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There is the Jump-Off, the broadcast headquarters of Psychopathic house station WFuckOffRadio (call letters WFKO), where a nude model will duct-tape a Juggalo to a stripper's pole and then stuff an Ecstasy pill in his rectum. (Later, the Juggalo will suck tequila from a beer bong and vomit.) There is the Spazmatic Hangout, a dry saloon serving Faygo and the official Juggalo energy drink, ICP's Spazmatic!™, which tastes like a melted freeze-pop mixed with cough syrup (text on the can: "Insane Clown Posse's Frothy, Freaky, Frosty, Refreshing Energy Freshness Can of Shazam!"). At seven in the morning, watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher will be found there nearly passed out, smoking a joint.
There are also carnival attractions, since ICP's major mythology is a purgatorial afterlife called the Dark Carnival, with spinning swings, the Ferris wheel, a dunk tank. (Who's inside? A mean clown, of course.) There are concession stands hawking funnel cakes, fried Twinkies, and Faygo sno-cones, and midway games, like a basket toss where the bored female attendant passes the time by sucking hard on a glass pipe.
The entrance fee is $150 for four days, with tickets available online and in person at selected Hot Topics. (A three-day pass to Coachella in Indio, California, cost $269, plus $3 charity, plus "applicable service fees.") ICP will later swear they have never made money off this thing: "We're celebrating over here, because when this year's Gathering was said and done, Psychopathic Records only lost 15 grand," Violent J will insist. "It's true. I swear to you, it's true. We only lost 15 grand. The way we look at it, we paid 15 grand to give everybody that bomb-ass experience." This is not counting any potential legal fees that will result from Tila Tequila's appearance.
Three important landmarks are not on the sanctioned guide. One is 7-Juggaleven, two visitors under a tarp selling candy ($.50), over-the-counter medicine ($3), and a toothbrush-and-toothpaste combo ($4) from a truck bed. There is Lake Hepatitis, a murky, foam-green watering hole with no lifeguard, many topless Juggalettes, and a "SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK" sign accompanied by a ghoulishly dying hand. The last is the Drug Bridge, a footbridge where 10 to 20 dealers will spend nights milling around, advertising their wares with handmade signs or carnival-barker shouts ("Green crack, green crack, I've got the green crack!"). Even the private security detail, hired by Psychopathic, will refer to this stretch as the "Drug Bridge" via walkie-talkie. And at no point will anyone be seen interfering with this underground economy. ("You were there," Hardin County Sheriff Tom Seiner says after we've all returned. "Would you want to take five people into that campground and start making drug arrests?") Ever seen season three of The Wire? This was a lot like Hamsterdam.
"Welcome to the fucking ultimate vacation," a 22-year-old Juggalo from Baltimore named Chris will say, putting his arm around me during a wet-T-shirt contest hosted by the ubiquitous Ron Jeremy. "Hope you're not a feminist."
Insane Clown Posse is made up of two childhood friends, Joe Bruce ("Violent J") and Joey Utsler ("Shaggy 2 Dope"), from Detroit. Bruce is Penn to Utsler's Teller—Utsler does speak, but far less than his counterpart. Bruce grew up with a single mother on a church janitor's salary, an abusive stepfather who molested his older sister and brother, and a steady diet of the pantry junk unloaded through canned-food drives and Faygo (the "ghetto pop of Detroit").
"In elementary school, you know there's always that one kid who's notoriously a scrub?" Bruce asks in his ghostwritten memoir, Behind the Paint. "That was me all day and then some." Then he tells the story of having a bathroom accident at school that ends with his peers chasing him around the playground with his "shitty drawers on a stick." If there's one metaphor for the plight of the Juggalo, this is probably it.
Bruce met Utsler in junior high. They were wrestling fans, so they built a backyard ring out of railroad logs with their older brothers. They became obsessed with rap—Run-D.M.C., Geto Boys, Beastie Boys—and formed a crew, JJ Boys, also with their brothers. (Sample rhyme from Bruce: "All my girlie friends chase me down the hall/I don't smoke dope or drink alcohol!") Later, they pretended to be gangsters with their homies and called themselves Inner City Posse. They beat up "anybody with a mouth." They beat up hookers. They beat up rich kids. "The whole gang thing kind of gave us an excuse to be losers," Bruce writes. "At least we were cool losers."
Revenge of the scrubs became their guiding light. So one night, at their soon-to-be manager's mom's house, the idea of being murderous, rapping clowns came to Bruce. He recalls thinking, "Our whole lives we have been the scrubs, so we might as well rep that in some way! Let's rap about the shit that makes us wanna become serial killers, just to let it all out!" He describes the epiphany's arrival like a meteor, BOOM! "Let's put our biggest fears and angers on tape!" He continues, "Let's paint our faces like clowns, and be the Insane Clown Posse: clowns who murder and kill people who deserve to be murdered and killed!"