MARRERO, LA (WGNO) -- Lacary Steele has been a professional clown since he was 17. Perhaps you've heard tales of people running off with the circus. Steele really did.
"I just enjoy performing in front of people," he says. "And I love the reaction. Seeing the smiles on the kids' faces, them laughing."
Now his wife Julie is also his partner is costume. But over the past couple months, their decades-old clown business has taken a hit.
"Roughly 20, 30 percent," Steele says of his losses. And he blames the recent cases of creepy clowns. Steele says the pranksters who are showing up at schools, parks, and businesses while hoping to scare people are driving away customers who want nothing to do with painted faces or funny outfits.
And it's not just a drop in business. Steele says people are treating him differently when he's out working, or preparing to work. Recently, he says he was applying his makeup near a home where he'd been hired to perform. He parked a few doors down the street and began applying his white face and other features when he was approached by a neighbor.
"And some guy came out and said, 'Oh you can't be doing that here. You have to go'."
Steele also has friends and family who worry he could get hurt some day by someone who fears clowns.
"What do you want me to do, after 30 years, find a new career?"
So Steele and his wife are trying to spread a message everywhere they can.
"Not all clowns are creepy. There are some full-time professional clowns out there," he says. "Do not assume all clowns are creepy."
The couple is hoping the creepy clown pranks will fade away. Maybe after Halloween is over, they think.