Gritty in Pink

In a quest for fame and fortune, a unicycling superhero battles the stigma of a troubled past.

The suit arrived two weeks later, and as Maxfield slipped into the watermelon-pink Lycra for the first time, it felt exhilarating. Out on his unicycle in the streets, he was a huge hit. People laughed and smiled at him, and at one point somebody yelled, "Hey, Pink Man!"

"Why be blue when you can be pink?" he hollered back, thinking, That guy was right. I am Pink Man.

The singing, unicycling superhero quickly became a phenomenon in Eugene. Some girls made him a silver cape, and though Pink Man purists objected, it soon became a signature accessory. Pink Man got media attention, led parades and festivals, and was eventually invited by the manager of the Portland Pride, a professional soccer team, to perform at games for $150 an hour.

On October 13, 1995, Eugene's biggest daily paper, the Register-Guard, ran a front-page story on the Pink Man. It seemed everybody read it — including the residents of Cave Junction. Some clearly felt a self-confessed child molester shouldn't be getting so much attention, so they called the paper and accused it of "glorifying a freak" and endangering children. When reporter Beth Hege asked Maxfield about the accusations, he confirmed them, saying he had "touched a fire that burned him for life." The next day, another story, "Troubled past catches up with popular 'Pinkman,'" detailed the incident with the sleeping girls and added that there had been similar events involving a third girl several years earlier. Maxfield said he didn't want people to be too quick to judge him. "I'm not saying that to dodge what I'm responsible for," he told Hege. "I have dealt with it with as much integrity as I could."

After that, Maxfield couldn't stand being seen in public. He was worried that his family in Leominster might read about his past, so he called them and told them, one by one. He confined himself to his room and cried. He says it's times like this that have cured him of any thought of repeating his mistake.

Slowly, with the support of his then-girlfriend, Emily Vander Tuin, Maxfield's embarrassment began to fade. Then one morning he awoke to detectives banging on his door. They had a search warrant, and told Maxfield and Vander Tuin to sit on the couch while they searched the apartment. A boy from Eugene had told police he was sexually assaulted by Pink Man in December, although Maxfield says he wasn't in the city when the alleged assault took place. The cops took all Maxfield's pictures and journals, but found nothing incriminating.

Maxfield believed that the people of Eugene would never look at him in the same way, and decided to flee. His departure would become part of a pattern of highs and lows that would characterize the next decade of his life. Pink Man would show up somewhere and wow everyone. His past would resurface. And he'd move on to a new city of strangers.

From Eugene, he moved to Los Angeles, where he believed his past wouldn't really matter. Soon after he arrived, local media began to notice Pink Man, and Maxfield began to wonder whether he might break into celebrity circles. When a reporter from the Los Angeles Times approached him, he worried about what might come out, but agreed to the story anyway. "It was the L.A. Times, for cryin' out loud," he says. "I couldn't say no. That would be ridiculous." The paper published a glowing profile, but just after it ran, someone from Eugene called to alert the paper of Pink Man's past. The editors decided, to Maxfield's enormous relief, that his history was not newsworthy.

It seemed things were looking up, especially when Maxfield began making connections with L.A. celebrities. He claims to have befriended Malcolm McDowell, and says Martin Short once called him a genius. He read in In Style magazine that Mary Steenburgen's son dressed as Pink Man for Halloween. As proof, he has the magazine in a giant folder with hundreds of newspaper clippings and other Pink Man paraphernalia.

With all the celebrity interest, Maxfield began to wonder if maybe there was a role for him in a film. Maybe one day he'd roll onto the stage and accept an Oscar. He continued to pink L.A. and gain recognition, and in the summer of 1998 he was asked to perform at the Orange County Fair, whose theme that year happened to be "In the Pink." Afraid that somebody might bring up his past, Maxfield asked for what he considered ridiculous compensation: $250 an hour. When the fair director agreed, Maxfield crossed his fingers and bought four new suits.

But the day before the fair, someone faxed the "Troubled Past" story to the fair director and the Orange County Register. Fearing swarms of reporters and hecklers might put a damper on the event, the fair director persuaded Maxfield to resign. As he was escorted out — with a full payment of $3,500 — he distinctly remembers "Accentuate the Positive" playing in the background. To this day, he wonders why the world can't understand the importance of that song. The next day's Register headline read, "Fair Mascot a Child Molester."

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