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CITYWALK SEEKS, FINDS STRANGENESS IN TRYOUT ARTISTS.

Byline: Jeannette DeSantis Daily News Staff Writer

The call went out for strange.

Strange showed up.

There was the snake charmer with a link of hotdogs and a vicious plastic snake.

There was the pack of jumping hounds taking cues from a man with a mop.

They and more than 50 other eclectic performers showed up Thursday to audition for the chance to wow crowds along Universal's CityWalk.

The five winners - to be selected on originality, presentation, entertainment value and crowd control - will be announced next week and then offered one-year contracts, said Stephanie Parker, entertainment manager for CityWalk.

Billed as an open call for the ``strangest artists in Los Angeles,'' Parker, one of six judges, said almost anything goes.

``I think strange is good - as long as it's not obscene,'' Parker said at the the fifth annual audition. ``Besides, it goes with our motif.''

Before the competition began, fire-eater-comedian-juggler Robert ``The Butterfly Man'' Nelson gave tips to novice performers gleaned from his four years of experience as a CityWalk street performer.

``What separates street performers from all other types of performers are two things,'' said Nelson, who earned his moniker from the two butterfly tattoos on his balding head. ``Get the crowd and then get money from them at the end.''

One hopeful was snake charmer Nanu (as in ``nanu-nanu'') Ferrari.

The 40-year-old Spaniard, who dons a feathered turban and loud cloak, said he has performed in some of the hottest cabarets in South America, and was drawn to the audition only as he waits for the big call from Cirque de Soliel.

``I am only a street performer in L.A.,'' he said.

Ferrari's antics won some laughs, but children got a bigger kick out of a unicyclist who struggled to get on his 5-foot high bike. He managed to juggle three bowling pins for several minutes to the delight of the squealing crowd.

Other acts won over the crowd of tourists, families and other performers with simple style and grace.

The Angels of Venice, who perfected their sounds on the sands of Venice Beach, drew entranced stares from the hard-to-sell and highly mobile crowd with their rendition of ``Scarborough Faire'' on harp and flute.

Meanwhile, the Peruvian-Ecuadoran trio Shungumanda, or ``From the Heart,'' rocked the crowd with their fusion of jungle rhythms.

``We thought it was time to bring our culture to the people,'' said Shungumanda guitarist Luis Remache, who originally hailed from the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. ``No other band has been able to do that, and we want to be the ones.''

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

PHOTO (1) Contest judges, dressed as Laurel and Hardy, get in a mix over an entry in the CityWalk street performers auditions.

(2) Robert ``The Butterfly Man'' Nelson balances a rose on his nose during tryouts to perform at Universal's CityWalk, where Nelson has operated for four years.

David R. Crane/Daily News
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 18, 1997
Words:484
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