Street performers, who work for gratuities, have been around since antiquity and are seen all around the world to this day. Although many have gone unrecognized, it’s true that some of the greatest talents got their start in the streets.
Others have taken to the profession in a shameful manner. The following 10 stories focus on a bunch of unscrupulous, panhandling characters and individuals who have landed in predicaments too absurd to imagine.
10 Trio Shakedown
In 2016, spectators got their share of free entertainment after witnessing three crazy costumed characters arrested in New York’s Times Square. The incident began when a tourist posed for a photograph with Minnie Mouse, Cookie Monster, and Olaf from the film Frozen. When all was said and done, the man walked away without tipping, causing the joyful colorful characters to go to the dark side.
Before the man knew it, Minnie, Olaf, and the Cookie Monster were in pursuit. After blocking the cheap sightseer’s path, they insisted that he fork over $20. After several minutes of being berated by the wayward Disney and Sesame Street characters, the frightened tourist handed over $10.
As luck would have it, New York’s finest witnessed the forced transaction, prompting an officer to step in. The multicolored trio were placed in handcuffs and arrested for harassment.
Given the escalating problem with rambunctious street performers in Times Square, plainclothes NYPD officers have been patrolling the area to “combat aggressive characters.” According to Lisette Gill, a Manhattan resident who has been pressured by characters in the past, “They wanted $5 each, and he was like, ‘Come on, give me more.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t have any more, sorry.’ ”
The saga continues.
9 ‘Logy On Fire’ Is On Fire
Steven Logan, who performs under the name “Logy on Fire,” is no stranger to standing in harm’s way. He sports a conspicuous, chest-length beard, and his acts have been billed as “full of danger.”
From juggling razor-sharp objects to breathing fire, the 29-year-old seemed to run out of luck in late 2017 while performing outside the Wickerman gift shop in Belfast. While attempting “the most dangerous act you can do,” Logan accidentally turned his iconic beard into an inferno, engulfing his head in flames.
From children to the elderly, a terrified audience gasped in horror as a confused and blazing “Logy” lived up to his name. In an attempt to bring an end to the unfortunate act, onlookers began dousing the performer with their drinks.
When his beard was eventually extinguished, a smoldering Logy was placed in an ambulance and rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital. There, the staff was astonished to find that his injuries were not as serious as they appeared to be at first. He had suffered only superficial burns to his face and hands.
Although he had momentarily turned himself into a human fireball, Logan swore that he would return to his act once his face had healed.
8 Hands Where I Can See Them
In 2012, the mustachioed Italian known as Mario from the video game Super Mario earned quite the reputation in Times Square. Damon Torres, 34, found himself in hot water after groping a 58-year-old woman as she walked past. “He walked up to her and touched her private parts,” explained a Times Square Alliance security guard.
Torres was arrested and charged with forcible touching and unlawful possession of marijuana. In addition to his crazy antics, Torres began to panic when he noticed the media’s presence at the police station. Cameras flashed as he made his “perp walk” with fellow chain gang members. While still dressed in the infamous Mario getup, Torres stated, “They’re here for me.”
Yes, they were, Mario. Yes, they were.
A similar incident occurred in 2008, albeit with a different bubbly character and a much younger victim. In Ocean City, Maryland, 21-year-old Andrii Mokrishchev of Ukraine was charged with fondling a 16-year-old girl during a photo session on the city’s Boardwalk. Mokrishchev was dressed as Patrick Star, a character from the children’s cartoon series SpongeBob SquarePants.
Police charged Mokrishchev with second-degree assault and fourth-degree sex offense.
7 The Cookie Monster’s A Monster
When asked if he liked the Cookie Monster, two-year-old Samay Kurada’s response was frank: “No. Not anymore. I like Elmo. [ . . . ] [Cookie Monster] gave me boo boo.”
The child’s affection for the blue fuzzy character came to an end in 2013 when his parents did not have $2—Cookie’s going rate—for a picture they had taken together in Times Square. Despite knowing that the father had gone to an ATM to get cash, Cookie Monster became impatient, leading to an expletive-laced tirade directed at two children and their mother, Bollywood actress Parmita Kurada.
The tense situation escalated when the irate, cookie-gorging beast, 33-year-old Osvaldo Quiroz-Lopez, pushed the child’s stroller, shoving Samay away. “You are a bitch, your son is a bastard, and your stuff is trash,” he allegedly told Kurada, according to court papers.
Quiroz-Lopez denied the allegations, claiming that everything reported was false.”I was takin’ a picture with her son. I told her to stop wasting my time. I told her I get two dollars a picture and she should have money on her and she was wasting my time.”
Fortunately for the children, justice was temporarily served when their former idol was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment, and aggressive begging in a public place. In the end, Quiroz-Lopez avoided jail by taking a plea deal to successfully complete mandatory community service.
6 Superheroes Gone Wild
As we have seen, things can get quite hectic in Times Square. However, one panhandler dressed as Spider-Man took bizarre to a whole new level. In July 2014, Junior Bishop thought it was a bright idea to punch a cop in the face after the officer asked the aspiring superhero to stop harassing tourists for money.
Although Bishop was indicted on felony assault, the charges were later dropped by Manhattan’s DA. That decision led to future headaches for the NYPD. One year later, Spider-Man was back in action. After cursing at cops and giving them the world-renowned middle finger, Bishop was swiftly arrested yet again.
Four months later, the web-swinging menace grew irate while asking for tips, sparking his infamous rage. After throwing several metal folding chairs into a large crowd near Broadway and West 43rd Street, Bishop revisited his home away from home, a jail cell.
Surprisingly, it’s not unusual to see costumed characters lose their cool. On the other side of the country, a man dressed as SpongeBob SquarePants was detained after starting a street fight on Hollywood Boulevard. Prior to channeling his inner Rocky Balboa, SpongeBob was reported to have been acting like a “perv” toward two female pedestrians.
Although costumed panhandlers were banned from the boulevard, an LA judge ruled that their presence was protected by the First Amendment.
5 Troubles Don’t Melt Like Lemon Drops
While responding to reports of a suspicious vehicle in a Kentucky McDonald’s parking lot in 2017, officers discovered a devious character passed out behind the wheel with the engine still running. Police attempted to awaken the man, who eerily resembled the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz with his face caked in silver paint.
At first glance, it appeared that the inebriated man had been huffing paint. This suspicion was reinforced when the silver suspect, 46-year-old John Casey III, was rudely awakened from his midday siesta. After failing to maintain his balance and stand on one leg, Casey was booked into the Bullitt County jail on charges of driving under the influence and possession of an open bottle of Heaven Hill vodka.
After Casey smiled for his mug shot with his face still glistening silver, his history began to emerge. “It appears he may have been a performer, a statue street performer, who had been up at Derby,” Shepherdsville Police Major Michael O’Donnell said. “It was not from huffing paint. He was just intoxicated.”
It’s safe to assume that Casey did not have a good day at the office. In fact, he hadn’t in some years. In 2015, the “Silver Man” was charged with sexual battery while on the job after groping a woman who was standing on a ladder in front of a downtown store. After pleading guilty, Casey was sentenced to 13 months in prison and had to register as a sex offender.
4 Booty Shaking In Children’s Faces
Some of the more unforgettable characters roaming Times Square are not just perverts or obstreperous fools with anger problems but painted topless ladies known as the “desnudas.” A single unit of girls who once stood in solidarity for tips has morphed into a bitter rivalry between the good and the bad.
On one side of the battle lines are the foulmouthed, bird-flipping “des-RUDE-as” who feel animosity to their once sisterly partners known as the “des-GOOD-as.” The rift began in 2015 when the des-GOOD-as, who adhere to the police-designated zones, voiced their distaste of the ladies who have defied all the rules and partake in vulgar antics.
“It’s offensive, and I pled with them to stop,” said desgooda leader, Saira Nicole, after several of the women were seen shaking their booties in children’s faces. “They all jumped down my throat. They told me to f—k off and that I can’t tell them what to do.” The rift only worsened when the desrudas began encroaching on the good girls’ territory, stealing their tips, and harassing their tourist “clientele.”
Only one week after Mayor de Blasio denied that there was a “resurgence” of the aggressive, painted nuisances, four rude desnudas were arrested for holding a person’s phone hostage until they received an exceptional tip. According to police, the four rowdy topless women were arrested and charged with grand larceny and aggressive soliciting.
In addition to leaving their designated areas, they persistently threaten passersby.
3 Golden Showers
It’s evident that some Americans vehemently despise President Donald Trump. Interestingly enough, one New York street performer has decided to cash in on the hatred in an unusual and obscene way.
Wearing a Trump mask while dressed like the billionaire president, 28-year-old Kalan Sherrard is allowing passersby the opportunity to punch him, stomp on him, or urinate on him for a fee. A punch to the gut will run you $5, a “throttle” goes for $7, and a “trample” costs $10. If one feels the need to relieve themselves on the presidential look-alike, that costs a whopping $300.
It’s not clear whether anyone has taken the lunatic up on his offer. However, Sherrard has had his share of run-ins with the police. In 2014, Mr. Golden Showers was arrested after setting up a nihilist-anarchist puppet show in a subway station that depicted mutilated marionettes on a train platform.
Soon after his release, Sherrard and his partner, Maria Valenzuela, were arrested in Miami for protesting at Art Basel. On that occasion, Sherrard had a black dildo stuffed down his pants, causing the police to forcefully throw him to the ground when they mistook it for a gun.
Sherrard “the artist” cried foul, claiming police brutality, but his laments fell on the deaf ears of the court.
2 ‘Elmo Stuff’
Over the years, Sesame Street’s Elmo has gained a bad rap, which was only compounded when a “Jew-Hating Elmo” emerged in New York’s Central Park. When not posing for photographs with children and tourists, Adam Sandler (not the Hollywood movie star) has a penchant for hurling obscene, anti-Semitic epithets while dressed as the bubbly red character.
His charming antics were captured on video by baffled spectators, which made Sandler a viral YouTube sensation. As confused children witnessed the mental breakdown of their beloved pal, Sandler’s expletive rant only became more boisterous and nutty. He claimed that he worked for John Gotti and was unable to make an income because of “international Jews.”
Not surprisingly, Sandler has quite the troubled past. In 1999, he traveled to Cambodia where he launched a pornographic website called “Welcome to the Rape Camp.”
Unfortunately for US citizens, Cambodia deported Sandler to the States where his lunacy took another wacky turn. After getting a job with the Girl Scouts of America, he was indicted for trying to extort $2 million from the youth organization. In October 2013, Sandler was sentenced to one year in jail.
After serving his time, Elmo was back to his Jew-bashing habits. “There’s nothing that says it’s illegal to be crazy, unless he’s posing a danger to people or threatening people with great bodily injury or death. When he’s on his rants, the only thing we can do is make contact with him to see if any crimes have been committed,” said police spokesman Albie Esparza.
Sandler appears to view himself as the victim. He claims that he just wants people to leave him alone and let him do his “Elmo stuff.”
1 Justice Served?
For more than 20 years, Johnie Lewis Miller (known as “Uncle Louie”) had been performing in New Orleans’ French Quarter dressed as Uncle Sam. His presence undoubtedly became iconic throughout the years—that is, until he was arrested on murder charges in 2017.
On May 22, 1974, Miller had entered a Jacksonville convenience store demanding money. When the owner, 34-year-old Freddie Farah hesitated, Miller blew his head off.
Miller immediately fled the scene, leaving behind money, merchandise, and his DNA. It was a long and grueling 43 years of unanswered questions and heartache until Project: Cold Case, a nonprofit group that spotlighted the case, brought justice to the family of the slain father of four.
Facing life in prison if convicted of first-degree felony murder, the cowardly “Uncle” made a plea agreement: Confessing his guilt would allow him to plead guilty to the lesser crime of second-degree murder. The 61-year-old Miller was sentenced to time served—344 days—and subsequently released from jail following the hearing.
Adam is just a hubcap trying to hold on in the fast lane.