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A Pinocchio Story

A Tale of Two Sides


A rare picture of me performing as the live puppet Pinocchio on Jackson Square, 1982.

Taken with my Pinocchio show in the French Quarter, the manager of the Lakeside shopping center in the suburb of Metairie, hired me to work with Santa.

During the last week of Christmas shopping at the mall, not only did kids get their pictures taken with Santa, the package offered a bonus photo with Pinocchio.

   I waited behind my cart, a new rig that allowed me to stand, a step up from sitting on a stool with my old rig. I stretched, yawned, and batted my eyes, the sequins pasted on my eyelids flashing in the light. But the crowd of kids in front of me stood in shock—traumatized, not thrilled. One started screaming, another broke into tears, and the rest followed. It was total pandemonium.

   Parents chased after toddlers who fled the scene in terror, and those unable to calm down their kids in the throes of hysterics picked them up and hauled them off. Both the manager and I were horrified. He wasted no time hustling me out of there while saying he just didn't get it. Neither did I. It was an odd psychological phenomenon, a tale of two sides—kids in the suburbs were freaked

out by my character as opposed to those in the Quarter who loved it.

   I waited outside in the giant parking lot for a taxi, shaken by my fifteen minutes of infamy. By the time the cab dropped me back at our apartment on Dumaine in the Quarter, far from the hell of suburbia, I laughed at the sheer lunacy of it all.

   Other buskers relentlessly teased me for days. They'd stop by my spot on Jackson Square, scream in mock horror, and run away. One witty soul yelled out, "PINOCCHIO unleashes MASS HYSTERIA in MALL!"

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