© 2024
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Fears Of A Clown

Did anyone see Gags last night?

This week, a clown has been making the late-night scene in Green Bay, Wis.

Gags, the Green Bay Clown, as he's been christened on a Facebook fan page — and by the way, if the Visigoths sacked Rome again these days, there would be Facebook fan page for them — has appeared on the streets of an intersection at about 2 a.m.

Gags doesn't look much like Bozo or even Krusty. In photos that have been snapped by alarmed neighbors, Gags appears to be grim, even forbidding: a character out of a Bergman film, not Disney. As seen in the images he has a blank white face, hollow black eye sockets, and a cheerless black smile. He wears a crumpled ruffled collar and a dingy clown jump suit.

The Green Bay Clown seems to loom over the street as he holds 3 black balloons aloft, like gloomy clouds. Are they Pestilence, Famine and Death?

Or, in Green Bay: the Lions, Viking and Bears?

A couple of people on Gags' Facebook page have said that a horror film is being made in Green Bay. But no camera crews have been seen nearby; no permits to film have been filed.

The Green Bay police told WGBA they've received several phone calls from anxious citizens. Imagine those recordings: "Can you describe the clown, sir? Red nose or floppy feet? What — black balloons!"

But Capt. Kevin Warych told news organizations, "A person can walk down the sidewalk dressed however they want as long as they're in a place they legally can be."

I have no idea who the clown is or why he prowls Green Bay.

Perhaps it's some kind of performance art, although you'd think the streets of Brooklyn or Portland at 2 a.m. might have a few more spectators than Green Bay. Or it's a student from St. Norbert's College nearby, who's writing a psych paper on how people react to seeing a glowering clown with black balloons. Or, maybe most likely, it's a prank by someone who craves the kind of attention we're giving him right now.

But I wonder about another possibility: Gags, the Green Bay Clown, is saddened by the current presidential campaign. Every other day, there seems to be some new insult or outrage. All those months of campaigning, only to produce major party nominees that the polls say about two-thirds of the American people might not trust enough to be the banker in a Monopoly game.

Maybe that's why Gags the Clown is sad and wanders the streets. What do you think those three black balloons stand for?

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.