It’s happening again. You see big and floppy red shoes out of the corner of your eye, you quickly turn to look, but they are gone as if they were never there. You stop, put a hand out to the wall for support. You breathe deeply, then continue on with your day as if nothing happened.
The internet is full of tales of clown sightings. Clown aficionados have published whole blogs about the phenomena. Your neighbors think you are crazy, but you believe and daily you catch yourself humming Sondheim’s, “Send in The Clowns”.
It is a warm day in August 1971. The place? Washington D.C., (where all great clown stories start). Then president, Richard Millhouse Nixon, is sitting in the Oval Office (I assume, how would I know? I wasn’t there), surrounded by children and probably some of his lawyers. He pauses, he looks haunted. His eyes dart hither and tither. Is he being unduly pressured? Does he know something we don’t know, or is that just how he always looks?
His speech starts by thanking clowns for “the laughter of a child… the sudden delight on the face of a lonely man.” Suspicious? Yes.
Nixon continues, “All men are indebted to those who bring such moments of quiet splendor-who redeem sickness and pain with joy. All across America good men in putty noses and baggy trousers… gently touch the lives of his fellowman. Today, as always, clowns and the spirit they represent are as vital to the maintenance of our humanity as the builders and the growers and governors… “
Yes, Nixon’s now famous ‘Clown Speech’ ushered in a new era of clown acceptance. He signed a proclamation making August 1st through 7th as ‘National Clown Week’.
Many internet users have poured over that speech for decades, convinced of a secret message embedded in a code of some sort. A plea for help? Coordinates to a secret clown lair? God help us, but we may never know.
Enjoy National Clown Week, while you can.
P.S. - I've just been 'clowning' around. Hope I made you smile!