Kevin Clash, the Sesame Street puppeteer and actor behind the beloved character Elmo and star of the documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey has found that his particular journey may lead to the unemployment office. The 52-year-old Clash has taken a leave of absence from the program after a 23-year-old male claimed Clash had had a sexual relationship with him when he was only 16-year-old.
Clash’s defense is that the claim is defamatory and that he only got horizontal with the young man after he’d already turned eighteen and he plans to use his time away from the show to vindicate himself and repair his reputation. Guilty or not, we live in a society where we’re very quick to assume child-entertainment performers are sexual deviants. You know…because they’re usually so friggin’ creepy. And usually guilty.
All the grease paint and red rubber noses can’t hide the fact that clowns are creepy beings. And after watching the made-for-TV John Wayne Gacy story starring Brian Dennehy back in the 90s, I can’t get the idea out of my head that they’re probably going to strangle me with a deflated animal balloon and use my corpse for sexual experimentation. And there’s people like Jose Guadalupe Jimenez, a Los Angeles-based birthday clown who would nab pre-teen victims while in his clown make-up and sexually assault them. Way to ruin the circus for these kids for life, Bozo. Or take Randy Edward Miller (why do serial killers and rapists always go by three names?), an Ontario man who was found with a bevy of child sex abuse and pornography evidence at his home and travelled the land as Honker the Clown, AKA Poppy the Clown. If his names weren’t enough evidence to have him locked up as a deviant, I don’t know what is.
Or how about Ronald William Brown, a Florida puppeteer who entertained children with bible stories at his local church, and then went on internet chat forums to discuss how he’d like to kill and eat them? And then there was the third actor to play Barney in the late-90s who was charged with sexual harassment of a minor and is now a registered sex offender?
I’d be better off sitting my kid in front of Silence of the Lambs instead of hiring a clown for his birthday party. And suddenly I wonder what that clown who pulled up to me as a child in his van meant when he asked if I was up for a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.