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From the Publisher's Desk – Clowning around not always fun (Oct. 22, 2014 issue)

As if I don’t have enough problems, I have come to the realization, and finally admitted, I have coulrophobia. Yes, it’s true – I have a fear of clowns. It is estimated that about 2 percent of the population are in the same category as I am.
I think it all started for me as a child. I remember going to a circus that had come into the area. I wasn’t even school age at the time, but the scars still affect me to this day. I had never witnessed such bizarre creatures before. There were large, frightening animals and strangely dressed people, some of which were clowns.
As if the experience wasn’t disturbing enough to this inexperienced youth, the small boy in the bleachers in front of me, took the fear to a whole new level. He turned around, looking my way, and had cotton candy clasped tightly in his hand. Thinnking back, maybe he couldn’t get the sugary stick lose from his hand.
The young boy had taken the large cotton fluff, similar to a teased hairdo from the 1970s, up to his face to take a bite. The sticky mess had touched his eye lid and matted it tightly shut. I was traumatized by the sight and have never eaten cotton candy since. Obviously it was a forerunner to the “Super Glue” we use today.
Clowns, however, have one expression painted on their faces – whether happy or sad. It never changes and perhaps falsely represents the person behind the attire. I see most of them as sad or disturbed, trying to pretend that life is different. Meanwhile, the rest of us have to put on our real facial expressions and face the world.
I grew up with Bozo the Clown and Red Skelton portraying Freddie the Freeloader. I must say that while I found some moments to laugh at, I was still uncertain who these phony, bad yard-sale-shopping, extra large footed, people were.
The earliest clowns were found in ancient Egypt, around 2400 BC and in ancient imperial China, where a court clown was the only one permitted to make light of emperor Qin Shih Huang’s plan to paint The Great Wall of China.
Obviously these people were born that way. I have been known to “clown around” a lot, but I never thought of that as being my profession. Can you imagine telling your parents that you have decided to become a clown?
Well, I did learn that there are actually schools to attend that will train you in “clowndom.” Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus offers one such school. Can’t take the time off from your current job? Internet clown instruction is also available.
The average general clown will earn $38,000 a year, according to “Indeed and SimplyHired.” Rodeo clowns can make $50,000, but their risk factors are extreme. According to the “Bureau of Labor Statistics,” Rodeo Clowning is ranked number 8 in the most dangerous jobs in America.
Oddly enough, clowns also have their own set of laws called the Clown Commandments. Some of the highlights are: keeping acts in good taste, learning to apply makeup in a professional manner, not drinking or smoking in costume, changing as soon as possible following an act, maintaining high clown standards and appearing in as many shows as possible.
Obviously, we can’t get away from these frightening happy people. Right here, in the heart of Erwin, is McDonald’s. Who is their iconic spokesperson? Ronald McDonald, who has been with the brand since about 1963.
He is there offering you food and glaring at your children on the “McPlayland.” I try and make a quick sweep through the drive-thru, only lowering my window when I have to. Heaven help me if a train should be across the track as I try to get back to work. I must keep a close watch in my rear view mirror to make sure I am not being followed by him.
Part of the recent reminder of my fear has come from watching the TV show “American Horror Story.” Now, I don’t recommend you tune in to watch this. It is slightly rough and greatly disturbing. My fellow employee Keeli Parkey got me started on this twisted series by loaning me season two.
That particular season focused around a mental asylum. I could only watch the show in the daytime and small segments. I stayed tense and on the edge of my seat. Isn’t it strange how we are sitting at home and saying “Don’t go in there you fool!”?
This season there is a clown named “Twisty” and, yes, his personality is totally twisted. He has a face of horror painted on and has, so far, killed many characters on the show. He is holding two small children captive, who almost got away. Just their luck, someone caught them and returned them to him.
I recently printed out a large photo of Twisty and taped it to the inside of the bathroom door at work. I also taped one smaller photo to the lid of the commode and put the lid down to scare whoever entered next. I felt everyone should endure my fear even if I was clowning around.