He­roes walk among us

Strug­gling ac­tors moon­light as su­per­heroes in LA

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PERSPECTIVES - BY JAE C. HONG

Cap­tain Amer­ica has a thick Bri­tish ac­cent, and his day job is cine­matog­ra­pher. Iron Man lives in an apart­ment be­hind Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, and at least one of Bat­man’s wings are made with a pair of shower cur­tains from Tar­get.

Su­per­man comes from Ukraine, not the planet Kryp­ton, and don’t be sur­prised to see sev­eral Spi­der-Men and Cat­women of var­i­ous races and na­tion­al­i­ties.

Welcome to the su­per­hero world of Hollywood Boule­vard, where just about ev­ery caped crusader you’ve seen in comic books or on film is busy pos­ing for pho­tos with tourists.

While the Hollywood we see in movies is a place of glamour and beau­ti­ful celebri­ties, the cast of su­per­heroes fill­ing Hollywood Boule­vard is fre­quently any­thing but. Many are peo­ple strug­gling to make a buck as they pur­sue their dream of star­dom.

“It’s a place of di­ver­sity, it’s a place of drama, it’s a place of il­lu­sion . a place of bro­ken dreams,” says Dan Inigo, a 25-year-old ac­tor who prowls the boule­vard dressed as Spi­der-Man.

Al­though he barely scrapes by, Inigo says it’s still a great gig for a strug­gling ac­tor who needs to keep an open sched­ule for au­di­tions.

“You can just suit up and come down here when­ever you need,” he said. “It re­ally is a perfect job if you are an artist.”

If you want to make any real money on Hollywood Boule­vard, you have to re­ally look the part, says Matthias Balke, who put $3,000 into his elab­o­rate Bat­man ensem­ble.

He doesn’t grab tourists or crack a joke to get their at­ten­tion. In­stead, he waits for them to come to him.

“My way of so­lic­it­ing is the qual­ity of my cos­tume,” he said. “Peo­ple see it, they come to me to ask me for a pic­ture. I’d never walk up to any­body.”

The screen­writer-pro­duc­er­ac­tor says tips can range from a few coins to as much as $100. He ac­cepts them all, not­ing the change oc­ca­sion­ally comes in handy: “Even Bat­man has to do laun­dry.”

Long­time street per­form­ers say the busi­ness used to be more lu­cra­tive, un­til the boule­vard be­came over­pop­u­lated with cos­tumed char­ac­ters. What’s worse, some look grungy, while oth­ers turn off tourists with ag­gres­sive de­mands for money.

“This should be done by peo­ple with per­for­mance back­grounds,” Balke said. “It should be like Dis­ney­land.”

AP PHOTO

A young tourist tips Justin Har­ri­son, wear­ing a home­made Cap­tain Amer­ica cos­tume, and Har­ri­son’s room­mate, Regi­nald Jack­son in a Black Pan­ther cos­tume af­ter tak­ing pic­tures with them on Hollywood Boule­vard in Los An­ge­les

AP PHOTO

Su­per­hero im­per­son­ator Justin Har­ri­son rides a Metro train wear­ing a Su­per­man cos­tume on his way to Hollywood Boule­vard in Los An­ge­les.

AP PHOTO

Rashad Rouse, 27, whose dream is get­ting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, hangs up­side down from a traf­fic sig­nal pole in a Spi­der-Man cos­tume to get at­ten­tion from tourists on Hollywood Boule­vard, in Los An­ge­les.

AP PHOTO

Ramiro Ro­driguez in a Bum­ble­bee cos­tume, a char­ac­ter from the Trans­form­ers movie se­ries, shakes hands with young tourists on Hollywood Boule­vard, in Los An­ge­les. The 39-year-old former restau­rant worker from Guadala­jara, Mex­ico, changed his ca­reer af­ter watch­ing a film on Hollywood char­ac­ters.

AP PHOTO

Su­per­hero im­per­son­ator Matthias Balke poses with tourists on Hollywood Boule­vard near the Dolby Theatre in Los An­ge­les.

AP PHOTO

Cap­tain Amer­ica im­per­son­ator Henry Hodge, a cine­matog­ra­pher from Eng­land who lives a stone’s throw away from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, opens his apart­ment door in Los An­ge­les.

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