Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Larry Hunt - The Bucketman

Photo: Kevin Hazelton
When I decided to do this project there were a few things that happened that sort of reinforced my notion that this was important enough. One of those I linked in the opening post on the project about Joshua Bell playing in a subway. The movie The Soloist came out. But perhaps the most affirming was the beginning of The Bucketman Campaign. From a blog post (one that gets more hits than I do...), people managed to unite to take care of what I had rightly started to consider a city treasure, our street performers. In this case, the famous Larry Hunt, or as we all know him, Bucketman.

It's easy, once you meet him, to understand why he particularly became beloved. He's just a genuely happy guy to be around. Even when he's scolding his compatriat, a man doing James Brown sing-a-longs complete with mic stand acrobatics who almost hits a passerby with it he's upbeat and likable. He's trying to tell him to conserve his voice because they have a street performer all-star band performance in Union Square later that day.

Oh yeah, he heads an all star street performer band that performs in Union Square. Ideally, I had wanted to cap off this whole thing by filming one of those concerts. Instead, I can only hope they are still going on and encourage anyone who reads this to seek them out.
Photo: Kevin Hazelton

Hunt is also a tireless promoter. Talk to him for a minute you'll get his list of credits, starting with Will Smith's Pursuit of Happyness among other film and television appearances. Honestly, if you're watching a show that takes place in San Francisco you can tell if it's filmed in the city or not by whether or not they include a shot of Mr. Hunt.

His notoriety was such that I was sure he wouldn't need me, but I was wrapping up my first interview with the Supa Lowery Brothers when I turned to see Bucketman politely waiting for me. He quickly shook my hand and introduced himself and asked what I was doing and more importantly that I should do it with him. He gave me the times and places I could find him and any other information he could hurry out and seemed genuinely excited to participate even after I told him I was just some guy and hadn't even started the website yet. None of that mattered, he was anxious to tell me his story as he is anyone else who might ask.
Photo: Kevin Hazelton

A little less of a novelty then Bushman, Bucketman is still an attraction all unto himself. He is kind of an elder statesman of street performers, treating each of them that he encountered (at least three stopped by to see him) with respect and handing out advice when asked. He maintained a schedule that sort of worked like an unofficial version of the Port Authority's that allowed other performers to use his highly valuable space (a drummer had just wrapped up his time in Bucketman's slot, the James Brown singer filled in spots when Mr. Hunt would talk to tourists).

It was my job in San Francisco often to take visiting television crews on site seeing tours to get what they call 'b-roll' of San Francisco and the list was always the same...Coit Tower, Lombard St., Golden Gate Bridge/Fort Point, occasionally the Painted Ladies...etc etc. When you come to San Francisco you'll likely have a similar list. Let me add for you 4th and Market in the mid to late afternoon. Coit Tower is just a tower, Lombard isn't even the most crooked street in the city, the bridge is awesome enough, but it's still a bridge. Bucketman, on the other hand, is a man who enthusiastically plays paint buckets and will actually welcome you to the city. Check him out.
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