This Show Stinks: The Temporary Undoing of Whitney the Hobo

William Toblerone, contributor

When I was a little one growing up in North Carolina, every local television station tried to save revenue by creating their own low-budget host for the precious after-school cartoon audience. There was a barely moveable 2D cardboard blob on Barney’s Cartoon Army on WRAL. There was creepy old piano guy in a tux named Uncle Paul on WRDC. And then there was Whitney the Hobo, WITN TV’s own homeless clown. I guess introducing old cartoons didn’t pay enough to provide shelter. He wasn’t ashamed, though, carrying his obligatory sack on the end of a stick right out onto the stage full of kids with a smile. He never asked the kids for money to get a sister out of jail or pay for gas. He just wanted us to know that Tom and Jerry were all cued up and they would be featured after a brief commercial break.

So why did I decide to fuck with him?

I fucked with everybody back then. I was coming off a five-day suspension for standing on the cafeteria table and singing the rock anthem “Lick It Up” by Kiss to a sweet girl who was unfortunate enough to have spilled her milk beside me. “Work it, Dairy Queen!” I improvised. A few days earlier I had sprayed painted “Bulk Food Sucks” on the front a Safeway store before setting the fence behind it on fire.

And so it was during this time of prepubescent depravity that I turned my devilry toward Whitney the Hobo, who was taping some shows at Tarrytown Mall a mile from my home. Whitney would be center stage with a hundred local kids sitting on risers behind him. It was a very special occasion for my little town, and I hated special. I needed something.
I had discovered the awesomely putrid stench of blood bait a few months earlier while fishing at Lake Gaston. It’s a rancid mix of various animal blood du jour and their lower intestines that is used specifically to catch catfish. It was given to my buddy Marc and me by a wise old fisherman who felt sympathy upon seeing us struggle with our ineffective hot dog bait. The smell was so nauseating that some eighth graders fishing nearby threatened to pummel us if we didn’t get rid of it. Yeah right. The joke was on them, however, because after they stole our fishing rods and pushed us into the frigid water, we swam away without single bruise.

Catfish blood bait would do nicely. While Whitney the Hobo sang the birthday song, we dropped a huge glob of nuclear stink bait behind the stage directly under the little kids. It took two minutes for the kids to start accusing each other and fleeing to the wings.  They couldn’t have displayed a more satisfying panic if it had been scripted. Whitney tried to herd the screaming children back into place, but he soon caught a noseful that reduced him to a cowering, defeated clown in the corner. One kid fell into a fountain near the wings of the stage. We were crippled with laughter, tears, and kid-laughing snot on the mall floor. I almost felt sorry for Whitney as he tried to finish the show by himself while police officers and custodians behind him collaborated to clean up a lethal stench (and simultaneously process a crime scene). I can remember the magic feeling we had sitting in Marc’s house when the show aired a week later without editing. You could barely see us between the cracks of the backdrop before all Kiddie Hell broke loose. I remember thinking that if I could disrupt something as huge as The Whitney the Hobo Show, I must be headed for greatness.

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