In recent years, Las Vegas Boulevard has grown packed with costumed characters who pose for photos and tips. Some are refugees from Hollywood, where a police crackdown resulted in the arrests of an Elmo, a Freddy Krueger and a Mr. Incredible, among others.
Their arrival in Las Vegas inspired financially strapped locals to take a similar approach for (relatively) easy cash. (You can read a Times story about the Vegas street performers here.)
Casinos and law enforcement agencies have repeatedly clashed with the Strip buskers, some of whom hassle tourists and one another. Last year, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of two brothers, Jason Perez-Morciglio, who dresses as Zorro, and Sebastian Perez-Morciglio, who dresses as Darth Vader.
Zorro was detained one day by Venetian hotel-casino security guards, who claimed he’d sold a tourist a sword outside the hotel, according to a summary of findings by U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro. Zorro said he hadn’t, and refused to leave what he said was a public sidewalk.
His brother, who was not wearing his Darth Vader costume, approached and asked what Zorro had done wrong. Both men were handcuffed, taken into the hotel and searched by hotel security. Police arrived and gave them trespassing warnings.
Attorneys for the Venetian and Las Vegas police had asked that the lawsuit be thrown out, but as Vegas Inc. reported, Pro last week allowed the brothers to continue pursuing the suit. They claim that Venetian security staff used excessive force and that police were inadequately trained to protect the performers’ 1st Amendment rights.
The brothers have history on their side.
A few years back, after the ACLU filed suit on behalf of street preachers who worked on the Strip, county officials changed an ordinance that prevented them from brandishing signs larger than their bodies. The signs had been anathema to Vegas marketers, with messages such as "The sin and the sinner go straight to hell together."
Photo: Kotton Kandy, a.k.a. Dwayne Dukes, 47, performs for tourists on the Strip. Dukes lost his job selling time shares in Las Vegas and has been posing for pictures for money. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times