The Big Tymerz Clown Posse is funny, fabulous—and caring
Cole Porter famously proclaimed, “Be a clown, be a clown/All the world loves a clown.” And only the most extreme sufferers of coulrophobia (fear of clowns) don’t immediately fall in love with the 18 members of the Big Tymerz Clown Posse of Hyksos Temple #123 Prince Hall Shriners A.E.A.O.N.M.S., Inc.
Because they are not only adorable but larger than life. And the biggest parts of their big personas are their hearts.
Tony Lewis (“Funny Bone”) is the Chief Jester of the unit. He explains that the original clown unit, formed in the ’70s, had almost disbanded as members became too old for extended clowning around. “But we decided to bring it back,” he says, and now members of the Big Tymerz Clown Posse are frequent visitors at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital, the sickle cell anemia project at Erlanger, Palate to Palette, and schools for special-needs kids around town.
Vinson Kilgore Jr. (“Bo-Dacious”) adds that the Posse also puts on several important events each year, its Memorial Day Weekend Charity Clown Cruise aboard the Southern Belle, and their annual Charity Ball (coming up Nov. 22 this year), which raises thousands of dollars and a whole lot of canned food for the Chattanooga Food Bank and academic scholarships.
Lest you think, however, that all is deadly serious with the Posse, Kilgore admits, “Most of us were clowns long before joining the unit.” In his case, he had to be talked into the makeup and big shoes, but “once you see that first child smile, it’s all over,” he says.
Lewis, who is an expert makeup artist, sometimes varies Funny Bone’s face, but “it’s always all about laughter,” he says. Though he had to do most of the members’ makeup initially, they have now all mastered doing their own. Their unique (and fabulous) costumes are designed by local seamstress Gloria (“Miss Gloria”) Coleman.
The Big Tymerz Clown Posse is nationally acclaimed. They have placed first three times in the national Prince Hall Shriners competition and have been in the top three five times, Kilgore says proudly. Asked what the unit is judged on, he lists “makeup, wardrobe, skits, props—and how we look in the parade.” A quote from New Orleans prior to one of the national conventions adds: “There are also opportunities for the felt-capped conventioneers to compete in line-dancing, biking and zooming around in tiny cars (they call it ‘motor patrol’).”
With all this, you may well be asking: “How is it possible I’ve never known these guys are right here in Chattanooga?”
“We don’t seek publicity for the things that we do,” says Lewis. “But we practice the beliefs of the Shriners for public service.”
Kilgore remembers a memorable Clown Posse moment. “We were in Charlotte, North Carolina, the first year our unit took first place. We were in the arena, and a special-needs school was visiting. I had about 30 kids chasing me around the arena and I was spraying them with silly string…” He grins. ’Nuf sed.
The other members of the Big Tymerz Clown Posse are Charles Ragland (“Rag”), Lee Mosley Jr. (“Sonny”), Romond Pace (“Tipsy”), William Gibbs (“Cho Cho”), Clarence T. Daniel Jr. (“Crazy”), Derrick Jordan (“D-Love”), Robert L. Pace III (“Jiggles”), Levan Gardner (“Van”), Antonio Fields (“Showstopper”), George Ervin (“Lil Willie”), Anton G. Burch (“You Can’t Win), Demond Henderson (“Big Silly”), Schuyler L. Austin (“Sugar Bear”). Lacy Word (“Giggle Box”) and James McKamey Sr. (“Mac the Clown”).
For more information on the unit, contact them at Hyksos Temple #123 A.E.A.O.N.M.S., INC. Big Tymerz Clown Posse, P. O. Box 864, Hixson, TN 37343-0864