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‘Evil Elmo’ brings his show from New York to San Francisco

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‘Evil Elmo’ insists he’s not a creep.

The man who has become infamous from coast to coast for dressing up as the iconic “Sesame Street” character and launching into very public anti-Semitic rants declared Tuesday that children have nothing to worry about while he’s in The City.

But on Saturday morning, concerned residents had a much different take.

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Police received reports that a creepy man dressed in an Elmo costume was trying to hug kids at Rossi Park in the Inner Sunset district. The imposter Elmo was far from tickled after being confronted. He allegedly began hollering obscenities and anti-Semitic slurs, according to a San Francisco Chronicle blog that cited an email warning from a witness that reportedly circulated among parents groups.

Officers responded to the park about 9:15 a.m., but did not arrest the costumed man.

“He wasn’t found to be in violation of any laws,” Sgt. Michael Andraychak said Tuesday.

Neighborhood residents quickly discovered that Evil Elmo is rather famous in New York City, where his ranting and raving while in the costume has been well-documented.

The New York Times has reported that the man behind the mask, 48-year-old Adam Sandler (formerly Dan Sandler), “has a history of shouting anti-Semitic rants at popular tourist destinations.” Last month, he was reportedly arrested for harassing tourists in Times Square.

But what has most concerned San Franciscans about Sandler is that he is, self-admittedly, a former pornographer who ran a website in Cambodia called Welcome to Rape Camp. In 1999, he was deported from the country because of the website.

Sandler professed his innocence in a phone interview from Fisherman’s Wharf, where he was accepting donations from people who wanted photographs of him in the Elmo costume.

Sandler also denied being anti-Semitic, telling a reporter, “Tell your editors I’m Jewish.” He said he visited Rossi Park last weekend to “break in” his new Elmo costume.

“There were kids around and I was waving to them, but I only approached kids that were brought to me by their parents,” Sandler said.

As for the porn website, he claimed, “It was all legal by U.S. law,” saying the women were all older than 18 and not harmed.

Sandler — who said he took up the Elmo gig after losing his job with the Girl Scouts organization several years ago — said he believes he’s being attacked for trademark reasons.

“You can make a lot of money doing this,” Sandler said, adding that he dresses as Elmo because the costume draws in tourists, thus donations, and is “very easy to maintain.”

“It has a lot less components than Mickey Mouse,” he said.

Sandler said he’s making more money in San Francisco than New York City because there are fewer street performers here. He said he may return next summer for a longer period.

“I’m having a great time here,” Sandler said. “Police are very courteous and other street performers are nice.”

Meanwhile, police officers have been warned to keep an eye on Sandler, Andraychak said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com