The city council wants to limit the Elmos, Mickey’s and Minions in Times Square. The whole debate reminds Our commentator Stephan Bisaha about his own time working as a costumed character.
BISAHA: About five summers ago, when I was between my sophomore and junior years of college, I got a job at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. I was just a hair too short be a superhero, so I was hired as a Looney Tune – some days Bugs, others Sylvester, still others Wile E Coyote.
And I loved it.
It was a great gig. I got paid to be a goofball, BUT it it wasn’t an easy job or one without rules. The first: Unless you’re Mel Blanc or Billy West, you don’t talk in costume. One of the work legends was a guy playing Bugs Bunny who was dragged away by a park guest – the only thing he did was silently wave his arms for help. Second, there was the first rule of Fight Club – you don’t talk about being a character. I’m hoping I’m past the statute of limitations on this one.
The cardinal rule was that you never, ever – take off your head when a guest could see you. This was challenging, especially on 100 degree days when my coworkers and I just tried to guess how much warmer it was in the costume than out- 10 degrees? 20? Some costumes were worse than others. Like the time I finally got to be Marvin the Martin’s dog? I’d been I’begging for that one,
The only problem was the costume was just too tight -And – the big nose! I thought would give me extra breathing room. Instead it quickly filled with stagnant air. It was the literal opposite of a splash of cold water. Each shift in costume was just an hour, but the seconds crawled by. My body wanted to quit and to be honest, so did I.
Instead, I was a professional. I finished my shift and when I was done, I took off that costume the minute I was beyond behing seen,, scrubbed it down the way I was supposed to – and the . next day I started all over again..
Part of the reason I stuck with it is that it didn’t matter if the job had the word ‘looney’ in the title. It was a Job, which meant pushing through the bad days. \
And, I loved it. It still surprises me how meaningful some of the interactions people had with me were. Like the college student who had a phobia of people in costumes She was so nervous around me – or shall I say Bugs Bunny – she was shaking. I slowly reached out my paw he took it. We even posed for a picture. Her bravery was short lived. though Moments later, daffy duck thought it’d be a great idea to get in the shot. The site of the charging duck freaked her out .I never saw her again.
What really sticks with me is this one little girl. Her military dad was stationed overseas and her mother brought her to the park almost everyday to see us. She lit up when she hugged Daffy or Porky Pig. Suddenly the sweat and the heat didn’t matter anymore. We were helping a little girl and her mom make memories during what was probably a very lonely summer.
My fans, well, they weren’t really my fans.- they were interacting with Bugs Bunny, or Sylvester. And that’s okay. It wasn’t about me – or how hot the costume was. I still got my fair share of memories and experiences out of the deal, even if I do regret never getting to say….
BUNNY: Eh, what’s up doc?
Stephan Bisaha has traded in his bunny ears for headphones, but still misses the four finger gloves.