Monday, December 11, 2006

Missing Clown Statues in Florida

Two downtown clowns missing
Others have been vandalized; these two apparently stolen


SARASOTA -- It's not the typical abduction case.

One of the missing is described as a clown, wearing a yellow shirt with black and red pants, holding flying pigs.

The other is mustached, wearing a multi-colored robe over a purple shirt, pink and purple striped pants and a Shriner's hat.

Both have unusually large shoes.

"When Pigs Fly" and "Ra Ra Shish Boom Ba," two of the nearly 50 fiberglass clowns sprinkled around downtown Sarasota, were apparently stolen, the latest trouble for the public art project that has suffered spots of vandalism but has remained intact until this week.

The 50- to 60-pound statues are bolted to 300-pound concrete slabs, but the thieves apparently unbolted one side, then tipped them over to snap the screws on the other side, said Dave Glaser, spokesman for TideWell Hospice and Palliative Care, which is sponsoring the fundraising exhibit.

"They're not super difficult to get off, but it does take some effort," Glaser said. "It's really, really disappointing because this whole program ultimately benefits children."

The missing clowns disappeared sometime between Monday and Thursday. "When Pigs Fly" was located in Pineapple Park, 300 S. Pineapple St., and "Ra Ra Shish Boom Ba," was at the intersection of Gulf Stream Avenue and Main Street.

"It's difficult to fathom why, other than a prank of some sort," Glaser said. "You're not going to display it in your front yard, and you're not going to sell it most likely."

Sarasota police took a report on the missing "When Pigs Fly" statue, spokesman Jay Frank said. It is valued at $3,500 for the $1,500 fiberglass mold, the $1,500 artist stipend to paint it and $500 for other costs.

Officers can see if any nearby security cameras captured anything, "but there's not much we can do," Frank said.

Police have agreed to keep an extra lookout for the statues, Glaser said, and TideWell has also paid for extra security.

Since they hit the streets in October, clowns have been beheaded, broken off at the feet and vandalized. A couple were in for repairs this week.

"He's pretty much been busy," Glaser said of the artist who has been repairing them.

Glaser noticed "When Pigs Fly" was missing Wednesday, but thought most likely it was in for repairs. But when someone else noticed it was gone, he called and found out that wasn't the case.

"It's been hard to keep track of these," Glaser said.

Another clown is in the police evidence locker as part of a case.

Police arrested one man after a woman heard a crash, turned around and saw him standing alone near a downed statue at the bayfront park at about 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4, Frank said.

The woman heard a crash and took down the man's license plate. Police followed the tip and found William P. Rain, 41, and arrested him for criminal mischief. Rain told police he was just standing there when the statue fell over, Frank said.

The value of that clown was estimated at $8,000.

The clowns will be on display until April, when they will be auctioned off to benefit a hospice program for children with terminal illnesses.

"Ultimately, we've got to have these in good shape so they're of value of us," Glaser said. If the group continues to lose them or they are damaged, it might have to pull the art exhibit off the street.

"What an obvious shame that would be," Glaser said. "There have been critics of the program" but the majority of people are enjoying it.

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