Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Claus Kinection

It's a little late for Christmas carols, but I have to note a Santa gig from last December, lest I forget it. I don't have time for the full glorious story, but picture this: Santa Claus sitting in a branch of the Kinecta Federal Credit Union in Placentia, California. Pippi Longstocking is making balloons. The children who came in doubtless wondered why Santa Claus spent his Saturday mornings cheating on the Mrs. with Pippi...at the credit union. Tragic.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Injurious Humor

Make no mistake about it: clowning is dangerous work. I admit, I didn't enter the profession with that in mind. Sure, one can imagine how juggling knives could be imperil the digits, and circus clowns probably worry about their toes when performing around elephants. But it wasn't immediately apparent that your basic work as a children's entertainer could imperil life and limb.

I got my first taste of the hazards on my first day. Without telling the whole story (which would take much longer than I have at the moment and is a story in and of itself), it's fair to say it was a rude awakening.

I tried an interactive juggling routine. Billy the Clown had lost his magical ability to keep balls in the air and needed the power of the birthday party to get it back. This entailed passing twenty-odd rubber balls to the kids. The birthday girl would toss the first ball, then someone else a second, and then a third, at which point I'd be juggling again. Then, I'd get ahead of myself and ask everyone to throw their balls at me, and I'd be able to juggle like a madman.

It didn't occur to me until too late that this invitation would transform mild-mannered children into a firing squad. A budding Catfish Hunter gave me a sidearm heater that bent my glasses, while I'm positive some of the boys took aim at my nether regions.

I escaped that party alive (barely...the moonbounce was hell on earth), but thought of it as a fluke. As the months have gone by, I've realized that first party was no anomaly. It got so bad that one Saturday evening, recounting the day's mayhem to my father, he interrupted me to ask if I had disability as part of the job. Hmm, not exactly. It's more like one needs to have a disability to be willing to take on this job. A mental disability.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Red Tickle Disaster

Curse you, Elmo. This past weekend, I nearly went insane.

It actually was a relatively tame weekend, a modest two parties, spread over two days. Piece of cake, if a little bit irritating since I could have used more income. Better yet, I only had one character costume, Elmo.

The party on Saturday was a twofer. I went in as Billy the Clown, left and returned as Elmo. That's even better, because you have all sorts of time you can burn if the party isn't going well. Frugal-minded parents tend to think they're getting the best deal, a clown and a character. In fact, they get shortchanged on both ends. Even when you're flying between costumes (which happens...never), they'll still end up shilling out twenty bucks just for the time it takes to costume swap. That's an amusing thought: you can make an Andy Jackson while stripping to your UnderArmor. Ha.

Anyway, it seemed like I couldn't go wrong. And I didn't. Elmo did.

The costume looked fine in the Walgreen's Parking Lot. And it seemed okay when I tossed it in the trunk. But when I got it on my body, I was horrified to discover the zipper functioned as well as Michael Brown in a crisis. That is to say, not at all.

Billy the Clown left and fifteen minutes later I was still in the parking lot, swearing profusely, sweating even more and continuing to wrestle with the damned zipper. It was an emotional rollercoaster: one minute I couldn't stop laughing at the whole ridiculous situation, the next pledging to enter the monastery if only I could get the costume to stay on.

The Good Lord eventually had pity on my profane self and I made it back, just in time to accidentally kick a two year (I couldn't see him, I swear!) and cause a good portion of the very young party to cry. But Sunday was worse.

Sunday night, I arrived at the other party. I had taken care to get the furry suit on before I even set foot in the car, preempting the zipper crisis of the day before. It was like driving in a hairy jacuzzi, but I had no other choice.

This place was a madhouse. The children, while lovable and amusing, numbered in the hundreds (or so it seemed) and had more energy than Bill Nye at the Exploratorium. The parents loved me and joined in the fun, flapping the parachute and yelling their feelings about the imperfect magic. The old men kept trying to take pictures of Elmo holding a bottle of Gray Goose, while every female over the age of sixteen took at least one picture with me, most in suggestive poses.

It was tiring as hell, but it seemed to be a successful gig. Then, suddenly, "Elmo, why are you sweating so much?"

Good Heavens, how could they see me sweating through the costume? Then another, "Elmo...you're not the real Elmo?"

"What, of course I am."

"Oh yeah, why are you wearing a shirt, then?"

Sweet Meru, the costume had fallen apart. That blasted zipper couldn't take the strain and gave up the ghost right there. My back, soaked to the bone and reeking like a wet dog, was exposed for all the world to see. Amazingly, the hostess had just decided she wanted to an indoor photo shoot with the birthday girl and I was whisked inside before every child's heart was broken.

Incredibly, the dad still gave me a very generous tip when I left. I think he saw, when the costume gave way, that I was a couple ounces from sweating blood.