I typically see the same homeless people everyday. They become part of the fabric of my work environment after a while, so when all of sudden one of the faces you see everyday disappears, you notice. I may not miss their faces, but when it’s the face of Lionel Richie, that’s a different story.
This guy first appeared sometime last spring. At first I didn’t realize that he was homeless. He didn’t smell like piss, or look dirty, and he actually had fairly decent clothes on. He blended in, but once you get lulled into being comfortable by that, that’s when the begging starts. I remember that he was asking people for money in front of the restaurant, and part of my job is to shoo away street people so that our guests can go on pretending that they don’t exist. When I told him that he had to get lost, he said “I’m Lionel Richie, just give me a dollar.” I laughed and he walked off. The weird thing is, he looks exactly like Lionel Richie. He has the same hair, same mustache, same blind girl making a sculpture of his head out of clay, and he walks around singing “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?”
Several days later, I walked up on him doing as many push ups as he could for $5 dollars. This was his idea, and I admit I was amused by it, so I let it go. But the homeless are like bears, the more you feed them (in this case money), the more brazen they become. Eventually he’d aggressively beg people as they were coming out of the restaurant, so I had to intervene. Right as he was beginning his spiel I grabbed him hard by the arm, it was more of an uncomfortable pinch if you will, and guided him down the street as I said “Time to go Lionel Richie, I think your daughter needs you.” He was not amused, “Don’t you dare put your hands on me.” He struggled to get free. “Then don’t give me a reason to.” I give him a little push in a direction away from the restaurant and that was it. I saw him from afar, several times after that, until all of a sudden he disappeared last fall. I didn’t even notice that he was gone, since some other strange character most likely took his place.
After such a long time, I was surprised to see that he was sitting against the building next to my podium when I arrived at work. I was overjoyed. Where had he been? Before I could even talk to him he vanished as quickly as he appeared, much like Lionel Richie’s career.
There’s another homeless musical celebrity look-alike that I’ve seen almost everyday for the past few months. It’s a woman with an amazing wig, that I call The Lady with the James Brown Hair. It seriously looks like James Brown’s hair. It’s shiny, in the same style, and every time she stops and bends down to tie her shoes, I want to run up and put a cape over her shoulders, even though I know that she will just get right back up and throw off the cape. She always complains that this is a man’s world, and I always have to remind her that it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.