Soul of the Spin Machine

It’s difficult not to notice the man lying flat on his back along Wilshire Boulevard with something rotating over him like a mini helicopter blade. Is the guy dead or merely passed out? And what the hell is that thing spinning over his fallen body?

It’s just Josh Hoskins doing his job. He’s performing the “Play Dead” and combining it with the “Helicopter” as he spins, twirling a large, bright-green sign advertising the sale of condos up the street in Westwood Village.

Hoskins is part of the advertising movement known as “spinning,” which combines ads with athletic moves and dancing, making it pretty damn hard to ignore.

“You make some good moves and make people smile, and it’s a great thing,” says the 19-year-old Hoskins, who started spinning in January and is one of the stars of the growing list of Los Angeles spinners. “I’m a big smile guy.”

As agile and adept as Hoskins is at spinning the 6-foot, arrow-shaped cardboard sign like it’s a baton, he’s no match — yet — for the grand master of the spinning world, one Max Durovic, co-founder of Aarrow Advertising.

On this sunny Saturday, Durovic is giving what he calls a “spinterview” to the L.A. Weekly. Afterward, Durovic takes over from Hoskins and proceeds to perform a sweat-dripping, dancing, prancing, frantic 20-minute routine as exuberant as a good rock concert with all the oomph, audaciousness and showmanship of Mick Jagger.

“He’s a gladiator, and this Westwood corner is his arena today,” says Hoskins as he admires his boss.

Durovic, 23, dances, double points at cars and pedestrians, smiles contagiously, laughs and hollers as he listens to his headphones. He performs “Spanking the Horse,” in which he giddyups across Wilshire from his regular spot at Gayley Avenue with the sign between his legs as he smacks its rear end. During the whole performance, he’s holding, spinning, kicking, spanking, throwing and catching the sign, which is an ad for Club California (according to the sign, the units start at $300,000).

Durovic and his friend Mike Kenny, who both grew up in Ocean Beach down San Diego way, were 15 when they were hired by an ad agency to simply hold up advertising signs.

“We got bored,” says Kenny, 22, co-founder of Aarrow. “I had grown up in the surfing and skateboard culture, and we just started doing some moves, flipping and spinning the signs. The pedestrians loved it.”

Once they graduated from high school, they decided to open their own advertising firm.

They started in San Diego, and the business spread to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. When Durovic moved to Washington, D.C., to attend Georgetown University (he graduated recently with a degree in international business and marketing) he took his spin moves with him, and now there are spinners on the East Coast.

Currently they employ about 300, nearly half of them in San Diego and Las Vegas. In Los Angeles, there are about 30 young-adult and teenage spinners, and that number is growing.

The best recruitment lure for the spinning job, which starts at $10 an hour and can go up to $22 depending on one’s skills, is to simply be seen spinning, Kenny says. Most of the spinners say they got their job after seeing others spin signs and asking them about it.

“I was walking down Melrose two weeks ago and I saw this guy flipping this sign all over the place and I asked him about it, and he told me to call this number,” says Mark Polanto, 15, of Hollywood, taking a break from spinning at Beverly Boulevard and Wilton Place. “It’s a cool job, and it keeps you out of trouble. I’m just trying to save up for a car.”

A couple blocks away at Beverly and Van Ness Avenue, 22-year-old Pichino Casey is spinning another sign advertising condos.

“It’s a great job,” says the Oklahoma native, who just started spinning the week before. “It makes me feel good when the people respond. I start dancing. It’s only for the 30 seconds when the light is red. But that’s what keeps me motivated. To see them smile. And then they are gone. Then a new audience shows up.”

Century 21 real estate agent Shannon Bedore is a big fan of the Max-and-Mike spinners.

“Their work is great,” says Bedore, who is working on the Club California development in Westwood. “They really catch people’s eye.” And, she adds, “They bring in a lot of traffic to the office.”

It’s not just real estate that gets spun. The Aarrow Advertising crew has spun signs for parties, toy stores, car lots, even politicians.

Durovic, who has twirled advertising signs in London, Zurich, Paris, Amsterdam and New York City, says he often performs volunteer spinning for good causes.

“We’ve done spinning for blood drives, for the tsunami relief,” says Durovic, all the while spinning and kicking up the sign. “Spinning can be a powerful tool. I have even spun a sign in front of the White House.”

The message on that sign was just one word: Peace.


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