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I was walking through Times Square last evening and I saw one of those 'human mannequin' performers that crowds still inexplicably coo over. This mannequin was obese, painted blue from head to toe (that's part of the theatricality, i think - painting yourself up a distinctive color. i'm assuming the recent hyper-saturation of this type of street performer gave rise to this kind of need for personal decoration.), and squat-seated on an upside-down 5-gallon cole slaw drum. His attention was committed to an Off-Track Betting racing form and, as far as I could tell, he wasn't particularly gifted with the art of being perfectly still. He would grunt and cough into his chest with pretty organic regularity. Additionally, as he turned the pages of the racing form, or turned it over in his hands, there was nothing especially mechanical about it. He just did as he pleased.

Not surprisingly, he was not exactly attracting a crowd. Most of the tourists were preoccupied with the Gold Mannequin 15 feet away. This guy knew the business. He was executing staggered robot dance moves in-synch with a hidden hand buzzer that simulated futuristic buzzes with each mechanical sweep of his arms, torso, and head. He had a small gold-painted coffee can stuffed with low-denomination bills, resting at his gold-painted feet. By contrast, the Blue Mannequin had a Popeye's chicken box at his feet. It wasn't Blue - just plain Popeye's Chicken colors. And it was empty, except for three small pieces of popcorn shrimp cowering in one of its corners.

As the Gold Mannequin accrued a larger crowd (it was getting close to curtain time for Broadway shows so i imagine many of the ticket holders were divided between two activities right now: shopping for 'fucking new york fucking city' t-shirts or throwing a few minutes and dollars at street performers), it became more and more obvious to me that I was the only person attending to the Blue Mannequin. I suppose I thought he'd improve under pressure, with an audience. He didn't. In fact, I'm not an expert in the field but to the casual observer I was probably doing a much better job at being quiet and still.

Finally, after studying him for about eight minutes, he looked up from his racing form and said, "Do you mind? Can I have a little privacy here, buddy?" And even though he was just an overweight man painted blue and not a true Blue Mannequin, and this was really all just a strange coincidence, I still wish he showed more respect for the form. He should know that speaking to crowd is Human Mannequin Don't #1. (P.S. HM Don't #2 is, curiously, 'Never Fall In Love'. and #3 is 'No Paddle-Ball Tricks = Career Suicide'. I sent away for the handbook.)

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2001 todd levin
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