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Lakers fans await start of parade, portable toilets

June 21, 2010 | 11:26 am

The hundreds of thousands of Lakers fans lining the route at the start of Monday's victory parade were grappling with two competing desires: to see their beloved players and to find a bathroom.

La-me-lakers-parade-map The first goal seemed much more attainable than the second. Staples Center arranged for only 18 portable toilets, which many fans quickly discovered was not enough. By 10 a.m., at least one business was charging $5 for use of its facilities. 

Vashawn Hicks, 21, of Palmdale camped out overnight at the start of the parade route so he could secure a front-row spot. He said he had spent the last spent hours wiggling his legs because he has to go so bad. He considered leaving his place to search out a toilet, but quickly discarded the idea.

"I'm not going to lose my spot," Hicks said. "These are the Lakers we're talking about."

That ebullience was echoed by thousands of other fans, many of whom had arrived Sunday and slept on the pavement or stood through the night. Some of them had called in sick or made excuses to avoid going to work on Monday. A sense of camaraderie had grown between the early comers, and by Monday morning, the air -- filled with the smell of bacon-grilled hot dogs and marijuana -- echoed with cheers and the sound of vuvuzelas.

Ivon Garcia, 22, came from Oxnard with a group of 10 family members who staked out their spot at about 10 p.m. Sunday. Despite getting only a couple hours of sleep on the pavement, Garcia was in good spirits.

"It's all worth it. I'm ready for them to come out so I can show off my jersey," she said.

Gary Cobbin, 52, an assistant plant manager at Palisades High School, was wearing a T-shirt that said "I'm a 100% Celtics Hater" and carrying an enormous Lakers flag.

"I've been a die-hard Lakers fan since 1977," he said. "I've never missed a parade. As long as they win championships, I will be here."

Albert Martinez, 32, said he drove overnight with eight other members of his family from Visalia. He said he came last year by himself and had such

a good time that the wanted the share the experience.

"Just the people around you, it's so friendly, it's once in a lifetime," he said.

Meanwhile, the search for a bathroom continued.

A line immediately formed outside two portable toilets dropped off by a sanitation truck shortly after 10 a.m. at Venice Boulevard between Flower and Figueroa streets. Leo Martinez, a Los Angeles city sanitation supervisor, said it quickly became obvious that the 18 commode booths Staples Center originally requested wouldn't be enough, so the city brought in reinforcements.

"Last year they had the Coliseum open and that fits 90,000," Martinez said. "This year everybody's in the street."

The city was scrambling to scatter about 40 portable toilets around the route, but eying the huge crowd, Martinez worried that would not be enough. "I'm not sure how much is enough," he said.

Others viewed the parade route as an opportunity to make money -- and in addition to the sales of Lakers paraphernalia and water, some unusual entrepreneurs hit the streets.

Among them was a mobile truck, WeedWorldCandies.com, selling marijuana lollipops in hues of orange and blue. (The truck itself is green with a photo mural of young women in bikinis sorting marijuana leaves.)

The assortment included brands of marijuana such as OG Kush and Grand Daddy Perp. The truck's owner, Bilal Muhammad, said he was recently forced to shut down his store in West Hollywood and had decided to take his business on the road.

Customers approaching his truck were asked if they had a prescription card allowing them to purchase marijuana and then were handed a free lollipop.

"It's been working out very well," he said of business before driving away as police became visible in the distance.

Despite the joy, many fans were disappointed that the festivities were tamped down this year.

Israel Mendez, 19, of Pomona, walked to the Coliseum to try to secure a spot for the rally, only to find there was no rally this year. 

"I felt really bad about it," he said. "We deserved it. We played hard this year."

-- Gale Holland, Robert Faturechi, Alexandra Zavis, Esmeralda Bermudez and Sam Allen

Photo: The scene just before the start of the Lakers' victory parade in front of Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times