AMBOY – Rock music blared through the speakers in the Amboy Junior High School gym Monday morning, as one news clip after another was projected onto a screen.
Each depicted violence involving children. One headline read “Bullied to death.” Several photos of children in distress met the somber eyes of junior and high school students, watching intently.
A pierced and tattooed face flashed on the screen. “The Scary Guy” came to share his message of eliminating hate, violence, prejudice and bullying.
Tattooed over 85 percent of his body, he walked into the gym. Some students turned to their friends, whispering and giggling. He turned to the crowd, reaching for a hug from a handful of kids.
“You have a nice smile,” he said to one student. As her smile grew, he added, “Where’d ya get it from, yer ma?”
Using more students as examples, “Your knees are touching, are you gay?”
Getting nose to nose with another student, he simply shouted, “Wow!”
Laughter, often uneasy, broke out. The lesson was personal, and came with a message he learned 16 years ago: “Murder, suicide, violence, this is your future,” he said.
A former tattoo shop owner born Earl Kaufmann, The Scary Guy legally changed his name and his life after seeing an ad in the newspaper that read, “Are you tired of dealing with scary guys with warpaint facial tattoos?”
A competing shop had targeted him to gain business; his first thought was to seek revenge. “I was going to just get in my Lincoln, find out where this guy lived and run over his dog,” he told the students. “Why would he write something in the newspaper without even knowing me?
“For the first 43 some years of my life, I called myself a good guy,” he said. “I was crackin’ jokes, making fun of people. I was a name-caller. I stereotyped, used sarcasm and humor to mask everything – to make myself feel better about who I was.”
If someone called him a name, he called them one back. The problem with that, he said, is people believe what they see and hear about themselves.
He used blonde girls as an example. Walking through the audience, patting heads, tugging ponytails, he said girls as young as 3 are subjected to insults whenever they make a mistake.
Parents tell them they are “acting blonde ... By the time they grow up, they are insulting themselves, apologizing for having a ‘blonde moment,’ because that is what they believe. It’s brainwashing at its best.
“This is all based on learned behavior,” he said. “From the moment they are born, most people react to what they see and hear. I want to show everyone how to create a powerful mind, so they can learn how to process what they see and hear rather than become what they see and hear.”
He issued a “7-day, 7-night challenge,” daring students not to call anyone anything except their names and not to say one negative word for a week. He also encouraged them to collect 16 hugs every day.
He also offered advice for those who feel bullied: “If people call you names and use negative or bad words toward you, it is their problem, not yours.”
Coping skills are essential, especially in a world where youth suicide is on the rise because of what kids today say to each other, he said.
Amboy High School’s Student Council worked for 2 years to bring Scary Guy to the district, said Kim Vaessen, who showed him around town.
“The kids worked really hard on this," she said. "And the local businesses donated the money to bring him here.”
Free presentation tonight
The Scary Guy will give a free community presentation from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. today at the Amboy Community Building, 280 W. Wasson Road. The event has been moved from Amboy Junior High because of the heat.
Originally from Minneapolis, he and his wife, Catherine, travel the world sharing his message. She's a former schoolteacher, and creates the curriculum.
Go to www.thescaryguy.com to learn more.