Welcome to the Charleston City Paper’s annual Best of Charleston issue. But before we get to the winners, please give us a chance to apologize. We realize that some of you out there are scared to death of clowns. In fact, you’re probably sweating right now as you read this. Heck, you might have even checked your pulse a few times. And for that, we’re dreadfully sorry (oh and breathe deep, friend, breathe deep). Right now, you can either close this week’s issue and never look at it again — although you’ll have a difficult time escaping it since it’ll be on racks all around town — or you can just slip on a pair of oversized clown shoes and a red rubber nose and try to get over your fear, because, the next hundred-plus pages are jam-packed with clowns. And they’re helping us celebrate this year’s winners, from Best Restaurant to Best Massage Therapist to Best Troublemaker. As usual, we’ve also added a few new categories, like Best Juice Bar and Best Home Security Company. So quit clowning around and get to reading.
One gloomy afternoon in February, when icy weather had shut down much of Charleston, Charlemagne Pittsford, a.k.a Mr. Pitts, was drunkenly hurling hypodermic needles at a dartboard in a back-alley hobo camp on Upper King Street. — Corey Hutchins
Puddles, a nearly 7-foot-tall sad clown from Atlanta with a mellifluous baritone voice best known for singing Lorde's hit single "Royals" in a viral YouTube video, won't talk to me on the phone. Instead, Puddles' publicist refers me to Big Mike, Puddles' right-hand man of sorts. — Paul Bowers
Clowns used to be images of happiness, jovial reminders of childhood, but it seems these days that more often than not they strike fear in people — young and old. Where did this coulrophobia, or phobia of clowns, come from? — Melissa Tunstall
For a country built on religious freedom and free speech, we certainly are a judgmental lot. In fact, certain subcultures seem to receive a disproportionate share of scorn. Ponytailed ex-hippies in expensive vehicles. — Chris Parker
Pity the poor coulrophobe who was invited to last night's Best of Charleston Party. They had a difficult decision to make: Stay home and miss out on the party of the year or drop by Johnson Hagood Stadium and be surrounded by the very thing they fear most — clowns. Judging by the crowd, more than a few coulrophobes faced their fears. Wrong decision. — Chris Haire