My husband is a unique brand of celebrity: he is a rock star to children! As one of New York City’s most popular professional clowns, his name elicits Justin Bieber-worthy teenybopper screaming reactions. “Looney Lenny! Looney Lenny!” From three-year-olds to ten-year-olds are the true die-hard set. These are the ones who come out whenever he’s performing, like mini followers of the Grateful Dead, only they’re Lenny Heads. They yell at him, arms outreached, hoping to graze his pants or better yet, pull his pants down. (Seriously!) One time at a party, the birthday boy was too excited to leave after he peed his pants so he changed his clothes right in the middle of the show while Looney Lenny continued unscathed. He barely notices the screams, cries, horrible behavior. He loves a rowdy crowd to remind him how excited the children get when they see him. He is hilarious and kind and patient while I sit on the sidelines, protective of my man, seething under my breath, giving dirty looks to the fanatics who have crossed over into the groupie category. Sometimes it goes too far.
These are the over-sugared, under-disciplined, spoiled kids. They form a beeline for him in an effort to have a one on one connection. Or else they want to attempt to explore those mysterious pockets, brimming with Sponge Bob Square Pants, colorful scarfs, and animals of various breeds. Kids beg him to “pull something out of my ear;” a plastic dinosaur, a flickering light, an oversized peanut. He doesn’t see little pit bulls coming for him, instead, he is delighted, completely entranced within his performance haze. Who doesn’t want to be cheered for, applauded, loved?
Well, me. I prefer anonymity.
“Bullshit,” my husband calls me out. “Otherwise, you’d be writing under a pseudonym.”
He’s right, but it’s different. I like to tell stories to my crowd of friends or from behind a keyboard, but I don’t want to be at the center of attack by pint-sized monsters whose parents think their unacceptable behavior is delightful and adorable. I stare at these parents with a judgmental eye from the sidelines as their obnoxious offspring slaps my husband’s butt and yells, “poopy” 13 times in a row instead of the magic words. The mom stands by, laughing with her head tilting backward to indicate exactly how hilarious this all is.
When the clown is done with his magic show, he distributes his notorious business cards, which are designed to look like a million dollar bill. The children swarm him as if he’s giving out Hamilton tickets. They scream, push other kids over, and some cry because they have to wait an extra six seconds before they get their free card. My favorite is when kids say, “This is fake money!” First, they enjoyed a free magic show and then they got a little present, but it’s not good enough. Looney Lenny graciously accepts the fake money back and mutters something like, “Must be independently wealthy” or “It’s tax-free.”
The children’s faces light up in awe at his every sleight of hand. Their collective laughter emits as much energy as his and it’s clear, this is from where the clown recharges his batteries. But those clown fanatics … some beasts, no matter how young, must be tamed.