankster inside Batman franchise, with the likes of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Plus we met Krusty, the degenerate clown in The Simpsons.

But it had not been until 2016 that Caulrophobia – the worry of clowns – reached truly fever pitch. In the latter component of that year, the planet was gripped by way of a wave of ‘scary clown’ sightings. In the lead-up to Halloween, web 2 . 0 sites received numerous postings about sinister-looking clowns who had been reported lurking first in forests, then in the host of urban locations from the US, UK, Australia along with a number of other countries. It got so bad the president in the World Clown Association, Randy Christensen loved YouTube to condemn people being fashionable as clowns to frighten people. “Whoever is progressing this crazy stuff is not a clown,” stated Christensen, a Minnesota-based party clown. “This is someone that is using a great, clean, wholesome art and distorting it.’ Christensen added that people his association had suffered job cancellations and felt under threat following coverage of scary clown sightings.

It all got excessive for McDonald’s. On October 11, 2016 the burger giant announced that it is mascot will be keeping a reduced profile as a result in the incidents. A spokesman said the hamburger clown was reducing appearances at community events as a result with the “current climate around clown sightings in communities.”

There was obviously a kneejerk reaction using corporate entities like Target, which took clown masks by reviewing the website and stores. Schools as far apart as Ohio, USA, and Otago, New Zealand, banned clown outfits and masks.

Cut to Halloween night, Monday October 31, 2016. Caulrophobia had taken this sort of terrifying hold within the United States that a lot of both householders plus the parents of trick or treaters had firearms with the ready that night.

Fearing vigilante retribution, most clowns kept a decreased profile that witches’ eve. Not so in Orange County, Florida, where two men needed treatment after being attacked using a group of 20 people in clown masks. But really, Halloween night 2016 have been a fizzer from the scary clown department, given the many hype prior to it.

Flashing forward now to May 2017. A bald, bespectacled man fronts a court in Nova Scotia, Canada. He is Dale Raincourt, aka Klutzy the Clown. He pleads guilty for the sexual assault of any 15-year-old girl on the six week period. The judge jails him for just two years and bans him from ever employed as a children’s entertainer again. Another nail within the coffin for genuine clowns seeking to earn a reputable living.

Then within the fall of 2017 came the important budget cinema creation of It. Pennywise was back, scarier than previously! The film proceeded to complete very brisk business indeed for the box office, using the biggest attendances ever to get a September-October release.

So where does that leave the benevolent, child-friendly clown of yesteryear? Well, the majority of them have hung up their clown outfits and wigs forever. Others have strategically re-aligned themselves within the marketplace, promoting themselves as “balloon artists” and avoiding all use from the “c” word.

And poor old Ronald McDonald is put out to pasture in many parts in the world. On a recent visit to Thailand, I did encounter his life sized effigy outside a McDonald’s in Bangkok. He had his palms pressed together in the “wei” greeting. Alternatively, he or she have been praying, appealing for divine intervention because the clown joins the ranks of vampires, zombies along with other denizens of our own worst nightmares.

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