Off Limits

The tears of a clown

Eighty-three-year-old icon Blinky the Clown, who was born Russell Scott, was all snoofly last week when Victor Bencomo found him at Blinky's Antiques and Collectibles, his tiny shop on South Broadway. Bencomo had dropped by to beg the former star of Blinky's Fun Club, which was canceled by Channel 2 in 1998, to sing "Happy Birthday" to his wife -- but he wound up consoling the clown.

"My wife, like 26 years ago, was on the show, and she was all excited about being on the show and having Blinky announce her name on the show. But she waited, and he never did it," Bencomo says. "So I went over there to see if he would sing ŒHappy Birthday' for her."

When he got to the shop, Bencomo discovered that someone had just destroyed Blinky's window. For the second time in as many days. "The poor guy just stood there dazed and confused, asking why would someone do this to an old clown," Bencomo reports. "God, my heartstrings were pulled."

Blinky knows the first culprit's identity, but the police told him there's nothing they can do unless the kid confesses. "The policeman said to me yesterday, he said, 'Russell, it's not that they hate you -- this guy didn't hate you. They don't like people that are happy, for some reason. They don't like seeing that big, happy clown face staring at them from your window,'" Blinky says. "So the kid took a rock that must have been six inches in diameter and threw it right through the window. It landed in my sink."

Blinky had scraped together enough money to replace the smashed window, but the very night the glass was installed, someone peppered it with bullets. And Blinky can't afford another $600 window -- as a sign in the ruined window explains. "I'm not just feeling sorry for myself," he adds. "I really can't afford to replace that window again. I'm living on Social Security. I'm living all by myself since my wife left. She and the lawyers just cleaned me out in the divorce."

But Blinky's not entirely down on marriage. And this Thursday, he's promised to finally sing his signature "Happy Birfday" to Bencomo's wife, Sara.

The sound and the furry: From a passing car, pictures of dead, bloody, skinned dogs laminated on protest signs look a bit like pictures of dead, bloody, aborted fetuses. So motorists who passed Marks-Lloyds Furs in Cherry Creek last Thursday afternoon can be forgiven for mistaking the handful of anti-fur demonstrators clustered outside the posh furrier for anti-abortionists. One of the animal-rights activists even clutched a placard bearing the buzz phrase "Pro-Life" over a heartwarming shot of jubilant children frolicking with a canine companion. Another sign depicted a dog nuzzling a cat over a large and ghastly image of four or five skinned canis familiaris carcasses and the rhetorical question "Would You Wear Your Pet?"

What with the bold-lettered "Pro-Life" and the fish-belly-white corpses discarded in pools of crimson, it was impossible to know for sure what cause drivers thought they were dissing when they honked and gave the demonstrators the finger or a thumbs-down. And then there were taunts of "Grow up!" from a man behind the wheel of a battered grey Chevy pickup bearing a bumper sticker proclaiming his child to be an honor student.

The young woman who bore the bloody carcasses, Denver resident M.E. Rauph, stood fast in the face of insults. "I have to say we get more negative reactions than support," she conceded, "but I'm out here for my second week because the fur industry's disgusting. They don't even utilize all the animal, like with cows and leather."

Last November, on the big shopping day after Thanksgiving, Rocky Mountain Animal Defense organized a large protest outside Marks-Lloyds, whose advertising motto is "Denver's Oldest and Most Trusted Furrier for Over 25 Years." Since then, a few protesters have gathered outside the store on the 200 block of Josephine Street every Thursday afternoon from 1:30 p.m. through rush hour.

And every week, the store's owners have hired an off-duty Denver cop to stand guard beside the front door.

"We have no comment," said the man who answered the phone at Marks-Lloyds during last Thursday's action. "We have nothing to say about them."

Rocky Mountain Animal Defense coordinator Mark Reinhardt, looking more like a Parrot Head than a monkey liberator in his aloha shirt, worn beach trunks and mirrored sunglasses, was loquacious by comparison. "We're not here because the fur industry is the worst abuser of animals," he said. "That's the meat industry. We're here because fur is easier to rally against, because it's so obviously ridiculous and cruel and causes so much pain and suffering for animals."

Twenty feet away, the female police officer who'd drawn fur-protest duty that day stepped aside and gave a solemn nod to a frosty blond matron of the ruling class who was entering the fur store.

"We appreciate the police presence, because those fur people could come out and skin us alive for coats at any time," said Reinhardt. "It's good to have the police here to protect us."

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