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Professional clowns say 'creepy clown' stories are affecting their livelihood

Posted at 6:30 PM, Oct 04, 2016

DENVER -- News accounts of so-called “creepy clowns” trying to scare people are raising the ire of longtime professional clowns.

“It makes us angry,” said Kathy Shook, who has been in the clown business for 28 years. "But more than anything, it makes us sad.  It really makes us sad.”

Shook told Denver7 she got into the clown business because she wanted to make people smile.

“My heroes were Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball and Red Skelton,” she said. “Funny people. I wanted to be that kind of person.”

Shook said she has two different professional personas.

She uses the outgoing “Sami-Ann” while performing at birthday or company parties, where she’ll often twist balloons into animal shapes.  She uses the more low-key “Marmalade” when visiting kids at a local hospital in Longmont.

“Sometimes the kids want to be entertained,” she said. “Sometimes they just need somebody to listen to them.”

Last month, Shook was photographed while walking on the grass at Denver’s City Park.  She said she was there taking part in the Alzheimer’s Walk with other performers from Colorado Clowns.

A viewer sent the photo to Denver7.  We used it in a story about clown sightings in Colorado.

“It showed me from behind,” she said. “It didn’t show my face but I knew it was me. My close friends knew it was me. My family knew it was me.”

Shook said many of the clowns who have been spotted out and about trying to scare people are not real clowns.

“They’re impersonators,” she said.  “Real clowns are very kind people. They have the biggest hearts. All they want to do is bring joy.”

She attributes much of the negativity surrounding clowns to Tinsel Town.

“Hollywood started this with the scary movies,” she said. “It’s only in the U.S. where we have this. It’s not a problem in other countries.”

Shook told Denver7 that things have gotten so volatile around Halloween, that she won’t accept a job within three weeks of the holiday.

“I don’t know who’s calling me,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s safe.”

When asked about her visits to the hospital, Shook said it brings a smile to her face knowing she’s bringing joy to others.

She recalled visiting a 13 or 14-year-old boy who was being treated for a broken limb.

“He was ‘bare-back’ riding in a rodeo,” she said, adding that she didn’t know how he might handle a visit from a clown. 

She used a play on words related to the rodeo.

“I said, 'Don’t you know that’s very dangerous to ride on the back of a bear?'” she said.  “It just won him over.”

Shook said she just wants people to know that the men and women who work in the clown business for a living love their jobs and don’t want to hurt or scare anyone.

She said when they get together at conventions, “there is so much laughter and carrying on and not one of them is drunk.”

Shook is not a creepy clown, she’s one of the good ones.

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