There are lots of characters in Los Angeles, but not many of them struggle into hot costumes, hover near the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in 90-degree heat and charge tourists to take their pictures. You see them hamming it up as you gamely review the Walk of Fame with your latest out-of-town guests, or lay on your horn in the rush-hour traffic.
But for all their familiarity, the men and women behind the masks are a mystery. Lucky for you, we've taken the time to get to know some things about the Boulevard irregulars. Like where they're from, how much they make — and where they go to the bathroom:
Captain Jack Sparrow
You can't help but do a double take when you see Dale Clark impersonating Johnny Depp's drunk, word-slurring Pirates of the Caribbean hero, Captain Jack Sparrow. With six years of Depp impersonations under his belt, it's no wonder Clark has made fans, reporters and celebrities all but believe he's the real deal.
With more than 200 vocal impersonations in Clark's repertoire, this Southern gent can't hide his Louisville, Ky., roots when he breaks character. When that happens, out comes his natural drawl. If given the chance to talk to Mr. Depp, his first words would be, “Thank you for changing my life.”
“Zombie From Another Planet”
Omar Budhoo, a crafty New Yorker gone Angeleno, purchased an L.A. Fitness membership just down the street so that he can take easy bathroom breaks during his Hollywood sidewalk work as the “zombie from another planet.”
A serious aspiring actor, Budhoo says he's less concerned about fame than he is about entertaining the public and putting out positive energy — and, of course, the money from happy tourists doesn't hurt. When he's not eating brains on the Boulevard, Budhoo attends acting classes and plays Middle Eastern instruments. “I try to be spiritual,” Budhoo told us.
Jim Harris, 51, who has been working on the Boulevard off and on for six months, keeps manila envelopes full of his poetry stashed away in his wheelchair at all times. This Tonto impersonator does his own makeup for all of his costumes, which, in the past, have included Santa Claus, a leprechaun and a werewolf. In the industry this is called “versatility.” He says the leprechaun is the most popular of the bunch.
After 27 years living with AIDS, Harris talks openly about his disease and even writes in his poems about his search for the perfect HIV-positive woman with whom to fall in love and marry. Harris' usual $15 daily income is plenty good enough, he says: “I just need enough to buy food to eat, soda to drink and cigarettes to smoke.”
Chewbacca isn't the only alter ego of Tommy Torres: His one-year stint as a professional wrestler has earned him the fighting name Señor Half Breed. Cash is the incentive for this UCLA grad, who says that, on average, he rakes in $246 every two hours he spends at his summer job on the Boulevard — much more than he earns at his daily salary as a drug counselor.
Only one month into the 2013 summer season and Torres has already been able to pay off his baby mama's truck and buy tickets to Hawaii for himself and three of his four kids. “The women love Chewbacca, especially the noise,” Torres says, before letting out his gargling, Yeti-like howl.
Haunting Hollywood Boulevard as Ghostface from the classic 1990s horror flick Scream is Rino Piffaretti, a native of Italy who has been working the Boulevard for two years.
When Piffaretti isn't getting his picture snapped with tourists, he's a guitar-playing, bicycle-riding papa of two. Hotel maintenance pays the bills for this grump, who claims, “Nobody likes anybody here on the Hollywood Boulevard.”