Ahhh, welcome to my museum! Were you wandering around this half-empty strip mall looking for Thai food and stumbled into this unclearly marked storefront? And you’re now overwhelmed by the thousands of versions of one specific item that are jammed into every inch of this dreary room? No, no, you’re in the right place. This is the only museum in the world for clown dolls.
Yes, I do look like a threatening Santa Claus.
I worked as a telephone line repairman for 37 years, but my real passion was filling my home with these unblinking monstrosities. From this tiny baby Bozo to this eight-foot half-melted wax Ronald McDonald I rescued from a burning Madame Tussauds, my life is clowns. A few years ago, the city stepped in and said the smell from thousands of never-cleaned dolls was a public health hazard. So I packed up my clowns, jammed them in this vacant jewelry store, and called it a museum.
Take a look around. It’s the same painted clown face over and over again, but with tiny variations only I care about. See, look at this one. His nose is crimson rather than the traditional cherry red. And here, this one giggles when you press his belly. They only made 200 of him. Here, the jewel of my collection. It’s signed by Martin Humbert, the designer of the first Pierpont Collection clown doll, Candy Randy. Yes, he is a man you’ve never heard of who died in obscurity as I will someday.
Thank you, the dust is overwhelming.
Please, don’t touch the clowns. They have no value to you or monetarily, but I have formed my entire identity around being the man who collects them. Old Man Clown Man the kids called me. Little Jimmy, the neighbor boy, used to come over and play with the dolls after school until he dropped one and I flew into a towering unjustified rage. Kids didn’t come around much after that.
I’m sure you’re dying to know how I became interested in clown dolls. Every night as a boy I’d pray to God for Momma to grow back the parts of her brain the doctors took out and an authentic Ding Dong The Clown doll. One Christmas morning when I was eleven, I found a Ding Dong doll from Santa under the Christmas tree. God gives us what we deserve. I deserved that doll and I suppose Momma deserved what she got too.
It’s a little worse for wear, but here’s that very first Ding Dong doll. Yes, I can touch it with my greasy hands as I finish this salami sandwich, but if you breathe on it I’ll kill you. I treasured this doll until it nearly wore out. It was my best friend, my closest confidant, and for one exploratory summer, my lover.
Okay, you can touch him if you want. No? You sure?
Sadly, Glenda and I never had children of our own, so the clown dolls are our children. Well, they’re my children. Glenda has friends and hobbies and interests that aren’t purchasing thousands of worthless children’s toys. At first, Glenda supported my collection. We’d pack up the Geo Prizm and head to flea markets every Saturday morning and come back with a trunk jammed full of dolls to add to my hoard. When people called me Old Man Clown Man, she’d swell with pride.
The hours? The museum closes when I leave. You’ve got plenty of time to hear this ponderously sad tale.
As you frantically try to avoid eye contact with me, I see you admiring this sparking clown lamp. It was my gift to Glenda for our 40th wedding anniversary. She expected a bed and breakfast in the Catskills or a spa weekend in Sedona, but instead, I took her to the National Clown Doll Convention in Midland, Michigan. As we stood in line to get the lamp signed by a 70-year-old man who was the third Ding Dong The Clown, tears rolled down Glenda’s face. I told her to not get the lamp wet and she told me I had to choose. Her or the clowns.
Good eye, those sheets crumpled on the cot do have tiny clowns on them.
Where are you headed, stranger? I haven’t even shown you the back room yet. I keep the best clown dolls back there and by best, I mean more minuscule variations on the exact same thing. Come back soon! I’ll be here. Here with my clowns.