Any clown is free to walk around Santa Cruz and get his jollies dropping coins into other people's about-to-expire parking meters. Mr. Twister saw to that.
The professional clown who was hit with a $13 fine for unauthorized meter-feeding fought City Hall and won. The City Council on Tuesday repealed the ordinance against plugging strangers' parking meters.
"Right on the face of it, the law makes no sense," Mayor Katherine Beiers said.
Today, Mr. Twister -- in white face, rainbow-striped pants, a polka-dot tie, shaggy red hair and bulbous red nose -- was downtown again, dropping quarters and getting laughs, as he has for the last six years.
Honk, honk, a car saluted.
"Honk, honk," Mr. Twister brayed in acknowledgment.
"All right, Mr. Twister, all right!" a man crossing the street yelled.
Another on the sidewalk knelt in tribute. "You're our spiritual leader," Robert Forte declared.
Mr. Twister -- out of costume he is Cory McDonald, 26 -- had deliberately courted a citation for violating what he called the Anti-Good Samaritan Law.
When the matter came up for a vote Tuesday night, City Council members donned big red clown noses and squeezed them to make them squeak. After they voted to repeal the ordinance, Mr. Twister expressed his appreciation by twisting balloon animals for them, the activity that gave him his name.
"Just good P.R." was how Mr. Twister explained the City Council's retreat as he strolled the sunny sidewalks of this coastal community 75 miles south of San Francisco. "I'm out here being nice to people all the time. How can they not be nice to me?" Mr. Twister, who makes his living entertaining at birthday and office parties, giving clowning classes and performing on the street, has never had to depend on the kindness of meter-plugging strangers. He has no car.
Instead, he commutes by skateboard from the mobile home he shares with his mother and stepfather.
He said he started plugging meters when he saw a friend's car being ticketed. Soon, Mr. Twister was plugging everyone's meters, reasoning, "Random acts of kindness can be fun."
Soon, people began giving him quarters. He took satisfaction in beating parking enforcement officers to expired meters.
He estimates he spends $2,000 a year -- 5 percent to 10 percent of his income -- on meter feeding and other charitable contributions.
But the meter readers warned him they had found an ordinance that forbade anyone but the parker to plug a parking meter.
On Oct. 9, police slapped him with a citation.
Savvy about media circuses as well as the three-ringed ones, Mr. Twister walked over to the local newspaper, and word spread quickly.
With publicity, the laugh was soon on the parking agency. Supporters donated $332 in quarters to keep up the lawbreaking. And a lawyer, Ben Rice, stepped forward to represent him "pro Bozo."
The city dropped the citation last week.
Today, a meter worker only waved as Mr. Twister committed the newly legal act of dropping a quarter in a stranger's parking meter.
Another stranger ran across the street to thank him.
"People ought to be nice to one another like that," said Karen Silva, grabbing his hand. "Without legal repercussions -- honk, honk," Mr. Twister said. CAPTION: Mr. Twister tends to a hungry parking meter in Santa Cruz, Calif., after repeal of an ordinance banning strangers from paying for parkers.