By Genevieve Geoghan, 16, Marlborough School
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I’ve often wondered, who are those people who stand on Hollywood Boulevard dressed up as famous characters? And why are they there? For fun, because they need money or because they are in the midst of an identity crisis?

I drive along the intersection of Hollywood and Highland frequently since I live in Hollywood. As I look at the characters they don’t seem to be people anymore, but rather the characters that they’ve dressed up as. Hollywood Boulevard is filled with Marilyn Monroes, Wonderwomen, Darth Vaders, Princess Fionas and Spongebobs. Whenever I see the characters, my daily routine switches from ordinary to wacky surreal.

The only time I felt like I was talking to a real person instead of a character was last year when Jack Sparrow came up to my mom and me, asking if we would like to take a picture with him. We talked to him for a little while, and we explained that we were not tourists. Once I realized that he didn’t even talk like a pirate, I began to think of him as a real human being, and not as Jack Sparrow. After that conversation, I wondered about the other characters. I wanted to know what they were really like, and maybe, in a sense, to prove that they were human too.

I decided to interview a few of these characters to figure out what they are really like. Because of the large crowd of people, I had trouble finding a character willing to be interviewed. Most of them were taking pictures with wide-eyed tourists and entertaining them with their light saber skills. Eventually, I found a Spiderman who was just getting off his break so he was not busy. But then he started walking away, and I had to chase him down tourist-packed Hollywood Boulevard. When I screamed out “Spiderman!” he finally stopped, turned around and flung out his arm, mimicking Spiderman’s “web-flinging” pose. Because the Hollywood Boulevard characters demand money from tourists who want pictures, I knew that I would have to offer him money for an interview. I gave him $10, he gladly accepted, and I finally got to ask some of my most burning questions.

Photos by Genevie's dad

L.A. Youth: How long have you been doing this for?

Spiderman: I’ve been a character about four years. I left for six months and I just came back for the summer. I missed it, actually. Yeah, it’s just fun out here.

Is this your full-time job, or do you only work out here part-time?
Well I’m a golf pro; I’m working on my golf game. I play tournaments and stuff, and I just got into this, and it’s fun! What else can I say? I’m also an actor, I do some acting. I’ve acted for years. I’ve never really pursued it; that’s always been a hobby. Golf has always been my business. Now that I’m in Hollywood, I do a little more—I do a lot more, actually.

Do you get any free benefits from the surrounding businesses?
Not a thing, not a thing. No, they tolerate it. Some of the businesses will give us a Coke for 50 cents instead of a dollar, so yeah, I get 50 cents off on some things.

What’s it like working in hot weather?
Well, I stay in the shade. When you’re breathing your own air … It’s different if I’m wearing a costume or if I’m just wearing my face, if there’s just makeup on your face or whatever. Even the makeup’s hot, but when you’re breathing your own air, that really makes it humid fast.

Do you like getting to talk to tourists?
Yeah, getting to talk to people from everywhere, everywhere. Not just tourists. I mean, they’re from all over the world. I talk to [people from] 50, 60 countries by noon, everyday. It’s awesome, it’s awesome.

Have you had any strange experiences with tourists? Do they sometimes not understand who Spiderman is if they’re from some distant country?
No, they always know spider. The Germans call me Speederman; the Austrians call me Skeeterman.

What’s you favorite part of this job?
Meeting people, and just talking to people.

Next I walked up to a Storm Trooper, who was bombarded by tourists. Because of all the chaos, Storm Trooper was more reluctant to be interviewed, but he seemed willing and ready for an interview once I gave him a tip. Storm Trooper was surrounded by people waiting to take pictures, and little kids marveling at his outfit. Being preoccupied with the crowd, Storm Trooper wanted to get back to work, so this was a very quick interview.

L.A. Youth: How long have you been doing this?
Storm Trooper: I’ve been doing this for about seven years; I did it for about three years in Seattle and four here. I do some parties and stuff.

Why did you decide to dress up as Storm Trooper in particular?
He’s my favorite character. I’ve always really liked Storm Trooper.

Do you relate to your character in any way?
I’m the protector of my family, so yes, I relate to my character a lot.

Do you have an employer, or are you your own boss?
I have another job Monday through Friday. For this, I’m self-employed.

Do you enjoy getting to talk to tourists?
I love it.

Do you do any acting on the side?
I know people in the business, and I act in their stuff, but I don’t consider myself an actual “actor.”
What’s it like working in hot weather?
It’s not a problem at all, because I have two fans blowing inside my costume all day.

Once I heard their voices and talked to them about their lives, I began to see the Hollywood Boulevard characters as real people who had legitimate reasons for standing in the blazing hot sun in non-breathable costumes—because it’s a fun way to make extra money and they like talking to people.

I used to think these people were a little weird, like maybe they really did think they were a character out of a movie or Marilyn Monroe reincarnate. But after talking to two of these characters, I’ve realized that they’re just normal people. At least Spiderman and Storm Trooper are. But no matter how human they become in my eyes, I will always be amused when I see my favorite movie characters while driving down Hollywood Boulevard.