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A Clown in Kentucky

 article about A Clown in Kentucky
As you may already know, I used to work as a clown for circuses. One show in particular hired me to be the "advance clown". I'd travel ahead of the circus and hand out free children's tickets, put up posters, and juggle at some school shows. This particular trip brought me to Kentucky.

Over the years I had developed what could only be described as a love/hate relationship with this state. I loved to hate Kentucky and it loved to hate me. On this road trip, Kentucky won the battle. My tour started in Madisonville, KY and would take me to the far eastern end of the state. In all I would spend at least a week in Kentucky.

I loaded up my yellow van with props and costumes and headed to the Bluegrass State. I was determined to make it to my first destination sometime that evening. As I crossed the border into Kentucky a loud clasp of thunder echoed in the night air. I actually joked to myself about how ominous that thunder was. I laughed off what was in actuality a bad sign. I found a motel and rested up for the next day's work.

I had 4 school shows scheduled that day. The plan was to do the first two shows, get lunch, and hit the local businesses until my afternoon shows. The first two shows went without a hitch. I gave out the passes, shook hands, hugged kids, & signed autographs. Following the performances I ventured into the town. Everywhere I went I was met with an uncomfortable amount of tension from the townsfolk. Kids at a day-care center ran from their activities to meet me, only to be hurriedly corralled by their caretaker and taken inside. It was quite strange, especially after the warm reception I got at the schools.

I approached a diner, and saw a peering eye behind the front door's curtain. I entered the building was met by a large man. I noticed that all the waitresses were behind the counter. The large man was the only one to speak to me.

"What can I do for you?" He asked abruptly.

I explained what I was doing, "CIRCUS...TICKETS...POSTERS", the pitch went on as it had all day. All I got in response was a terse, "uh-huh". He grabbed the tickets from my hand, placed them into his pocket, and asked me to leave. I saw no problem in accomodating his request.

As the day went on I found this sort of behavior most everywhere I went. Perhaps the people there just didn't like talking to a clown before lunchtime. I only wish that was the real problem. The real problem was about to reveal itself to me.

Wanna See A Show? Deciding that lunch could wait a bit longer, I headed out in my van to find more businesses. While driving I noticed a police car in my rear-view mirror. I didn't think anything of it at the time. I wasn't doing anything wrong, all my lights and signals were working and I wasn't speeding. I noticed a small strip mall that had a florist's shop. I turned into the parking lot, as did the police car. I entered the shop, had a lovely conversation with the owner, left some promotional materials, said my goodbyes and left.

Once outside I saw that the police car was parked next to my van. At the passenger's side was a nervous cop hiding behind his door, his gun drawn. The driver was peering into the window of my van. "Here he comes", said the nervous cop to the other officer.

"Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions", asked the officer without the brandished gun.

"Not at all", I said. .

"What ...exactly are you doing here", he asked?

I gave him the details, "CIRCUS...TICKETS...POSTERS". The officer nodded his head and grunted out an "uh-huh". I thought this was ALL anyone could say in this town. He pulled out a small notepad and began reading.

"Are you aware that there have been reports of ...a man driving a white or yellow van, disguised as a clown, kidnapping and molesting children?"

The question echoed in my head. Through my make-up you could tell my face was turning white. "Are you kidding me", I asked the officer? I went on, insisting that I wasnt the culprit. I took out my driver's license, my Social Security card, my business card, ANYTHING that might show him that I was a law-abiding citizen. I asked where these crimes were to have occurred. He went back to his notepad and rattled off two towns that were 20 and 50 miles from us, towns I had performances scheduled later that week.

I asked about the crime, trying to find out whatever I could. Apparently the demon-clown's modus operandi was to hand out tickets to a "show" at a location somewhere in the town. When kids arrived he'd do a few juggling tricks (another fine coincidence) and then scoop them up into his van. The whole thing smacked of an urban legend but it was all too real to the people of Madisonville.

The officer told me that theyd received many calls about me. One woman called not to warn them but to say that "we've got an eye on him" and her husband was going to "kill him for you". Lovely.

Knives? What Knives? Next he asked, "Would you mind if I look inside your van?" I let him into my van but not before giving him an inventory of everything that was inside my van. Being a juggler I had knives, torches, lighter fluid, maps of the towns, lists of all the grade schools...everything that could incriminate me as a psycho clown.

After a thorough inspection of my van he asked if I'd mind escorting him to the station. He gave me directions and planned on following me as opposed to the other way around. Surprised, I asked if he thought that was best to have me lead the way. He laughed a redneck laugh and said, "Where ya gonna go? The whole damn town wants to kill ya". Charming.

I arrived at the station and went into the chief's office. He was sitting behind his desk with his feet up. He was reminiscent of the prison cop from 'Cool Hand Luke', complete with mirrored sunglasses. He greeted me with, "Boy, you picked the wrong day to visit Kentucky".

He quietly confessed that he was sure that the killer-clown thing was most likely an urban legend. But, given that everyone in the town had heard this story AND saw me roaming about he had no choice but to bring me in. "Some of these fellas 'round here would like to play 'Hero' with this one", he said.

I had him call the circus office. Unfortunately the show was on the road and there wasn't anyone in the office for quite some time. We made small talk waiting for SOMEONE from the circus to call the station. During that time they ran a check on my license and found that I was squeaky-clean. Eventually the phone rang, my story checked out, and we laughed a good laugh. I was allowed to go. The chief suggested that it might be a good idea to take off the make-up if I expected to finish the day and I happily obliged.

The remaining shows went very well. As I left the last school I was greeted once again by the police. "Miss me already", I joked. Surprisingly the cop angrily said, "WHY ARE YOU HERE"? I told him I was promoting a show. He then said, "Are you aware that you can be arrested for fraud for promoting a show that isn't going to happen?"

Apparently the Chamber of Commerce had decided they didn't want the show to come to town due to the controversy. They cancelled the contract without alerting the show owners, called the police and told them I was robbing the good people of Madisonville. At least that's what I was told on my second trip to the police station.

Once again, it was decided that since I did nothing wrong and I was let go. I was told that I was no longer welcome in Madisonville (NO LONGER?) and it was suggested that I should leave.

I went back to every business and removed all my posters and tickets. I got an earful from every vendor, every manager, and a few parents of small kids who saw my shows and planned on attending the circus.

The following day I woke up EARLY and left town. I looked in my rear-view mirror and noticed a State Trooper behind me. He followed me for at least 50 miles, waiting for me to do something illegal. I was the picture of roadside legality. The trooper followed me to the county line and then he let me drive away.

Every town I stopped in recommended that I don't wear any clown make-up for my shows because the killer-clown they'd heard about was recently in Madisonville. Three weeks later I was home watching my local news. They were breaking a story about a child-molesting, van-driving clown that was reported to be in the area. I gave up clowning soon thereafter. It was cheaper than buying a new car.


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