RAGE IN THE CAGE

 

By part time buffoon, Lee Kolozsy

 

 

 

 

THOSE CRAZY CAGED CARNIE CLOWNS

 

 

“HEY EVERYBODY,…  LOOK AT THE ALBINO KIDS!…  HEY, YOU LITTLE VAMPIRES,…  IF YOUR MOM AND DAD FINALLY GET THAT DIVORCE,  WILL THEY STILL BE BROTHER AND SISTER?”…

 

A typical friendly greeting, directed at you as you’re trying to herd your offspring and current squeeze down a disorienting and confusing alley of blinking lights and noisy distractions…

 

 

THIS CLOWN CAN’T POSSIBLY BE TALKING TO ME

 

He’s looking directly at you and he moves right along to comment on, criticize, ridicule, poke fun at, and downright insult everything about you and yours…

 

 

NOW THE WHOLE WORLD SEEMS TO BE WATCHING AND WAITING…

 

This character is comfortably perched above a tank of water, in a cage, under bright lights, with a crowd of people around, all of them now looking directly at you and yours…

 

 

IT’S ENOUGH TO PISS OFF THE POPE…

 

Confrontational theatre of this nature affects different people in different ways. Regardless of the reaction, the grease-painted actor instigating the conflict seems to have a clever and often hilarious script prepared for whichever way it goes. Television game show hosts employ this technique[1]. Carnies use it all the time. Game Operators do it, Comedians deal with hecklers often. Some even plant them. Magicians, Pitchmen, almost any performer who must deal with the public, often employ a similar technique…

 

 

I’M GONNA DROWN THAT CLOWN…

 

The obnoxious devil is in an iron cage with targets at each side, heckling you, and some nondescript Carnie is offering you a handful of baseballs. What’s a buck or two? It’s a fun game, you get to be the center of attention, and if you soak the bloke, you get to be a hero, at least to your party, and get to leave vindicated, and victorious…

 

 

AND IT GRINDS ON AND ON…

 

This game has been around for a long time, and in a lot of incarnations.  I have seen a version where a blackface clown wearing a helmet pokes his head through a hole in the wall and insults patrons who respond by trying to bean him with hard balls. They aim for his face, and he dips his head when a strike is imminent, taking it on the helmet, which is designed to make a satisfying gong like sound. Good Showmanship that…

 

 

RACIST ROOTS…

 

The dunk tank was once called “HIT THE TRIGGER AND SINK THE NIGGER”. This was due to the game originating on the Showboats plying the Mississippi. Older Showmen still refer to it as the “AFRICAN DIP”…

 

 

THE GAME IS ON…

 

Some people are good sports, and good-naturedly play along, while knowing fully well that the whole thing is a show, strictly for amusement. And oh yeah, to make a buck…

 

Others are less evolved. I have seen many fights, some involving weapons and eventually, police, over this style of entertainment…

 

Dip Clowns walk a psychological tightrope, balancing between baiting marks to become players and “ranguing them up”[2] until the crowd is out for blood…

 

 

ONE OF MY FAVORITE CLOWNS IS BUBBA…

 

“Hey Buckwheat! Now I remember where I know you from, your aunt is on the pancake box, and your uncle is on the rice package!”…

 

“Sheeyit! Ahm gonna sink yo honky ass!” replied the gentleman in question…

 

Some of these victims end up so angry and frustrated that they resort to making threats and brandishing firearms…

 

 

THE “HEY RUBE”[3] IS AT THE “DIP”…

 

Once Bubba got some drunk cowboys so angry that they were “gonna whup im”…

 

Bubba likes to keep a cooler with a soothing concoction of grain-distilled beverages in the cage…

 

As he was infuriating the shit-kickers, he happened to notice that the cooler was running dry…

 

“High and Dry” he hollered. This was the signal for his girlfriend to bring another round…

 

As she was delivering the libation to the back of the cage, the cowboys circled around and ambushed him as he reached out for the cocktail. One of the bad guys grabbed Bubba’s old lady by the hair and pulled her out of the doorway causing her to spill the drink. Well, this was more than Bubba could take sitting down. That had been the last remaining bit of liquor on hand.  While she was busy scratching the assailant’s eyes out, Bubba baled out and went to work dismantling the others. Bubba likes to fight more than he likes to drink and insult marks[4]

 

 In the darkened area behind the tank, hidden from the Midway, the rubes were finding that they had bitten off more than they could chew. Bubba had a hickory hammer handle in hand and was methodically inflicting pain with assembly line precision and efficiency. Bubba liked his work and had issues with those who would stop the show…

 

By the time the police arrived, all but three of the posse had taken flight, and these boys were in some degree of discomfort. In addition to the bumps and bruises, not to mention humiliation, they now found themselves in hand cuffs…

 

 

“HIGH AND DRY, NEED A BALL PLAYER”…

 

Bubba was back in the tank, working a tip[5] as though nothing had happened, and behind the scenes, the miscreants were being lectured by the High Sheriff, who seemed to know them all by name… 

 

“You three should be ashamed of yourselves. What do you think is gonna happen when I tell your wives that you were out at the fair without the women and kids, I’ll tell you what, they’re going to think you were out here chasing girls. What do you think is going to happen when I tell your bosses you were out at the fair instead of being at work, What do you think is going to happen when I tell the minister that you were at the fair drunk, what’s going to happen when I tell all your friends that you idiots all got your asses kicked by one damn Carnie Clown”…

 

[1] By this I mean the better ones. Typically, all that is needed for this job is to be able to keep talking until you think of something sensible to say.

[2] RANGUE UP”  Show Lingo meaning to stir up trouble or start a fight, from the word “Harangue”.

[3] “HEY RUBE ” A call to arms, a signal that a fight is on the Midway.

[4] “MARK”  Show Lingo for a patron at the Carnival.

[5] “TIP”  Show Lingo for a crowd in front of an attraction.

 

Images courtesy of Brian Ezzelle,

 


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