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Approach With Caution: Street Performers Gone Bad

Brittany Jones-Cooper
Editor, Yahoo Travel
July 28, 2014

It was your typical case of a superhero gone bad. On Sunday, a man dressed as Spider-Man was arrested in Times Square after punching a police officer. Police say the altercation happened after Spider-Man demanded $5 from a tourist with whom he had taken a picture instead of accepting the $1 she had offered. The officer stepped in, and Spider-Man attacked.

Tourists pose with Elmo in Times Square. (Photo: AP)

From Elmo to the Naked Cowboy, the characters in Times Square have become a popular attraction for visitors coming to New York City. However, many of these characters are unlicensed and haven’t undergone background checks, an issue that councilman Andy King is trying to address in his new bill. Regardless, tourists love these costumed characters, and around the world there are countless street performers busking to make a living. It’s usually all in good fun, but sometimes these performers can get out of line, and the level of aggression they show can be downright dangerous.

Related: Cheat Sheet: New York

TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame is known for its costumed movie characters, and over the years, there have been countless run-ins with the law. In 2011, a man dressed as Spongebob Squarepants was acting like a real crabby patty when he was detained and questioned for harassing two women. And in 2009, a man dressed as Spider-Man was arrested after hitting another man. Charges weren’t pressed, but the Spider-Man impersonator was arrested after authorities discovered he had outstanding warrants. Note: This was a different man dressed as the webbed character, but it probably wouldn’t hurt for Spider-Man to take some anger management classes.  

Batman chatting up the Joker outside of TCL Chinese Theatre (Photo: PatrickRohe/Flickr)

And here’s an example of what not to do when visiting Australia’s Gold Coast. Surfer’s Paradise is known for its top-notch surfing and for its licensed street performers — just be careful about pushing their buttons. In 2013, a human “statue” punched a man who was poking and prodding him. The assault was caught on camera, and the Surfer’s Alliance launched an investigation. We don’t know which is more upsetting — the fact that this tourist was such a jerk, or the fact that the statue broke character?

This video of a busker punching a tourist went viral in 2013.

Related: Going Deep Into Koala Country on Australia’s Great Ocean Road

In one of the worst busker battles, two London street performers got in a bloody brawl after competing for the audience’s attention in 2011. Both men were dressed in silver outfits when the Invisible King struck the Silver Wizard with a brick concealed in a bag. The Silver Wizard was badly injured but survived. The Invisible King was sentenced to a minimum of four-and-a-half years in jail. 

So before you take a picture with Spider-Man or Elmo the Silver Wizard be wary — or prepare to pay the cost.

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