Hollywood impersonators busted for allegedly harassing tourists

Tuesday, October 25th 2005, 8:56 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The red and cuddly Sesame Street Muppet Elmo has learned a new lesson: 'H' is for handcuffs.

A man dressed as the character was one of three impersonators arrested last week for allegedly harassing tourists for tips after posing for photos on Hollywood Boulevard. Booked with him were people impersonating superhero Mr. Incredible and the dark-hooded character from the horror movie ``Scream.''

The impersonators said they were taken into custody at gunpoint, handcuffed and paraded on the Hollywood Walk of Fame before stunned tourists and other impersonators. They were charged with misdemeanor ``aggressive begging,'' police said.

``With all of the crime in Los Angeles they pick on us?'' said Elmo impersonator Donn Harper, 45, who makes up to $400 a day in tips.

Tourists have complained that the costumed characters harass them for not tipping after posing for photos in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Kodak Theater. Merchants say some of the costumed characters are scaring tourists.

Los Angeles Police Officer Michael Shea said police warned impersonators at a meeting last month that the department would start enforcing solicitation and harassment laws. Officers conducted a sting operation by posing as French tourists who didn't understand English or the American tipping culture.

``Make no mistake about it _ I wanted the characters to know what we're doing,'' Shea said.