Chances are you’ve been to Times Square and chances are that you’ve been asked if you like comedy, hip hop, naked women and anything else people are selling on the street. In the midst of the madness, you probably noticed the cartoon characters posing for photos with tourists. I remember my days in the corporate world, working long hours in the Times Square area, leaving the office at 11PM and seeing Elmo. I was so confused and sometimes thought that after 15 hours of staring at spreadsheets, it wasn’t real.
It was definitely real alright. In fact, those characters we see are there making money! Mainly played by immigrants, these characters pose for photos and then ask for tips from the people taking them. On the weekends, these characters can make up to $200 a day. Sounds great, but not without hustle! It totally makes sense why Elmo stays up past his bedtime…he is getting his HUSTLE on!
Just like any other street artist, these folks claim territory…there are multiple Elmos, Spidermen and Batmen. City laws govern where the performers can work and what they are allowed to do — there is a fuzzy line between collecting donations legally and aggressively panhandling, which is illegal. Because most of the street performers do not know English, they don’t know the rules (or do they?).
We are always celebrating street artists and performers but often overlook these hardworking people trying to make a buck. To that, I say, take a walk through Times Square and appreciate New York art, hustle and character at its finest. I know that I haven’t, but I know that I will.