Last week, all four of my school-aged kids, from two separate schools, came home worried about alleged clowns in the woods who were kidnapping children. Our local town Facebook page went into a hysteria regarding the same rumors that were coming home with all the local kids. Despite the seemingly not-so-coincidental fact that several Halloween clown movies are slated to come out in theaters soon and with Halloween well on the way, the rumors continued to fester throughout the weekend. Flash forward to this week, when two of our local high school students were arrested, for their part in the scary clown threats and for a bomb threat at the high school. Delaware isn't alone, though. Reports of scary clown sightings, kidnappings and all sorts of absolute nonsense have been sweeping the nation. From the start, I worried about our local entertainers, who make clowning and costumed characters for kids' parties their business.
Part of my job includes children's entertainment for parties and events. I'm a professional face painter. Over the past several years, I've gotten to know my fellow party entertainers locally, one of which is a very talented professional clown and magician. Renate McIntosh, who goes by the name of Snippy Doodles when clowning, is the Delaware state Director of the Mid-Atlantic Clown Association and is an award-winning clown. Personally, I've face painted at events where she was also working, we've had her at our home as Snippy Doodles for our daughters' birthday party, we've gone to her public events in town and we've visited her at some of her restaurant gigs. Every time, she was an absolute kid favorite. My kids ask for her by name, to make them spectacular balloon sculptures and perform magic tricks. They too, asked how she was feeling, when these threatening clown impersonator rumors got going. The thing is, these alleged "scary clowns" aren't clowns at all. These ridiculous rumors are hurting an entire business of professionals.
That's right. Clowning is a business and it's in the business of making kids and families laugh and smile, it has nothing to do with scaring or hurting anyone. Clowns spend an hour or more, preparing their makeup and their costumes and props before every event. Professional clowns attend conventions, classes and spend countless hours practicing their shows, their magic tricks and crafting their character's personality. They spend huge amounts of money every year on insurance, travel, costumes, makeup, props and accessories, to run their business. As you can imagine, with the recent scares and then heading into Halloween season, there's been quite a lot of backlash toward professional clowns all over the country, including death threats, threats of violence and a whole lot of verbal abuse towards these legitimate entertainers.
To help bring some awareness and thoughtfulness to the situation, I'm sharing an essay written by my friend and fellow entertainer, Renate McIntosh, who continues to clown with joy, despite the harassment that's been going on locally and nationally. I encourage all of my readers to look out for your local entertainers, who might be feeling a little nervous or overwhelmed to go to work these days.
A Clown’s Thoughts During Halloween Season
By Renate McIntosh – Snippy Doodles
I'm clowning tonight and I think about the children who are coming out to see me. I walk out my door and I hear a young voice, “Clowny! Clowny!” She proceeds to tell me about her day at school. I get into my car and realize her brother is in their car. He and his mom are waving at me as I drive by.
I stop at a traffic light and start thinking about the police officer who was stopped next to me at the same light a few weeks ago, how he slowly raised his cell phone, snapped my picture and then drove away.
My mind is wandering in fifty different directions. I realize I forgot the new magic trick I wanted to use tonight. There’s a man driving in the lane next to me trying to take my picture. I wave, he smiles, gives me a thumbs up and drives away. I’m wondering how busy we’re going to be tonight. I’m on my way my regular Tuesday night gig. Last week we had people waiting 30 minutes to be seated.
It’s a slower night. A new restaurant, across the street, just opened yesterday. I’m talking to an older couple when they point towards the door. I look up to see an eight-year-old boy with a big smile on his face. He comes to see me every week. I always remind him that I have to go to the other tables first. Tonight, he is the first child through the door. An older couple waves me on, “Go do your thing. He’s waiting!” His smile gets bigger. I’m not sure how that’s possible. The boy and I go over to his table and I bring out some sponge balls. He does the magic and we’re laughing about it. Then I pull out another trick. Their waiter is watching now. The child does the magic trick; we’re all laughing and the mom says, “I wish you were at all the restaurants!” I watch as another family comes in and sits down on the other side of the partition. Two grinning faces keep peeking over the wall. The little guy I’m with asks for a giant ninja guy with a sword. We end up with a giant ninja guy and three swords, and then have a quick sword fight with his mom. I thank them for coming out to see me.
I step around the partition and see that their waitress is taking their order. I head over to another table. I make a simple balloon penguin for the lady and head back to the children who are excitedly waiting for me. All four are watching me expectantly. The youngest yells out, “I want a hat!” He points at a giant balloon hat an adult is wearing. I had made it earlier. I say, “Alien or ninja?” He yells, “NINJA!” I goof around with the other children, dad is smiling. They don’t know what they want. I pull out one of my Halloween balloons. The little guy with the hat yells, “I want it!” His sister decides she wants a kitty. While I’m working on the kitty the eight-year-old and his mom are heading out the door. He waves his giant ninja guy at me, smiles, and says, “See you next week!”
I finish my last table of the night. I’m thinking about earlier when someone had dragged me into the bar to talk to a little nine-month old girl. I had brought out my squeaker and squeaked her toes. I squeaked her mom’s arm. She started smiling. I squeaked her toes again. I went slow and easy knowing the little one doesn’t know what to make of me. Then she rubbed her eyes and yawned.
A lady approaches me. “I know you go all over Delaware. How far do you travel?” She asks for my business cards and says she’s going to make copies and take them to Kent Island. She says I will be hearing from her.
I’m hungry when I leave. I don’t like to wait on them to fix me a meal, so I go through one of my regular drive-thru restaurants. I’m thinking about the stories in the news and I’m happy that this restaurant always asks for a name with the order. I say, “Snippy Doodles.” They tell me to drive around and I get to the window. They ask me, “How are you, Snippy?” I tell them I’m doing fine. One of them tells me to be careful. I get my food, thank them, and start to drive away. A man is looking out the window and starts waving at me. I wave back smiling and thinking how much I love this job.
When I get home I check to see if anyone called or emailed me to book an event. There’s a lady asking me to do a dinosaur themed birthday party for a one-year-old. My mind thinks back to a party last week where I had some children with special needs. Two of the boys were taller than me. They were so excited. One was waving his hand every time I asked for a helper during my magic show. I called on him for my last trick. I can still see him standing there with a big smile on his face taking a bow as the audience clapped and cheered.
I go back to reading my messages. There is one from a friend. She writes that her eight-year-old who has Aspberger’s Syndrome, was worried about me and asked, “Is she scared? Tell Snippy Doodles that she makes ME happy!" My little friends are worried about me. It’s almost Halloween and this too shall pass.
Disclaimer: Essay and photographs used with permission. All photographs are the property of Renate McIntosh.