Local children's entertainer T-Bone the Clown was banned from an appearance at a Glendale elementary school Friday after school authorities learned that he was going to urge students not to turn their parents in to police for suspected drug use.
The clown was met at the door of Columbus Elementary School at 9:30 a.m. by school officials who told him that his message was too controversial and accused him of attempting to use the children to generate publicity. T-Bone, who had booked the appearance last month, protested but was ordered off school property.
"The kids are going to be the loser in this," said T-Bone, who lives in North Hollywood and says he is a former teacher but refuses to divulge his real name. "They're not going to be aware of the other alternatives they can turn to instead of tearing their family apart by involving the police."
'Very Sensitive Thing'
In reply, Blanch M. Greenwood, president of the Glendale Unified School District, said: "This whole drug abuse issue is a very sensitive thing, and we can't have someone going in the classroom giving their personal opinion if it's not in accordance with the district policy."
T-Bone generally entertains children at hospitals, schools and libraries with magic and comedy and occasionally speaks about safety. Friday's assembly before 650 students was to be his first performance of a new skit, which he said attempts to demonstrate to children other ways of solving family drug-abuse problems without calling the police.
"They can go to a minister, a school official or a relative. They don't have to call the police and give Mommie and Daddy a record," he said.
The clown said he started developing the new skit last month after several children had turned in their parents for suspected drug abuse. Since the highly publicized August case of an Orange County teen-ager who reported her parents to police, six other children in California and elsewhere have done the same thing.
The controversy over the appearance began Thursday when members of the media called district spokesman Vic Pallos seeking permission to attend T-Bone's free performance.
Want to Review Material
Pallos, Principal Terry Dutton and other school officials canceled the event Friday, saying they were not told ahead of time about the clown's message. While school officials said they do not necessarily disapprove of T-Bone's ideas, they said they wanted to review his material before allowing him to appear.
Dutton said he was particularly angry that the clown's publicist, Chris Harris, sent several telegrams to the media publicizing the drug message. Telegrams announced that T-Bone "will launch his national presentation to encourage kids not to turn in Mommie or Daddy if they discover drugs in the household."
"I am simply appalled that that publicist would place publicity for the act above the feeling of the kids," Dutton said.
Before a bank of television news cameras Friday, Harris watched as district officials accused him of trying to turn the student assembly into a media event.
Harris, who has been T-Bone's publicist for two months, is no stranger to publicity stunts. Once he paraded about in his pajamas in downtown San Diego inviting passers-by to lie down on the bed he parked on a sidewalk as a gimmick for a dream survey he said he was conducting. For a supposed survey on American's self-image, he asked people to expose their belly buttons.
After Friday's aborted promotion, he said: "I'm the ogre in this one. I guess my career is down the toilet."