Being an eccentric in New York City was once much easier. In the 1970s, the city was crumbling into bankruptcy and awash in crime, and rents were cheap. Painters, performance artists and other quirky types could afford lofts in SoHo. They could take off their clothes in nightclubs and feel perfectly at ease. Today, an increasingly bourgeois New York is comfortable mainly for the polished and the well-to-do. Precious few real eccentrics can afford to remain in the city, even if they wanted to be surrounded by so many squares. Those still here remain a fascination for New Yorkers who pine for the old city even as it disappears. So last month we asked Gawker readers to help us track down some of the most bizarre characters remaining in New York. And you found plenty! With the weekend and Gay Pride parade nearly upon us, the time seems right to show you the results (not that gays are eccentric or anything!). Here are Gotham's 50 greatest modern eccentrics - people like Black Cherokee, the Time Keeper and Toth. Cat-Head Couple, Versace Liberace and Earth Angel. Half before the jump, half after.
26. Newspaper-Wrapped Guy - A man completely wrapped in newspapers on 6th Ave., who floats between 14th and 18th Streets. He is said to have "an innate grasp of all sorts of witty profanity laden combinations and turns of phrase." Known to sometimes sport an aluminum foil helmet and hang outside of the Hollywood Diner on 16th. May be a surly guy called "Don" known to local businesses. Via commenters Unnatural Axe, maevemealone and winniemc.
27. "SIGN THE PETITION" lady - She was often on 6th Ave near Barnes and Nobles. She sang a "SIGN THE PETITION" song for the animals and shrieked it for the humans. Was anti-porn, pro-animal rights. Via commenters shutupitsmine, WireMommy and Helman.
28. The Yarn Couple - The couple in Central Park who "look like they skinned 1000 stuffed animals to make their clothes," which are composed of knitted, rainbow-colored, full-body outfits "with yarn strings dangling off them." A white lady and a black guy. They make and sell colorful bracelets that they forbid anyone to touch or photograph. Via commenters Clarence Rosario and snocone.
29. Fake Homeless Lady - The "homeless lady" who wears only a garbage bag in the summer. The tourists fall for it hook, line and sinker. She can usually be found on 57th Street on a hot summer day. Rumor has it that she owns a brownstone in Harlem. Via commenters kokotaylor and rina.
30. The Alien Man - He wears multicolored clothes, has green, purple and yellow pipe cleaners woven into his cornrows and even has an antenna. He plays a crazy saxophone solo and says he needs fuel to get back to his home planet. "EXCUSE ME, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! I AM FROM PLANET-X! YEARS AGO, MY SPACESHIP CRASHED AND I AM TRYING TO RAISE MONEY TO REPAIR IT SO I CAN RETURN TO PLANET-X! ON MY PLANET, MUSIC SOUNDS LIKE THIS! IF YOU WILL DONATE, I WILL STOP PLAYING!" Via commenters IS_IT_THE_SHOES!? and Allison571.
31. Mrs. Purple - She has purple hair and clothes. She sings beautiful arias in the subway, sometimes in the 14th St corridor. She is African American, a bit older, heavy set and plays an electronic keyboard. There were two "Purple People," male and female, around 1976-1978 who wore all purple and rode purple bikes, so it's possible she and Mr. Purple were once an item. Via commenters DogwoodBark and ShevantiDelphi.
32. Mr. Purple - Walked around Upper West Side in the 70s and 80s with a live boa-constrictor wrapped around himself. Via commenter rubyriver.
33. Subway Curse Woman - On the F train there was an Asian woman who would issue curses to everyone. Not swearing but actual curses. "Oh I see you reading that bad Esquire magazine! 48 curses on you! You go to hell now! That look you gave me is good for 1000 more curses! You have 45,000 curses on you now!" Via commenter inseptiv.
34. Subway "Ain't No Sunshine" Performer - Rides the F Train with a guitar autographed by Ziggy Marley. Also carries a little portable amp. He only knows how to play Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine", though he was once heard playing "Redemption Song." Via commenter UnnaturalAxe.
35. Subway "Sorry" Performer - A scrawny African American guy, who rides the 2,3 train. He wears leather pants and has an amp strapped to him. Plays electric guitar and constantly sings Tracy Chapman's "Sorry, Is all that you can say." Via commenter DogwoodBark.
36. Subway "Girl From Ipanema" Performer - An older woman with large glasses/sunglass and a mini-keyboard playing the "Girl from Ipanema," usually with stuffed animals around. Via email tipster.
37. Tennis Racquet Guy - A black guy, found usually at South Street Seaport, who folds himself up and then puts himself through a de-stringed tennis racquet. Via commenter sassypants.
38. Doowop Time - Older black men subway performers who start their act by asking somebody what time it is. They then respond by yelling, "No! It's Doowop Time!" Via commenter collegecallgirl.
39. Black Flintstones Guy - He wears a brown sweater/dress with a fleece, leopard-print scarf as a belt, and he carries a large bag of magical surprises. Via commenter ITTYKNOCKERS.
40. Goth Ben Franklin - He lives in Williamsburg and apparently, he coat checks at Studio B to earn a living. Via commenter werewolf.
41. The Rubber Band Bum - He used to always be in Nolita. He would cover his entire body first in plastic grocery bags and would hold these in place with hundreds of rubber bands. Looks somewhat like a plastic marshmallow man. Via commenter werewolf.
42. Garbage-Bag Man - The man on Broome street who wears a whole garbage bag outfit AND reads the newspaper upside down. He has been known to spit on passer-byes. Via commenter soul_sundays.
43. Polka Dot Lady - She paints dots on all her clothes or any baggage she might have with her. Seen in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Via commenter lasertronic.
44. Metal Mike - Often seen hanging around Bowery in the early nineties. Claimed he was "Everybody's favorite Bum." Carried a cell phone and business cards. Via commenter gringuitico.
46. Pizza Polisher - On weekdays and only in the summer, a homeless man rubs discarded pizza slices on the arms of Segal's lesbian statues in Sheridan Square. Via commenter Hamud Ibn Hamud.
47. Red Makeup Lady - The crazy bad dye job redhaired bob lady who makes 'blush circles' and wears Kabookie lipstick. Via commenter DinaRonson.
48. Keith Richards on Wheels Guy - An old frightening bike messenger who wears a vest and a top hat and who curses violently at anyone within sight. There is a skull and crossbones on his top hat. Via commenter DonPardoCalrissian.
49. Tatoo-Covered Old Guy - An elderly super skinny man who is covered head to toe in tattoos who marches up and down first avenue in a leather hat and plaid golf shorts. Via commenter meglantine.
50. Tattoo-Face Office Worker - Muscley-man in suit with tattooed face. Almost every morning he gets on the subway at wall street. He has a fully shaved and tatted head and face and stretched earlobes. Other than that, however, he looks like every other person headed to midtown corporate offices and he even rocks a bow-tie. Via commenter hypocriteoath.
Credits: Intern Nicola Gherson worked heroically to compile an initial list, which was then revised, expanded and converted into what you see below.