Strip street performers: Nuisance or novelty? - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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Strip street performers: Nuisance or novelty?

Posted: Updated: May 15, 2014 10:07 PM
Marv, a street musician in Las Vegas, strums his guitar as tourists pass. (FOX5) Marv, a street musician in Las Vegas, strums his guitar as tourists pass. (FOX5)
A person dressed as Elmo walks along the Las Vegas Strip with tourists. (FOX5) A person dressed as Elmo walks along the Las Vegas Strip with tourists. (FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

From naughty nuns to a grownup Elmo, there's no shortage of colorful characters on the Las Vegas Strip. Some pose for pictures. Others strum instruments. All of them are trying to make some cash along the tourist hot spot.

"They go to give him a dollar, and he says, 'Oh! No! It's more than that!" said Marv, a guitarist who plays for passers-by on the pedestrian bridge leading to The Cosmopolitan. He's relating a story about a Star Wars character he's witnessed shaking down tourists for an extra buck. "Every person for three hours, I watched this guy, had to go back in their purse or wallet and give him more money. He intimidated them. Strong-arm robbery is what it is."

The aggressiveness of the costumed characters and card flippers, along with the placement of newspaper racks and other obstructions, created such a hostile and dangerous environment for visitors that the Clark County Commission ordered a 200-page study that identified 17 problem areas on the Strip.

"We've done a lot from what it was two years ago," said Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak. "If you look back, the Strip is a lot better. The experience is a lot better than it was two years ago."

But, how much is too much? It's a balancing act that Hollywood's famed boulevard has also faced. In fact, some of the characters along the Strip split their time between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The difference is the characters and vendors are more numerous and more aggressive in LA.

The one summer Los Angeles was able to clear out the vendors and performers, business in the area jumped by as much as 50 percent. That ended when the ACLU sued and the city settled, allowing them to return.

"We know that a number of them aren't so benign," said Los Angeles Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who represents the Hollywood district. "We don't have the help from the state, that extra tool I'd like to have."

Back in Las Vegas, Sisolak said more regulations could be in the future for the Strip performers and vendors, including a zone where they are allowed to set up shop.

Even some of the performers on the Strip agree something has to be done, including Marv the guitarist. The 40-year veteran street musician said requiring a license would separate the true entertainers from those looking for quick cash.

"The more they charge for a license, the happier we all will be," Marv said. "A lot of these people, they roll in from LA [and] they just take over. They're not really playing."

Sisolak said the county is about halfway through its 30-point checklist to clean up the Strip - something a lot of people will be watching.

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