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Streetlights have been a major theme in his drawings, the artist explains, noting that his obscene horror ride will also feature a haunted pillow scurrying insectlike across the murder victim's bed. "Fear fills your whole body with energy. I feel like I have to take a shit every time I walk through a cemetery."
His main attraction, Old Kipper's Widow, is a mechanical whorehouse with a collapsed roof. "This originated the whole thing," Childree gushes. "I've been wanting to do this for 15 years," he says of the ride. "It's about a bordello you put a nickel into with mechanical automatons that have different holes you can poke your dick inside of. It's gross, falling apart, and the roof is caved in, but you still want to enter."
Standing in the corner space where this ride is situated, one finds it difficult to wrap the skull around the artist's seedy vision of a turn-of-the century pornucopia. Suddenly he begins spewing yet more memories of his kooky clan. Some of his relatives sound like the bumpkins from Li'l Abner's mythical town of Dogpatch. Childree is quick to add that his family enjoyed a healthy jibe at one another's expense.
Click here to view a clip of Clifton Childree's Something Awful.
"Granny Mamie only had two front teeth that she used to scrape apples against while eating them. She would stick a gob of wax in her mouth and carve lines in it like teeth to go to church," Childree reminisces. "She lost her dentures while biting down on a cast net she was tossing in the bay."
Swept by a wave of nostalgia, he again holds forth on Grandpa, who sounds more like a sailor on permanent shore leave than a retired family patriarch.
"One of his favorite jokes he told us was about this little kid who caught his grandfather masturbating. He'd ask him: 'Grandpa, you jacking off?' 'No, son, just jacking,' the old man would respond. Grandpa was really nasty."
Childree pauses to inform that "Kipper's Widow" is an old matron who lost her husband at sea and sits at her sewing machine pining for him.
"I'm going to show a film as part of this where the widow's sewing machine is connected to the sail of a ship, which is connected to a dildo in her chair activated by the wind so she can have an orgasm while she's sewing."
Childree says that when his work is finished, he wants the atmosphere of his screwball opus to appear urine-stained, weathered by the ravages of time and creeping with vines.
"This is not a sterile environment. It's raw. To me that mixture is funnier. It's like this could have been a side attraction for adults at a larger carnival and kids would have tried to sneak into it too."
When "Dream-Cum-Tru" opens, Childree plans to perform decked out in washed-up duds while turning the crank on an ancient projector spooling one of his quirky films.
"I'll be playing an old carny who will be very slapstick like my grandfather. You know, it's hard to come to terms with the fact that all these folks are gone. It's still hard for me to believe," he sighs.
Navigating Childree's decomposing theme park, lazily congealing at Locust on a blistering summer afternoon, one feels the spirits of his ancestors as thick as the rolling fog in one of those old Lewton films ... and very much alive.