Cookie Monster stands accused of shoving a two-year-old. Super Mario was charged with groping a woman. And Elmo was booked for berating tourists with anti-Semitic slurs.
New York’s Times Square is crawling with entrepreneurs who dress up as pop-culture characters and try to make a few bucks posing for photographs with visitors, but some of these characters are unlike anything you have seen on Sesame Street or at Disney World.
They smoke, they use foul language and they can be aggressive. At least three of them have been arrested in the past seven months.
“He was using words that were really bad,” said Parmita Kurada of Stamford, Connecticut, who told police she got into a dispute this week with a man in a Cookie Monster costume who demanded US$2 for posing with her two-year-old son, Samay.
Kurada said that when she told the Cookie Monster that her husband needed to get cash, the shaggy blue creature pushed the boy and began calling her and the child obscene names.
“It was very scary for us, and I was crying. I didn’t want to provoke him, so I said: ‘We’ll give you the money, but stop yelling,’” Kurada said.
Osvaldo Quiroz-Lopez, 33, was charged with assault and child endangerment.
In the wake of the latest arrest, the bustling “Crossroads of the World” was filled on Tuesday with performers, including multiple versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Hello Kitty, a Transformer robot, Lady Liberty, Super Mario and Elmo. Many of them are immigrants trying to eke out a living in what appear to be knockoff costumes.
As street performers protected by the First Amendment, they are free to roam Times Square and work for tips that average between US$2 and US$5 a photograph as long as they do not block traffic, sell merchandise or demand payment, police say. That is a ticketable offense that can cost about US$60.
Steve Crass, dressed as a robot in fluorescent red plastic panels, said he has made as much as US$280 during his six-hour stint in front of Toys R Us.
“Some of the characters are a little too aggressive,” he said
The case against the Super Mario charged with groping is still pending. The Elmo accused of an anti-Semitic rant pleaded guilty in September last year to disorderly conduct.