When Sandra Allen moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas last fall with her husband, Maxwell, it was to avoid the expensive rent found in Southern California. The plan was for her to find work while her husband worked the Vegas strip as a part-time Batman impersonator. After three months and no job offers, Sandra had no choice but to join her husband as a Las Vegas street performer impersonating Minnie Mouse. It wasn’t exactly the job she expected to land in Sin City.
"No," laughed the Minnie Mouse impersonator. "I thought it would just be temporary.”
Back in California, Sandra had worked in the catering industry and managed a 7-Eleven convenience store. Maxwell worked as a security guard on movie sets, but was also able to make some side cash as a Batman impersonator on Hollywood Boulevard.
They were unsuccessful when it came to landing real jobs in Las Vegas and have now joined SpongeBob Squarepants, Sonic the Hedgehog and other cartoon characters on the strip that make a living from tips as full-time street performers.
"The unemployment rate in Vegas is pretty high," said Maxwell. "A lot of casinos are laying off, so it's become my living.”
While the idea of individuals sporting full-on costumes in the triple-digit heat of Sin City may sound crazy, it's one of the few opportunities to make money in the state. According to the latest statistics from the Department of Labor, Nevada had the nation’s highest unemployment rate in May at 12.1 percent.
“When you go to apply for a job, there’s sometimes 3,000 people applying for the same job,” said Sandra. “The competition is just horrendous.”
And life for street performers isn’t exactly glamorous. Maxwell can tell you firsthand how dangerous it is.
"Well everybody has seen that, all you have to do is go to YouTube!" said the Batman impersonator, who was filmed being punched by a passerby on the Las Vegas strip who attacked him for no apparent reason this past Mothers Day.
“It was a great day,” said Maxwell. “I was just taking pictures and he came from the side and punched me right off the box I was sitting on and into the rocks.”
Sandra’s Minnie Mouse getup tends to attract a much friendlier crowd.
"There's nothing greater than a kid coming up saying 'Minnie, Minnie, Minnie' and just running and giving you the most heartfelt hug,” she said.
For safety purposes, the Allens declined to provide their income as performers on the strip. But Maxwell did reveal a ballpark estimate of how much they made during the busy 4th of July weekend.
“It was between $700 and $1000," said Maxwell.
The duo will continue to brave the Vegas heat and work for tips to keep the lights on at home. Let’s just hope Robin is around the next time someone picks on Batman.