Almost every community has one or two of them: persons who everyone knows, even if you have never spoken to them. Some local characters have gained nationwide recognition via internet. If your neighborhood doesn't have one, you can follow a character from somewhere else! Here are five basic examples of different types of local characters.
Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton seems to belong to an earlier century. Sutton is a renowned moonshiner in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. He got his nickname from the night he shot a popcorn machine that took his money. Sutton charges $5 for tourists to have their picture taken with him, then he tells stories of the moonshining business. He published a book of stories, Me and My Likker. Local authorities tolerate him for the tourism he draws, but the ATF arrested him in 1974, 1981, and 1985. It happened again in March of 2008, when Sutton was found in the possession of more than 850 gallons of moonshine.
Prince Mongo has been a fixture in Memphis, Tennessee as long as I can remember, but his home planet is Zambodia. Mongo's legal name is Robert Hodges and he is quite wealthy from his behind-the-scenes ownership of bars and restaurants. He has run for political office a few times. Prince Mongo takes in homeless people at his mansion in an upscale Memphis neighborhood, where he displays bizarre artworks in the yard such as coffins and a collection of 50 toilets. He's also been known to dress in strange costumes and howl during the night. The neighbors are chronically concerned.
Larry Perrier is the Flip-flop Man. Folks in towns all over west-central Florida see him running or walking thousands of miles every year, always in flip-flops. He covers 25 to 50 miles a day, rain or shine. Perrier quit drinking in 1989 and turned to running as a substitute. He wears flip-flops because they are close to going barefoot. Marathon runners have a hard time keeping up with the 63-year-old. Perrier's story inspired a short student documentary, There's Something About Larry, available online.
The Town Drunk
Mayberry had Otis; Lexington, Kentucky has Henry Earl. With over 1300 arrests, mostly for public intoxication, the homeless and jobless Earl has been adopted by internet forums beginning with Fark. There are quite a few websites dedicated to Earl's arrest record. The Smoking Gun has a collection of mugshots, and Earl has made numerous television appearances.
Sometimes just being seen is enough to make someone a local character. The blog Find He-Man chronicles the sightings of a muscular but unnamed man spotted in Manhattan. There are plenty of pictures and reader contributions, but also flights of fancy which make it hard to discern what's real and what's fictional about the site. Still, there are those pictures... and an occasional video.
What kind of local character grabs attention in your hometown?
Update: due to overwhelming response, several more posts were published.
7 Fascinating Local Characters brought you profiles from New Orleans, Boston, Toronto, Austin, Ann Arbor, MI, Anderson, SC, and Wellington, NZ,
9 Wonderful Local Characters featured folks from Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, St. Louis, St. Cloud, MN, and Adelaide, Australia.
7 More Unforgettable Local Characters has colorful characters from Peoria, IL, San Marcos, TX, New Haven, CT, Wheeling, WV, Ocean City, MD, Omaha, NB and Montreal.
6 of Your Favorite Local Characters profiles people you've seen in Seattle, Austin, Madison, WI, Jacksonville, NC, and one you are too young to have ever met from San Francisco.