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Community Folklore – San Francisco

“There’s this guy that’s known for standing behind large objects, like poles or like trashcans and even trees. Around Pier 39, which is umm.. a really big tourist attraction. He’s usually holding like really big branches with leaves on them and he’s usually trying to hide himself behind it. The humor is that you can definitely see him behind the branches. When people pass by him, he tries to scare them and 90% of the time it works. Usually, he draws crowds from across the street to watch him, so people are usually watching him, but at the same time ‘not watching him’ scare unsuspecting bystanders. People tip him on occasion, and it’s said that he makes over $40,000 a year throughout the year and the government doesn’t take any of his money. There have been documentaries made out of him. Definitely, because he makes a living off of scaring stupid people. He usually just does this at during the day when the tourists are around. He doesn’t really do it at night. I hear about reports of people hitting him, just from being really scared. I heard he was offered a TV show, but he turned it down. He’s a really big deal in San Francisco.”

The Bushman is a street entertainer in San Francisco, who hides behind a fake self-made bush and scares innocent people passing by his domain. He is considered by San Francisco residents as a sort side attraction, and can almost be considered part of the city. Bernadette said that he was supposedly homeless before, but now makes his career off of scaring the tourists in San Francisco.

She remembers that her first encounter with the Bushman was when she was around 14. Bernadette was going into the city with her family, when her brother-in-law pointed the Bushman out. She was at Pier 39, near a restaurant looking out towards the pier, when he saw the Bushman lunge into action. Because she saw him prey on other people, she was careful to not be a victim herself. Later on, Bernadette said that she would hear more stories about the Bushman from the television and when she went with other people to the area.

Bernadette said that she would tell other people about the Bushman mainly if they were visiting San Francisco. However, she said that she probably would not tell them before letting them experience the scare firsthand. She would find an excuse to take them there and walk by where he waits. After the scare, she said it would be appropriate to provide a background story. The Bushman would also come up in conversations about San Francisco and the unique tourist attractions.

Although hiding behind a bush might have started out as a get-rich-quick scheme, Bernadette says that the Bushman has turned into more of a landmark, a self-made tourist attraction. “If anybody tried to take him down, I think it would be an insult to San Franciscans.” She said. He has become an attraction and a part of the community. Bernadette said that the people who complain about him take the whole joke too seriously. He is just out to get a couple of laughs.

If I was ever “bushed,” I do not think that I would be angry. Yet, I do see the problem some people would have with what can be loosely associated with harassment. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Bushman, legally known as David Johnson, had been charged with a few misdemeanors for scaring people, which were later dropped to allow his scare tactics to  continue to plague Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I do, however, think that his idea is less than original, considering all the other look-alikes, fake statues, and people dressed up in random costumes displaying their “talents” at tourist attractions. Though I do think the fact that he draws crowds to watch him in action says something about the voyeurism prevalent in American culture. With shows like “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Candid Camera,” it is no surprise why a Bushman, who simply sits in wait of his next victim, is able to capture so much media attention that there have even been documentaries made about him. Although the Bushman may just see his “jobs” as a harmless prank, his success is one of the many forms of perversity in American culture. He is a legendary figure that has spawned many stories as well as factual accounts of his eccentric activities.

Annotation: Mattier, Phillip, and Andrew Ross. “Bushman of Fisherman’s Wharf Gets the Last

Ugga-Bugga.” San Francisco Chronicle 7 Apr. 2004. 16 Feb. 2008 <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/04/07/BAG6P61GPA1.DTL&hw=bushman&sn=006&sc=347>.

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