Ahhhh, the America i love. While visiting the U.S we had the chance to visit the site of this truely tacky and sad incident, THIS is the sort of thing that will always draw me back to the U.S.
October 24, 2005; Page A1
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Last Wednesday, the furry red Muppet named Elmo learned that Hollywood Boulevard is a long, long way from Sesame Street.
In plain sight of children and tourists, Elmo — or at least, a man named Don Harper in a knockoff Elmo costume — was arrested here by the Los Angeles Police Department. Elmo was taken down by a special task force created to combat a growing nuisance in the Hollywood tourist district: famous costumed characters who try to be photographed with tourists and sometimes badger them relentlessly for tips.
LAPD officers, posing as clueless foreign tourists in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater, also busted Mr. Incredible, the superhero from the animated hit “The Incredibles,” as well as a man dressed as the villain from the “Scream” movie franchise. The icons were arrested and could face charges ranging from illegal vending to aggressive begging.
But today, police estimate anywhere from 70 to 80 characters work the one-block stretch that includes not only the Chinese Theater, but also the Kodak Theater (home of the Academy Awards) and a new retail and entertainment center called Hollywood & Highland.
“When I first started here 13 years ago, you had Charlie Chaplin hanging around [the] Chinese Theater, and that was it,” says Leron Gubler, president and chief executive of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “Now, they’re multiplying like rabbits.”
The characters — have gotten more aggressive both with tourists and each other. Fights erupt over precious sidewalk space, especially when two of the same characters show up. Characters grab tourists as they walk down the street. Some of the scarier costumed entertainers jump out at the crowd and frighten children. Perhaps most worrisome is the practice of demanding tips from foreign tourists who don’t know the custom, language or currency.
Mr. Harper, the 40-year-old Elmo, says he was set up by the cops. But upon returning to his spot a day after his arrest, he conceded that things are tense these days among the characters, who form cliques and alliances to defend their turf and make money. Mr. Harper, for example, says his Elmo is a foe of Batman and Superman, but in cahoots with Mr. Incredible, SpongeBob SquarePants and at least one of the half-dozen Spider-Men who prowl the street.