The ultimate odd couple while in costume, they are among the men and women who impersonate cartoon characters, superheroes, queens and kings of the silver screen, villains and other fantasy beings. Their “stage” is
. They’re seeking to earn tips by entertaining in costume and posing for pictures with people strolling on The Walk Of Fame.
The flamboyant characters are a brigade of unlikely “ambassadors” since many of the people they encounter are tourists from throughout
and countries worldwide. The impersonators give people an opportunity to experience close up interludes with “celebrities” including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Elmo, Big Bird, Elvis, Cleopatra, Spiderman, Tinker Bell and others. There reportedly are almost one hundred such characters that ply their fantasy trade on the boulevard. The usual tip they may be given is one dollar, but sometimes much more.
The impersonators march to a different drummer when it comes to show biz. But there are those who still seek their big break as actors and comedians. They may or may not catch the brass ring the way movie goddess Lana Turner did when she reportedly was discovered at Schwab’s Drug Store. But,
still is the fabled “street of dreams”.
Conn Carl Harper is an actor who has been portraying the cartoon character Elmo for about six years. “The joys of this job are working with the children,” he said. His fondest memory on the boulevard is when he sang the children’s song lyrics “If you’re happy and you know it…” to a red-haired boy who was about five years old. He joked with the boy and hugged him. The child’s face lit up with a smile. The boy’s mother told
that her son had heart surgery just two weeks earlier. And this was the first time he smiled since he got out of surgery. She gave Elmo a $100 tip.
One of the women portraying Marilyn Monroe is Maaike Snoed who is from
. She began her Marilyn impersonation on the boulevard a year ago. Maaike even stands over a vent in a white dress where a rush of air repeatedly blows her skirt up as it did in a famous
She fondly recalled the 90-year-old woman in a wheelchair who came to
from Asia. “She got out of her wheelchair and walked toward me to make a picture with me,” Maaike said.
“The smile that I got on her face by giving her a hug and snuggles and kisses was very amazing to see. “It is a big honor to impersonate Marilyn, and the fact that she is paying my bills, which is a crazy thing on its own.”
Christopher Lloyd Dennis portrays superman, and claims the distinction of being the first costumed character on the boulevard. Why did the actor transform himself into “the man of steel? “I got tired of being a waiter at the Hamburger Hamlet across the street,” he explained. People kept telling him he looked like the actor Christopher Reeve who portrayed Superman. He thought, “What would happen if I donned the suit and went out on the Boulevard? My first day I made $595.
“We are like ambassadors out here,” he said. “If they want to give us a little gratuity they can. But, it’s not mandatory they do so.”
Gregory Marzee is an actor, poet and songwriter from
who has been portraying Spiderman for four years. It’s quite a switch from when he portrayed a bunny on the boulevard.
“I was out here during the Democratic National Convention, and I had a sign that said ‘Elect Spiderman For President’. A lot of people said they’d rather vote for me than Hillary, Barack or McCain.
“I’m the hardest working character out here,” he claims. In order to enhance his Spiderman persona he sometimes hangs from scaffolding. According to the book “Imposters”, which features a wide array of photos of the
costume characters and their comments, “Everyone who comes to
feels like they really could be somebody. In the meantime, it might just pay better to be somebody else.” Comments from the book include: Michael A. Luce, who portrays the pirate Jack Sparrow, said, “My priorities are to first make rent at my motel, then to get a date to the movies. Lidia Anfinogenova, from
, portrays Snow White. She said, “I will act like I am made of wax and then move when someone touches me.” Arlene Parness, who portrays Lucille Ball, said, “The best part of the job is having fun and making people laugh. She’s the most popular dead actress. And I love the tips.”
Civic and business leaders report that not all encounters with the costume characters on the Boulevard include happy endings.
According to Kerry Morrison, Executive Director of The Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, the vast majority of the costumed characters on the boulevard “are whimsical and fun. But, there’s a small group who kind of ruin it for everybody because of the way they treat tourists.” She said the most frequent complaints are that the some of the characters are aggressive or intimidating if people don’t pay them enough.
The Office of Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti created the Hollywood /Highland Sidewalk Nuisance Task Force in September 2008 to develop a strategy for combating nuisance issues on the boulevard involving the impersonators, CD music and retail vendors and others. “We are looking to create an ordinance to regulate and license the characters.” Garcetti said, “We want to keep
an exciting place to visit, but we also want to make it a safe place to visit.”
He joked that it will be the only ordinance that will apply to Superman and Batman. And he added, “Yes, it will even apply to Marilyn Monroe”. Garcetti confessed that if he were a costume character he would be Aquaman. He said “Aquaman was my favorite superhero when I was growing up.”
City Attorney Will Rivera believes the costumed characters add to the excitement of
when what they do is well done. There’s a line of demarcation for the characters, he said. “
on the north side of
is where you won’t be charged with trespass if you stay on the public right of way there,” he said. “This is the heart of the Hollywood entertainment district.”
Rivera didn’t hesitate for an instant when asked who would be the most likely character for him to portray on the boulevard. “Rambo,” he said with a laugh. Perhaps Superman (Christopher Lloyd Dennis) put it best when he proclaimed, “I say just keep it clean and fun.” The book “Imposters” includes photographs and blurbs by James Knoblauch, Commentary by Shawna Kenney, and was published by Mark Batty Publisher, NewYork City.