Funky the Bear was a guy in a bear suit. A cartoonish bear suit, the fancy dress variety rather than the authentic grizzly.
Funky was an artist, in that he created his own reality and projected
it. Funky didn’t fit in, the world just had to adapt. Funky was funny
and Funky was a clown.
The first time I came across him he got arrested. It was hilarious
and I was lucky enough to see it unfold from beginning to end. I was
ambling into the city [Perth Australia], passing through a large
pedestrian plaza where the Art gallery and Museum reside, there was a
fenced off area where one of Perths many variations of Arts festivals
As I walked into the area I came up behind two mounted policemen
staring intently at an apparently drunk and antisocial bear who over the
next few minutes staggered and fell, took wild swings at those who
stopped to assist and who at one point began to take waste wood from a
construction project and throw it into a public fountain.
Whether it was contrived or not it certainly appeared that this bear was simply out of control.
While we watched another , younger policeman arrived and watched with
us, the bear was running amok about 100 meters away. The two mounted
cops ordered the unmounted fresh faced cadet to “Go and deal with that.”
The bear had just swung another length of 2x4 into the fountain,
over-rotated and fallen on his face then got up again when the Cop,
about 20 feet away and approaching yelled. “Hey, stop!”
Funky turned and then did a classic cartoon doubletake, his arms thrown
out wide, jumped into the air, spun 180 and landed running away,
heading for the art event enclosure. It took only seconds for the
policeman to catch up with him, he grabbed Funky by the shoulder but the
bear kept running anyway. He ran the short distance up to the fence,
missed the entrance point by a wide margin and ran straight into the
chain link fence, froze a moment fully spreadeagled then slid
dramatically down the fence to lie in a heap. The cop was now standing
over him and a crowd was forming. Funky had done his best to make it
look like the policeman was overreacting with violence at a poor man in a
Trying to wrestle back the initiative the young improvising policeman
thought it best to put an end to this antromorphic charade by yanking
the bears costume head off. A good idea except the suits entry point was
through the crutch and the head was not of the removable type.
The cop strained at yanking the bears head off and the bear milked it
by throwing his arms out and exaggerating each attempt made at ripping
it’s head off.
The now surrounded young cop had moved on to brandishing his handcuffs
only to find they didn’t fit round a bears wrists when the crowd, now
surrounded him, began to voice their disapproval, adding to his woes. I
presume the mounted cops were spectating stoically from a distance while
howling with laughter within.
“You can’t arrest him ! He’s a conceptional artist!” someone barracked.
“You have the right to remain fluffy!” another yelled. [OK I admit it, that was me.]
The typically Australian disdain for authority was given full play,
no-one took it that seriously, the fact that the cop carried a sidearm
meant nothing. He was embarrassed and stressed and trying to arrest a
bear therefor the crowd became bear champions instinctively.
Funky the bear put the policeman out of his misery by standing and head
held low in shame offering his hand for the cop to take and lead him
away, he shuffled meekly away, being towed by a policeman, the crowd
good naturedly booing.
I heard later he was taken to the nearby station and mug-shots were
taken with his costume still on before simply being let off with a
warning. He was actually that year the official mascot of the festival
so prosecuting him would have simply been more trouble than it was
I saw him an hour or too later inside the enclosure and was impressed
by the amount of expression he could muster inside that suit. He would
dance until he attracted children then run away from them and lead them
in a simple game of ‘catch the funny bear’ until he worked out who might
be a parent and then he would rush up to them and drop to his knees and
clasp his paws together in supplication, begging that the parents take
their kids back.
He was funny, he was bitter and antisocial and trapped in a bear suit and that was his character.
Some months later I heard of his hijinks when paid to do roving atmospheric work at the grounds of the main Perth University.
He had thrown a rock at some reticulation pipe and burst it and spent
part of his gig being chased around by the gardening staff. He’d run
indoors to hide and walked into a full lecture hall mid lecture from a
door at the front of the class. The lecturer looked at him and the
amassed students looked down to him from their tiered seating. A moment
frozen in strangeness as he entered. Funky then walked slowly and slyly
towards the blackboard, picked up a piece of chalk in his paw. Turned
and wrote slowly and deliberately F..U..C..K on the board, then sprinted
from the room.
We became friends when, at a later time I met the man who filled the costume.
Funky was funny and Funky was a Clown.