"The Main Street Morgue is one of the not-so-great haunted houses. It's more B-style," says Jeff Shehan, a 22-year-old customer-service rep from Prairie Village. Tonight, however, he expects the place to get lots of traffic. "You won't be able to tell the people who work [here] from the people that are coming."
With their geometric hairdos, evil-clown face paint and polychromatic clothing, the Juggalos look like the Morgue's chain-rattling ghouls-for-hire. One employee, who resembles a reject from a Star Wars casting call, works the crowd, pumping up his audience with midway-barker antics and in-your-face screams. The Juggalos holler right back, exploding into cheers after he deftly latches on to the back of a moving car that drags him halfway down Main Street on his hindquarters.
"There's a whole fuckin' bunch of crazy people goin' through that haunted house," says Patrick Stasi, who's decked out in forbidding face paint and a Psychopathic hockey jersey. "We're gonna tear that shit up. I mean, we're not gonna tear it up, but we are gonna have a blast. We're gonna go in there and have some fun and hope everything goes all right. 'Cause when you get a lot of Juggalos together in one place, people start to freak out. Cops, fire marshals, all that shit."
Stasi, Shehan and the other Juggalos roar as an ornately painted cargo van rolls up to the Morgue's front doorway. A burly crew hops out and begins making preparations. The clock creeps closer to show time. Anticipation is high. Insane Clown Posse (ICP) is nearly in the house.
ICP is a Detroit-based rap-metal duo whose self-owned record label, Psychopathic, hosts a number of like-minded artists. With faces painted like satanic jesters, pyrotechnic stage shows and gruesome lyrics, Psychopathic's electroshock aura resembles that of a dozen similarly theatrical acts, including Slipknot and Rob Zombie. But ICP and its affiliates (including Twiztid, Blaze Ya Dead Homie and Psychopathic all-stars Dark Lotus) take the gimmick several steps further, preaching a full-blown mythology.
Legend has it that late one evening, ICP -- originally a workaday gangsta rap unit named Inner City Posse -- was visited by the six spirits of the "Dark Carnival," each of whom instructed the band to deliver a message to the world. The six messages were to take the form of ICP records, called Joker's Cards. Those who paid attention would be rewarded; those who didn't faced punishment. Upon death, Juggalos and nonlisteners get a visit by the Dark Carnival spirits, who test them on their knowledge of the Joker's Cards. A person's score determines whether he'll spend eternity basking in Shangri-la or basting in hell. So Inner City Posse became Insane Clown Posse and added costumes, makeup and enough onstage props to stock a Broadway production of Cats. The band issued its first few Joker's Cards independently to little fanfare, but when the sixth is released on November 5, it's sure to sell briskly. After all, legend also says that cataclysmic world events will occur once the sixth Joker's Card has been delivered.
"If you believe in anything enough, then it has some form of truth to it, for you personally," Shehan says, adjusting a silver neck charm that's been shaped into Psychopathic's hatchet-man logo. "I can't say for sure that there are six faces that I'll see when I die, but I definitely think there's something to it. There's something there."
Shehan isn't the only believer here tonight. The Psychopathic family claims to have a fanbase of more than a million diehards -- Juggalos.
Psychopathic's visit to Kansas City -- a promotional tour for ICP's forthcoming Joker's Card -- included an afternoon pop-in at the KC Comicon, a comic-book convention at the KCI Expo Center.Juggalos have now descended on the Morgue, lured by the chance to meet ICP's founding members, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, who are working inside the haunted house for one night only. It's an opportunity not to be missed.
"This is a big clown town, definitely," Shehan says. "If there's a signing or whatnot, so many people will show up. You wouldn't expect it, but if I go to the mall or something, I usually see at least one or two people that are Juggalos. Just by what they wear or how they handle themselves, you can tell -- the chains, the clothes, the hats."
Stasi says he's found a home with the Juggalo family. "I think I'll be down with the clown forever. I got a tattoo on my arm that says ICP. Planning to get a lot more. That shit ain't goin' away."
Not from the KC area, anyway. Psychopathic artists tour here regularly, packing venues such as the Beaumont Club, the Bottleneck and the Granada several times a year.
"I'd say a couple thousand at least," Stasi says, estimating the number of Juggalos in the area. "All these shows I go to, there's lines two blocks long and shit. Same people every time -- that's what I love about it."
Stasi clutches a CD sampler given to him by Psychopathic's promotional team. "A Juggalo is a person who don't give a fuck about what other people think about him," he says. "That's my version of a Juggalo -- a messenger of what they're talking about. The Dark Carnival, that's what we believe in. Other people think it's fake, but that's our lifestyle. That's pretty much it: Don't give a fuck what other people think, and always stay true to your family. That's what Juggalos are is a big family," Stasi says.
"I think it goes beyond adolescence," Shehan adds. "I actually know people who are raising their kids Juggalo. It's crazy and scary at the same time."
One such "Juggadad" is 26-year-old Lester Ellifrits, who supports his family working as a cook in Louisburg, Kansas.
"I got three kids -- four, five and eight months -- and they all love ICP," the harlequin-painted Ellifrits says. "They all run around singing ICP. They're gonna be down with the clown. My four-year-old goes around singing 'Halls of Illusions' all the time."
A good portion of the company's musical content is filled with misogyny, murder and mayhem -- killing rednecks, flipping the bird to police, huffing drugs and scoring with women are favored topics. But there are also mournful, hand-on-heart thug-ballads that evangelize a form of community. On Dark Lotus' "Juggalo Family," Twiztid member Monoxide Child summarizes the philosophy in a few lines: So many people in the matrix die alone, hey/Not me, my soul belongs to Juggalos, they/Keep me going when I'm down and out/I pick the phone up, drop 'em a line and hear 'em shout. And having something that resembles a real family often seems the primary appeal of becoming a Juggalo.
Shehan was an anomaly at Shawnee Mission East, which was filled with the usual high-school-clique mix of preppies, punks, poseurs, jocks and skaters. "I'm able to weave myself in and out of any social group, but I never directly fit in with any one of those actual groups -- until I found this thing called Juggalo," Shehan says. "Then it made sense; that's what I am. I just didn't have a word for it. That's the group that I belong to. These are all my friends. I didn't know half of these people before I got here, and now I love every one of these people like they're my brothers."
For those who worship at the Psychopathic alter, the holy land this summer was Peoria, Illinois. Shehan and a handful of fans made the pilgrimage from KC, joining 8,000 other Juggalos from around the world.
The Illinois town didn't know what it was getting into when it agreed to host the third-annual Gathering of Juggalos this past July. It wasn't easy to find a city willing to welcome the gathering this year. Toledo, Ohio, is still recovering from the 2001 gathering, which resulted in dozens of arrests. On the final day, the event was shut down after fans rushed the stage and caused thousands of dollars in damage to ICP's equipment. The ensuing vandalism to Toledo has become the stuff of myth. The city filed a lawsuit against Psychopathic.
Rather than buying tickets for the gathering in Peoria, kids shelled out $102 for one of three randomly assigned metal amulets that determined floor access to the nightly general-admission concerts. A circle-shaped amulet got one up close on Friday, when Dark Lotus headlined; a triangle earned Twiztid on Saturday; and a highly coveted square gave access to Sunday's grand finale, featuring an ICP set capped by "Faygo Armageddon," when Juggalos would soak the arena -- and each other -- with gallons of the soda.
The gathering was much more than a concert; it was a glimpse at the future of music festivals. Equal parts Lollapalooza, Disneyland and Mall of America, the event was proof that ICP founder Violent J's true gift isn't horrorcore rap but youth marketing.
Included in the three-day pass were eight-plus hours of preshow activities. Fortune telling, a hypnotist, face painting, a massage parlor, pool tables, video games, computer trivia, laser tag, jousting, boxing, basketball, dodgeball and a makeshift museum exhibiting rare Psychopathic memorabilia were just a few ways to alleviate boredom. Three screening rooms ran a continuous stream of rare Psychopathic home movies, TV appearances and "clownsploitation" films. A recording studio let aspiring superstars lay down a track or even make a music video on the spot at no cost. A Juggalo court, modeled after The Jerry Springer Show, invited fans to "sue" their friends for absurd reasons (not representing ICP correctly), followed by even more audacious sentences (shaved heads, wearing humiliating signs). Juggalo Championshit Wrestling involved full-contact participation from ICP and Twiztid; wanna-be smackdowners could enroll in Mad Man Pondo's Wrestling School. A Faygo drinking competition, a Miss Juggalette pageant, a Super Big Balla Contest, costume and tattoo tournaments, dating games and something called the Juggalo Gong Show were all on tap for the weekend. Fans lined up hours in advance to take part in an ongoing series of autograph sessions and seminars, and women were encouraged to Win a Date With a Psychopathic Star. At 5 p.m., the sideshows shut down and the concerts began.
The peripheral attractions were free, but the cash was flowing. Eighteen merchandising stalls filled half of an oversized gymnasium, where Psychopathic workers were hawking everything from Twiztid lunch boxes to ICP thong underwear. Hundreds of Juggalos snapped up $140 hockey jerseys and $400 leather jackets by the armful. Fans hurting for dollars -- but not for dad's credit card -- used plastic to purchase "psycho cash," good at any of the booths.
"I think lots of the stuff is way overpriced," said Shehan, who had caught a ride from KC to attend. "Like, they have $300 necklaces and leather jackets for 400 bucks. I mean, leather jackets are expensive, but that's a little pricey," Shehan says. "I bet they sell a whole lot more merchandise than they do CDs."
The staff of the Peoria Civic Center seemed pleased at the tourism boost to the town, even if the money was sticky with Faygo and greasepaint.
"It's everything we thought it would be," said General Manager Debbie Ritschel, surveying the scene from the Civic's front lawn on Friday morning. "It's enthusiastic; there's a lot of trash and Faygo going everywhere. We're going to have to do a lot of cleanup, but Psychopathic Records has promised that they are indeed paying for all this cleanup. And we are getting that money from them every night."
The city of Peoria was cleaning up as well.
"Every hotel is sold out, and the kids have been extremely well-behaved," Ritschel chirped. "They have some challenging hairdos and jewelry and tattoos, but they're great to talk to. We do a lot of concerts here, and some of them are fairly edgy. What we don't usually have is kids that come back each day -- so they're more visible. And we've got some citizens who've had some eye-opening experiences."
On Saturday morning, the Faygo started flying in earnest. Waiting for the doors to open at 11 a.m., Juggalos grew impatient outside the Civic. Bored, hot and hungover, the crowd had little to do besides sweat and chant "show your tits!" Police cars circled the block continuously, but the officers' hands-off approach allowed for plenty of behind-the-back beer and pot consumption. Chalk and spray-painted graffiti lined the building's outer walls, and sludgy piles of empty cans, broken bottles and junk-food wrappers clogged nearby gutters.
"Are they trashing the place?" asked a nervous clerk at the nearby Wal-Mart, which had been overrun by Juggalos. "I have never even heard of these guys. I mean, if you said Britney Spears was here, that's one thing. Do they use the f-word? I don't like that."
At the Civic, nineteen-year-old Chicago native Trixy Doll handed out copies of her do-it-yourself CD, Straight Out Tha Toybox.
"What up, ninja!" she shouted -- ninja being a catchall nickname among Juggalos, who are too pale-faced to invoke the term's gangsta counterpart, "nigga." Doll would rather be called anything than a Juggalette -- the term for a female Juggalo -- a word she finds condescending and sexist.
"I'm a Juggalo," she explained. "I think the fans degrade the term Juggalette. If I were to be online and have a [nongender-specific] screen name, and I told somebody I was a Juggalo, they would want to talk to me more about the music." If they knew she was a female, she says, "they would just be like, 'Hey, do you want to go out sometime?'"
The gathering, Doll said, was different. Here, she was accepted and even cared for by her fellow fans. Like many, she recounted tales of Juggalove among painted strangers. If a Juggalo were searching for a place to stay, he'd be offered one. If a Juggalette were stranded, fans would help out with a ride.
"People are usually greedy and selfish," Doll said. "I come from a rich suburb. My parents have a lot of money. But in the ghetto, usually families are tighter. Families that are more concerned about money have less time for their kids and usually are frazzled from working, so they end up doing some kind of drug -- whether it's alcohol -- and then they come home and they're violent and want to hurt people or throw stuff. My family's dysfunctional as fuck. Everybody hates everybody; we beat each other, everybody drinks, everybody's crazy."
Eventually, the Civic doors opened and the fans shuffled forward, each concertgoer getting thoroughly frisked by security guards wearing surgical gloves. Cigarette packs were checked for drugs and paraphernalia; purses were sifted and inspected. Despite the delay, the Civic's narrow hallways were soon crammed with Juggalos, who shuffled from activity to activity with abandon. A group of rowdies implored female passers-by to bare their breasts, cheering wildly whenever one complied.
Without warning, a policeman slammed one of the flashers against a window and arrested her for indecent exposure.
The woman's boyfriend threw a punch in the direction of the lawman's face.
"Cop in trouble!" yelled the officer, pushing the couple into an empty conference room. Cops quickly formed a human barricade, straining to hold back the incensed mob. Fans hurled bottles of water, batteries and coins.
Chants of "Fuck the police!" reverberated against the Civic's concrete walls. Juggalos pounded on the conference-room doors, demanding the immediate release of the flasher and her beau.
Rather than trying to pacify the frenzy, Peoria's finest took the offense, randomly firing paint balls filled with pepper spray. Fumes and panic filled the hall as kids scattered in every direction, struggling to avoid the toxic cloud. Streaming through the exits, clown-faced fans sputtered and coughed; a distressed woman tried to wipe the pepper spray from the face of a screaming toddler. Outside, squad cars, ambulances and fire trucks surrounded the venue, while 8,000 fuming concertgoers stirred near the entrances. Officers wearing military gear looked on menacingly, maintaining an uneasy peace as "Fuck the police" echoed from various points in the throng. They handcuffed and hauled away six males and a lone female, while a medical crew attended to a young woman sporting silver clown makeup and black bondage pants. Blood trickled from the Juggalo 4 Life tattoo on her shoulder.
"I inhaled some of that pepper spray. It was not pleasant. That shit was nasty," Shehan said with a grimace. "It sounds so cliché to say they hate us because we're Juggalos, but that's basically what it is. They heard what happened at the last two gatherings, and they think it's gonna happen here. And now it's probably gonna happen here, to say the least. I would say if it weren't for the cops, half the shit that's going down would not be going down, it would not be going wrong.
"Not everyone shared Shehan's analysis, though. "We weren't doing anything. We were just walking in to enjoy the show," said sixteen-year-old Jamie Garza, who had come to the gathering from Little Rock, Arkansas. "Then everybody starts going crazy. If [Juggalos] wouldn't've acted stupid, cops wouldn't have tagged. These people are just mindless. We could turn this into a police incident really easy, but if I was in the cops' position, I would have done the same thing."
The combination of thousands of pissed-off Juggalos, the equally furious cops and the Civic's many glass windows had everyone on edge. Talk that the show would be canceled made things even more tense.
"There's nothing wrong with a set of tits as far as I'm concerned," griped 21-year-old Olathe resident Shaun Robinson. "You have guys walking around with no shirt on; it's the same thing. There's a big billboard that says Vagina Monologues, but we can't show tits? Women talk about vaginas and flash their tits because they're liberated women and they can do it, but let's flash a tit just to make a Juggalo happy or get a picture, and we get arrested over the shit."
Psychopathic President Alex Abbiss stood atop a stepladder and urged the Juggalos to remain calm.
"The cops and the people at the Civic want this to go down," he shouted as the Juggalos jeered. "They do not want to cancel the gathering, but everyone has to stay cool."
Abbiss announced that the remainder of the afternoon events were canceled, but cheers went up when he proclaimed that the evening concerts would go on as scheduled.
As the sun set on Peoria, the mood was irrevocably altered. Police -- previously a mild presence -- were now everywhere. Officers from surrounding counties had been called in, bolstered by the arrival of the Illinois State Police. Several Juggalos spoke of hotelwide drug sweeps, and a grandfatherly type walked a German shepherd through a hotel parking lot, leading the sniffing canine to every car. Several nearby businesses refused entry to anyone remotely connected with the gathering.
"We walk up to the door, and they're like, 'You're not allowed in here. No Juggalos are allowed through these doors,'" said Robinson, describing an encounter at a neighborhood tavern. "So we start walking away, and the two guys that was at the door start mouthing us -- telling us we need to go take a shower 'cause we look like fuckin' idiots with our face paint on."
For its part, the Civic staff sided squarely with the fans. Door searches diminished to a halfhearted pocket pat with zero inquiries as to the contents.
Inside the main arena, legendary horrorcore pioneer and newly signed Psychopathic artist Esham provoked almost no response. But when Twiztid took the stage, the audience roared to life, the packed floor surging into a cathartic mosh pit.
The cops lined up, brandishing riot batons and adjusting pepper-spray-gun holsters as the group finished its set. But the Juggalos remained well-behaved, chanting "Family! Family!" as they poured through the doors, still amped from the show.
"Look at them. They're walking out of there like prisoners," griped Jamie Garza from a nearby bench.
By Sunday morning, the Civic parking lot resembled the aftermath of a war zone -- smoldering campfires, rubble heaps and motionless bodies were strewn everywhere.
Shehan and a friend had been arrested while playing Morton's List, a Psychopathic-created "random reality" game. One of the hottest new arrivals on the role-playing gaming scene, Morton's List goes beyond the realm of traditional table-bound fare such as Dungeons and Dragons, sending its players into the streets on real-life missions. "These include not only every possible leisure activity but also endeavors that are adventurous, mind-boggling, or even risqué," brags the Morton's List Web site. Shehan's own site, forbiddenrealms.org, is devoted to the ins and outs of the game.
"You have to learn to adapt to the situations that are thrown at you," Shehan said, smiling. He and Robinson had been taking part in a Morton's List scavenger hunt and were busy collecting trash when they were stopped by police.
"We were supposed to beautify the city, make it more scenic to look at," Shehan said coyly. "And we were taking our stuff back into the hotel, and the police officer lady who was behind us was like, 'Hey you. Stop!' And we started running, which was dumb -- it seemed like a good idea at the time. So we spent two and a half hours in county last night."
Debbie Ritschel, the Civic GM, seemed frazzled but put a sunny spin on the previous day's sour turn of events.
"A couple of kids got out of hand," she said. "But this is no Mötley Crüe, this is no Marilyn Manson; this is edgy. All in all, they're good kids, but if they rush the stage [tonight], the lights go on and the show's over. We've done quite a bit of preparation -- more than usual. Everybody's waiting for 10 o'clock."
By 10 p.m., the scene inside the Civic's main auditorium was beyond Thunderdome, a postmodern colosseum of blood-soaked entertainment. As ICP took the stage, Juggalos converged on the arena floor, leaving the stands all but empty. The Civic security staff didn't resist, seemingly wanting to get the whole thing over and done with. The scheduled Faygo Armageddon failed to occur, but plenty of the soda was sprayed anyway. At 10:30, a number of police took shelter in a nearby municipal building.
"I think they're way overprepared, because it's Peoria and because they're scared," observed a female concertgoer, gesturing at a cluster of patrol cars. "Now that ICP's on and performing, the fans are satisfied -- it scratched that itch. And now they're gonna walk out and be calm, and these guys get to go home."
Rather than exploding into chaos, the gathering ended with a whimper: 8,000 Faygo-drenched fans going quietly -- almost peacefully -- into the night.
"It's only nature that people will fear what they don't know," mused eighteen-year-old Wichita resident Andrew Polley. "The people that fear us are the people that don't know nothing about Juggalos, because they got their family already. Some of us homeys out here never really did have a family, really. So we all come together and embrace that. That's why we're here. We're not here to hurt anybody. We're here to have fun and live our lives, man."
Kansas City rapper Mac Lethal isn't so sure about that. Tapped a few months ago for an opening slot on a fifty-date cross-country trek with Twiztid, Mac and his longtime collaborator, DJ Platinum, were stoked about an opportunity to shine in the national spotlight. Though neither had much previous Juggalo experience, they assumed that booming beats and wicked rhymes would gain favor from Twiztid devotees -- hopes that evaporated as soon as the pair arrived for the tour kickoff just outside Las Vegas.
"The first beat comes on, and I start rapping, and I swear to God, I got hit with 25 [water] bottles by the time I was done with that song -- in the head!" Mac recalls. "I told 'em to cut the beat off, and I get offstage. I'm like, 'Fuck that!' Little did I know that the reason that [happened] is because I didn't kiss their ass and call 'em Juggalos and shit like that. We got booed to hell the first night. It was ridiculous! Those Juggalo kids hold no mercy. They don't care."
Rather than bailing out immediately, Mac adjusted his strategy, hoping to win over at least a few of the Juggalos as the tour progressed. Realizing that his original material would have little impact on the Psychopathic set, he simply asked the crowd for topics and rhymed extemporaneously.
"Usually, the first three topics are pussy, smoking weed and cops -- that's what they want a rhyme about," Mac recalls. "Then they'd come up with these Twizted terminologies that I had no idea about. They'd be like, 'Rhyme about the schism dark lotus,' and I'm like, 'Uh, yeah.'"
Mac says he learned Juggalo culture the hard way. "Like, there's a subcult of Juggalos called the Fat Kids. One of the [Twiztid members] is some overweight guy. So, he wants all fat kids that have never fit into American society, he wants them all to feel welcome as a Juggalo. So he wants them to buy all the Twiztid and Insane Clown Posse stuff, so all the fat kids feel welcome there. So they're like, 'Rhyme about fat kids,' and I start clowning on fat people -- talking about girdles and cellulite. And I think half of those kids wanted to kick my ass by the time I got offstage. If you're a fat kid, you dress like a wrestler. So, there was these fat kids in wrestling masks walking up to the stage flipping me off and shit."
Offstage, Mac observed firsthand Psychopathic's merchandising might and strong-arm marketing. By casting themselves as outsiders and offering pricey Juggalove, Mac says, the members of Psychopathic's roster are preying on America's alienated youth.
"These kids are being completely pimped," he says. "And these little fourteen-year-old kids that are having problems, because their parents got divorced or something and can't quite grasp onto it, get sucked up by this shit. [Psychopathic takes] every single gimmick that has ever been invented -- whether it's degrading women or having their faces painted like Kiss, being from the East Side like Snoop Dogg or killing cops; whatever has ever sold to all these impressionable little kids is what they do. And it works for them."
According to Mac, Psychopathic's freak-show image is a sham, an expertly crafted scheme devised for maximum shock value -- and hefty sales. Though ICP has been dropped by two major labels and has only one RIAA-recognized platinum album (1997's The Great Milenko), the band still knows how to squeeze the most from each fan. Rather than releasing the Joker's Cards in succession, ICP has issued a slew of CD singles, EPs, solo records, boxed sets and from-the-archives collections and has appeared on dozens of other Psychopathic projects. CDNow.com currently sells seventeen ICP titles (many of which are available with multiple covers or in alternate versions), and others can be purchased through Psychopathic. Even the forthcoming sixth Card, The Wraith: Shangri-La, won't be fully delivered until November 2003, when its counterpart disc, The Wraith: Hell's Pit, is scheduled for release. Moreover, the group has also created a cottage industry via games, gizmos and other costly trinkets.
"All these dudes are all millionaires!" Mac says. "These kids think they're these dead, killer insane clowns, when really they're just a bunch of dudes from Michigan. After the show, they have $5,000, and they take all the face paint off, and they have these dudes that go walk around the crowd for 'em and find all the hot chicks and take 'em to the back into the tour van, and they have sex with all of their groupies. It was a disgusting experience."
Mac was met with hostility at each Twiztid show. He left the high-profile tour after a few weeks of clown hell. And though he'd surely refuse future offers to share stages with Twiztid and company, he remains even more wary of the Juggalos.
"They are a fucking cult! They are such a cult there's no other word to describe it. They're disgusting human beings," Mac declares. "And every time I see 'em, and I see 'em to this day -- I'll be driving down the street, and I'll see a couple of Juggalos -- I almost want to go up and see, if I said, 'Fuck Twiztid,' if they'd kick my ass. Because that's how seriously they take this stuff. You could disrespect one of the bands, and they would almost kill you over it. And I don't mean kill you as in beat you up. I can picture one of these little fifteen-year-old kids putting a knife into somebody's body because they disrespected Twiztid. It's that bad."
"I would probably do anything for those dudes. I'm a total groupie," gushes Angie Stevens, a 26-year-old bartender from Wyandotte County, standing outside the Main Street Morgue. "They're gods. They're all that is unholy. They're the masters of the Dark Carnival, and we're just their followers. I am definitely religious about what I am into, so I spread the word, the gospel of ICP. I want to convert everyone. I'm the ICP evangelist.
"There's a lot of people who don't like ICP, don't like Twiztid," Stevens adds. "We don't care. They think we're all a bunch of freaks. That's OK. I was before I started liking ICP. I'll be down 'til I'm dead in the ground. I hope to go to the Dark Carnival. I live in the Dark Carnival."
After receiving a CD sampler from ICP's forthcoming Joker's Card and feeling their way through a series of pitch-black mazes, fun-house hallways, strobe-lit foyers and horror-flick theme rooms, Stevens, Shehan and company reach a smoke-filled chamber in one of the Morgue's rear arteries. Standing behind a waist-high partition, wearing full clown makeup and Psychopathic gear, Violent J, Shaggy and Psychopathic artist Anybody Killa offer high-fives and hugs to Juggalos as they pass.
Though the Morgue's offerings receive mixed reviews, the opportunity to come face to face with ICP has made it all worth it.
"The haunted house was lame; ICP ruled," Stevens says. "I didn't come to the haunted house for the haunted house. They suck. But as soon as I saw [ICP], I was like, OK, I came for what I came for, and now I can leave."
"I think I jumped two or three times," Robinson says. "The slide was awesome as hell. It was cool as shit to see J and Shaggy. I almost want to go through another time just to get another sampler."
The Juggalos are clearly pumped about the CD sampler, but many decry the lack of an ICP merchandising booth, something they were expecting to find.
"I got a couple jerseys, thirty-some-odd posters, hella shirts, hella CDs," says Patrick Stasi. "I'd put my estimation of merchandise at least three or four thousand dollars over the past six years. If you see me on a normal day, this is all I wear. I'm sure it's the same way with all these other Juggalos. I've gone to shows where I've seen people spend thousands of dollars in one night on merchandise."
Stevens apparently made the most of her encounter with Violent J, latching onto him until a security guard had to shoo her away -- but not before she learned the name of his hotel.
"I told him I didn't want to let him go. He told me I didn't have to, so I just kept holding onto him," she says afterwards. "He said there was a boo-boo on his hand and he wanted us to kiss it. And then he said that his crotch was hurtin', too, and I said, 'Well, I would take care of that if I was on the other side.' He said, 'Don't tease, whatever whatever. Come to the hotel afterwards, and I'll let you take care of that.'"
No one enjoys life in the Psychopathic lane more than Violent J.
"My life is the absolute shit. It's rainin' diamonds all over my face," the ICP ringmaster says. "We don't care if nobody plays us on the radio. We're fuckin' rich. I fuck beautiful women, and I'm ugly as fuck. We ain't lonely no more; we ain't got no complaints. We can get pussy -- we fuck Juggalettes. It's all good.
"Back when Violent J was an anonymous rapper named Joe Bruce, life was nothing but discouragement and struggle. Add some greasepaint, glitter and heavy lyrical shtick and Violent J is a hero.
"I don't think we're gonna get any larger than we are. We're not on MTV and we're not on the radio, so we gotta be everywhere else to be seen," he says. "That's called the back route. Bands don't know how to go platinum without MTV and the radio, but we do. We're not up in some high-rise somewhere thinkin' how to sell records to the streets; we are the streets. We're out here with the Juggalos on the streets, so we know exactly what they want. They tell us."
This proximity, according to J, is what makes ICP's relationship with its audience unique. In an entertainment industry where wealthy rock stars have little in common with their fans, J and company claim to have a degree of empathy for their followers. To J, Juggalos are born, not made.
"It's underdog, it's the few, it's the picked on," J explains. "Usually because we're different at a young age, because we're already the shit. Because when we're in school, we're usually nerds and separated -- not nerds like smart kind of nerds, but scrubs, too. We're outcasts, usually because we're already different, because we're already original. And it's always those people that turn out to be the bomb in life. We might be alone in our schools or in our neighborhoods, but we got each other. Some of us talk funny, some of us didn't graduate school, some of us got herpes, some of us got no motherfuckin' money, but what people fail to realize is that the sum of us is equal to us all."
Of course, there are downsides to hooking kids on Psychopathic candy. In extreme cases, devotion becomes obsession, fans turn into fanatics and get too close -- insisting on far more than an autograph, a photo or a one-night stand.
"They become hound dogs," J says. "Get out of my fuckin' garbage, quit breakin' into my fuckin' house. You get that all the time. They're just fucked-up people. Don't come to my front door. I don't give a fuck if you think you're the biggest fan in the world, don't come knockin' on my fuckin' front door or I'm gonna beat your ass. And I never make that a secret. People that consider themselves my biggest fans would know [not to do] that. But other people just consider themselves the biggest fans and come knockin' at my fuckin' door. And this motherfucker is wrong, this motherfucker obviously is off."
Having a throng of clown-faced would-be Rupert Pupkins on one's tail can be quite frightening.
"Fuck yeah, it is," J roars. "That's why I got a gun. That's why I got the house I did with the bedroom window facing the front door so I can shoot 'em in the back of the fuckin' head!"
Violent J, a man who makes millions dressed as a wicked clown, grows serious.
"I think somebody's gonna try to kill me, John Lennon-style," he confides. "I know I ain't nowhere near no motherfuckin' status of even lookin' at a motherfucker close to John Lennon, but our fans, the Juggalos, are so devoted, and the Joker's Card series is coming to an end, it really is ending. I think somebody's gonna go crazy and try to take us out -- a hound-dog crazy fuck would. I think the Juggalos would probably jump in front of the bullet.
Sunday morning doesn't come early for Juggalos. After finally rolling out of bed, Shaun Robinson readies his latest roll of film for processing, having spent the better part of last night trying to convince Juggalettes to bare all for his camera. Robinson has negotiated a standing deal with a neighborhood drug store: He brings in film; no one asks questions.
"I'm trying to open a Juggalos-only porn page," Robinson says. "I don't want to rip off the Juggalos. I'll charge a small fee or have a test that only Juggalos can pass to get into it. I want it for Juggalos only. I don't want any other fuckin' like redneck guy sitting in front of his computer whacking off to my shit."
Stevens is disappointed to report that nothing happened between her and Violent J after the haunted house closed. "If I didn't have to work, we would've stayed there and waited 'til they got done," she says with a sigh. "We would've stalked them. We would've been partyin' with J and Shaggy and them. I was almost ready to pay another $13 and go through [the Morgue] again. I love 'em. It's so stupid."
She got up this afternoon and watched the Twiztid DVD and listened to her free sampler.
"I'm still on an ICP high," she murmurs. "I still have J in my hair. I don't wanna wash my hair because I still have his makeup on my hair. I had it all over my ear last night."