Anyone who’s read Peyton Place knows that beneath even the most bucolic town lurk dark and seamy secrets. Alas, my beloved Sonoma is no exception. If I hadn’t realized that from the building events of the last month, last week’s dust-up made it too painfully obvious. Yes, peaceful, friendly, Liberal Sonoma is, apparently, a hotbed of Clownism.

The signs should have been clear but were perhaps hidden in the bigger issues of The Great Farmer’s Market Scandal. In brief, and from what I can gather from news reports, gossip and letters to the editor, the long-time director of the Plaza Farmer’s Market (who I hear is not a Sonoma resident) has been charged with securing prime spots for her cronies from *gasp* the big city of Santa Rosa, while local vendors have been shut out. That’s the charge anyway. And, if I’ve got the story straight, this may be her last year, as the contract for Market Manager is up for review by the City Council. Yet, her detractors claim she’s still up to her evil tricks. Some irate local vendors say they were denied permits for reasons such as “too much duplication with existing [read “not local”] vendors”. Some locals who made enough noise were eventually let in but were banished to “Siberia” behind the porta-potties while non-locals were given prime locations. Again, that’s the story as I’m piecing it together. It’s been raging for at least a year now.

The controversial manager of the Plaza Farmer’s Market crossed some sort of line when she banned PoPo the Clown. Photo: Robbi Pengelly, Sonoma Index-Tribune.

But the Market Manager’s detractors say her perfidy reached new lows in the last week when beloved local entertainer PoPo the Clown was denied a permit. Hardly had the ink dried on the irate letters to the editor when a new outrage occurred. The Peace Lady, a clown with a political message, was escorted off the Plaza allegedly for “scaring the children”.

But as I said, Sonoma is Liberal and the Pro-Clown contingent quickly mobilized. Sonoma Market — which by the way, is the best grocery store IN THE WORLD — made a show of solidarity by hiring PoPo to provide face-painting at their on-going 25 anniversary celebration. Letters to the editor came thick and fast with the notable exception of one respondent who gave thanks that Market Management was “keeping our townsfolk safe from terrorist clowns”. Most of us took this as an ironic statement, but one Clown Civil Rights Advocate wrote a rebuttal letter, just in case, demanding to know what the previous writer meant by slurring clowns as “terrorists”.

When the Peace Lady was ejected from the Market, the Clown Liberation Army took action. Photo: Robbi Pengelly, Sonoma Index-Tribune.

Then things heated up! The Market Manager’s supporters stated in a letter to the editor that ejecting clowns was “a safety issue”. The Pro-Clown group shot back with Constitutional issues such as Free Speech and Right to Assembly. The Clownists countered that Peace Lady was seen with money in her hands — when she didn’t have a license to sell. Peace Lady herself responded that “Hey, it’s a market and I was buying vegetables.”

Before you could sing a few bars of the old Cole Porter tune, “Be a Clown”, a flash mob of clowns had mobilized and invaded the next Plaza Farmer’s Market. Reports say the demonstration was orchestrated through Facebook and Craigslist by a local resident who styles himself Skanky the Clown and drives a converted Frito-Lay delivery truck that doubles as an art studio. (Folks, you can’t make this stuff up!) His rallying cry: “We don’t push clowns around in this town!”

The local media piled on. The Sonoma Index-Tribune came out as solidly Pro-Clown with an editorial headlined Send in the Clowns. Not to be outdone, the Sun/Sol, Sonoma’s bi-lingual weekly, called the events A Media Circus and noted, with regret, that the clowns arrived in regular-sized cars while “allegations were flying like cream pies”.

The clown controversy buried the news that a local man has recreated Che Guevara’s tank. Thank God, the clowns didn’t get hold of it, although, throughout, the clowns have professed their belief in protests no more violent than balloon animals. Photo: Sonoma Index-Tribune.

The controversy rages on. Count on me to keep you posted. In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I am 100% Pro-Clown. What kind of a sad commentary is it on our society that we can elect a Black President, yet, even in Liberal Northern California, People of Colors can be denied their Constitutional Rights? I say, “Clowns of Sonoma UNITE. You have nothing to lose but your floppy shoes!” Yes, paint me Pro-Clown. They should enjoy the same rights you and I take for granted.

Now, on the other hand, if it had been Mimes. Well, lock those guys up in an invisible box.

EVERYONE hates mimes. They’re creepy.

Mime image from