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May 2003 / from the editor :: email this story to a friend

They're the People That You Meet Each Day
By Amanda E. Doyle

There's nothing like an energetic, fifty-something man in a tutu and tiara, prancing around in pom pom-encrusted drum majorette boots and twirling a baton furiously, to put a smile on your face. By now, surely everyone in the metro area has seen or at least heard of Bob Jamerson, the Central West End's "baton guy," but the rise of his popularity doesn't diminish the effect he has on me every single time I encounter him: I crack up. He's just one of several St. Louis standbys who cannot fail to make me happy when I see them. Having a bad day? Need a reminder of why it's good to live in the Gateway City? Use this handy-dandy "Guide to the Mirthful" and the shortest distance between two points will be a smile.

Another fellow doing his small part to spread goodwill is a man I call "boombox guy." (You'll notice lots of these folks have somewhat generic descriptor names...but it makes it easy for other people to quickly ascertain who you're talking about. "Oh, boombox guy? I've seen him.") Boombox Guy rides a sort of too-old-to-be-new-but-not-nearly-vintage bicycle with a large, clunky boombox bungee-corded and otherwise affixed to the frame; he often pedals past the open door of The Commonspace with his music blaring — usually instrumental, sometimes gospel. More often than not, he's dressed in a dapper suit, shiny shoes and sometimes a jaunty fedora. He's never stopped long enough for me to get his story, but seems content to trail a stream of music in his wake.

The woman clowning around in the intersection of Kingshighway and Delmar seems genuinely happy to be doing what she's doing, handing out little flowers, sometimes candy, or just smiles. Despite the nutty traffic at that corner — folks desperate to turn into The Loop will do just about anything, nearby cops be damned — her serene smile never fades. Of course, it is painted on...and she's got Jesus in her heart, too.

For sheer ubiquity, I don't think anyone can beat Dan Dunsford, Party Planner. This man — and his black-and-white-striped/leopard-spotted van, with a license plate that says "ZEBRA," a bumper sticker that advises, "Support Wildlife; Throw a Party," and a fuzzy tail dragging behind — covers some ground. He lives in my 'hood (drive north on Gustine and you'll see his arty installation of mannequins enjoying a permanent party on his second-story back porch), but I've seen him in Creve Coeur, South County and everywhere in between. I can't say that I've planned a party lately — dogs and lax housekeeping tend to render my abode inhospitable terrain for visitors — but if I had a soirée in mind, you can bet Dan Dunsford, Party Planner, would get the first call.

And finally, there's Father Time. Many people probably live in dread of reminders from this character, but when he's assumed the form of so chipper a fellow as Paul Pagano, he's nothing to fear at all. Pagano appears at Cardinals games, municipal festivals and fetes of every stripe, and even (as in my most recent spotting) just hanging around downtown, wearing bunny ears, holding a sign reading, "Father Time says, 'Happy Easter!'" and waving jovially to drivers on an otherwise unremarkable Friday afternoon.

That's the kind of entertainment that only serendipity in St. Louis can provide.

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