by Jim Harris
On March 14, hundreds of jeering municipal union members armed with whistles drowned out Mayor Nutter’s annual budget address in City Council chambers. The session had to be adjourned, and the Mayor finished his speech elsewhere.
The protesters carried placards depicting Nutter as Bozo the Clown, and outside a flatbed truck carrying a giant inflatable rat circled the building. Afterwards, a union strategist said that the protesters were pleased with the results.
“We had hoped to get arrested,” he said, “but we still shook the place up pretty good. Those City Council people were hopping out of there like rats off a sinking ship. And speaking of rats, our rat, ‘Scabby,’ looked very impressive out there circling City Hall. Little children were crying. As for the Bozo posters, we considered a number of different clowns, but we decided that Bozo was the best choice. Thanks to the guys in the print shop for designing that great graphic.”
When I went to the Mayor’s office for comment, I was referred to The Department of Retribution, where I met with the Assistant Deputy Director of Revenge, Mal Evolent. “Oh, it ain’t over. Not by a long shot,” he said. “It’s not even about the issues anymore; it’s about one-upmanship, and we plan to disrupt every union meeting within a 10-mile radius for the next four years. And we may even decide to arrest the goons who caused $500,000 in damage to the new Chestnut Hill Quaker Meetinghouse.
“I don’t know where they got those lame Bozo placards, but I’ve seen better caricatures done by 3-year-olds. For our part, we commissioned one of Philadelphia’s premiere portrait artists to create a 30-foot-high oil painting of District Council 33 President Peter Matthews as an evil clown with big, sharp teeth. We’ll be towing that up and down the Delaware River on a barge throughout the summer. The Mayor himself will be piloting the tugboat.
“We’ve also hired Chinese engineers to build us a mammoth, rat-shaped blimp which we will fly over union demonstrations, with Mayor Nutter blasting his rendition of ‘Union Goons’ through a loudspeaker. I think we’ve outdone the unions at their own game. It’s only a matter of time now until they all give up and agree to work for peanuts — literally.
“And as you know, the Mayor has asked the city’s alleged Human Rights Commission to look into this month’s Philadelphia Magazine cover article about white working class people saying bad things about low-income blacks who live nearby. In the name of political correctness, we may have to suspend the First Amendment rights of those nasty white people who do not express opinions we have pre-approved. Same thing with the union goons.”
Lost in all this political jousting, though, is the emotional pain and embarrassment caused to those whose public images and reputations have been unfairly maligned in the process. I am speaking, of course, about clowns and rats.
I reached Bozo the Clown by phone at his ranch in Texas and asked him what he thought about all the negativity associated with his name. “It’s troubling,” he said. “You know how whenever folks want to portray someone as evil, they depict him as Hitler? Well it’s kind of like that with me, too. I’ve become the poster boy for stupid.”
“I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not the original Bozo. I’m third generation, you know, like all those canine actors who played Lassie. Everyone thought they were all the same dog. Anyway, my grandfather, Bozo the First, would roll over in his tiny clown-coffin if he could see how his legacy has been perverted. He was a good man. He performed for our troops in the Pacific Theater in World War II.”
“I have an advanced degree in clown sciences. My granddad never made it past first grade, but he taught me how to make my own exploding shoes and take a pie in the face without flinching. I can’t tell you how hard it is to get those exploding shoes through airport security, but I continue to try because I’m preserving my clown heritage. Please tell that to your readers.”
To get a rat-perspective on things, I called the cigar smoking, wisecracking rodent, Chuck E. Cheese. I asked him what he thought about unions using the rat as a symbol of sleaze. “Hey,” he bellowed, “how many Philly union workers does it take to screw in a light bulb? One to screw in the bulb, two to hold the ladder and 30 to stand around doing nothing! But seriously, folks, rats get a bad rap. Look at me. I’m a rat. I’ve been working in the food industry for 30 years, and I’ve never had a complaint or a health citation. Plus, I have to perform at parties for screaming 4-year-olds all the time, and I’ve never lost my cool. Anyone who says that rats are dirty or untrustworthy is a real Bozo.”
For further developments regarding the Mayor and the unions, log on to FantasyIsland.com and suspend all disbelief.