Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Did you hear the one about the street mime and the Elvis impersonator?

I was in Provincetown this past weekend, with my sister Kath and our two 13 year old nieces. P-town is shopper heaven for a couple of young girls with folding green in their Coach wrist-bags, so Kath and I headed in one direction, the girls in the other, and we met up for lunch. In truth, neither the big girls nor the little girls bought all that much, but it’s still fun to browse.

Of course, one of the more fun things about being in P-town is the street theater, and we got to see our share as we strolled up and down Commercial Street: the campy guy in the Pilgrim outfit who sometimes greets the incoming ferries; a young man done up as a giraffe, and looking like an extra from The Lion King; and “Ellie: 78 years young and living the dream” of singing on the streets.  (Here’s a link to an article about, and pic of, Ellie. You tell me this guy doesn’t look pretty darned good for 78. Check out those gams!)

What we didn’t see hide nor hair of were the 67 year old ex-lawyer, current day Elvis impersonator (actually, he’s an Elvis tribute artist) or the mime (actually, she’s a human statue who’s usually posing on the corner of Commercial and Ryder, where Kath and I hung out for a while waiting for the girls.  We actually may have seen the human statue – there was a young woman carrying a ladder, and she appeared to have some bronze body paint on her jeans. But we didn’t see here performing. Or not performing. Or whatever it is human statues do.)

These two – the Elvis artiste and the human statue – are embroiled in a he-say-she-say controversy that’s now made it’s way into a Connecticut courts, where Raymond “Elvis” Sitar is a member of the bar. Sitar – which seemingly would be a better name for a George Harrison or Ravi Shankar impersonator - is suing Cady Vishniac, who plies her trade by posing as a statue while perched on a ladder.

According to the article on the set-to that appeared in The Boston Globe, it all started a year ago when Sitar decided that Vishniac was hogging prime territory.

Now the corner of Ryder and Commercial in P-town is supremely prime territory – plunk in the center of the action, with the extra, added attraction of having benches to sit on, some of which are in the shade.

Anyhow, Vishniac claims that Sitar goosed her and, when she refused to move so he could warble “Hound Dog”, stood next to her making noises, and trying to distract the tourists who would normally be catching her act (and, I suppose, paying to have their picture taken with her).

Vishniac reported the groping to P-town’s finest, who proceeded to arrest Sitar for assault. Even though he was able to bail himself out – and had the charges dropped when Vishniac was unable to appear in court against him -  Sitar did not enjoy his “Jailhouse Rock.” No, it was more “Heartbreak Hotel”, and Sitar decided to go after Vishniac, and the witness who backed her claim up, in a civil action claiming that he was slandered and libeled.  He’s looking for $100K in damages – which, I’m guessing, is more than the average human statue street performer brings in.

Given the spirit of Provincetown, it all seems like such a shame.

If Vishniac had set up shop in a coveted area, well, Sitar should just have gotten there earlier, rather than fly into a snit and/or expect him to cede her spot to him.

There are plenty of places to perform along Commercial Street, and along the wharf, even though there’s so much hub-bub (at least on weekends) it’s probably difficult to get heard.  It’s hard to believe that Sitar couldn’t have found a place where he could belt out “Blue Suede Shoes” – probably even in front of a store that sold them.

Somehow, I can’t imaging Ellie acting out in this way.

In fact, when we saw here, she was just standing in the middle of Commercial Street. Ducking the tourist trolley, the taxis headed to the guest houses, and the cop on the Segway, Ellie stood, mike in hand, singing. (For the life of me, I can’t remember what we heard her performing. Was it “Embraceable You”? “Someone to Watch Over Me”?  Kath – help me out here.)

Ah, Provincetown. Hate to see this downer kind of behavior, when the place has such a live and let live ambience.


Anonymous said...

I'm a professional human statue. I work for the same company as Cady.

As far as the whole "live and let live" thing goes... Well, I get that it's great in theory, but it's hard to practice if other people are determined to start an argument. I've been working on the streets for a long time, and one of the more frustrating things about it is that if I ever complain about the actions of another performer, even when it's something totally legitimate like "Hey, I wish that guy would stop threatening to beat me up so he can get my spot" (which has happened before), the immediate response of most people is to tell me to work it out by myself and stop bringing them down with all my complaining. Combine that with a largely unregulated profession that attracts a high number of addicts and crazies, and you're making it very hard for a young lady to keep herself from being driven out of town by repeated assaults on her person.

Maureen Rogers said...

Statue - Thanks for your comment. I hadn't realized that the street performer business was so cutthroat. It sounds like my point - if you want the prime spot, just get there earlier - is a bit naive. What a shame, especiallly as P-town seems, at least to an outsider, as kind of a laissez faire place.