One of the worst jobs I ever had was as PA (Production Assistant) for a company that shot commercials. I ran errands for up to eighteen hours a day for sixty dollars a day. One night I got so exhausted that I fell asleep while driving back from a shoot, and woke up six lanes over, still moving at sixty-five miles per hour. Then I found what I thought was a good parking space in front of my house, parked there, and collapsed. The next morning I discovered that the space had been empty because it had a fire hydrant, and my ticket wiped out my entire earnings for the day that had almost gotten me killed. I quit.

But before that happened, I arrived at office early one morning and opened the lobby door. The lobby was typically packed with actors if auditions for the next commercial were being held, so it was no surprise to me to find it full. But to my shock and horror, this morning it was full of clowns! Clowns of all genders, shapes and sizes! Clowns in full makeup and costume! Clowns sitting in every chair, clowns leaning against the walls, clowns gesticulating and twisting balloon animals!

Up until that moment, I had thought the phrase “reeled back in horror” was a figure of speech. I reeled back in horror, fetching up against the door. Then I yanked the door open, fled for my life, and slunk back into the office via the rear entrance.

This was in the mid 1990s, when commercials were even more surreal than is common nowadays. I frequently saw commercials where I never even figured out what was being advertised. This may or may not explain why Holiday Inn commissioned a TV spot in which three dwarf clowns and a great big fat clown chased a tall skinny bald clown through a Holiday Inn.

“Every lobby has free computer access,” explained a portentous voice as the clown chase hurtled through the lobby and past the computers. As the skinny bald clown raced across the surface of the swimming pool, and his clown pursuers fell in and then floundered after him, the narrator added, “All our swimming pools are fully heated.”

The production assistants had little contact with the actors, though I once almost leaped out of my skin when I was walking behind the set alone—or so I thought—and a small cold hand unexpectedly grasped me around the knee.

“AAAAAAAAGGGGHHHH— Oh, hi, Kenny,” I said weakly, looking down at the waist-high clown. “What can I do for you?”

His deadpan request for a soda did nothing to alter my conviction that clowns are terrifying.

One evening the production manager asked me to give one of the clowns a ride home. To my relief, it was not Kenny. I’ll call this clown Bill. To my greater relief, Bill was no longer in costume or makeup. After a few idle remarks about the day’s shoot, we drove in tired silence.

When I pulled up in front of the house where Bill lived, I remembered that I had one further instruction.

“Oh, hey, Bill,” I said, “The production manager asked me to call in from your house and find out if he has any more work for me, or if I should just drive home from here. Mind if I use your phone?”

This simple request was met with a wary stare and a long silence.

“Er… Do you have a phone?” I asked. This was before cell phones were common, but the house was rather large and luxurious.

“Yes,” he said automatically, then looked like he could have kicked himself. “Um… You see… Well… That’s not actually my house.”

“Did I go to the wrong address?”

“No, no. I mean, I live there, but I don’t own it. And I don’t have a phone in my bedroom. You’d have to use the one in the living room.”

“Well… Can I use that one?”

There was another long silence. He finally said, “Look… If you go into that house… you’ll see something you shouldn't see. Are you sure you need to call in?”

I looked at the house. It didn’t look like a crack den or the abode of the Texas Chainsaw Massacrerers. On the other hand, evil clowns! John Wayne Gacy! I racked my memory to recall whether Gacy had actually been a clown, or whether he had painted pictures of clowns, or whether he had merely been a collector of clown memorabilia.

Then I looked at Bill. This was before I had studied martial arts. However, he was about 3’5”. I was sure I could take him. Even if he grabbed a chainsaw, I could outrun him. But he’d said he didn’t own the house. Clearly there were others lurking in the living room where the phone was. What if they had the chainsaws? What if the house was filled with his evil clown confederates?! If I leaped in my car now and burned rubber out of there, I would escape their evil clown clutches!

But then I would never find out what the hell was in that house.

“I really need to make that call,” I said firmly. “Er… If someone’s growing marijuana, I honestly don’t care.”

“Oh, it’s nothing like that,” said Bill. “It’s… Listen, let me go in and ask if it’s okay.”

He trotted up to the front steps and vanished into the depths of the house. I noticed that he did not open the door all the way, even though I was too far away to see what was inside, but eased it just wide enough to admit him and then slammed it shut.

Alone in the dark, I was beginning to seriously reconsider my decision when Bill returned. I was relieved to see that he did not have a chainsaw.

“Okay, I explained the situation, and they’ll let you come in,” he said. “But on one condition: you have to promise to never tell anyone what you see inside.”

“I… uh… okay,” I said, making a snap decision that a promise extracted by a serial killer was not binding, and that if I saw corpses, bloodstained weapons, people chained to the wall, or heard ominous thumps and faint shrieks for help, I was driving straight to the nearest police station. “I promise not to say a word about anything I see.”

“EVER,” said Bill.

“Ever,” I swore.

Then I followed him inside. I stepped into a living room which contained a normal-looking, somewhat elderly couple sitting on the sofa, and…

“EEEEEEE!” I squealed, rushing forward. “Ferrets! Can I pet them? Do they bite?”

The couple on the sofa spoke as one: “You can never tell anyone--!”

“I know,” I said. “Ferrets are illegal in California. What a shame! They’re so cute! Don’t worry, I’d never do anything that might get your pets confiscated.”

Bill introduced me to his parents as I petted the adorable, albeit squirmy and somewhat smelly ferrets. Then I pried myself away from Bill’s secret and made the call.

For the rest of the shoot, Bill periodically shot warning glares in my direction. But he didn’t need to have worried. While I have told this story before, I have never revealed the location of the House of Clown and Ferret. And I never will. The clown's secret is safe with me.

ETA: Here is the actual commercial!

From: [identity profile]

this is so amazing. please write more stories!

From: [identity profile]

Every time I express startlement/horror at coming unexpectedly upon a clown, B. says soothingly 'Don't worry, dear. I told you. There's no such thing as clowns.'

Once, this didn't work to calm my startlement, and I snapped 'Then what the hell is that?' 'That', he said, without missing a beat, 'is a person dressed as a clown. Real clowns... well, have you read Stephen King's novel It?'

I still don't know why anyone would want to dress as a clown, but it is comforting to know that real ones do not exist.

From: [identity profile]

*cracks up*

I am so sigging this.

(and you do tell the most fabulous stories, Rachel!)
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (kukaku-kaboom!)

From: [personal profile] chomiji

That was wonderful!

(A coworker at my first job lived in a third-floor apartment with her cat and her ferret, who were firm friends. The apartment was located near a large woodland that was home to many tough feral cats. One day, the ferret fell off the apartment balcony into the parking lot below, quite near the woods. Mina, terrified, ran down to rescue what she assumed would be a badly injured ferret who was in grave danger of being eaten by ferocious feral cats. She found him completely unscathed, but indeed surrounded by tough-looking cats - who were being held at bay by this feisty thing that simply would not act like prey. She said his expression and stance seemed to be saying "OK! Who wants to play? Chicken, eh? OK - how about three at once? I'm not scared! I can lick all of ya!")

From: [identity profile]

This made me laugh _hysterically,_ and my tooth is throbbing and some asswhack out there is doing CONSTRUCTION WORK which apparently consists of banging one big heavy metal thing on top of another big heavy metal thing in no particular rhythm at all. Thank you. This was wonderful.


And, omg ferrets! They are adorable. We knew a couple in ABQ from school who had 2-3 ferrets, and when we'd go over to watch movies they would snuggle up in yr pantlegs or under your shirt and they were so warm and CUTE.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter


(also, I thought this was a manga review for some reason and was immediately wondering why there were no other manga series about clowns.)

From: [identity profile]


You really DO have the best stories!

From: [identity profile]

You are one heck of a storyteller. I'm glad this one, at least, ended up all sunshine and roses! er, ferrets!

From: [identity profile]

I love your stories so much.

I may have to show a couple of your theater posts to my freshman comp classes as good examples of descriptive writing (we're doing a unit right now on personal-narrative essays). If that's okay with you.

From: [identity profile]

Ferrets! But I am still mentally recoiling from the LOBBY FULL OF CLOWNS. Oh, god, I am pretty sure that is what hell looks like.

From: [identity profile]


I have a friend who used to have ferrets. I find them adorable so long as they belong to someone else and do not live in property I am responsible for in any way.
naomikritzer: (Default)

From: [personal profile] naomikritzer

I love this story so much.

The first time I read it I immediately told my sister the story. Abi went to college in California, though she now lives in Minnesota. I think I got as far as "I'll see if it's okay for you to come inside" and she cut me off with "they had ferrets, didn't they?"
naomikritzer: (Default)

From: [personal profile] naomikritzer

Yes, I just watched it.

It's really surreal.

I think hotels are probably hard to advertise, and they're particularly hard to advertise in a way that distinguishes them from every other hotel out there. I imagine this gets pretty frustrating and sometimes leads to things like commercials full of clowns chasing each other around the lobby because you're convinced that they'll remember you if your ads are sufficiently bizarre.

(I view hotel brands as basically interchangeable within categories. You've got fancy hotels, which are frequently overpriced, have very small rooms with a single king-sized bed, charge you for freaking everything including Internet, breakfast, and parking, and may be the only thing available if you're staying in a city downtown. You've got mid-range hotels where the typical room is 2 queens, internet and breakfast are included, and you can get two rooms with a door between them. You've got cheapass places which are sometimes motels and sometimes very downscale hotels, where the typical room is two double beds, they have free coffee, and they may or may not offer Internet. And you've got scary dives, which are cheapass motels you really don't want to stay in. I mean, I check reviews because individual instances of any chain vary massively by location, but for the most part I check reviews and prices for the mid-range chains at my destination and I really don't give a shit whether I'm staying at Comfort Inn or a Hampton Inn or a Quality Inn or a Best Western. Who's cheap and doesn't have a bunch of reviews on TripAdvisor complaining that it was filthy and the staff was mean? Booking!)

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