Clowns — make that 21 naked clowns— are coming to haunt your dreams.
Graduates of San Francisco's Clown Conservatory Class of 2008 have stripped down to their birthday suits to make a 2009 Naked Clown Calendar, a joyful and humourous work of art the clowns hope to sell in honor of a beloved mentor paralysed from the effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) and others stricken with the disease.
These aren't the usual photos of clowns at kids' parties or falling out of cars. No, they're photos of clowns tumbling though the air, performing songs in the park or flying out of cannons — with pies and top hats hiding the naughty bits.
"Our goal was to create this sort of craziness in your mind," says Chad Benjamin Potter, the lead clown on the project. "When you think of clowns you think of costumes and makeup and hair. When you think naked clowns, that's something else entirely."
The idea came about when clowns studying their first year at the San Francisco Circus Center's Clown Conservatory started talking about how great they felt, physically, thanks to all the training. They also felt they'd bonded in a unique way. They started talking about what they could do together and the idea of a clown calendar came up. Next thing they knew, someone suggested doing it in the buff.
"But of course we wanted to do something that everyone can enjoy," Potter says, noting the calendar does offer a touch of modesty. "I am going to sell (the calendar) to my grandmother and I also want to sell it to my niece and my nephew."
In the city's Sunset District, Judy Finelli's eyes are bright as she offers a guest to have a look at the Naked Clown Calender a home helper placed in her lap. Finelli, 60, is a lifelong clown who co-founded the San Francisco School for Circus Arts, now the Circus Center. In 1989 she was diagnosed with MS. Today she is quadriplegic.
Sales of the calendar will help raise money for the Judy Finelli Fund, a non-profit organization set up through the Circus Center. The fund works with the MS Foundation of Florida to do advocacy and research. It also will provide scholarships to people with MS who want to do circus arts
"It's done with a smile, it's done with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of thing," Finelli says of the calendar, which she clearly enjoys. "I'm grateful they put me on the back of the calendar, but I'm also grateful they didn't ask me to strip!"
The photography was done by art student Gabriela Alonso in a studio and, secretly, in public places.
LaRena R. Iocco, who shares August with her clowning partner Lindsey Jones, says taking her photos in a San Francisco park was "a little nervewracking but thrilling."
A helper stood guard with bathrobes while Iocco and Jones posed in a grove of trees, a guitar and ukulele positioned just right.
Photographer Alonso would steal as many shots as she could until the helper warned that someone was coming.
"We would have to throw on bathrobes and just chill," Iocco says.
The clowns have a lofty goal of raising $1 million selling the 16-month calendars. No word yet about what sheningans they've planned for 2010.