Desperate parents in Naples, Fla., have a new weapon in their arsenal for reining in misbehaving kids.
His name is “Wrinkles,” and he’s a creepy-looking clown who has been spotted at gatherings, in public and outside people’s homes for the past few years, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Wrinkles’s real face remains hidden beneath a distinctive mask with large black eye holes and receding white hair. He favors a polka dot onesie with black rubber gloves and he’s rarely seen without a bundle of colorful balloons in one hand. A slight paunch gives him the unnerving appearance of a menacing, man-size baby who lurks in sewers and children’s closets.
For a few hundred bucks cash, he told The Washington Post, he’ll make an appearance at your party or gathering, prank your friend or even scare your misbehaving kid straight, as he was recently hired to do by one mother looking for a way to reform her trouble-making 12-year-old.
“He was scared of clowns and I showed up across the street from him at the bus stop and he just started crying in front of his friends and ran home,” Wrinkles told The Post, somewhat remorsefully, in his heavy New England accent. “His mother called back a few days later and said ‘Thank you!’ Now when he acts bad, she just has to ask him: ‘Do you want Wrinkles to come back?’ ”
Wrinkles declined to give his real name, but said he’s a 65-year-old Rhode Island transplant and military veteran who worked various jobs throughout his career before retiring a few years ago. He’s divorced, without family ties and moved to Florida about five years ago to escape the cold New England winters and settle into a more relaxed life, he said.
After his arrival, he noticed that other people his age were playing golf and shuffleboard and hanging out at country clubs, but Wrinkles said being a boring retiree just wasn’t him. Instead, he ordered a clown mask online, created some business cards and stickers advertising his phone number and began to indulge in his life-long appreciation for clowning.
Over the next few years, his legend grew as Florida teenagers shared Wrinkles sightings on social media. Now, he receives hundreds of phone calls a day, he said.
“It’s fun,” he told The Post. “You get to be someone else. You get some people who are petrified and some people who want you to come home with them.”
For Wrinkles lovers, his appeal is partly a result of his terrible attitude. Unlike nice clowns who cater to children, Wrinkles isn’t particularly fond of young people and got bored making “stupid little balloon animals,” he said. In a world sanitized by glossy reality television shows and helicopter parents who obsess over their kids’ feelings, Wrinkles considers himself a remnant of a forgotten past.
“I’m just a good old-fashioned clown,” he said. “When I was a kid, it was okay to scare kids and now they’re all whiny and scared.”
“I want to bring scary back,” he added.
And yet, sometimes scary comes to him, he noted. Wrinkles said he has received requests from people to help them dump a body and regularly receives explicit requests to engage in lurid behavior. He always declines, he said, noting that he accepts only cash and entertains serious requests for his services. Right now, he said, he’s booked through January.
“I’ve got women calling me all the time,” he said. “Young ones, too, like weird goths with chains and stuff. I’ve had enough psycho women in my life already. That’s why I’m divorced.”
Instead of dumping a body or helping people live out their strange fantasies, Wrinkles said, he’d really prefer to get hired to stand awkwardly in the corner at your bat mitzvah.
“I may be 65, but I can still cut a rug,” he said.