The last thing traumatized communities need is a mock City Council candidate
Send in the clowns.
Now may I direct your attention to the center ring and present to you for your political entertainment Pat Payaso, the clown who would be king.
In case you weren’t totally convinced that local politics has become a complete circus, this one should remove all doubt. Payaso, which means clown in Spanish, actually isn’t the clown at-large Boston City Council candidate’s original name, but rather an outward display of an undying commitment to shtick.
Born Kevin McCrea, prior to this current run, Payaso was apparently a wealthy white real estate developer full of good old American white male privilege. McCrea has emerged as a candidate before, mounting failed campaigns for office in 2005 and 2007, for a City Council seat, and 2009, when he ran for mayor as an independent against the longtime incumbent Tom Menino. Although he had some interesting ideas, they never seemed to take hold. People didn’t seem to listen. And then came the clownsformation.
McCrea legally changed his name to Payaso because, well, as a white guy with disposable income, he was able to. After reinventing his political self, he entered the Council race and even put $1 million of his own money into his campaign account. Must be nice.
McCrea, er, Payaso is exercising the most sacred of American rights—the right of absolute absurdity. He is part of a tradition of “prank” candidates, looking to cement his place among the likes of Vermin Supreme, porn star Mary Carey, and Deez Nuts, who made a major stink running for president of the United States in 2016. In this case, however, the clown’s problem comes not because he is making a fool of himself, but from a lack of sensitivity in his making a mockery of the pain of traumatized communities.
When Payaso shows up to forums in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan in particular, how can he properly address a mother who has lost her son to gun violence? Or at the hands of the police? Can he hold a serious conversation in clown gear? Would Payaso show up to a funeral dressed as a clown? Would he sit in City Council sessions, or meet with the police commissioner and district attorney while advocating for people, dressed in face paint? The very prospect is problematic, not to mention disrespectful to the very people he is trying to get votes from. Love them or hate them, it’s also unfair to the elected officials, many of whom take their jobs seriously and handle themselves with professional decorum.
The logic here is the old “I’ll show you”: Payaso thinks politics is a circus, and to prove his point, he took it all the way there and went full-blown Bozo. It’s like if he thought that all politicians are babies, and ran for office in a diaper with a rattle.
Meanwhile, in addition to being a serious distraction, Payaso has landed himself in some trouble while clowning around. In late September, along with his wife and while dressed in full circus regalia, the candidate showed up at the Nathan Hale Elementary School with a photographer in tow. According to reports, the pair entered school property unannounced and uninvited, and began waving around balloon animals and taking pictures that had children in them. The school’s principal and staff intervened, demanding that the photos be deleted. Police were called, and BPD later told the pair to stay away from the school. Days later, when I spoke to the principal, she said that several children and parents and staff members were still shaken up from the incident.
Prior to that, on primary day, Payaso showed up at the Roxbury Community College polling location, where his strange appearance made students and staff nervous enough to call the police. When cops arrived, they determined that he wasn’t actually a threat, as Payaso indicated he was there to vote. All of which is interesting, since despite having filled out candidate papers claiming that he lives in the Fort Hill section of Roxbury, Payaso has always been a businessman residing in the South End. It’s all rather confusing, since according to public records, he currently owns multiple properties in Boston, none of which are at the location where Payaso is registered.
In any case, Payaso has so far somewhat successfully employed these antics to garner himself attention. Though he probably didn’t calculate the repercussions of his tactics; in one case, after the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, Payaso showed up to a forum in Roslindale with mock clown tears drawn in his makeup. In my community, so plagued by violence and other serious issues, his costume has been seen as dismissive and insensitive.
For those who don’t know, clown getups can evoke a tainted history of clowns as racist caricatures and as part of the origins of minstrel shows. We should also consider the common fear of clowns, known as coulrophobia, which has been exploited and ingrained into pop culture with examples ranging from the hit movie It and characters like the the Joker to the Insane Clown Posse. In more serious matters, John Wayne Gacy comes to mind, while Bostonians may remember the legend of a creepy clown driving an ice cream truck.
The former McCrea made a bad decision in recreating himself as Payaso. He does not seem to have advanced his agenda, while his political points have resonated no more with the public now than they did before. From what I can tell, the only questions that he’s raising are related to the candidate’s own mental stability. I hope that Payaso abandons his antics, apologizes, and sends a hefty donation to the Hale School. At the least, he should steer clear of the city’s traumatized communities while dressed as a fool. He isn’t welcome here. The Black community only likes one clown, Homey, and everybody knows that “Homey don’t play that.”
Jamarhl Crawford is a community activist based in Roxbury.
Ed. note: I have known McCrea/Payaso, the subject of this article, for several years, and even edited and published an editorial of his in DigBoston. Months ago, he informed us that he’d be providing the public service of interviewing multiple Boston City Council and mayoral candidates about education, and the Dig agreed to help disseminate those critical videos. Since our name was involved, we were disappointed to later learn that McCrea was actually running for the Council himself as Payaso, a fact he deliberately hid from us. We believe that the interview videos are still valuable for voters, and stand behind them, but regret having been part of any deceit, and apologize to any candidates who were offended by our apparent collusion with the Payaso campaign. We assure you there was none. As a community newspaper that takes pride in giving a voice to those who are outside of the traditional media establishment, we are nonetheless still committed to sharing our platform, as we have with this piece by Jamarhl, and pledge to be more careful in doing so in the future. -CF