"What is it, like a Halloween costume or something?" says Shaggy. I wince. "This is every day for us."

Igor interrupts, nodding at me, "She went as a Juggalo for Halloween."

We have a bit of a history, Insane Clown Posse and me. Last year, I put up some savings to come to the Gathering of the Juggalos and ended up publishing a very long article about Juggalos that strangers said very nice things about. (My employers liked it enough to reimburse me.) As a direct consequence of that piece, and by extension Insane Clown Posse, things in my life have changed for the better. Cast this as the world's most pathetic humblebrag if you must, but facts are facts.

Flavor Flav, Violent J, Mystikal
Nate "Igor" Smith
Flavor Flav, Violent J, Mystikal
One of these things is not like the other
Nate 'Igor' Smith
One of these things is not like the other

Details

http://www.villagevoice.com/slideshow/naked-juggalettes-2011-nsfw-34005455/

So I dressed up like a Juggalette for Halloween. Painted my face in Violent J's thick black twist on Emmett Kelly lips, had my roommate draw "DOWN WITH THE CLOWN" and a cherry-red Psychopathic symbol on a white T-shirt. Bought a plastic cleaver from New York Costumes and carried the weapon around all night like a hatchet. It was a tribute, a quiet gesture of affection, but perhaps awkwardly expressed—maybe like when Violent J put his hand on Shaggy's thigh.

They don't say anything about it until the next day, when we run into them at the airport heading back to New York. Joey Utsler and Joe Bruce, a/k/a Shaggy and Violent J, are on our connecting flight to Detroit. Last night, Violent J let Igor and me climb onstage during ICP's firework-accompanied finale and spray Faygo all over the crowd, which was one of the most fun things ever. But now, he's Joe Bruce, a spiky-haired guy with luggage lagging behind his best friend Joey, without makeup. Finally seeing Insane Clown Posse without clown faces isn't like discovering Mickey Mouse on a smoke break at Disney World; it's like meeting the guys you talked to all night at a bar in daylight for the first time. (Far more surreal is seeing Sunday-night host Flavor Flav traipse in, big clock and all.)

We file into the security line. A Juggalo with a long, fluffy goatee giddily announces to the TSA agents, "That's Shaggy 2 Dope from Insane Clown Posse!" He evidently expected them to be impressed. Instead, they rescan Utsler's luggage.

I approach Joe Bruce. We fumble a fist bump. "I have a question. Are you in a rush?" he asks. "I've been thinking about this." In the hours since we spoke, Joe, father of two, has played 29 songs for 10,000 people, endured a Faygo Apocalypse, dyed his hair red, pedaled onstage in a tricycle, presumably slept, and spent 90 minutes traveling to the Evansville airport. It seems impossible that he would have time to reflect on anything not immediately pressing. "You said you dressed up as a Juggalette for Halloween?" He is somber. My heart sinks. Now who’s the impostor. "And you like the Juggalos?" I nod. "Would you consider wearing something to represent Juggalos?" he asks. "I know you'd probably be too embarrassed to wear something to an office party," he says with absolute earnestness. "But what about a little something, out in the world?"

His tone strikes me as that of unpopular kid you've quietly befriended and privately tutored at school, saying, "You don't really like me, do you?", or acknowledging that we can't sit together at lunch, but what about on the bus? Then again, maybe he’s just a grown man reminding me that, as he knows better than anybody, all masquerades are serious business. "You're preaching to the converted, man," I say, dumbly.

On the plane, I sit next to the Juggalo from security. He's 27, a custodian with a three-year-old daughter in a town of 9,000. His trip to the Gathering was his first time flying. "I was surprised to see them here," he says about Joe and Joey. "I figured they'd have their own private jets."

cdodero@villagevoice.com

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