Imagine Deadpool and Spiderman, two of the highest-grossing superheroes of the Marvel Universe, squared off for combat, hand to hand and toe to toe. To a Hollywood studio exec, it has the makings of the next summer blockbuster. To the LAPD, it was a humdrum report to dispatch Friday afternoon as two costumed characters duked it out on Hollywood Boulevard.
The two suspects, in a distant resemblance to the comic book characters they impersonate, were gone by the time police arrived to Hollywood and Highland, in front of the Red Line station. If the nearby street preachers, breakdancers or bucket drummers saw anything, none was saying.
Sgt. Robert Casimiro, the LAPD watch commander for Hollywood, says he has seen it before. “What happens oftentimes is that when something is unregulated, people start sanctioning their own little areas. Like this is Spiderman’s area, this is so-and-so’s area, without there being any legality behind it,” he said.
The City Council is weighing new regulations for street entertainers and vendors on the busy block of Hollywood Boulevard between Orange Drive and Highland Avenue. Under the current proposal, the city would hand out a total of only 20 passes daily on a first-come, first-served basis. But street performers say they worry the new proposal will infringe on their right to free speech and take away from the mix of glitz and grit that draws tourists to the boulevard in the first place.
“They've been trying to pass that thing for the longest time,” said Wayne Gray, 24, of Hollywood, who has been performing as a breakdancer here for the past 10 years. “I don't think it'll go through; it's a public street.”
The police say a new set of regulations would discourage overly aggressive behavior from the vendors and performers toward out-of-towners. They might also serve to cut down on superhero-on-superhero violence like the incident reported on Friday. “By establishing regulation, by making it a permit, it would bring a little bit more order,” Sgt. Casimiro said. As one vendor of $5 sunglasses put it: Two Spidermen can be too many.
A few hours after the police came and went, another Starline bus pulled up to the curb and tourists on the open roof leaned over the railing to take photos. A Donald Byrd & the Blackbirds tune, “Rock Creek Park,” was playing on a beatbox and a man whose face and clothes were painted gold was dancing the robot on top of a milk crate.
The street vendors at Hollywood and Highland remembered the altercation not as a fight but as a shouting match over lost tips. In any event, Deadpool was nowhere to be seen. But a jittery man in an ill-fitting Spiderman costume did make a brief appearance. He called Deadpool a thief and walked away.
Theresa Ireland, a Marilyn Monroe impersonator on Hollywood Boulevard, says there are two types of costumed performers: the artists and the con artists. She says the former, like herself, actually dress as the characters they portray, and tourists approach them and ask for a photo. The latter, she said, are panhandlers in masks, known to pull tourists into a photo or jump into someone else's photo, and demand money.
“There are laws already in place, which, if they were enforced, would alleviate the problem,” she said. “If they stopped the aggressive panhandling, they could clean up the block.”
Being Marilyn, Ireland says, she considers herself an ambassador for Hollywood. “I try to help people have a good time while they’re here.”