(April 30) -- It's no joke: Clowns freak out a lot of people. So it comes as no surprise that a Los Angeles man is capitalizing on that fear as a way to show off the city's top crime spots.
Most of the time, he's actor Michael Perrick, but as Crimebo the Crime Clown, he takes tourists to some of the most notorious murder sites and crime scenes in the City of Angels, where he explains grisly criminal details in an unsettlingly cheerful manner.
Though his red-faced makeup, black mask and garish "gumshoe-on-acid" outfit add to Crimebo's creepiness, and while Perrick is an actor, the glee he expresses when discussing sordid suicides and macabre murders is not a performance.
For a guy who's a clown, he seriously gets a kick out of discussing crazy crimes that have occurred in Lala Land -- some of which are famous, and some of which aren't but should be.
"My favorite crime occurred in Pasadena," he said cheerfully. "There were two guys who lived in nearby Altadena during the early 1970s. They decided to get in their Camaro and rob some banks. They robbed one on Colorado Avenue, got $35,000 and drove off.
"Now, everyone knew who these guys were so, after a while, the cops showed up at their house and waited outside to let them stew a while. When they came in, the guys were playing poker in their underwear with a 400-pound woman.
"The police searched them but couldn't find the money or a weapon. However, they searched the woman and found the 35 grand AND the gun in the folds of her fat."
Another crime that caught Crimebo's jaundiced eye was a case known as the "ding-dong shoot," which occurred on Halloween a few years back.
After hearing the bell ring, the victim opened the door expecting to greet trick-or-treaters with candy. Instead, a random stranger shot him in the face at point-blank range.
The shooter was never caught.
According to Crimebo, crime and Los Angeles go together like pretzels and mustard. He figures the city is such a dream factory that the crimes and murders have a certain flair lacking in other cities.
"I take people to the 'Suicide Bridge' in Pasadena," Crimebo said. "A lot of suicides have happened there. My personal favorite happened in 1938. This man went to the bridge to kill himself and his girlfriend showed up to encourage him to jump.
"He threw her off the bridge and then jumped himself. As fate would have it, his shoelaces got caught and he survived. However, no one knew what really happened to the girl until he confessed on his death bed."
Clowning around about death isn't everyone's cup of tea, but neither are clowns, and Crimebo is happy to embrace the contradictions of having a humorous figure take tourists to the type of attractions that never make the guidebook.
"You know what they say, 'Comedy is tragedy two steps back,'" Crimebo said. "I've experienced some tragedies in my life that would be hard to talk about, but I'm sure would be hilarious to somebody else."
Crimebo sees his job as a unique link to an ancient tradition.
"Every culture has a version of the clown," he said, "a painted-face person who makes fun of life and has the freedom to make fun of life."
Of course, the fear of clowns is almost as universal, and Crimebo admits he takes advantage of it during his tours.
"Part of the joy of what I do is confronting someone who's terrified of clowns. Many are afraid, but they interact with me. After a while, they realize I'm more like a dirty uncle than a stranger trying to be friendly," he said, changing into a dopey Bozo-type voice that drips with casual contempt.
Perrick, 42, came up with the idea of Crimebo back in 2007 when some friends launched Esotouric, a tour company specializing in offbeat tours of Los Angeles, such as one of famed alcoholic author Charles Bukowski's favorite drinking spots and another showing singer Tom Waits' favorite hangouts.
"I had this clown character I'd been working on -- it comes very naturally to me -- and the owners, who were my friends, wanted to find some way to incorporate me into their tours," he said. "I said, 'How about a crime tour with Crimebo the Clown,' and we all agreed."
Perrick does at least four tours a month as Crimebo, and besides telling the grisly details of murder scenes, he shows off places like the Beverly Hills department store where Winona Ryder was nabbed for shoplifting in 2001. When he isn't telling stories, he engages in classic circus shticks, such as making balloon animals.
Except don't expect rabbits, ducks or doggies from Crimebo.
"I can make headless balloon animals as well as a sword and a double-barreled shotgun," he said with obvious pride.
Lest people think his bus tours might be a college for would-be criminals, Crimebo is quick to point out that the folks who read about crime are the ones least likely to do it.
"If you look at the folks on my bus, and went to a mall, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference," Crimebo said.
On the other hand, a guy who wears red clown makeup should know not to judge a book by its cover.
"Do you know the demographic of the folks who are most likely to be repeat shoplifters?" he asked, before answering, "Women over the age of 60."
Crimebo would like to make a killing out of the crime tours but has learned a lesson from all the white-collar criminals who've been in the news as of late: Diversification is the key to long-term success.
So, to that end, Crimebo is branching out into other services, such as being a wingman for folks on first dates.
"I've done it twice and it's worked out great -- for me!" he cackles. "This woman hired me to go with her to meet a guy she met online. The guy was freaked out at first -- he didn't like clowns! Meanwhile, I was cracking jokes the whole time.
"He was upset that she brought me on the date and told her he didn't think that was cool and ended the date. She said, 'Fine' and took me home."
And that's another thing about being a clown he loves.
"I get a lot of dates, but they usually want me to keep on the makeup," Crimebo said.