Was Roseville’s ‘Dancing Man’ exploited?

Disabled should be included in ‘positive’ ways, expert says
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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Clifford Keys, known as Roseville’s “Dancing Man” or “Tissue Man,” has become a mini-celebrity.

Keys, 60, holding a tissue in each hand, dances on Douglas Boulevard several days a week to relieve his arthritis pain. He usually listens to R&B on 101.1 — he especially likes Prince songs.

He loves his country and doesn’t appreciate people who disrespect the American flag. He thinks women should have more power in society. He loves his late mom, and he has children but “they’re scattered all around” and he doesn’t see them very often.

Keys, a friendly and talkative man, will spill his heart out in the span of a 10-minute-long conversation, but has trouble staying on topic.

People often stop to talk to Keys and sometimes they give him gifts, like one man who gave him a T-shirt just the other day. He’s also in need of a new pair of size 16 tennis shoes. Not to mention juice and 2 percent milk, he said.

Keys was also recently given $300 to wear a T-shirt and hold a campaign sign for two candidates running for the Eureka Union School District school board — incumbent Renee Nash and Ryan Jones. Both ended up winning a spot on the board.

Keys told the Press Tribune he agreed because he needed to pay rent and buy his medication.

“I just want to be happy,” said Keys, who lives in an affordable-housing complex for seniors in Roseville.

Neither Jones nor Nash responded to a request for comment.

The incident led a mother of children with special needs to criticize the actions of Jones and Nash during public comment at the Nov. 13 school board meeting for what she called exploiting a person with a disability.

“Some of you may think that this is a political issue, but I think this is a human issue,” Lisa Erikson said. “To exploit a person with mental and physical disabilities in this way is unbelievable. In fact, when I first heard that this was happening, I could not believe it. I thought I was getting punked. But sadly, I was not.”

Erickson said she often worries that someone will manipulate or take advantage of her own children because of their special needs.

“(Here) we have an example of just that in our own district, by people who are in leadership positions,” Erickson said. “What does that say about our district? How can they make a decision like this, which shows such a tremendous lack of compassion and empathy toward people with disabilities?”

Eureka Union’s Superintendent Linda Rooney said the district didn’t receive complaints from staff or parents other than Erickson regarding this issue.

The Press Tribune was unable to confirm the nature of Keys’ disability with sources close to him.

Leslie DeDora, founder of the Granite Bay-based nonprofit organization A Touch of Understanding that does disability awareness programs in local schools, told the Press Tribune that people requesting assistance from someone with a disability should consider three factors.

“The person making the request should be sure the individual has the ability to understand the request and implications of being involved, will be able to refuse without experiencing recrimination and will be seen in a positive light by those around him, rather than being seen as a victim of a circumstance beyond their comprehension,” DeDora said.

She said fully including people with disabilities in society means doing so in a way that is a “positive experience for them as well as for our community.”