Those people who stand outside of Mann's Chinese Theater in costumes, taking photos with tourists for tips -- do they have a union? Is there some kind of street performers license they need? Are there a bunch of unspoken rules about territory?
What it I became one of them for a night? Would I get arrested (like a costumed SpongeBob recently), or beaten, or both? I had no idea, but I was about to find out.
There's this birth defect that some people have, and it makes them volunteer for stuff like this. Not for money, mind you, but just because they think it sounds like a really good idea. Whether it actually is or not.
My friend Betrand (not his real name, changed to keep his anonymity) was organizing a bachelor party for our friend Sebastian (not his real name either). "Sebastian's got this bunny outfit, and he wore it to the Flaming Lips concert. So we thought it would be fun to make him wear it to his bachelor party. And then we thought it would be an even better idea to get someone to dress like a girl bunny and give him a lap dance."
"Oh, I'll do it!"
Yes. I have that birth defect.
We determined Hollywood and Highland to be an ideal location for Stripper Bunny to rendezvous with the rented party bus, because it's got easy parking, and it's one of the few places someone in a giant rabbit costume won't stand out as particularly unusual. The bachelor party on board planned to be hitting Jumbo's Clown Room at about 9 p.m and would proceed to H&H around 10 p.m. where Stripper Bunny would board the bus. It was only after I agreed to participate in this stunt that I stopped to consider the fact that this plan would likely entail some standing around on Hollywood Boulevard while waiting for the bus to arrive. In a bunny suit.
Phase 1: Procure Bunny Outfit.
I post a Facebook status update that said: "Anyone have a bunny suit I can borrow?" It takes all of about 12 hours and a couple of false starts ("Mine is covered in blood, is that okay? and "How about a Donny Darko style?") to find a friend who says, "Sure, you can borrow mine, but be careful with the head, I'm really attached to it."
Phase 2: Modify Bunny Outfit to Specs
Stripper Bunny needs pasties and a g-string. Two circles, one triangle, two straps, and two tassels. Done.
Phase 3: Execute Plan
The first thoughts of possible physical danger or arrest enter my head as I sew the straps onto bunny's g-string. Many Hollywood Boulevard character impersonators have been described as violence-prone. Batman admitted choking a woman who failed to give him a tip, the Spiderman once slugged a guy and Chewbacca was arrested for head-butting a tour guide. What might happen to a girl in a sexually suggestive bunny suit?
Rabbit at rest. Thirty minute disco nap.
In car, hitting traffic at Highland offramp as the Neko Case crowd leaves the Hollywood Bowl. It's okay, because text message indicates that party bus is also stuck in traffic on Hollywood Boulevard after a brief detour to Florentine Gardens.
Enter parking structure at Hollywood and Highland. Sign indicates that parking is $10 flat rate after 10 p.m. Wait, I have to pay to do this? Maybe tips will cover parking.
I consider changing into my rabbit suit in the parking structure, then chicken out. I stuff the suit into a Trader Joe's bag and look for the nearest bathroom. I'm incredibly thirsty but have no wallet to buy water, and of course Hollywood and Highland has zero visible drinking fountains.
The ladies' bathroom is filled with plump teenage girls out for a night on the town in too-tight black minidresses that maximize uncoverage of their ample thighs. They stand in front of the mirrors, primping and tugging while I try to discreetly duck into the handicapped stall, hoping no one will question the giant rabbit head I'm carrying under my arm.
I send my last message to team bachelor party, because I know that texting with giant furry gloves on will be impossible.
Rabbit suit on. I take a deep breath and open the door of the stall, trying to act like I do this every day. Just outside of the bathroom, some girls are taking pictures of each other, so Stripper Bunny quickly photobombs them and continues on her way. I emerge from the narrow restroom hallway into the wider Hollywood and Highland courtyard, and I am terrified. I am alone in Hollywood in a bunny suit. Fortunately, I brought a kimono to modestly wrap around me so that my pasties don't show.
As I reach the bottom of the long stairway, a group of Asian girls squeals, "Can we take your picture? You're so cute!" I pose with them. Suddenly, I'm no longer afraid. In fact, I'm invincible. This isn't me walking around Hollywood in a rabbit suit -- it's just some giant, anonymous rabbit! Giant anonymous rabbits can get away with anything! Can't they?
A Luke Skywalker walks by, but there are no other costumed characters on the street. Then I remember: no tourists are out at this time of night. It's all wannabe club kids, young locals who don't yet know any better than to hang around Hollywood and Highland. From people on the sidewalk and from passing cars, there are shouts of "What kind of bunny is that?" And "Silly rabbit!" I pose for more pictures. No one offers a tip, and I'm actually relieved, because even if they did, I couldn't take it, because I don't have any pockets to put it in. But I realize that the people who are out here working for tips must have to issue constant reminders that they need money to survive.
I rendezvous with my bachelor party contact, who leads me to the party bus. I then proceed to administer the most preposterous lap dance in the history of the form. The groom is suitably flabbergasted, and I am suitably proud. There's just one problem: inside the bus, inside the rabbit suit, it's hot. Really hot. It's so hot I consider taking off my mask, but I've sworn not to do so, and I stick by that promise. As I'm grinding my cottontailed ass against the guest of honor's crotch, panting and drenched in sweat, I briefly succeed in imagining that I feel sexy, and it works for about two seconds. Then I just go back to wondering if I'm going to collapse from a combination of heatstroke and dehydration. I'mreally
thirsty. Did I mention that?
Song two of my set ends, and after raucous cheers it's time to dismount the bus and make the long walk back to my car. Fortunately, outdoors it is much cooler and I'm revived enough to dance to the steel band that's playing on the sidewalk. Funny how being inside of a rabbit suit encourages you to do things you'd never do any other time.
As I wait at the corner to cross Highland, I hear a flump behind me. Out of my eye holes, I see that a man has just collapsed to the ground next to my big fuzzy feet. A crowd gathers, and a woman asks him, "Are you okay?" He says, "No." Onlookers try to help him to his feet, with little success. I'm standing there wondering how helpful can someone in a rabbit suit can be, and I determine that the answer is not very. If there has ever been a good excuse for not getting involved, I decide that I've got one, and since three good samaritans are already by his side, I walk on.
Back in front of Hollywood and Highland, two more girls grab me and say, "Can we take your picture?" I nod, and one puts her arm around my shoulder, then immediately recoils. "Eeew, you're sweaty!" she squeaks.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
I'm back in the safety of the handicapped stall, where I can finally take off my mask. Technically, I suppose I could have taken it off before I got here, but that might have invited prying questions, like, "Why are you wearing a rabbit suit?" that I feel ill-equipped to answer. Conversely, people tend not to ask prying questions of giant bunnies.
When I slide my head out of the mask and take my first unobstructed breath, I imagine that this is exactly what newborns must feel the second they emerge from the womb: a huge shift in temperature. And like a newborn, my head emerges first, then my body soon after. However, I have no urge to cry. Just to shower.
As I walk back to the car, looking out of place among the club kids in my sweat-soaked no-one's-gonna-see-me-anyway outfit with my hair plastered to my face, I feel satisfaction of a job well done -- and of the fact that I don't have to do this for a living.
Follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.