In the Las Vegas trip recap yesterday, I told you the saga of us trying to eat outside at The Restaurant that Shall No Longer Be Named because they made me mad.
Still, when the manager got involved, he magically cleared a table for us right at the rail in a prime people-watching spot, as our lovely waitress noted. I don’t remember it being so prevalent before, but now that there are such better sidewalks between the casinos, there’s an unending stream of people walking up and down the strip. Not a population to waste an opportunity, other people dress up in various costumes and entice the passers-by to pose with them for a tip.
One guy had a big snake. Another dressed up (barely) as a mostly naked Trojan warrior. There were Star Wars characters, cartoon characters and variations on fantasies. (See aforementioned mostly naked Trojan warrior.) Right by our table was a couple dressed up as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. Tigger kept taking off her costume head, revealing a slightly dumpy, very displeased looking young woman. Pooh – a slightly dumpy, not very prepossessing guy, it turned out – kept trying to coach her along. She would put her costume back on and wave from time to time.
But she was clearly not into their money-making scheme. The nearby Cookie Monster/Elmo duo were doing far better.
David and I watched this for some time and we agreed this would be a miserable way to try to make money.
Then came along the Guy in the Pink Suit. David snapped a pic of him for me. It’s not great, but it’s the best we could get without drawing his attention. This was his “costume.” White slacks, pink shirt, pink tie, pink sports coat. He affected a New York Italian accent and manner. He worked the crowd with a “Hey, how ya doin’?” shaking hands and shmoozing the women.
We weren’t sure what his angle was. Pooh and Tigger had stuck up a hand-lettered sign saying they did pics for tips. The Guy in the Pink Suit carried a little gym bag and mainly talked to people. We speculated he was a pimping a show or a club. We asked the waitress and she said she sees him all the time and has no idea who he is. The others, she said, pose for pictures – though that sign is new. She wrinkled her nose at the hand-lettered sign. I said I thought the sign was a little tacky and she said yes, that she doesn’t have a sign around her neck saying she waitresses for tips. As for The Guy in the Pink Suit, she really didn’t see him getting tips.
At our leisure, we watched him. For every ten, twenty or thirty people who passed him by, refused to shake his hand, gave him suspicious or mean looks, one would smile and talk to him. Once he got the smile, he’d talk them into a photo. He picked out the women – usually the moms no one paid attention to, or the gussied up young women looking for admiration. We could hear him saying how beautiful they were, kissing their hands, slipping a familiar arm around their shoulders. When they tipped him – which they sometimes did – he kissed them. Usually on the cheek, sometimes on the lips. If the woman was part of a couple, he’d talk the male companion into a photo, too, where they’d mug for the camera and act like Wise Guys on the strip.
The remarkable part was how he put himself out there and took rejection after rejection, never losing his energy and spark. Sometimes five or ten minutes would go by before someone would accept his gambit.
I couldn’t do that, I said.
And then I realize, I do.
All writers do. Perhaps I should expand that to all entertainers. We offer a smile, a handshake, an offer to amuse you for a moment. And most people walk by with a turned-away face or an indifferent scowl. Every once in a while someone smiles. Will you get a tip? Maybe yes, maybe no. Sure, once you get the starring role with the twenty-story high billboard of yourself, you don’t worry about it so much. Until then, though, a lot of us are busking on the streets.
Tigger girl had a cute costume, but she didn’t know how to work it. Or didn’t care to. This guy took a pink jacket and turned it into a character.
More, he turned it into success. I’m sure I saw a couple of bigger face bills change hands.
After we finished eating, we went out front, so I could get my photo and my kiss. David had the camera and the $5 bill ready. Just as we got out there, The Guy in the Pink Suit gathered his gym bag and headed down the street at a good clip. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.
Every time I send a query now or read a review, I’ll think of him and how many times I saw him face rejection in the course of two hours.
And how he immediately turned to the next person.
Hi, Beautiful! How ya doin’?