NEW YORK, NY - If you’ve been groped by Super Mario lately or yelled at by an anti-Semitic Elmo, chances are you know too well the spread of costumed characters in and around Times Square. Once upon a time, the area was populated by thieves, hustlers, and sexual deviants. Today it is populated by thieves, hustlers, and sexual deviants wearing knock-off Sesame Street costumes.
In the past few years their ranks have grown, unchecked by copyright infringement or local law enforcement, who mostly stay clear. But then you get the flare-ups. Most recently one of these performers, dressed as Cookie Monster, allegedly accosted a tourist and her young son after they did not tip him for the photograph they’d taken. Aside from the fact that this is just not the way a character beloved by children the world over should behave, it raises questions about freedom of speech and entrepreneurial rights. Should these seemingly deranged men (trust me, they are all men) be allowed to perform?
Rather than pontificate from our digital pulpit, I wanted to get a street-level perspective on this issue. And so, after a long search, I was finally able to get a hold of the Cookie Monster himself: Mr. Yuri Preobrazhensky, recently immigrated from Siberia. I think you’ll find his story illuminating:
The mothers they is always say “you crazy! Away from little one you go!” and I is say through mask “crazy for coco-poofs, yes, now pay me my monies.” Little joke haha then they is yell and we tussle, almost a dance, then Officer Hank is show up and I say “okay I go now.” Across the Square of Time is same thing. Some monies. Some tussles. Friday it is my friend Enrique, he do Hello Kitty, we have cigarette and he solliloquize: “why does they hate us? We just try bring smile with babyfaces, no?” I nod which maybe difficold see, my head is encased by Cookie mask. So I is say “I agreeing with you now please to give second cigarette.” We no smoke in front of babyfaces.
Now from lapped top and sundry paper men you think I am bad Monster and my cousin Piotr, he do Exploring Dora, he also bad but does I contain newses for you! I no crazy or bad. The weather of economies crazy. Yuri, is me, I just trying to HBO Make It In America. Allow Yuri story tell you how is true:
You businessman, yes? With woolen suit and gun and Internet, at which you is transact for monies and pleasure mistress? How I envy! Back to businesses. For me is same thing true. I is dance and sing before move no muscles for photograph, many times over hours which soon is become full day. I work. But I no is work just for crackers and pennies, no. Yuri must eat! Piotr must buy coffees so as finish Oscar-grade screenwritings. We need monies.
Allow me “Once Upon Time,” which always best way at beginning tales. Once upon time I little dancing boy. No gay! My village they exile TV-owning witch who turn boys to gay. Back to dancing, at which I win all contests. Papa he is say “Yuri, there was filmmovie I sees they call ‘Flashdance’ from which I learn many things.” I retort “okay what things tell me.” But he is say “haha I no say, you must to learn by lonesome. Travel to America and find these persons. They will teach you.”
One year later hello America where I and Piotr is search all New York for Flashdancers and having no luck, and limited monies, when I sees Jew-hating Elmo who tell me my future. Well first he say Jews they culprits of Exxon-Valdez oil spills, but then: “I is looking for Cookie Monster partner for make Sesame street monopoly. Maybe is Yuri?” So now you sees whole story.
“But why is you hit ladies and babyfaces, even for prodigious monies?” you maybe asks. Okay I answer this by say in New York, you must to hit sometimes. Derek Jeter hit for hero praise. Manny Pacq… Manny hit manny (haha) men and you is no say “boo” like ghosts. But I is say “boo” like ghost to this court of kangaroos. I spit at this.
Yuri started to trail off after that and nearly got us kicked out of Starbucks when he tried posing for pictures outside the bathroom, but it was worth it to hear his fascinating story. A dancer! Who knew. He did ask before heading out into another Times Square afternoon if I’d come up with a “sentence containing great powers” to cap the piece. I said maybe, if I could think of one. He seemed disappointed. But Yuri…that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.