"Do not engage" with Cookie Monster. That's the message from police in Santa Cruz, California, where a street performer wearing a costume of the Sesame Street character has been harassing people. "It's the creepy monster, not the Cookie Monster," a visitor to the Santa Cruz Wharf tells KSBW. Police say the person inside the costume is 59-year-old Adam Sandler—a man with no connection to the famous actor—who's previously been known to dress up as Elmo in cities including New York City and San Francisco, per the SF Chronicle. He wasn't too cuddly then, either. In fact, his time dressing as that Sesame Street character earned him the nickname "Evil Elmo."
In a 2014 profile, the Chronicle described Sandler, who then went by "Dan," as the former operator of a 1990s Cambodian porn website called "Welcome to Rape Camp" who'd tried to extort $2 million from the Girl Scouts of the USA. In emails, he'd "threatened to spread the false story that the Girl Scouts regularly arranged sexual encounters between men and its campers if he did not get the money," the New York Times reported. He was arrested in 2013, then released in early 2014. That same year, he was arrested for telling a San Francisco food vendor that he would "rip your throat out." "No one wants to hear the Cookie Monster say he's going to kill their family," a Los Angeles business manager told the Los Angeles Times in 2016.
He's also been accused of antisemitic and xenophobic rants. He "raves and accuses people of conspiracy theories," a San Francisco resident told the Chronicle in 2014. "He frightens visitors and locals." The unhoused Sandler countered that "people are being told lies about me." He said he was "just trying to make a living" and wished those harassing him would leave him alone. A man who recently posed for a selfie with Cookie Monster in Santa Cruz says he "found a way to make a few bucks offering pictures" and "didn't seem too bad," per KRON4. But "we are getting calls from people who say he is 'creepy,'" a police rep tells the outlet. "Based on his history, we advise the public to not engage." (More Cookie Monster stories.)