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Topic: Busted in NoHo
Message: Posted by: Zack (May 19, 2005 03:22AM)
As promised here is part one of my North Hollywood story. Its been cross posted to Danny's board.


Went to the North Hollywood street fair today. Spent a good long time looking for the perfect spot. Walking along with my table slung over my shoulder, picking and choosing. Not too close to the main stage, mustn’t compete with the booked acts. Maybe by the rides would get me more children. I settled on a spot in the fair proper. I was a little skeered of it, since it was infront of some exhibitor’s booths, but I figured that the sidewal was deep enough behind me that I wouldn’t step on anybody. All part of being a good citizen.

Well I went into the bally…”MONEY MONEY MONEY, MAGIC MAGIC MAGIC, WATCH the money, WATCH the magic, WATCH how its done!” and the edge formed, deep and thick. Honestly a little too deep, I was concerned that they might block traffic into the booth. Being a good citizen I pulled them in…admonishing them not to block off the booth. The show went well, and I collected a nice hat. Then a fat ugly man pulled up in a golf cart. “Who are you with?” he said.

Who am I with? What is this, a gang thing? “City of Los Angeles.” I said.

Having learned from my experience at Olivera St. (NOTE: This is in my hard copy journal. Will appear online once I key it in…out of temporal sequence) I flashed my best smile and said “Are you with the festival?” Ugly nodded, jiggling a few chins. “Terrific!” I said, and whipped out my business card. “My name is Zack D_____ I perform at festivals all over the country. Usually I get paid $500 a show, but its slow now so I’m working this festival for free. And that shouldn’t be a problem, since as you know, the courts have upheld street performance as constitutionally protected speech. “

“This is a private festival, you’re going to have to leave.”

“Yeah…that’s not going to work for me. I’m not charging money and I’m not breaking the law. And you’re not charging admission, so this is not a private event. “

“No…you’re going to have to leave.”

“So you are asking me to leave?”

”That’s right.”

“OK. Great. I’m going to need your name, the name of your employer, and I’m going to need you to put what you just told me in writing.”

He looked confused.

“Because you see, we’re in the city of Los Angeles, and according to the law, I have a right to be here.”

Fatass mumbled about getting his boss. There was some mumbling on his cell phone. We both waited for a while.

A long while.

Eventually, five police officers came around the corner. Jesus. I think. What am I? Public Enemy number one?

Fatass went to go talk to them. And then came back.

“What’s going on now?” I ask.

“They’re going to take care of you now.”

Good Enough. The cops are a hundred feet away. They are conferring among themselves. Endlessly. As I wait my resolve begins to falter. Did I pay that traffic ticket? Is there a warrant out for me? Is my car parked legally? Will being right make me feel better when I have a crushed windpipe? Finally, I walk over to them.

One redfaced angry cop turns to me and says “What the HELL is going on here? Why does it take FIVE police officers to tell you to move?”

“Funny,” I say “I was just asking myself the same question. I’m surprised you’re here at all. This gentleman asked me to move, and I asked him for his credentials and the name of his employer, and the reason he was asking me to leave, and he wouldn’t give them to me. I thought I was being reasonable. I’m surprised he thought it was necessary to go to the cops.”

“Well he called you in as a 10-14…’acting weird’ we thought you were breaking into this bank here! ”

“Well…” I say, I genuinely don’t know WHAT to say…”THAT ain’t right”, stealing a brief glance in fatass’s direction.

“Look, I’m happy to comply with the rules, but I can’t just allow him to trample over my rights. I need to know who’s ordering me to leave and for what reason. “

Redface offered to go get that information for me. I said that would be fine. As he left a more calm, silvered hair cop asked me if I had identification. I handed him my business card.

“You’ve got to understand” says he, “We thought you were breaking into this bank. We brought an F-16 to kill a gnat. We’ve got HALF our manpower here.”

I concur that that’s a problem. I don’t cite legal cases…that didn’t work last time…but I repeat that I am not charging money, but only accepting donations.

“But donations…that’s a little like charging money…isn’t it.” I can see intelligence in this cops eyes. He’s enjoying this conversation. Its like arguing politics with a college professor.

“Well, actually, according to the courts, as long as there’s no set price, its Speech, not commerce.” Trying my best not to be pedantic.

“But Venice beach, they allow you to accept donations, but they have a permit system.”

“Yes. The cities can issue permits and place reasonable limitations on speech, like requiring permits. I HAVE a Venice permit. I have a Santa Monica permit. I’m always willing to work with the system.” I see a change in his eyes. I’ve scored a point.

“Look.” He says. “ Why don’t you go talk to the festival organizers. They’re over on Otsego st, in a trailer. Maybe they’ll be reasonable. “

I affirm that I’m perfectly willing to do that, and wirte down the location.

Redface comes back. He’s still mad. “Look…”he fumes “apparently some of these vendors had a problem with the size of your crowd. Your show was preventing them from doing business.”

Now THAT, O my brothers, is a reasonable complaint. I try hard not to keep anybody ELSE from earning money.

“OK.” I say.

“So somebody complained…” Redface said, “look…just find someplace where they don’t complain and we won’t have a problem.”


More to follow….
Message: Posted by: ed rhodes (May 19, 2005 04:42AM)
Excellent! Don't get mad and state your case calmly and at least half the battle is won!
Message: Posted by: drwilson (May 19, 2005 06:48AM)

Sounds like a series of excellent performances on your part. Fat hats to you!


Message: Posted by: Popo (May 19, 2005 11:13AM)
Well done, Zack. In fact, if I could I would put a $50 in your hat now as that was a grand performance. Keep it up and keep us posted!
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (May 19, 2005 11:13AM)
That is exactly the way to handle these things. You were calm, polite and honest.

Some years back, when I was working at New Vaudeville Pizza House, I gave the fellow who was my juggler and his roommate a ride back home. One of my headlights was out, due to a minor traffic problem, and I hadn't had an opportunity to replace it.

I got pulled over right in front of their apartment. One of the guys said, "Look, it's the pigs! They are going to bust heads."

I said, "Don't say a word. Let me do the talking."

The policeman approached. He asked to see my driver's license, which I gave him. He asked, "Do you realize that you have a headlight out?"

"Yes, officer. It just went out earlier this evening. Mike and I work at the New Vaudeville Pizza House on Hughes Road. Bob, here, is his roommate. When we got off work, we couldn't find a place to purchase a replacement, but I will take care of it tomorrow morning, first thing."

He said, "Okay. I won't even give you a warning. Just make sure you take care of it. Drive safely." And he left.

So Mike and Bob, who were both semi-longhaired, were completely puzzled. "How did you do that?"

"Easy. They are human beings. You treat them politely and they will do the same."
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (May 19, 2005 10:41PM)
Here's to the age of reason!

Zack, I hope other buskers in your area realize what an important thing you did for their sake.

Message: Posted by: Zack (May 20, 2005 03:28AM)
[quote] Zack, I hope other buskers in your area realize what an important thing you did for their sake. [/quote]

HAH! Not a chance. They'll still be bitching about my big crowds and turning up their amps real loud.
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (May 20, 2005 11:31PM)
I guess you're right... Sorry... I forgot where I was. ;)

Message: Posted by: JJP161 (May 21, 2005 01:16AM)
Very nicely done Zack! The key is being polite and calm. Having been a Firefighter for over 15 years and working with cops on a daily basis I can tell you, if you are polite, honest, calm and respectful they will work with you if they can. The minute you lie or get mad you've lost the battle. You would be amazed at how many times a cop will let you go by simply being honest, Sir do you know why I stopped you, yes I was driving like a fool and going 10 miles an hour over the speed limit. There normal people doing a really tough job and in my eyes they're heros. I know when I'm getting my butt kicked they are the ones screaming into the mess and saving my life.
Message: Posted by: Zack (May 21, 2005 05:14AM)
Good point, JJP161. Sometimes I forget that...I have "authority issues" and sometimes I get really mad at them. But you're absolutely right. I can see why redface was upset...he didn't know what the hell he was walking into, for all he knew he was going to get shot.
Message: Posted by: trevcmagicman (May 21, 2005 10:51PM)
Heh... Great of handling that. I would have freaked.
Message: Posted by: Zack (Nov 15, 2005 11:48PM)

(At long last)

I'd love to tell you that after my encounter with the police I felt flushed with victory and went on to make huge hats. Honestly, though, I felt exhausted and I was thinking about leaving. and going to my regular pitch. They love me there.

But I had told Silverhair that I would go talk to the fesitival organizers, and dammnit that's what I was going to do. I found the festival trailer. There was a guy in front and I intrduced myself and asked for somebody in charge. "They're not available, leave your number, and they'll get back to you in a few days. "


So I left my number got the guys name and moved on. I was almoset out of the festival, when at the last minute I saw the crowds getting thick. I found a place that was away from everything. It was at the end of the midway. I asked the closest carny if he would mind if I set up there.

"****, I don't care."

So I set up and did two good shows. The hats were decent, but not as big as the one down at the other end of the fair. Then a guy walked up that looked like he had been sent by Central Casting to play the role of "Skeezy Carney." Long, greasy hair, Keith Richards thin, dirt on aevery part of his yellow skin that I could see. He told me that I'd have to leave, that the streets had been signed over to Anderson Amusements. "unless you have a permit."

Then it hit me like a brass hammer. The fact is, street performing is legal everywhere in the united states. Cities may require permits in order to impose "reasonable restrictions." In other words the "permit" is misnamed: its not there to permit, its there to restrict. But people don't know thatThey think that if there's no permit, that its NOT PERMITTED. Which is a perfectly reasonable error, given the language.

From now on if I crash festivals, I will bring my Venice beach permit. The venice permit looks official.Its a picture ID that hangs from a lanyard and has "City of Los Angeles" clearly printed on it.

After some wringling with skeezy carny, basically refusing to leave unless I sw some written proof that I wasn't allowed. Eventually Skeezy Carny decided that this was over his head and told me to go to the double-wide around the corner and talk to TOM BROWN. So I went. And I didn't see the trailer. I kept walking and I ran into a guy that had seen one of my previous shows and he stopped me to tell me how wonderful I am. I told him about how I had been shut down twice HE suggested that I go over to the founteain area.

The fountain!

I had walked right by it...I considered it but rejected it because it had benches around it and I didn't want people sitting on benches behind me.

that's the thing about street performing, the pitches are invisible when there's nobody in them. On second glance, the fountain was perfect. It was smack dab in the middle of a four way intersection and far away from anyone.

It was also, however, far away from the foot traffic...time to put the bally to the test. "Money money Money! Magic Magic Magic!" Within minutes I had a huge crowd. And they were awesome. The laughe, followed instructions, and threw huge wads of cash into the hat. Then it happened. A cop car flashed its lights and said over the loudspeaker: "The festival is now over--please use the sidewalks--the streets are now open. " About a third of the crown got up and left. I was almost done, so I opted to keep going. Fortunately, the cops let me finish the show before making a second announcement. (And I had already bottled the hat before the first announcement.) But what a bummer! I had found the perfect spot, just in time for the end of the festival.

Well the Midway was open till eleven...It was time to pay a call on TOM BROWN.

(To be continued.)
Message: Posted by: Mario Morris (Nov 16, 2005 04:34AM)
Good story Zack.
Message: Posted by: ed rhodes (Nov 16, 2005 09:36AM)
Talking about how to talk to cops, there's a country-western number that plays at Wal*Mart called "My Brain Can't Trust My Tounge"

At the end of the song, the guy's being arrested.

Here I stand with my hands on the car.
Took a speeding ticket a little too far.
When I said; 'Barney, where's your bullet?'
I was just having fun,
My brain can't trust my tounge!
Message: Posted by: Zack (Jan 25, 2006 05:07PM)
Part III:

I headed back to the midway in search of the illusive double wide trailer. I turned a corner and the harsh noise and clatter of the midway fell away: I was in a darkened vacant lot covered with campers, trailers, and trucks. Another Skeezy Carny was opening a trailer door. This one was just as filthy as the first, but I swear to god the man had no freaking fingers! Just a couple of amorphous stumps that he was using to work the door handle. Thalomide arms. The Innsmouth look.

"Hi," I said, "I'm looking for Tom Brown."

"Well, he's out and about somewhere in the midway,"

I was excited to hear the word "midway" used in a sentence.

"Is there something I can help you with?" he said.

"Sure, I'm a street performer, I need to talk to him about working the street out there."

"Well, that's not going to happen. The city signed over the street to us, this is a private event. That's not even Tom's decision, that's for the owner to decide. "

"Well..no" I said, "That'd be for the court to decide."

No-fingers looked worried for a second. I was surprised. Usually threatening legal action is the least effective tactic. Sort of like comparing your opponent to Hitler in an argument.

"Yeah," I continued, "See there's no admission being charged. All the other businesses are open. And I have a permit from the city of Los Angeles that says that I can perform on public property. "

He considers this for a moment.

"I'll tell you what," he says, "stay on the sidewalk--the streets are ours.


Well folks, I found a nice spot in front of a closed theater, good acoustics! But the late night midway crowd was wrangy, drunk, and poor. I did a few shows to some meager hats.

Conclusion: I've always been against calling festivals to schedule myself in: it seems a little like grovelling in order to work for free. And, after all, its my right to work. Yet, if I had worked that fountain spot all day, without constantly having to pick up and move, argue with people, and be interrupted, I could have made bank.

Would you rather be right? Or rich?
Message: Posted by: fxdude (Mar 6, 2008 02:27PM)
Very good information, I live in North Hollywood and had wondered about setting up a station at the festival.

Message: Posted by: Tom Frank (Mar 8, 2008 04:58PM)
I live in North Hollywood too! Worked Hollywood & Highland yesterday. Had late lunch with Billy Goodwin. Tonight back at the City Walk. BEAUTIFUL DAY!!!

Message: Posted by: Brian Proctor (Mar 8, 2008 11:58PM)
I love these stories, they are entertaining and very informative. Thanks for the writings!
Message: Posted by: gaddy (Mar 10, 2008 12:20AM)
On 2005-05-19 04:22, Zack wrote:
Redface comes back. He’s still mad. “Look…”he fumes “apparently some of these vendors had a problem with the size of your crowd. Your show was preventing them from doing business.”

Now THAT, O my brothers, is a reasonable complaint. I try hard not to keep anybody ELSE from earning money.


#@$*! vendors it always boils down to them, doesn't it?

Playing devil's advocate here- but you should have been in control of your crowd...

Other than that, it's a great story!

Message: Posted by: Laird (Mar 10, 2008 09:52AM)
In the more immediate sense, you don't want to go to jail. It also helps to get prior approval. A lot of fests would like a free magician.
Nothing defeats the purpose, and is more expensive. Cops can conveniently enforce loitering ordinances, then the burden becomes yours.
Kansas City is still being educated about street performers. We're not as hip as we'd like to think we are here in Missouri.
Ultimatley you want to be seen as an assett, and not a liability to others. Some security just like watching me as if it made their job easier.
Do some card tricks for the vendors before hand, maybe even buy something from them. I've had vendors put into my hat. Become one of them, and not seem predatorial.
Message: Posted by: JohntheMagician (Mar 17, 2008 02:48PM)
Wow great story; I just started out Busking late last fall. I love getting the crowds going and and watching the people watch me. It's a great rush, but the bank helps as well.

I am waiting for the weather to turn here in PA so I can get back out and work up some new items I've been playing with over the winter.