Heroes turn villains on the boulevard of broken noses


LOS ANGELES – When superheroes go bad, the real cops are on duty in Hollywood.

The call was bizarre enough: patrol officers received a report of an assault by a man in a Spider-Man costume. But when they arrived at the scene they encountered four different people dressed as the web-slinging crusader.

”They stopped one; it wasn’t him,” Lieutenant Beverly Lewis said. ”They stopped the second, and it was the suspect.”

It was not immediately clear what led to Spider-Man’s altercation on Hollywood Boulevard. But it is the latest in a string of incidents involving movie characters and celebrity lookalikes who vie for space and attention along the tourist corridor.

Costumed impersonators portraying the likes of Elvis, Superman, SpongeBob SquarePants and others have worked on Hollywood Boulevard for years. They collect tips from tourists by posing for pictures.

But sometimes the fun has turned violent. Tourists have complained that some costumed characters turn abusive when the tourists refuse to pay them to pose for pictures. There have been brawls, too.

Two years ago authorities convened a ”super-hero summit” designed to reduce tensions among the performers. The meeting was prompted in part by an incident in which police officers arrested a Star Wars street performer for allegedly headbutting a tour guide who complained about Chewbacca’s treatment of Japanese tourists. In other incidents, actors dressed as Mr Incredible, Elmo the Muppet and the hooded character from the movie Scream were arrested for aggressive begging.

This Spider-Man’s alter-ego was being held on outstanding misdemeanour warrants.

The victim, who said he was hit in the face and arms, refused to press charges. But when police discovered the outstanding warrants, he was charged. It appeared the suspect and victim knew each other.

”Typical Hollywood; it’s always something different,” Lieutenant Lewis said.