The terror was real and it was absolute.

Frozen I sat in my chair, as still as a living thing can possibly be, as the monster clown marched up and down the aisles in search of a victim.

In my head played a fear-struck mantra: Don’t notice me. Don’t notice me. Oh, for the love of dear sweet God, don’t let the clown notice me!

Closer drew the clown, all 6 feet, 8 inches of him. Now I could hear his massive shoes scuffing along the floor. Now I could see those dark eyes sweeping hungrily over every goggling face. He slowed. Stopped. Glared.

Don’t notice me, don’t notice me, Oh, for the love of dear sweet …

His eyes fell on me a few horrible seconds, I fancied, but then his head-whipped around and that gaze fell upon a young woman on the other side of the aisle. He had found his target, and by the hand, the clown led the lass warily, reluctantly to the stage.

Puddles Pity Party does not mess around.

Puddles is a clown, in case you missed that part, and he stands just a few inches short of 7 feet tall. That’s pretty big, by clown standards, but I’ll tell you what. The talent of this crazy Pagliacci is bigger still. That talent is ginormous!

A singing clown, is Puddles, and as voices go, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a finer one. I mean it. Take the world’s most mundane song and give Puddles a whack at it. By the time those notes rise up his windpipe and out his clown-white mouth, it’s pure joy. Pure beauty. Songs I liked only mildly before — or didn’t like at all — have become my favorite pieces when sung by the mammoth, unspeaking clown. I can’t get enough of this mesmerizing showman who has completely revived my interest in dozens of songs.

And charisma? Don’t make me talk about the charisma of this sad clown with the golden voice. See him for yourself and fall in love with a giant of a man in clown makeup. Have fun explaining THAT to the wife.

I could go on about the musical brilliance of Puddles Pity Party, but I didn’t really come here to talk about all that. I came to talk about a misconception that just won’t die.

When I bragged to people that I was going to see a giant singing clown at the Port City Music Hall in Portland, I got the same reaction over and over.

“Impossible. How can you? You’re afraid of clowns!”

“A singing clown? You’ll die of fright.”

“Is this some kind of aversion therapy? I applaud your efforts to overcome this rather embarrassing fear of clowns.”

Sun Journal staff writer Mark LaFlamme is transformed into Bow the clown at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston in 2015 Lauren Schneiderman/Sun Journal

Misguided fools! I am not, nor have I ever been afraid of clowns. Not even a little. Have you all forgotten the year I dressed for Halloween as a cannibalistic Ronald McDonald? Have you forgotten the Kora Shrine Circus of 2015 at which I ventured willingly into a locker room full of clowns and allowed them to transform me into one of them? For an hour or two that day, I pranced around as a clown known as “Bow” and it’s a memory I’m fond of.

I like clowns. Even the scary ones don’t trouble me much. I maintain that were I ever to be accosted by Pennywise, the clown of “It” notoriety, I would beat that buffoon with his own bicycle horn until he scurried back into the stinking sewers from whence he came.

The erroneous belief about me and clowns has been around for nearly two decades. It began when I unleashed a column, in the early part of the new century, about how ice cream trucks are creepy embodiments of kid-stealing evil risen straight out of hell itself. I stand by that claim. I mean, come on! That tinny music as the trucks creep up the streets like predators? All those day-glo colors offering pop-up pops, Drumsticks, Snow Cones, Fudgsicles, Malt Cups and Choco Tacos to the hellish tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel?” The way the trucks circle the playgrounds like two-ton vultures?

Ice cream trucks unnerve me and I admit it now as I admitted it then. And the day after that column ran, I was floored by wave after wave of gifts delivered to the newsroom. Clowns that sprang out of jack-in-the-boxes. Photos of clowns, books about clowns, tiny clown figurines and one giant clown head that was left on the hood of my car.

I don’t know how so many people conflated my fear of the Good Humor man with the fear of clowns, but there it is. Every other day since that column was published, I’ve had to proclaim loudly and frequently that I have no such fear. Not even a trace of it. How DARE you accuse me of coulrophobia, sir!

So it was kind of ironic that I was seized by such paralyzing fear when I went to see Puddles Pity Party, whom I’ve come to so ardently admire. After all, I am not a man who goes to many concerts, but I was more than happy to shell out a hundred bucks for this one. I even wore my Puddles T-shirt like a true fan, and yet there I was, cowering like the terrified caulrophobe I had denied being for so long.

Rest easy, my friends. All is not as it appears. I wasn’t stricken wimpy by a new phobia that appeared on the spot. I was, in fact, stricken by an old fear, and an unrelenting one. Glossophobia, they call this one, a bone-deep dread of speaking, performing or even appearing in public. Yep. I confess to this one without hesitation. I may talk a big game from time to time, but when it comes to being at a podium, on a stage or even just at the front of a classroom, my knees start a-knocking.

I’ll tell you this: If you’ve got a fear of speaking in public, the last place you want to be is at a Puddles Pity Party concert. Because Puddles doesn’t simply stand on the stage and let his God-like voice wash over the audience for an hour, oh no! Puddles likes to play, and part of that play involves hauling men, women and children onto the stage to perform with him. I’m not talking about just one or two who fall prey to this madcap routine. Puddles grabs one after another over the course of a two-hour show. Stooped old women, trembling men, red-faced girls, it doesn’t matter. If Puddles’ eye falls upon you between songs, then brother, onto that stage you are going, and it’s anybody’s guess what the clown will have you do once you get up there. You might have to sing. You might have to dance. You might have to wear a funny costume and caper about as the hundreds in the audience roar with laughter.

I enjoyed every second of that concert, but every second was also an agony of mortified apprehension as the giant crooning clown roamed the aisles like a horror movie creature. It’s terror, all right, but at least it’s terror that’s pleasing to the ear.

Which is more than you can say for Pennywise. I’ll bet that punk can’t even carry a note.


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