By now, you are no doubt aware that the Summer/Fall of 2016 is going to go down in the annals of weird cultural history as The Summer/Fall That Everyone Freaked Out About Creepy Clowns. Back in August, reports first emerged that a person (or persons) dressed as a creepy clown was trying to lure children into the woods near a South Carolina apartment complex. Since then, copycats across the country have chased people, assaulted people, threatened schools, and generally made nuisances of themselves, according to USA Today.
The police are not amused. Parents are terrified. Kids are afraid to walk to school. But the group suffering most of all from the creepy-clown phenomenon is the group you’re probably unlikely to feel much sympathy for: actual clowns. The men and women who have devoted their lives to entertaining children through a centuries-old art form say the trend is giving them a bad image and hurting their business.
Ivan Mendez, who works part-time as a clown in the Kansas City area, tells the Kansas City Star that he actually fears for his personal safety when he goes to work.
“It’s scary because I see some comments from people that want to kill clowns.”
Mendez makes it a point to be in-character whenever he’s going to and from a clowning gig. That means he leaves his house in full clown regalia (including makeup; most actual clowns don’t wear masks, like what you can buy in a costume store), does his gig, and comes home while still in costume and makeup.
“I’m afraid for my safety now, I’m afraid for my family because 90 percent of the time my wife and kids are coming with me to help me out and set up everything.”
It’s not just internet vigilantes he’s afraid of — cops may not realize he’s one of the good guys, either. And with police departments across the country on alert for clown shenanigans, individual cops may not be patient when they see someone dressed as a clown in public. But Captain Stacey Graves of the Kansas City Police Department says that there have been no reports of creepy clowns in the Kansas City area — yet — and that KC cops are trained to focus on a person’s actions, not on how they look.
If creepy clowns are hurting Ivan Mendez in the public-image department, the phenomenon is hurting “Bonkers the Clown” in a much more tangible way: his wallet is taking a hit.
The Indiana man, who declined to be identified by his actual name, told WDRB (Louisville) that his business is suffering. Balloons by Bonkers is seeing fewer customers these days, and he says other clowns fear they’re going to start losing gigs.
“It’s funny until somebody loses a job, and that’s gonna be a clown if it keeps up the way it’s going. It’s a serious issue, and it needs to stop.”
He also takes exception to the media calling the perpetrators of the Creepy Clown crimes “clowns.”
“A clown’s job is to bring laughter and not tears. If I put on a lab coat, does that make me a doctor? Just because they put on a clown costume doesn’t make them a clown.”
Back in Kansas City, Ivan Mendez, who performs as Carmelito the Clown, says that he’s not going to let a few miscreants ruin what he loves. As long as he continues to make people happy, he’s going to keep putting on the costume.
“That reaction when they give it back to you is priceless you know you take it home and you say ‘oh I made somebody smile today.'”
[Feature Image by Elnur/Shutterstock]