Hollywood’s characters get the hook

On Hollywood Boulevard, everyone is a character, from those who sell T-shirts to those who hock sightseeing tours. But in the last few years, those who impersonate super heroes,  film legends and cartoon characters have become the focus. There is a love-hate relationship with them by tourists and business owners. Some say they are a trademark of the boulevard. Others call the impersonators panhandlers in disguise.  Over the summer, the LAPD arrested and issued citations to several of them (June 2010, Daily News), saying they were overly aggressive in soliciting tips.   But one man says he’s found a solution. From my story:

HOLLYWOOD – He sees himself as the honorary sheriff around these parts, with pink-starred sidewalks his footbeat and a colorful cast of characters his townsfolk.

For Howard Ferguson, Hollywood’s famed boulevard of broken dreams is a frontier of endless possibilities.

“I fell in love with Hollywood Boulevard in 1975 when I was a boy from South Central, when I would catch the bus to the World Theatre every Sunday to watch three movies for 99 cents,” Ferguson, now 49, said recently.

Now Ferguson believes he can solve one of the boulevard’s dicier problems: What to do about the costumed characters and impersonators who try to hustle up a buck from tourists with sometimes overly aggressive tactics?

In June, more than a dozen superhero and cartoon character impersonators were cited and some arrested by the LAPD for aggressive panhandling and interrupting the flow of pedestrian traffic.

Police said tourists and businesses alike had complained that some among the ever-growing cast of Spider-men, Elmos and Batmen in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre were demanding tips for photographs with tourists – sometimes using vulgar gestures and language if they didn’t get a few bucks.

 Here’s my full story ( Daily News, Nov. 21, 2010), on how Howard Ferguson says he’s willing to manage the characters to help lure more tourists to the boulevard.

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