Fliers put neighbors on ‘Bad Elmo’ alert near Stern Grove
Watch out for “Bad Elmo.” That’s the message of fliers recently posted near Stern Grove in the outer Parkside District that include the name and photo of a man known for his controversial behavior and for dressing up as the Sesame Street character.
San Francisco police have a message of their own: Call us if you see him.
Starting some time around June 7, someone posted at least two fliers showing a booking photo and giving the name of Dan Sandler, who’s sometimes known as Bad Elmo or “Evil Elmo.” The 50-year-old Sandler, who also sometimes goes by Adam Sandler, apparently makes his living by dressing as Elmo and taking photos with tourists in exchange for money.
One flier was posted on a lamppost at Vicente Street and 29th Avenue, near the Edgewood Center for Children and Families and the Parkside Square park and playground, according to a reader who alerted the Ocean Beach Bulletin. That flier was gone by the following day, but when this article was written one secured with blue masking tape was still posted at the intersection of Wawona Street and Crestlake Drive, near Pine Lake and the western entrance to Stern Grove.
“His is not allowed in the day camp area,” reads part of the flier, signed only by “A Concern [sic] Citizen.” While the flier doesn’t specify which day camp, a city day camp for children operates out of a clubhouse near Pine Lake.
Nearby residents said they were worried by the possibility that Bad Elmo might be frequenting the area.
Tedi Dueker and her husband, Kurt, said they hadn’t heard of Sandler or Bad Elmo before but were concerned by the flyer because of their children. “It does bother me,” Tedi said.
Bad Elmo’s bad behavior
Starting around 2008, Sandler gained a reputation for launching into curse-filled anti-Semitic tirades while dressed as Elmo in New York City’s Times Square and Central Park. In October 2012 he showed up in the inner Richmond District and did the same, prompting worried parents to call police.
He previously worked for the Girl Scouts as a temp, and in October was sentenced to a year in jail for a peculiar scheme in which he threatened to spread a false story that the organization served as a pimp for its scouts unless the Girl Scouts paid him $2 million. The judge in that case also issued permanent protection orders for two Girl Scouts employees Sandler was accused of harassing.
And in 1999 he was deported from Cambodia, where he had been running a pornographic website called Welcome to the Rape Camp.
Although Sandler’s sentence in the Girl Scouts incident was a year in jail, he doesn’t appear to have served much of that time. He’s been in San Francisco since at least March, plying his photo-op trade at Fisherman’s Wharf. And several weeks ago, Elmo costume in tow, he reportedly alarmed some passengers on Muni’s L-Taraval line with a loud rant against Jews.
It’s not against the law for Sandler to be in the neighborhood, to dress as Elmo or to voice opinions that others find offensive. But police said that Sandler may be living in a car in the area, and in San Francisco it is illegal to sleep overnight in an automobile.
“Apparently this ‘Bad Elmo’ has been seen living in his vehicle in the area,” SFPD Sgt. Danielle Newman said in a voicemail responding to inquiries from the Bulletin.
“If your readers do see ‘Bad Elmo’ living in a vehicle between the hours of 10 [p.m.] and 6 [a.m.] we highly recommend they contact police. We can come out, do the investigation, make a citation if it’s warranted.”
Anyone who wants to report seeing Sandler sleeping in his vehicle should call (415) 553-0123. Anyone witnessing an emergency situation should call 911 instead, Newman said.
Newman said in a later voicemail that she couldn’t provide any information about Sandler’s vehicle or where he had been seen.
But neighbor Damian McCormick was convinced Sandler was somewhere in the area. “Why would they put that up if he wasn’t there?” he asked, looking at the flier and shaking his head.
Attempts to locate Sandler to request an interview were unsuccessful.