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Best Soap Star

(Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan)

Best Soap Star

What is it about floating bubbles that brings out the bad poet in many of us? “One short dance is all you get. You look so lonely. I want to cuddle you. Pop. The dance is over.” Nobody knows the power of the bubble better than the fellow known as the Bubble Man. You’ve probably seen him on the Santa Monica Pier or the Third Street Promenade. Parents break out in thank-gosh smiles of relief when they spot him. Their little ones can now work off some of that energy with a good bubble chase. Within seconds, it’s like the Pied Piper of bubbles has arrived, as kids and grown-ups gather ’round.

The Bubble Man — real name, Tim Dillenbeck — may not look like a man who regularly applies soapy bubbles to himself, and with his matted hair and gaze that says, “No talk, just bubbles,” he might be considered the kind of person you tell your kids to cross the street to avoid. He could be homeless, though the business card he will hand you without missing a bubble has a ­Canoga Park post office box. Regardless, the Bubble Man is clearly a sweetheart. It turns out he made his first blowing machine in 1970. He has a presence that show-biz types might describe as “understated.” He’ll pull up his jerry-rigged bubble-making contraption, start the wheels spinning, and the show begins. Kids begin to flock, in full glee mode, so transfixed they barely notice the man who keeps the precious blobs coming.

The bubble industry has made great strides in equipment that can produce bubbles large enough to cover a third-grader, and there are wands that can produce faster, smaller and more copious bubbles than ever. The Bubble Man has none of that gear. Just give him a buck for more fluid and he’ll nod back a thank-you. No — thank you, Bubble Man.