“Clown at the Ground Round” by Chris Zito

Most people have no idea how many ridiculous jobs I had as a young man. I sold vacuums door-to-door, worked driving a truck for a traveling theatrical troupe, even did a little carnival work. But hung over clown was easily the worst job I ever had.

The Ground Round was chain of restaurants in the seventies and eighties in the Northeast.  There were peanuts shells on the floor, free popcorn on every table and kids paid what they weighed. And there was Bingo the birthday clown on weekends.

Bingo wasn’t a professional birthday clown. He was just some kid from the wait staff looking for extra shifts. Every weekend someone would don the Bingo suit and make a few extra bucks. I mostly picked up waiting shifts if I could because the money was better. One week my manager came to me and asked, “you wanna do Bingo on Saturday?”
“I’d rather serve.”
“The floor is full,” he informed me,  “but it’s four hours on the clock if you want it.
At the time I had a pregnant wife, a small daughter, an equally small bank account, and a very large drinking problem.
“I’ll take it.”
It seemed easy. Not much to carry. Only four hours. No side work.
I’ve made some big mistakes in my life, but this was about the largest miscalculation I have ever made. It’s right up there with thinking that Nancy Mock would never tell her brother what we did at my fifteenth birthday party. He may still be after me. I”m not sure what the statute of limitations is for making out with a guy’s kid sister.

Friday night I went out and…um…oh boy that’s a tough one. I drank too much and…yeah that’s all I got. The next morning the aforementioned pregnant wife got my little girl out of the tiny apartment we were subletting so I could sleep (it off) a little.  When I woke up my head was on the other side of the room and my liver was down on the corner with a cup stemming for change. It was a typical Saturday except that I had agreed to entertain children all afternoon.

When I showed up at the restaurant the manager met me at the door.
“You’re cutting it close. Put this on,” he said, handing me the Bingo garb. “We don’t want the kids to see you out of costume.
“No, we wouldn’t want to harm the mystique of a $4.25 an hour clown,”
“Don’t be a smart ass. Put this on and Betsy will go over what to do.”
So that was it. A grand total of ten minutes of training and I was the official birthday clown for a chain of over 300 restaurants.

I couldn’t juggle, make balloons animals, or do magic.
Hell I was so shaky I could barely carry the cake.

When kids like a clown at their birthday party they laugh and point and yell things. When they hate the clown at their birthday party they punch him and kick him and complain to their parents. Luckily for me, the mommies were all in rough shape too. At least they were getting a little hair of the dog.
“You’re not a real clown.” One little genius taunted me.
“No, but you’re a real little shit,” I muttered under my breath.
“Mommy! Bingo said a bad word!!!”
“Good for Bingo. Eat your french fries,” Mommy barked between sips of cheap draft beer.

I got out alive. And cleared exactly $12.87.

Thanks for reading. Tell your pals.
Chris Zito


3 Responses

  1. there goes my halloween costume lol

  2. Turning the tables around for a moment, my friend Mike told us tonight about his coworker, and ex-boxer, also with a drinking problem. He had a little too much while at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo, and picked a fight outside with two rodeo clowns. They beat him up with an axe handle and put him in the hospital. Don’t mess with a rodeo clown.

  3. Right about the time you were bingo i was fired from burger king, so you did better than I LOL.. Man if my BK boss could see me now!

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