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.

We first knew that they would be in for a rude awakening when we arrived at the stadium as a team of horror-movie harlequins strolled into the lobby. Several were pleasant, pre-school-friendly clowns, but a few were blood splattered and at least one carried a meat cleaver — creepy. And nearly all of them had an innate ability to sniff out those who were the most terrified by their deathly white mugs — including one unnamed City Paper staffer, who not only screamed when she was approached by two clowns — and then ran away — but who also was unable to watch the star attraction of the night, viral video star Puddles the Clown. We have it on good word that although the office coulrophobe was charmed by Puddle’s powerful baritone, she had to listen to him with her back to the stage.

[slideshow-1]

Speaking of Puddles, the 6 foot-8 clown began his set with a roaring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The packed room was nearly silent throughout the entire song. As Puddles proceeded through his set, he invited one admirer after another to the the stage for a hug and a round of “Happy Birthday.” But this wasn’t just any hug. It was as long as an old man’s rambling tale and as uncomfortable as a body cavity search — by your mom, with your entire family watching. At one point, we overheard one troubled onlooker ask, “What is happening?,” as if his grasp on reality had begun to loosen. Watching Puddles as held a so-called birthday boy to his chest — tightly, lovingly, terrifyingly — you could sense the onlooker’s confusion. Was this supposed to be funny? Was he supposed to be laughing? Had the world gone mad? Possibly.

And perhaps no one was madder than City Paper Editor Stephanie Barna. Dressed in a black-and-white French clown outfit that cleverly matched Puddle’s attire, Barna eagerly awaited for the giant clown on stage to hold out his hand and beckon her to his chest. And when he did, well, those of us who could look laughed — although perhaps some did so nervously.

Over the course of the evening we mingled with several City Paper award winners — some readers’ faves, some critics’. There was Harve Jacobs, Carolyn Murray, 98X’s Potter, Patch Whisky, Eater’s Erin Perkins, members of the Brown Water Society, Ryan Nelson, the fine folks at the Joye Law Firm, designer Katie Thompson, the guys in Savage Souls, Elim Bolt’s Johnnie Matthews and Jessica Oliver (also of People Person), David Crowley and Jimmy Poole from the Alley, Mike Seekings, Colleen Condon, Nicholai Burton from Park Circle Films, the Tier One Wild Hobo Tramps, and the P&C’s Natalie Caula Hauff, Glenn Smith, Grace Beahm, and Andy Paras.

None of this, of course, could have taken place without the help of our party partners: Guilty Pleasures, Joye Law Firm, Patrick J. O’Neill Plastic Surgery, Charleston Style Limo, Low Country Harley-Davidson, Aesthetispa, Charleston Green Taxi, the Flats at Mixson, Southern Season, Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ, Butcher and Bee, Santi’s, O-Ku, Wild Wing Cafe, Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery, Cru Catering, Mellow Mushroom, King of Pops, Lowcountry Highrollers, Charleston Mix, Lee Distributors, Republic National Distributing Co., Ben Arnold-Sunbelt Beverage Co., Post No Bills Creative Agency, Connie Duglin Linens, Pepsi, DJ NattyHeavy, DJ C.Nile, DJ Miketech, DJ Rehab, Dub Island and the Dubplates, Puddles the Clown, Goddess Dance Studio, Tiger Lily, Dream Vision Entertainment, Kevin Young, the Citadel, Rosen Litigation Technology Consulting, Stella Nova, Tag Your Pix, TNT Kettle Corn, Lowcountry Fun Foods, Big Hair Dave Productions, Icebox Bar Services, Snyder Party Rentals, Stage Presence Equipment Rentals, and the Tier One Wild Hobo Tramps.