They're Already Here

Here in the Valley of the Sun, the names "Fife" and "Joe" are not synonymous with "happiness" and "joy." Though the respective physical appearances of these men may be enough to bring about an occasional smirk, their actions aren't funny at all.

In fact, our governor and sheriff seem to be causing lots of problems for people: borrowing millions that can't be repaid; letting jail riots happen; bad stuff. We've all heard what these men have to say, digested their opinions, heard their excuses.

But they aren't the only people in the Valley who have ideas; there is a rarely heard demographic, a group of citizens who have simple, unwavering views that can provide solutions for these troubled times. Folks who talk softly and carry, if not big sticks, then colorful balloons twisted into animal shapes.

They are clowns.
Clowns are great in number here in the Valley, and they are an organized contingent, complete with a Code of Ethics that certain elected officials could learn from. If only Governor Fife Symington and Sheriff Joe Arpaio would adhere to these rules:

1. I will keep my acts, performance and behavior in good taste while I am in costume and makeup. . . . I will remember that a good clown entertains others by making fun of himself and not at the expense or embarrassment of others.

2. I will carry out my appearance and assignment for the entertainment of others and not for personal gain or national publicity . . .

3. I will conduct myself as a gentleman, neither molesting nor interfering with other acts, events, spectators or individuals.

4. I will remove my makeup and change into my street clothes as soon as possible following my appearance, so that I cannot be associated with any incident which may be detrimental to the name of clowning.

5. I will appear in as many clown shows as I can.

All it takes to find an abundance of clowns both thoughtful and eloquent is a quick glance in the Yellow Pages. There they are--Twinkles, Kuddles, Chilly, Bubbles, Cupcake, Foot Z and so many others--listed openly under "Clowns."

Unlike the complex rhetoric, empty promises and useless reassurances that we are so used to hearing from the lips of politicians, the policy prescriptions of clowns are honest and direct. And their lips are big and red.

Theirs is a magnanimous world, where good is good and bad is bad, and there is only one true party--the kind where everyone has a good time. I spoke with many clowns, asking only for basic background and for the answers to a couple of simple questions:

What would you do if you were governor?
And how would you have dealt with the rioting prisoners at Tent City?
I'm sure you'll agree that their answers are refreshing, straightforward and, at times, even shocking.

What a unique experience it is to dial a number and hear a deep, extremely masculine voice say, "Hello. This is Twinkles." After saying hello, Twinkles revealed that he is so called because he wanted something from his clown name, "something different, something that was bright, cheerful and sparkly, going with the colors of my costume, which are rainbow colors."

And, as there is more than one color in Twinkles' costume, more than one way to bring about laughter, more than one way to skin a cat, there is more than one way to be a governor and a sheriff. There is the clown way. A way guided by Twinkles and his painted brethren.

Now, taking his merry self behind bars is no mere pipe dream to the dedicated Twinkles; he has performed in many prisons not only in the United States, but all over Mexico. Last summer he visited Guatemala City, bringing a bit of cheer to the drug- and crime-riddled section of town known as La Limonada (The Lemonade).

Prisons are a rough gig, admits Twinkles, but "it can really help someone in that environment."

"Most of 'em take it seriously and pay attention, but there's always a few jokers in the crowd," he adds without irony, "that like to clown around."

Twinkles is a clown who not only can make a dachshund out of a balloon, but can also quote Scripture.

"As governor, I'd try to get everybody to laugh more often, smile more often; humor is a great painkiller," he offers. "The Bible says, 'A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.'" Amen to that. Or should we say, ha ha? Either one would no doubt make the shiny red nose of Governor Twinkles wiggle with delight.

Foot Z is the epitome of an active clown. A self-described "high energy clown" for the Phoenix Suns, this flame-haired burst of wacky vigor says she loves to dance, and her name was going to be "either Cute Z or Foot Z, and Foot Z kind of stuck."

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Peter Gilstrap
Contact: Peter Gilstrap