No to 'Sesame Street' hustlers

This article is more than 12 months old

For 45 years, Elmo and Cookie Monster have delighted young viewers on TV's Sesame Street.

Not anymore.

On the streets of New York, recent antics by street performers dressed as the beloved characters have drawn the ire of city officials.

Now, even the show's producers are angry at the dressed-up characters hustling tourists for tips.

A woman argues with costumed street performers over tips after posing for pictures in Times Square on July 28, 2014 in New York City. Photo: AFP

Sesame Workshop, which owns the rights to Big Bird, Ernie and assorted puppet monsters, said on Tuesday it was drafting plans to stop the unauthorized performers appearing in Times Square.

"We care about our fans and the image of our brand and, like everyone else, we care about public safety on our streets," said the nonprofit group.

The statement came days after "Spider-Man" (otherwise known as 25-year-old Junior Bishop) was arrested in Times Square for punching a police office.

The cop had scolded him for demanding money from tourists.

Junior Bishop (top) who was dressed as Spider-man was arrested for punching an officer. Screengrab: CBS New York/YouTube, NYPost/YouTube

New York Post reported that Officer Eduardo Molina confronted the superhero about the ridiculous prices — US$10(S$12.40) a picture — at least twice before he was cuffed.

The motley group of performers has also drawn increasing complaints from city leaders and law enforcement officials, who view them as a nuisance.

Last year, a man dressed as Cookie Monster was arrested on suspicion of shoving a 2-year-old child whose mother failed to tip him.

Sesame Workshop said it had been meeting with other "concerned" groups, including companies that own the licenses to some of the characters, on what to do.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday he was considering new licensing requirements and other rules to rein in the costumed performers.

"This has gone too far, and it's time to take some real steps to regulate this new reality," de Blasio said. "Once we have regulation, we'll be able to say very clearly to everyone who does that work: 'Play by the rules or you won't be working here anymore.'"

“It’s not appropriate for anyone to demand a certain amount of money from a passing tourist and harass them in that manner”.


Costumed street performers receive tips from the public after posing for pictures in Times Square on July 28, 2014 in New York City. Photos: AFP

- Reuters, AFP