Times Square’s Puffy Hustlers.

One nice thing about my current workload is the chance to see Times Square at its Christmassy finest. There are lights, trees and blaring Christmas music at every turn, and I’m always reminding myself to stop, look around and soak it all in. And then, when I do, someone bumps into me and calls me a fucker.

Christmastime has also brought out Times Square’s best-ever assortment of costumed hustlers. Half a dozen or more on every street corner, ready to trade Kodak moments for a dollar a pop!

I shouldn’t have to tell you that this isn’t entirely on the up and up. It’s not like Disney strategically placed Mickey and Minnie on the corner of 42nd and 7th in an effort to raise fifty bucks a day. Doesn’t bother me at all. Compared to how aggressive or downright nasty some of the area’s other hustlers can be, these costumed weirdos are a-okay.

These photos were taken last night. Keep it mind, this doesn’t at all represent the total number of costumed characters lurking around Times Square, which I’m betting is over 50. These were just the ones I saw on the short walk to the bus. Two Mickeys (one in a Santa suit, another in something shinier), a Minnie, the Statue of Liberty, and even Santa Claus himself were among the highlights.

To give you some idea of how bizarre and wonderful this phenomenon can get, here’s a photo I snapped a few days ago:

TWO Super Marios in the same spot. Plus Dora! And Puss in Boots!

The great thing is how the people in these costumes seem to share a camaraderie. I imagine them as one “team,” pooling their money at the end of each day and splitting the profits. I’m sure that isn’t the case, but considering how ugly things would get if these guys had no respect for each other (picture two Elmos paw-fighting over who gets Tourist Mary’s dollar), I’m glad they’re so cordial.

I feel strangely fortunate to end my workdays with glimpses of these creatures. Santa Mickey, I’m sorry I didn’t give you a dollar last night. It’s not that you didn’t deserve it. I’m just shy.

  • http://www.crowncombo.com Mystie

    I haven’t been to NYC in 3 years. My husband hates crowds, so I pretty much can’t take him anywhere anymore. But if I go to NYC a medieval sorcerer may try to steal my baby, so I guess it’s for the best.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52JWnleaojE RetroBJ

    I found one where an Elmo is cursing in Central Park and a guy in a heart tuxedo comes over and tells him off. After that the Elmo character is silent. Click my name to see it.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=G_Yc7NY0ZCE&feature=endscreen RetroBJ

    Okay, apparently that guy I mentioned in my last post and linked the video was doing his ranting for months in both Central Park and Times Square. It makes me wonder if these are people hired by agencies to portray these characters or they are just regulars who figure if they dress up like some cartoon or muppet character, they can earn a few extra bucks. They ran a story about him on CNN. Click my name to view it.

  • http://leatherandmetal.tumblr.com Annette

    I sure do love reading people’s crazy NYC stories, but I think that if I went there I would die of a panic attack in like 30 seconds flat.

  • ponhime

    I made my friend, who is terrified of costumed people, pose with a Mickey Mouse hustler in Times Square last year. “Mickey needs a tip!” he squeaked as she came closer to him. I gave him a dollar for at least attempting the voice.

  • Nick

    I used to work at the Toys R Us right there, and those costumed characters are my LEAST favorite thing. They hang out in the Bryant Park D station without their heads on and it is deeply scarring.

  • https://www.facebook.com/Pluto.Child Pluto_Child

    I’ve not run into them before in Hollywood. Dang I’m missing out! I’m going to be in NYC in January so I’ll try to snap at least one picture with these crazies. I can’t resist stuff like this!

    Well I can say with a decent level of certainty that other than the Evil Elmo that San Francisco is NOT a Mecca for those weirdos. San Francisco has too many of it’s own crazies to need them to dress up in character. They’re more into musicians, crazy street preachers that think women are evil (in front of the giant mall on Market St. no less) and down in tourist hell Fisherman’s Wharf it’s all about those Silver and Robot people.

    My favorite SF hustler is this guy that hides behind a bit limb from a tree or bush and jumps out at unsuspecting tourists in Fisherman’s Wharf. I saw him scare an old Japanese couple within an inch of their lives once. I almost feel bad but honestly being a clueless tourist puts you at risk for a lot of petty crimes so maybe he’s actually doing them a service!

    My FAVORITE and I mean favorite tourist schiesters on the planet are the zebra donkeys in Tijuana. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tijuana_Zebra These things are on every damn street corner in tourist areas of town. I mean hell they have their own Wiki that must mean something. I was always too shy to get my picture with one when I was down there. I certainly plan to remedy this next time I’m in TJ.

    When I was in Brazil (Balneário Camboriú a beach city; picture Waikiki) there was this Drag Queen that essentially did the same thing. She would be out there in all weather and finally on one crappy rainy evening after walking past her for nearly a week straight I stopped and got my photo. That’s dedication right there and I respect that! She also had a different costume every time I saw her.

  • http://www.rockstarjennyroo.blogspot.com jennyroo

    This documentary, Confessions of a Superhero (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1016164/) is actually really good. It’s about the people that dress up outside of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I had no idea about these people until I watched. Interesting!

  • http://thorzul.blogspot.com Thorzul

    All of the attention is on Elmo, but I’d like to point out that that’s one FUCKED UP Cookie Monster!

  • Liam

    So instead of prostitutes in Times Square we now have people in costumes wanting tourists’ money.