Ever since the "movie people" first came to Hollywood in the 1910s, my adopted hometown has long been stereotyped as a haven for freaks. What most outsiders don't know is that LA people are just as conformist as anybody else – maybe not in the way that small-town Iowans are, but the idea is the same. However, there still exist several memorable loonies in this city, and not all of them are homeless. Some you've heard of or seen pictures of. Others remain anonymous and unreported. This list celebrates them all:
- Angelyne. The infamous "billboard queen", Angelyne – she of the pink Corvette, platinum beehive, and inhumanly large breasts – has been a local fixture since the 1970s. Nobody knows where she gets the money to erect so many billboards of herself (the most likely answer is that she inherited it), or how old she really is (she couldn't have been born any later than 1950). But all agree that, in many ways, she personifies contemporary Hollywood.
- Dennis Woodruff. Angelyne's male counterpart, in a sense, Woodruff has been trying to sell himself as an actor for decades, though he's better known for his crazy self-promoting art cars, plastered with photos of himself, spray-painted with his name, and often incongruously mounting an enormous papier-mâché head. Ol' Dennis may actually be homeless – I suspect he calls his numerous vehicles "home".
- Harry Perry. Known as the "Kama Kosmic Krusader", Perry is Venice Beach's most photographed denizen. You've seen the pictures: bearded guy of indeterminate race skating around on roller skates, wearing a turban, playing an electric guitar, smiling beatifically. I have it on authority that Perry not only pulls in a tidy income for his appearances, but that he also married into money.
- Backwards Running Guy. Now we get into the more obscure characters. I have seen, on numerous occasions, a fortysomething black man in red spandex running down Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards – backwards. He manages it by staring over his shoulder as he runs. I don't know why exactly he runs backwards, but I'm glad he does.
- Dancing Man on Robertson. He's been there for years: a fit, bearded white man in black spandex (what's with the spandex?) who stands on his little spot on the sidewalk and dances, dances, dances – all day long. Man, he knows how to get down! A former coworker told me that this dude was once a pitcher for the Dodgers in the '70s until he fried his brain on drugs. He never begs, and he's not homeless. I've seen him climb into a cab at the end of a long day of getting his groove on; apparently he lives with his sister. [2013 UPDATE: HE'S STILL DANCING, BUT NOW DOES SO AT WILL ROGERS PARK IN BEVERLY HILLS.]
- Dr. Susan Block. This lady – the only one on this list who you won't regularly see out in public – fancies herself a spokeswoman for sexual freedom, an "erotic philosopher/adventurer" who's hosted a racy cable access show for many moons. Good for her – though clearly she's also a bit nuts. Her website can tell you more, but be forewarned that it's not for the prudish.
- Melrose Larry Green. Once a mainstay on Howard Stern's radio show, this possibly homeless crank frequently runs for mayor of LA when he's not standing on Melrose Avenue, waving his hand-painted pro-Bush signs at passing cars.
- Santa Monica Mooning Man. For well over a decade (and perhaps even today), this thin Caucasian man with shortly-cropped blonde hair would appear on the same spot on Santa Monica Beach, where every weekday afternoon he'd lie down on his stomach to tan – after first pulling down his white Speedos to reveal his bare bottom to God, the sun, and everyone else.
- David Liebe Hart. Like Dr. Susan Block, Hart first earned his cult renown through his bizarre cable access TV show, in which he sang Bible songs using beat-up marionettes (including one called "Chip the Black Boy") whose heads often ended up spinning. Most Angelenos today recognize Hart as "the guy in front of the Hollywood Bowl" – and sure enough, after every Bowl show, Hart is there, crooning his ditties (often with puppet) to departing audiences. I'm only scratching the surface with this man – add to it his side job hand-painting Christmas window signs (complete with umlauts over random letters), his obsession with finding a date, and his other lovably demented peccadilloes, and you have a true LA eccentric.