The zaniest and, at the same time, the most sincere place to be in Los Angeles on Tuesday may have been a pour-your-heart-out competition to be Bozo the Clown.
About 60 would-be Bozos vied for jobs as the clown who's "brought you a bagful of rootin'-tootin' tricks."
Aspirants were required to march to a microphone on an indoor basketball court at the First Methodist Church in Hollywood and tell Larry Harmon, who says he started performing as Bozo 38 years ago, why they want to be like him.
There was the Tennessee actor who said he sought the "professional prestige" that being Bozo would bring, the clown from Alabama who said he viewed Bozo as a ticket out of town and there were those, like Harmon himself, who said they want to be Bozos to contribute to world peace.
"If we can bring a little Gorbachev at the age of 6 to a Bozo show and a little Reagan . . . that's the answer," said Los Angeles actor Josh Townshend.
He did not appear to be kidding.
Quite a few other competitors said they had idolized Bozo in their childhoods during the 1950s and 1960s when the clown with the bald pate and spiked orange fringe was a more familiar figure.
Harmon, who is now trying to rekindle Bozo's fading star, said he will train those selected in the competition at his Hollywood office.
Students of "Bozology" will "learn to walk, talk, look, think and be like Bozo the Clown. . . . We give them some form of psychology, a little bit of psychiatry. We give them a great deal of knowledge about talking," said Harmon, 63, leaning forward, eyes aglow, and whispering the word "talking."
Harmon might be able to skip the psychiatry for one aspirant, who probably studied some of it in medical school.
Dr. William Goldwag, a 60-year-old general practitioner in Stanton who specializes in preventive medicine, said being Bozo is not necessarily incompatible with being a doctor.
"I think people who are clowns really do more than some doctors do," Goldwag said. "I think there's a Bozo inside everybody, and when we let that out, we relieve a tremendous amount of stress."