Emmett Kelly

I saw a blog entry about clowns and that got me to thinking. The blog showed a series of photos of clowns and screaming kids. Apparently there is a psychological term for an unnatural fear of clowns: coulrophobia. I’m not sure a fear of clowns is unjustified.

In my lifetime, clown have evolved, not necessarily for the better. Pictured above is Emmett Kelly. He is probably one of the most famous circus clowns ever. When he was active the costume and makeup was unique to each individual clown.

With the advent of TV things changed. TV programming lead to syndication deals. McDonald’s adopted a clown, Ronald McDonald as a spokesman. Children’s programming lead to “Bozo The Clown.” Kids in Boston, New York, St Louis, Dallas and Seattle could all watch Bozo the clown. That worked, provided the kids didn’t travel. The makeup and costume were no longer unique.

It was Thanksgiving 1963. Kennedy was dead. His death really screwed up Saturday morning cartoons. On top of that, I found myself in New York, I had to deal with WCBS rather than old faithful WHDH in Boston. At least there was Bozo the Clown.

Something wasn’t right. The voice of the New York Bozo was different. The outfit was close, but not the same. There was something wrong. My cousins dismissed my concerns. They saw the same old Bozo that they were used to. They had never been to Boston. My uncle explained it. There were dozen’s of Bozo the clowns. They worked for TV stations.

It made sense. Nevertheless it was a let down. Well, at least here we were in New York, Thanksgiving weekend, the Macy’s Day parade and Christmas was coming. There was Santa Claus on a float, then a balloon. Wait, could there be multiple Santa’s? A ten year old cynic was born.

I can’t blame kids for being afraid of clowns. In the 1970’s Cesar Romero played the Joker in the Batman TV Series. He was more campy than scary. As the TV character morphed into a movie character he became darker.

As if pretend clowns aren’t bad enough, law enforcement in the late 70’s revealed the horrors surrounding John Wayne Gacy, aka Pogo the Clown.

John Wayne Gacy serial killer of 33 men and boys

There is another photo of Gacy that doesn’t get as much play.

Roslyn Carter and John Wayne Gacy

Here is first lady Roslyn Carter congratulating John Wayne Gacy on his good work with young men. She acknowledged that Gacy was just the type of person the democrats needed.

Clowns have continued to evolve. Some are silly, some are not plausible, some are downright scary. Given the chance, all of them will pile up more bodies than Gacy ever did. Here are just a few:

Laugh at these clowns at your own risk. For my part, they scare me.