Big Apple Circus clown resigns over sexual misconduct

NEW YORK — A beloved circus performer known as Grandma the clown has resigned from the Big Apple Circus following accusations that he pressured a 16-year-old aerialist to pose for pornographic photos.

The circus’s chairman, Neil Kahanovitz, told The New York Times on Tuesday that Barry Lubin, 65, offered his resignation Friday, shortly after the woman came forward.

The allegations “are true. What I did was wrong, and I take full responsibility for my actions,” said Lubin, who apologized in a statement released by his lawyer.

The accuser, Zoey Dunne, said she first met Lubin while she was touring with Circus Smirkus, a youth circus troupe based in Greensboro, Vermont. In 2004, Lubin contacted her and offered her work with Big Apple’s mini-troupe. Then he persuaded her to model, ostensibly for his personal photography business.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual misconduct unless they decide to tell their stories publicly.

Dunne, who is now pursuing a doctorate in school psychology, initially told the circus about Lubin in 2012. He had recently left Big Apple, and a circus official told her they recognized the seriousness of her allegations, but that there was little they could do.

The circus changed hands in early 2017.

Three months ago, Dunne learned on Facebook that Lubin had rejoined the circus.

“I saw this ad that said ‘Grandma is back!’” she said Monday, “and I almost threw up on the bus.”

Kahanovitz said he had not known about the earlier accusation. He told Dunne, after receiving her letter, “We found the allegations put forth in your correspondence very disturbing.”

Dunne said Lubin told her she was posing for a Japanese paint-on tattoo company. After she declined to remove her underwear, he directed her to change into a thong, spread her legs and hold a paintbrush up to her genital area.

He said the tattoo company would superimpose an image of a tattoo on her inner leg. To get the best angle and show the most skin, she needed to pull her underwear to the side. The teen complied.

Dunne said she later vomited and tried to get out of a second photo session, but then acquiesced.

Dunne said she told her parents around 2008, while in therapy, then went to New York police in 2011 or 2012, but was informed the statute of limitations had expired.

Lubin, in his statement, apologized to Dunne, using her maiden name. “I know that what happened has had a lasting impact on her life, for which I am sorry,” he said. “I not only failed Ms. Phillips, but I also failed in my responsibility as a man, an adult, a father, and as a representative of the Big Apple Circus.”

In addition to working with the Big Apple Circus, Lubin was an honorary board member with Circus Smirkus and an instructor at its summer camp.

Circus Smirkus executive director Jennifer Carlo said he was employed for brief periods during the summers of 2016 and 2017 in Greensboro helping to train the troupe before it went on tour.

“Obviously, we’ve severed ties with Mr. Lubin,” Carlo said. She said the circus had not received any complaints about his conduct and was unaware of Dunne’s experiences until she reached out last week.

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