There was bound to be a problem at the 11th annual Gathering of the Juggalos–and there was. In one corner, we have a Playboy-model-turned-reality TV star who became famous only because she had the most friends on MySpace after Tom. In the other corner, we have a very widely reviled American subculture. On her reality MTV dating-show, Tila Tequila chose from 16 ostensibly attractive partners, both men and women, twice; Juggalos tend to empathize so deeply with the Insane Clown Posse-invented character Super Balls, a superhero whose duty/misfortune is to copulate with all the unsexy women in the world (“Ain’t no bitch too fat/Ain’t no bitch too wack/Ain’t no bitch too ugly”), that many males have the song’s SB logo tattooed on their bodies. Last week, Tila Tequila Tweet-bragged about how she’s “at a fitting to see what I’m going to wear for my performance at the 11th Anniversary Juggalo’s Gathering on Friday!! (yay i can’t wait!)”; Juggalos are a group of people who regard show-off “richies” with just a smidgen less contempt than bigots. To wit, when I pulled out my iPhone last Friday at the Gathering, a Juggalo I’d been talking with looked down and said matter-of-factly, “Fuck your iPhone.” I put it away for the rest of the trip.
Like the Democratic candidate who tries to win over an anarchist collective by appealing to their Republican hatred, Tila Tequila approached the Juggalos like a kindred spirit (“I’m looking forward to meeting all my Juggalos tomorrow and ladies night!! Woohooo!” she Tweeted last Thursday)–as if being bound by public-at-large revulsion was enough here. In reality, Tila Tequila karaoke-“rapping” at the Gathering of the Juggalos was, in the best outcome, as ill-fitting as the creator of Cathy speaking at a manga convention; in the worst case, which this became, it was like GG Allin booked at a riot-grrl showcase.
The precedent for what would happen was set in 2003, the Gathering’s third year, when Juggalos booed rapper Bubba Sparxxx offstage. Since then, as Nick Sylvester accurately pointed out yesterday over at Riff City, Juggalos have made a game out of pelting Gathering guests who aren’t explicitly “down with the clown,” and ever since, the event’s most shamed performer is informally crowned with the Bubba Sparxxx Award. You only have to go as far as YouTube to see another one of the fest’s dupes: a five-minute video of perma-excited New York party-hesher Andrew WK trying to connect with the hostile Juggalo crowd in 2008, but instead getting showered with trash, overshadowed with the menace of a chair, and then wisely strong-armed offstage by a security guard after two songs.
But even more uniquely, object hurling isn’t simply a hazing tactic for outsiders–it is Juggalo moshing. While waiting for Insane Clown Posse to address its faithful last Friday at an official “panel,” the one in which Violent J said, “we wish you wouldn’t throw the shit, man,” an airborn war broke out, in the impish style of a cafeteria food fight. “It’s the Gathering,” someone behind me huffed when emcee Upchuck the Clown pleaded with them to stop. “Juggalos throw things.” The following day, I met a Juggalette who “busted ass” all summer to attend her first Gathering this year with her tattoo-artist brother; she got hit in the face with a Miller Lite bottle waiting for that ICP panel. The glass shattered and deeply cut her cheek; the skin below her eye was bandaged and bruised. Yet the thing she was most upset about wasn’t that she’d been hurt, or that a Juggalo pasttime might leave a permanent facial scar, but rather that she’d become an inconvenience for her older sibling, because he had to forfit moments of Gathering to track down first-aid supplies.
Insane Clown Posse’s camp swears Tequila was warned about the impending danger, and Tequila confirms such an awareness this week on E! “Before I got onstage, I already knew what was going to happen,” she says, not at all elaborating on why she went out there if she already knew what was going to happen. (Even more perversely, ICP claims she’d already been paid.) “This was a violent, tough crowd, and I was just trying to have fun with them so maybe they wouldn’t do anything violent, so I got confetti spray.” They had bottles and cans and rocks and dildos and a CUNT sign and maybe even shit and piss, and she came out wielding Silly String. And when it became clear that she’d brought a Nerf football to a gunfight, she didn’t relent or hide or leave or plead, but instead got more combative. “I don’t give a fuck!” she screamed at them, and kept dancing. “Bring it!” The dynamic became that of a showdown between performer and a seething throng–and she taunted them, repeatedly. And as my photographer Igor mentioned in Vice, her counter-attack was pretty bad-ass.
Which is why it’s been strange, as someone who witnessed this national-tabloid hullabaloo transpire, to watch Tila Tequila cast herself as a totally hapless victim in the days following the incident. It’s a default spin–“Mob Attacks Girl” draws more sympathy and legal heft than “Girl Confronts Mob, Loses”–but it’s not the real story. No, I don’t for a second condone violence against women, and no, I cannot understand why Juggalos like to throw things at each other or anyone else. But it’s a relevent detail that Tila Tequila challenged mob mentality and lost, and that her swagger exacerbated an already-bad situation, and that she chose to take off her own top after all this. Stand in a mosh pit and demand that the pit unleashes its full force, your bones can be broken. Poke a tiger, the beast might bite. Wage a showdown with a mob, you might get side bruises. It’s a losing battle against nature–and when you lose and don’t acknowledge the defeat, you’re not telling the whole story.
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT: Tila Tequila vs. The Gathering of the Juggalos
VIDEO: Tila Tequila Goes Topless at the Gathering of the Juggalos
EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Tom Green Saves Tila Tequila From the Juggalos (Slowmix)
PHOTOS AND AUDIO: Method Man Gets Hit at The Gathering of the Juggalos
SLIDESHOW: Juggalette Cuties
SLIDESHOW: A Gallery of Juggalo Facepaint
SLIDESHOW: Gathering of the Juggalos 2010: The Photographic Highlights
PHOTOS: Evidence that Tila Tequila’s Weird Bite-Shaped Mark Came from the Gathering of the Juggalos