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Airman 1st Class Shawn Kirkbride joins The Scary Guy — his legal name since 1998 — in role-playing during the tattooed motivational speaker’s presentation Monday at the First Term Airmen’s Center at RAF Mildenhall, England. The Scary Guy has a message of love and compassion, two things he was without for most of his life, he says.
Airman 1st Class Shawn Kirkbride joins The Scary Guy — his legal name since 1998 — in role-playing during the tattooed motivational speaker’s presentation Monday at the First Term Airmen’s Center at RAF Mildenhall, England. The Scary Guy has a message of love and compassion, two things he was without for most of his life, he says. (Ron Jensen / S&S)

RAF MILDENHALL, England — The Scary Guy certainly is.

At least, at first glance.

He has a face only a mother could love. And even then, the mother would have to be the Bride of Frankenstein.

Covered from head to toe with tattoos, he has more art on him than the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. His hair is blue and his teeth are gold. He has more face piercings than an entire punk band.

But after a few minutes of delivering his motivational message of love, compassion and tolerance, The Scary Guy doesn’t seem so scary. He becomes, almost, The Cuddly Guy.

“The elimination of hate, violence and prejudice worldwide. Give me a break. One guy can’t do this job,” he said to a room full of airmen at the First Term Airmen’s Center on RAF Mildenhall. “I’m here today for one reason. I need your help.”

For the next 90 minutes, The Scary Guy — that has been his legal name since 1998 — told how he was once filled with anger and hate. He judged people in a moment, almost always in an adverse way. He was bursting at his image-laden seams with negative energy.

“For 43 years of my life — love? What a joke,” he said. “I was a professional name-caller and hater. I could find a fault in you in 10 seconds.”

But now, at age 50, The Scary Guy is a world-traveled motivational speaker, delivering his message to schools, corporations and military audiences.

“Churches are booking me. That’s really weird, dude,” he said.

The message he spreads like an itinerant preacher is a simple one, yet profound. He says a person’s negative attitude is directed back at him or her. Conversely, someone who spreads positive energy gets positive vibes in return.

“For four years, I haven’t said one negative word about another person on the planet,” he said. “I haven’t called anybody a name except their own.”

He is prone to pulling out newspaper articles about young children who commit suicide when the bullying they take about their appearance — too fat, too skinny, too tall, too short — becomes too great.

His appearance heightens his message. He first got a tattoo when he was 30, not stopping until his body was nearly covered with the inked images.

The result, he said, has been that people judge him by his looks, not by his character or what is in his heart. In other words, they treat him the way he treated people for so long.

“That’s called payback,” said the former tattoo artist.

It is a good lesson in the judgment of human beings, he said, to follow him through the base commissary and watch the reaction that trails in his wake.

The heart of his message is a challenge. He asks his listeners to spend the next seven days and seven nights saying not one negative word about anyone.

Put a stop to the gossip and the name-calling.

“It will be the most difficult seven days in your life, I guarantee it,” he said.

The Scary Guy is sort of like television’s Dr. Phil, only with a lot more body art. His wife of nine years, Julie Kaufmann, who plays a 22-string lap harp during his presentation, said afterward that her husband has no formal education in psychology or social sciences.

“He has always been perceptive about people,” she said.

Living in Arizona, the couple is on the road most of the year to spread the message. He said he receives 4,000 letters each month similar to the one he read to the airmen from a young boy being bullied and teased at school.

His Web site — www.scaryguy.com — gets 6 million hits a month from 75 countries.

The airmen who heard The Scary Guy on Monday afternoon, the first day of a three-day stay at U.S. bases in England, came away with something to ponder.

“I think it’s a great message,” said Airman 1st Class James Cheney. “I’ll be stuck on this for a while.”

Airman 1st Class Jeremy Lueth said The Scary Guy’s message is similar to the Buddhism he once studied.

“He reminded me to try,” he said. “I’ve tried before, but I’d gotten lazy.”

The Scary Guy makes no guarantees that it will be easy. There will be slip-ups and backsliding.

But, he said, the reward is worth the effort.

“I can’t tell you when your paydays are going to come, but they will come,” he said. “You will get something back.”

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