Funny or Criminal? Las Vegas Street Performers

by Princella Talley

On the Las Vegas strip, a person is bound to find all the entertainment that they need both outside and indoors. Unfortunately, some of these unavoidable elements have been deemed inappropriate at times, and these elements involve both cartoon characters and adult behavior. I was unaware of the tension that existed over this until I posted a photograph that I took of one of these characters on my blog. I was soon met with disapproving comments by fellow Las Vegans. Unlike me, they did not find it funny. “They need to ban costumes such as these. There are often little kids walking around. They don’t need to see drunk Mickey or Barney next to the high Woody and Buzz,” read one of the comments.

For some adult tourists and citizens, it may just be a funny part of the Las Vegas experience to see a drunken Garfield surrounded by beer bottles and a tipping cup.  On the other hand, business establishments, and those with children and a more strict set of moral values, might find these adult cartoons both offensive and unnecessary. These feelings have led to arrests, fights, and talks of banishment. For businesses and casinos, it is about more than a moral upset. There are concerns over the reputation of an establishment and how such characters standing outside may affect it. There are also complications that revolve around taxes and the compensation of those living off tips within the same vicinity as a big business.

Out of sheer curiosity, I took to the Strip to find out what would possess a person to choose such an “occupation.”  After approaching and tipping one of these characters, I was able to spend time with him and ask a few questions. He was quite friendly, but his pleasant demeanor was sometimes overtaken by grumbles when tourists would pass by and snap his picture without paying. “What leads you to do this everyday?” I inquire. “Well, it certainly isn’t for my health, sweetheart!” he exclaims. “I’m trying to pay my bills just like everyone and this happens to be the easiest way for me to do it quickly,” he further explains. While unwilling to disclose an average of how much money he acquires in tips, I was still appreciative of his honest and straightforward answer.

Of course, there are many childhood favorites scattered across the strip, ranging from the Looney Tunes cast and Batman, to video game characters like Mario and Luigi – most of whom are displaying actions that parents would not want their children to see their heroes taking part in.  Still, there are some who offer innocent depictions of classics at times, such as Minnie Mouse, who offer a bit of relief. But, there are some who are wondering why it’s even necessary to regulate these entertainers for the sake of children.

Amidst the advertisements featuring scantily clad women, men, and the presence of rowdy partygoers, why single these characters out?  With so many other things around that deserve attention for being inappropriate, maybe it’s the concept itself that gets under peoples’ skin.  The disturbance of seeing the lasagna-loving Garfield we all grew up with sitting on the ground and drinking his sorrows away for a few tips might be overwhelming for some.

It’s safe to assume that street-side Elvis and Marilyn are suffering similar hassles from casinos and other places of businesses, but they seem to be suffer the brunt of being considered disrespectful far less often than their cartoon counterparts, possibly because in Las Vegas, the presence of such icons are expected and embraced by a wide range of tourists and citizens. Yet, in a city that is full of competition and moving so quickly, one cannot be so quick to judge people’s career choices, however alternative the choice may be.

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