The question from the ground in desolate Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, home of the Insane Clown Posse’s annual Gathering Of The Juggalos (Juggalos being ICP fans), was not whether guest performer Tila Tequila would get abused during her set but rather how bad the abuse would be.
In my brief time at the festival, I had come to think, incorrectly as it turns out, of the Juggalos as an essentially harmless tribe, a group of misunderstood, heavily tattooed young people from what my girlfriend calls under-resourced neighborhoods who get together every year to smoke weed, drink cheap beer and cocktails of Faygo and grain alcohol, and live for four days and nights in an upside-down universe where Insane Clown Posse is the most popular band in the world. Cries of the Juggalo greeting “Whoop Whoop!” can be heard everywhere. A security guard called out a drug dealer on what colloquially came to be known as “Drug Bridge” for charging too much for what a crude cardboard sign advertised as Pure Boston Yayo. “Damn, girl,” fumed the faux-apoplectic security guard. “I paid half as much for that. Don’t you be trying to rob a Juggalo!”
In the world of the Gathering, boob-flashing rivaled good old American folding money as the dominant currency. As we entered the campgrounds, a randy young scamp confronted my wonderfully indulgent girlfriend (an Ivy League-educated woman who will accompany you to the Gathering Of The Juggalos—now that’s a keeper) with a sign reading, “I’ll get you drunk if you show me your tits.” When she politely demurred, he flipped over the sign to reveal the words, “Aw, c’mon! I’ll get you high too.”
This is the world MySpace skank-turned-reality TV star-turned-chanteuse-turned-“rapper” Tila Tequila was entering, a bizarre realm where acts like Twiztid and Blaze Ya Dead Homie are treated like minor deities and nearly naked women of all shapes and sizes are covered in Faygo as they make out with each other and simulate masturbation for the chance to win anywhere from $50-$75 worth of Psychopathic Records merchandise in a Ron Jeremy-hosted wet T-shirt contest.
I had come to the Gathering to research my third book, a collection of pop-anthropological essays about strange musical subcultures. I wanted to study the mysterious Juggalo in its native environment, and pretty much every Juggalo I spoke to attributed the year’s lackluster attendance—the Gathering seemed to have attracted half the audience of the previous year’s 10th-anniversary festival—to the mainstream acts littering the bill.
“No offense or nothing, but a lot of these acts, like Naughty by Nature, I didn’t even know they were around any more. What are Juggalos going to want with washed-up acts from the ’90s?” groused an attendee. No one drove for ten or 15 or 20 hours from shit towns throughout our fine land into a semi-domesticated hamlet filled with clapboard churches, rusted-out trailers, and endless stretches of nothing much at all in order to see someone like Tone Loc or Vanilla Ice.
No, they came to see what Juggalos approvingly describe as “the wicked shit,” the kind of bloody, gothic “horrorcore” espoused by Insane Clown Posse and its acolytes and protégés. The Gathering was above all else a family reunion for a sprawling aggregation of misunderstood misfits who luxuriated in Juggalo love and the camaraderie of their fellow ninjas. For a few magical days, they were the normal ones, and the preferred Juggalo beverage Faygo was more popular than Pepsi or Coke. Suddenly neck tattoos of the Insane Clown Posse’s hatchet-man logo became sources of intense pride rather than obstacles to securing even the sketchiest employment. The inmates were running the asylum.
Tila Tequila, friends, did not bring the wicked shit. She did not represent the Hatchet or the ideology of Psychopathic Records. She did not rep the underground. If anything, she represented the antithesis of the wicked shit.
This invites the question: What the fuck was Tila Tequila doing at the Gathering in the first place? Who couldn’t have seen this train wreck coming from half a hemisphere away? Every Juggalo I spoke to that day seethed with rage and suggested that something very, very bad would happen to Tequila that very night.
“Juggalos don’t play,” insisted a young man by a trailer. “If we don’t like an act, if they don’t bring the wicked shit, we’ll throw shit at them. When Andrew W.K played here they were chucking all these water bottles filled up, like 90 percent with piss, and then partially unscrewed so it fucking got all over him.”
If Andrew W.K, the human personification of partying, got abused at the Gathering, what chance did Tequila have of making it out of a nightmare gig with her dignity intact? For that matter, did Tequila have any dignity to imperil? (Quick answers: very little and no.)
Tequila had a role to play at the Gathering as a heavy. In wrestling terms, she was the heel, the bad guy, the villain you love to hate. Tequila represents a lot of things, all of them negative. She’s the poster child for a debased Perez Hilton tabloid realm where the cost of entry to celebrity has been lowered to making a popular sex tape or contracting gonorrhea from a C-list has-been on a VH-1 Celebreality show or making a lot of friends on MySpace by posting naked pictures of yourself.
For Juggalos, Tequila represented even more: She became the proxy for every hot girl who ever accepted Jager shots at a crappy bar from them but went home with a slick douchebag in a tight Ed Hardy shirt. She was every girl they ever masturbated about in high school but couldn’t muster up the courage to ask out, every hot chick who ever frazzled their brain by making out with one of their drunk, hot friends at a party.
At a “State Of The Juggalo” address in the Festival’s “Seminar Tent” early the night shit went down, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope sent out exquisitely mixed signals about how its rabid fanbase should treat Tequila. On one hand, Violent J acknowledged that it was, in fact, funny as shit to watch some dude get hit with a dead fish or pelted with piss, and that Juggalos should feel free to behave however they see fit. At the same time, however, every performer at the Gathering was a guest of the Psychopathic family and should enjoy the same privileges afforded the Boondox and Blaze Ya Dead Homeys of the world.
Shaggy 2 Dope offered a slightly less high-minded appeal. “I’m tryna fuck that bitch so don’t be fucking it up for me,” he insisted. If an appeal to family and basic human decency didn’t work, hopefully the crowd would be moved by the massive cultural force that is Shaggy 2 Dope’s libido.
It didn’t work. Tequila came on several hours late surrounded by security guards with linebacker physiques who huddled around the diminutive “singer” and prepared for battle. Clad in a tiny pair of Daisy Dukes and a flimsy bikini top, Tequila began “performing” inane dance-rap with incongruously aggressive lyrics about fucking DJs and kicking everyone’s ass.
I had expected the worst from Tequila’s performance. She somehow managed to deliver something even more soul-crushingly banal and artificial, a heavily Auto-Tuned blast of headache-inducing dancefloor cacophony that appeared to be lip-synced. Tequila ducked behind an ever-increasing ring of security guards as the audience hurled shit at her in all directions, perhaps literally: Rumors abounded that actual human feces was being shot angrily in Tequila’s direction.
The performance began to take on the quality of a dunking booth. An air of violence permeated the crowd. From where I stood, it all seemed fundamentally harmless. Sure, people were throwing shit but it was mostly water bottles (glass bottles weren’t allowed) and Tequila didn’t seem to be suffering anything worse than surface cuts and bruises. Of course, it goes without saying that performers should not be physically abused while they bless the world with the products of their imagination, but this was Tila fucking Tequila, after all, and I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t come to see a freak show unfold.
I was torn between my natural horror at seeing a tiny, solitary woman being abused by a massive, enraged crowd and my not wholly insupportable belief that Tequila may in fact, be the worst woman in the world.
In a desperate bid to win over the crowd, Tequila responded to angry cries of “Show us your tits” by removing her top. It somehow made a sad, surreal spectacle even more horrifying. Tequila was giving the crowd what she thought they wanted, but it still didn’t work. I was reminded of the moment in Nashville where Gwen Welles performs a similarly unexpected, impromptu striptease in a tragic attempt to overcome a similar lack of talent.
Nothing worked. Tom Green, who had just performed a part-comedy/part-rap set in what used to be known as the “Fresh Ass Comedy Tent,” was brought onstage to distract the crowd so it would stop throwing shit at Tequila (or at least slow the assault), but Green’s spastic dancing couldn’t appease a crowd baying for blood, or at least the flashing of tits.
A Juggalo attempted to mount the stage but was repelled by security guards, and a particularly ambitious Juggalo grabbed an oversized trashcan from the ground and the receptacle began to make an ominous voyage towards the stage.
Bear in mind, dear reader, that Tequila ostensibly “performed” throughout all of this, vamping wildly while trying and failing to hide her palpable fear. In a Tweet before the incident I quipped that I expected Tequila’s performance to be met with critical brickbats and possibly actual bricks, but I also wondered if the combined forces of celebrity, boobs, and a pretty girl might collectively overcome the crowd’s intense contempt for an almost universally reviled bisexual Asian exhibitionist and her almost inconceivably awful rapping.
Oh God was I wrong. When Juggalos talked about how they chased Tequila back to her trailer and smashed the windows I assumed it was nothing more than typical Juggalo bluster. I figured they were merely talking a big game. But apparently that’s just what happened.
Tequila’s Tweets tell the whole sad arc of the evening and her Gathering experience. It begins with feverish excitement and a delusional desire to win over the Juggalos, then devolves into panic, despair, and rage:
Whoohoo! On my way to airport!!! Can't wait to perform at the concert tonight!!! Holla Juggalos and Juggalettes!!! Lol
1:08 PM Aug 13th
Just landed in Chicago!! Almost Time for the Juggalos Gathering!! Woohoo! Wut yall doin?
6:30 PM Aug 13th
Headed to the Juggalos Gathering right now!! Woohoo!! Gonna be fucking insane!!!! Holllaaa juggalos! Ya girl luvs ya!
12:43 AM Aug 14th
Insane Klown Posse bitches and shout out to my boys, Kotton Mouth Kings!
1:08 AM Aug 14th
Lil Kim also performing tonight!! Woohoo! This is gonna be so fun!! I bought a TON of cool shit that imma spray at the crowd!!! Lol!
1:52 AM Aug 14th
Thank you everyone for your support. The people at Juggalos behavior was disgusting and I am filing a suit against Them now. Thanks 4 ur luv
3:15 PM Aug 14th
Pretty soon the owners who run the Juggalos will be bankrupt. My attorney Alan is already on it. This is disgusting behavior from men.
3:31 PM Aug 14th
But to all of my fans, I appreciate your outpour of love and support! Xoxo
3:32 PM Aug 14th
Alas, the crowd did not listen to their better angels. They did not respond to Violent J’s plea that he had paid Tequila a lot of money and wanted her to be treated with the respect they would afford a luminary like Blaze Ya Dead Homie. They didn’t even listen to Shaggy 2 Dope’s insistence that he was tryna fuck that bitch. I’m pretty sure Shaggy 2 Dope didn’t even get to make sweet love to Tequila. And that, friends, is the real tragedy of the weekend.