While the considerable length and breadth of my wares remain visible for purchase via the internet 24/7, a few times a year I like to plop them down upon a table on full display in order to allow eager-beaver nerds the chance to hungrily paw through them. For the most part, my weekends working the Monster-Mania convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey with Diabolik DVD are uneventful. I am there to make money and that is what I do. My eyes feast and grow sore looking at life’s outcasts on parade. Just a few hours in attendance and a pestiferous miasma of human stink permeates my clothes and wilts my nose hairs. Clowns on stilts chitter, women in unflattering fetish attire waddle, the enemies of Christ express their preferences for dork new gods. Hey, Beautiful, come inside.
*“Do you like shenanigans?”
His was a litany that would be hypnotic if it wasn’t so annoying. As the self-publisher of a series of self-penned novels, he had a formidable challenge in convincing the be-monstered masses to buy his books. Their covers depicted Our Heroes (for the books humbly featured the co-writers as the protagonists) with matching chrome domes and dangerous van dyke beards, sporting jean shorts, and holding plastic weaponry while poised to battle the evil legions of chupacabras, invisible men, saucer people, talking grapes, and peckish regular-sized spiders. “See that goat?” he’d ask, pointing to an illustration. “He’s actually a reccurring character.” With cheer that seemed genuine the first dozen times, but showed liver spots thereafter, he robocalled his spiel to the hoodied hunchbacks and death shrouded pimple princesses who passed by his table.
The hook usually started with the prospective consumer being queried if he or she liked to read. This always caused my ears to prick up, as I was curious what response he’d get. I assumed most people would answer in the affirmative regardless of their voracity for literature, as they’d otherwise fear (correctly) they’d appear stupid. Surprisingly, however, many shrugged and would say things like, “Uh, I don’t really read that much, y’know?” Escape was not this simple. “Well, what do you read when you do read?” A common reply would be, “Like, Stephen King or, um, Clive Barker.” And away we’d go, for they had books for lovers of all writers or genres. All could be satisfied except for the fellow whose denim jacket was festooned with patches for every band he’d ever heard. He shut them down by saying he read mostly poetry.
The pitch would then begin in earnest and would be forever punctuated by his signature lines. “Feel free to take a peak at anything on the table. I’d be more than happy to talk about it for hours.” Like Maxwell’s silver hammer to an eager kneecap, his wife’s instantaneous reply would be, “And he really will!” Pavlov’s hand opens to reveal a tasty biscuit. I could see the nervous flies caught in the bonhomie web wriggle a bit. It’s hard to turn down the kindly desperation when under the twin tractor beams of Our Hero’s gaze. The prospective consumers, however, in quiet hive-mind consensus, had their own age-worn line at the ready. “Okay, well, I’m still looking around, but I’ll come back later.”
It’s a tick-tack-toe game played with only zeros.
“Freeze Frame” by the J. Geils Band played softly on the restroom PA in order to facilitate elimination. As I stood at the urinal, I instead heard this boisterous declaration: “Useless. My girlfriend is useless. In fact, that’s her fuckin’ nickname: Useless.”
The man told me he was a Moe Howard of the Three Stooges impersonator, but that he was, perhaps, retired from that game. I shared with him my own tenuous connection to Stooges lore: The Harwan was the first theatre Exhumed Films ever operated out of and it was where, several years before Exhumed was conceived, I was part of a group hosting and performing in hardcore punk bands, who played its rickety stage while kids pogo’d in the aisles. It seems that Moe Howard once pissed in the toilet adjacent to the projection booth at the Harwan theatre. The projectionist never ceased to delight in sharing this fact with the members of Exhumed. Rarely have I ever been able to repeat this anecdote to someone whose face, for a fleeting moment, brightened as the nostalgia-hued image of a whizzing Moe tripped the light fandango across his mind. The Moe impersonator’s gaze then shifted to my face as he finally let loose the Great Uncanny he had been withholding from me. It seems I look exactly — “I mean a total dead ringer, man!” — like his cousin who danced on Broadway in the 1970s. I was possessed by the queasy thought that he was but syllables away from informing me that my ‘70s doppelganger died of AIDS in the ‘80s, so I deftly derailed the conversation with an inquiry regarding his feelings on the divisive issue of Curly Joe’s position in the Great Stooge Pantheon.
Look at him.
He’s dressed like John Wayne Gacy and he looks like a fat twat.
You can see he’s taken the time to achieve perfection in his image. He’s grown his body to a repugnantly corpulent state in order to mirror the child molesting serial killer Gacy’s physical form. Studious research among the dusty tomes and labyrinthine stacks of libraries and universities the world over has enabled him to uncover rare images of Gacy. With these photographs as his guide, he’s replicated Gacy’s Pogo the Clown make-up and the handmade buttons that decorate his balloony clown suit. In his bag he carries a copy of the book The Man Who Killed Boys by Clifford L. Linedecker. This makes for a superb prop when posing for photos (Gacy to friend: “Damn it, my wife forgot to charge the camera battery. She never lets me have any fun.”). Another clown, this one possessing a pointy crescent moon chin and Neanderthal prosthetic brow, encircles Pogo on a hobby horse. He cackles in menace, satisfied that his unique brand of Next Level Evil Antics are bringing a whole new dimension to horror. Around him you’ll see some adolescent boys, a few with their parents. They’re about the age of the children John Wayne Gacy raped, murdered, and whose remains he buried. Everyone moves through the circus, center stage, Crowne Plaza hotel. All heads turn when the clown goes by.
An impotent coward in defensive posture, sweat coursing through its pores, pupils wide, will tell you that celebrating the dark side of life is a means of coming to terms with our fears, the primary being the uniquely human fear of death. But there’s something we both know, isn’t there? That is:
When one dresses up for a show and sets out to the footlight glare on the stage, the only other thing to do is play the role with sincerity and passion. The audience has a role to play as well, and that’s to reject the actor and send him scurrying back into his pitiful self. Close the curtain on his celebration of unfathomable cruelty and a legacy of loss and despair.
For, truly, we hate him.
Artwork by HU.
Above photo of Joseph courtesy of Final Girl Support Group.