The man who presides over Juggalo Central, at least in these parts, is 32-year-old Kris Tarnow. Tarnow is 300-pounds, 5-foot-11, with a shaved head, brown goatee, missing teeth here and there and usually outfitted in one of his many Insane Clown Posse (ICP) T-shirts.

If you were a Juggalo/lette from around here, if you'd already met Tarnow – say, on his Web site, where he goes by the moniker “subtleaggression” – you'd eventually find your way to his trailer home.

Because local ‘los and ‘lettes like hangin' here with their own kind. Wassup Juggalo? Woop woop!

And where did this phenomenon originate? A couple of white guys from Detroit – Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. The two paired up 10-plus years ago as the Insane Clown Posse, mixing hardcore with rap and to create their sound. J and Shaggy perform in clown facepaint. They coined the term “Juggalo” for their fans.

ICP's Hell's Pit , according to the band's Web site, sold 75,000 copies in its first week of release in 2004, and ICP became the biggest act in Detroit in the musical genre called “horror rap.” Each year, ICP fans flock to a weekend music fest dubbed the Gathering of the Juggalos.

Yes, there's a Juggalo insignia, lingo, garb, even a beverage of choice: a cheap soft drink called Faygo available in an array of flavors. And as with any group, particularly a counter cultural entity that's become a public curiosity, there's also a perceived Juggalo stereotype.

Stereotyping leads “true” Juggalos to insist that mainstream folk ought to find out what they truly represent.

“The other day we went to go see Pirates [of the Caribbean] ,” Tarnow says. “And a lady whispered, ‘That's a Juggalo.' Like I was going to turn around and mug her or whatever.”

Now's an opportune time to sit down with Tarnow and some of his Juggalo friends, given recent local news reports. Seven people, ages 14 to 29, have been arrested and charged with violent attacks at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, Wash.

Two of the suspects told authorities they were Juggalos. One, Anthony Pierce, told authorities that Juggalos “have become increasingly ganglike,” according to court papers.

Juggalos also grabbed headlines in February when Jacob Robida, 18, entered a gay bar in Massachusetts with a hatchet and gun and assaulted three patrons. He then fled to Arkansas where he killed a female companion and a police officer before police shot him dead. On Robida's MySpace page, he reportedly asked: “Are you a Juggalo?”

When asked about the Lakewood assailants, Tarnow admits, “I really hate to say it, but if that's the path they've chosen to take, I hope they get what they deserve. Nobody deserves to be treated like that or robbed. That's not right, and it's totally against the whole culture of what Juggalos stand for.”

© 2006, The Seattle Times.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.