Nerd Culture

Red Nose Rampage: A Field Guide to Saturday's Event in Downtown Phoenix

Clowns have been getting a bad rap lately. Really bad.

As we’re sure you’ve heard by now (or seen in your social media feeds) there’s been a rash of clown-related pranks, stunts, sightings, and other incidents across the U.S. and around the world over the last several months that have been bizarre, bothersome, and occasionally creepy at times.

Some were terrifying – including incidents where costumed clowns chased kids or attempted to lure them somewhere – or involved online taunts and threats. Others were mere hoaxes or sightings of people pulling pranks. And while no one wound up being harmed, it was no laughing matter for some, resulting in a moral panic of sorts that freaked out more than a few people.

People abhorring clowns is nothing new, of course, as illustrated by the phenomenon of clourophobia (or the irrational fear of clowns). Things seemed to get more intense during the recent drama, however, which has been something of a bummer for those who are fans of clowns.

That includes Phoenix resident Mo Lovestine. The local artist and photographer is an aficionado of clown culture and has been vexed by both the perpetrators of the stunts and the panic that’s ensued.

“It's kind of sad that someone would [twist] something that is meant to bring joy to humanity,” he told New Times via Facebook.

It's one of the reasons why he decided to organize the Red Nose Rampage, a clown-themed bar crawl in downtown Phoenix on Saturday, November 5. Lovestine says the event embraces the more innocent merriment and benign antics of clowns. It also sprung from his love of the art form, as well as a desire to celebrate a major milestone in his life.

“I've always had an affection for clown culture,” he says. “So when my girlfriend asked me what I wanted to do for my 30th birthday, I jokingly said, ‘I want to have a clown party,’ and the idea grew from that conversation.’”

Lovestine is no stranger to costumed bar crawls, as he’s a longtime member of the Arizona Cacophony Society, the counterculture collective and urban prankster group that puts on similar events like the annual Santarchy during the holiday season and the wedding-themed Brides of March every spring.

Though Lovestine says he patterned the Red Nose Rampage after Arizona Cacophony events to a degree, the event differs in a few ways. Primarily, there’s not so much of a prank aspect to the event. Instead, he says, it's more of “fun and playful event” that he intends to be pretty harmless.

“I took inspiration from other Cacophony events, but it's the first all-clown event I am aware of,” he says. “This is an original event, the first of many I hope.”

And unlike the Arizona Cacophony Society’s Brides of March event or the annual No Pants Light Rail Ride (which is put on by flashmob group Improv Arizona) this particular bar crawl won’t involve hopping aboard the public transportation trains to get to different drinkeries around downtown.

According to Lovestine, that's because he wants to avoid any possible panic or the perception that this is just another creepy clown stunt.

“I want to keep it off the light rail,” Lovestine says. “With all of the bad media buzz about clowns, I wanted to keep everyone as together as possible.”

He's keeping some of the aspects of the aforementioned events, however. Namely, the fact that costumes are mandatory to participate, be it someone who wants to dress up like famed children's show icon Bozo the Clown (or his Simpsons equivalent, Krusty) or folks in makeup and a red nose.

Those who don't, however, may or may not wind up with a pie on their heads.

"Clowns will be clowns," Lovestine says, coyly. "But [it's] all in fun and with love."

In keeping with the event's theme and vibe, he prefers that participants dress up as more jovial or humorous clowns as opposed to more sinister characters like Pennywise from It or even the creatures of schlock horror film Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Above all else, he wants to stress that the event is totally fun in nature.

"I just want to make sure everyone knows this has nothing to do [with] and is exact opposition of the 'creepy clown' thing," he says.

In anticipation of sending in the clowns to downtown Phoenix on Saturday, we've crafted a guide to the event covering all the pertinent info you'll need to know, including what to wear.

When and Where: The inaugural Red Nose Rampage gets going at 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 5, at The Rose and Crown Pub, 628 East Adams Street, the first stop on the crawl.

Prices: It’s free to participate in the event, and stops won’t have any cover charges. You’ll have to spring for the cost of your drinks and food, of course, unless you can find a sympathetic clown with deep pockets. (Donations are encouraged by organizers, however, which will help offset costs and pay the performers.)

Age Limits: It’s a bar crawl, so it’s for the 21-and-over crowd only.

Getting There: You’re going to be drinking, possibly to excess, so using the light rail or other means of public transportation is the wise choice. If you’d like to ride the rails to and from the event, every stop of the crawl will be within walking distance of the multiple stations throughout downtown. Fares are $2 for a single ride and $4 for an all-day pass. There's also Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing options (rates vary for all) as well as the Grid Bike Share service ($7 per hour, $15-$20 for the month).

Parking: Thinking about parking at the small lot next to the Rose and Crown? Forget about it, bozo, since it won’t be available. Instead, there’s a wealth of street parking ($1 to $1.50 per hour until 10 p.m.) in close proximity, as well as the Phoenix Convention Center/Heritage Square parking garage ($1 per hour, $8 for the day).

Weather: It’ll be warm but not terribly so, and the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80s. In essence, go with short sleeves and breezy costumes.

Food and Drink:
Every stop is likely to have both available for purchase, and a few will also offer specials for participants.

Route: Lovestine is a little cagey on specifically which bars and drinkeries will be included in the crawl (other than the starting point), but says the route will be focused strictly on spots in downtown or in the Roosevelt Row area and arts district. And after departing the Rose and Crown, however, updates on where everyone is headed next will be made on the event’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter. Everyone will be at each location for approximately an hour.

Entertainment: Certain stops will also feature performances by local circus and sideshow artists, including Scarlett Xander, Lydia Wilts, and Lovestine.

Bring: A government-issued ID, cash, comfortable footwear of the clowny or non-clowny variety, a charged-up smartphone, sunglasses, seltzer bottles, magic tricks, and – most importantly – clown-related or clown-inspired costuming. Like we previously mentioned, it's essentially mandatory. As for what sort of clown you’d like to be….

Costumes: If you’d like to dress up as a full-on circus-style clown, that’s totally fine. Or you could be a doppelganger of such renowned and memorable characters as Krusty, Bozo, Ronald McDonald, or even Boffo the Clown from Wallace and Ladmo, not to mention the iconic harlequins that were famously portrayed by the late Red Skelton and Enrico Caruso. It’s even cool if you wanna load up on Faygo and go as either a Juggalo or a member of the Insane Clown Posse (Woop! Woop!). And, yes, would-be Jokers and Harley Quinns are also welcome, just in case you aren’t burned out on the characters already.

In short, there are many different kinds of clowns for Red Nose Rampage participants to choose from. And whatever you’d like to be is okay with the organizer. “I'm all down for creativity,” Lovestine says. “That's what clowning is all about.”

Those who don’t have either the time or the budget for a full-fledged costume can keep things simple with just makeup, red nose, and possibly a wig. (Lovestine says there will also be volunteers doing face-painting at the first stop for a nominal fee.) No matter what option you choose, Lovestine says, the importance is on costuming yourself in some fashion and getting into the playful spirit of the event.

On that note, he'd also prefer it if people would stick with the spirit of the event and come and funny, satirical, or lovable clowns, as opposed to those of the creepy, terrifying, or killer variety, such as Pennywise or the late John Wayne Gacy’s infamous alter-ego, Pogo. As we mentioned, Lovestine ultimately want to avoid alarming the general public, suggesting that this is tied in with the recent wave of clown attacks, or causing any sort of hullabaloo.

“I can't really stop people from doing what they want to do, [but] I do hope people recognize the fact that they are responsible adults whether they choose to act like one or not,” he says. “I'm trying my best to plan a fun and playful event with a little drama as possible.”
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.