I've been reading Donald Trump's The Art of the Deal, which was ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz, who channels Trump's daily deal-making in what is basically a window into the life of a more charmingly juvenile version of Gordon Gekko. I like this book a lot, if only because it reads like Patrick Bateman's text messages, or a real-life Jay Z-lyric. Trump's 1987 rich-person's guide to life is a deliciously entertaining read.
It's also my inspiration for infiltrating the Juggalo economy.
At the Gathering of the Juggalos, the DIY black market allows anyone to become a mini-tycoon by engaging in business deals as freaky as offering spankings for a dollar, or as ridiculous as selling morning-after pills for 35 bucks a pop. It's a long way from Wall Street, but in this quasi-libertarian environment, Trump's richie guide is quite functional. With Trump 117 miles north of us, selling America his greatness doctrine, it just feels right to borrow from his richness doctrine in the real-world role-playing game that is the Gathering, where Juggalos can dye their hair, paint their faces and level-up to baller status.
So with that in mind, here's my The Art of the Deal dispatch from the 17th annual Gathering of the Juggalos. The following events all took place on July 21, 2016:
2:00 p.m.: Igor, a writer, photographer and tattooed Minor Threat fan who runs a successful Miami Dolphins fan club in New York called Dolfans NYC (and is shooting the Gathering for L.A. Weekly) suggests I try to make some money at the Gathering of the Juggalos. Considering Dolfans NYC turns a profit, I decide to heed his advice, and start to think about things I could sell.
3:00 p.m.: We're having breakfast at Frisch's Big Boy near our hotel, which looks like a shopping mall food-court's take on a '50s diner. There's a group of Juggalos at a table near us. The waitress, a cute blonde, tries to increase her tip by pretending like she's a Juggalo. She's quietly negotiating.
3:30 p.m.: Paying for the bill at the front counter, I notice a row of about 12 Big Boy figurines in a boxes that read, “I'm Way Cuter Than a Piggy Bank. WAY CUTER.”
“They're going to make him skinnier,” says a cashier, who then tells me the Big Boy is no longer going to be holding a cheeseburger in order to appeal to a broader demographic of customers who may not want to eat burgers. I decide to buy one for six dollars.
4:00 p.m.: We decide we're going to sell the Big Boy at the Gathering. We haven't come up with a price point. But our white-trash business plan already includes three core strategies: 1) Make it more Juggalo; 2) Price it offensively high, like modern art, where artistic talent is secondary to shrewd marketing; 3) Promote it on social media to other Juggalos. Igor starts a Snapchat story that begins to create some buzz.
Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal: “I've always felt like a lot of modern art is a con, and that most successful painters are often better promoters than they are artists.”
4:30 p.m.: After spending $7.80 at Walgreens on design materials, which include Wite-Out, a black Sharpie and masking tape, we return to our hotel. Since I'm the designer and salesman, the labor cost is zero. Igor, my Creative Director, tells me to paint the Big Boy's face like Violent J, the beefier member of Insane Clown Posse, using his picture on the front of the festival program as a guide. We have no idea if Juggalos will find what we're doing as funny, or cool, or just offensive, but it feels like it's more or less in the Gathering spirit.
Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal: “Sometimes it pays to be a little wild.”
5:00 p.m.: My accounting now tells me I've spent $13.80 on my product, which I've branded as the “Big Boy Juggalo.” Photos of Violent J suggests he usually has either blue or blonde hair. For the sake of accuracy, I want to go and buy paint for the Big Boy's jet-black hair, but Igor, now my Chief Operating Officer, tells me Juggalos will appreciate the DIY look and that investing in paint might lead to a loss in profit.
Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal: “Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don't make.”
5:45 p.m.: We're in the parking lot of the Gathering of the Juggalos and I make my first sales pitch to a group of drunk natives making burgers: “Custom Big Boy Juggalo, $40.” The drunken group of Juggalos approve of the design, but find my price point too high.
6:00 p.m.: I decide to create a sign from a piece of cardboard Igor discovers in a trash bin. While this might sound like a bad move, which could devalue my product's specialness, cardboard advertising at the Gathering is like a billboard, or a TV commercial, or an annoying Facebook ad. This is how you promote shit at the Gathering — on trash.
7:00 p.m.: After several interested Juggalos eye my product, or communicate their approval with their native call, “whoop-whoop,” they still don't pull out their wallets. I decide I need to relocate to a traffic-heavy area. Mike Busey, the Juggalo nephew of actor Gary Busey, has a strip club at the Gathering that I decide to use as a pop-up shop. Nobody finds it offensive or even remotely huckster of me that I'm now selling a “limited edition, only 12 in existence, handmade” (yeah, I'm totally “embellishing” my sales pitch now) Big Boy in front of an outdoor strip club.
Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal: “The key to success is location, location, location.”
7:45 p.m.: After a couple more potential buyers get cold feet, I decide to enhance my sales pitch: “$40 + one shot of whiskey.” Having paid $14 for a small bottle of Jack Daniel's, I estimate that there's about seven shots in the bottle (I have no idea if this is accurate), so I've just invested another $2 in my product. Even so, I feel vaguely confident I can still turn a small profit by the end of the night.
8:00 p.m.: A Juggalette pulls me into a baller-tent in the prime camping real estate near the main stage, where three different Juggalos try to haggle with me to lower my price. I ask them to spread the word around the camp that I now have a website: www.BigBoyJuggalo.com. Because my web designer is Igor and the cost is just $3 for the domain name, which currently redirects to a Tumblr site, I'm probably still going to turn a profit, maybe.
Fact: I suck at math. But so, apparently, does Donald Trump.
8:20 p.m.: My accounting now tells me that I've spent about six hours and $18.80 on my Big Boy Juggalo. Desperate to make a deal, I post up at a daiquiri smoothie vendor, who doesn't mind, and reduce my price point to $30, and now offer two shots with a purchase of the Big Boy Juggalo, which is trending on Igor's Snapchat. I relocate again next to a guy holding a sign that reads: “Gathering Virgin + Actual Virgin,” hoping his desperation will draw a crowd and at least one sympathy buyer.
10:00 p.m.: The virgin eventually attracts a member of the Columbus female goth-rap trio, Dead Body Bitches, whom I ask to pose with my Big Boy Juggalo. I'm hoping a little sex appeal will draw some interest in my product. It works, sort of, as lots of Juggalos are complimenting my product design. Still, nobody is buying. I refuse to sell my Big Boy Juggalo for less than 30 bucks. I'm also running out of whiskey.
12:30 a.m.: I post up near the main stage for the end of Violent J's side project Wizard of the Hood's set. As soon as they finish, I station myself opposite the mass of humanity walking away from the stage. After hours of persistence, I finally find a buyer, Scottie D of Faygoluvers, one of the most popular Juggalo-focused blogs. We negotiate and reach a deal: $20, no shot of whiskey. Which means I make a profit of $3 dollars and 20 cents. Donald Trump would be proud.
Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal: “It just goes to show you that it pays to move quickly and decisively when the time is right.”