When asked what his goal was for this performance, this 49 year old actor says it’s just one thing… “Hope”. I’ll admit my first thought when I heard this story was, “desperate” but like many others I must say I’ve become a true fan.
In this remote town of West Texas it didn’t take me too long to locate this unique talent. Unless you’re from Sweetwater, you wouldn’t recognize this actor; he’s never been in any movies, shows or main stage plays before. In fact, other than a few bit parts at a community theater, this is the first acting job he’s ever had, and it wasn’t even one he had to audition for. But now, all it takes to find him is to ask the first person you come across where he is that day. That sure worked for me.
The locals know this man as “Chappy” and despite the obvious freeloading nature of his position in life… they all have accepted him, some even to the point of true fondness. It’s not a big town and as part of his “act”, every day of the week he has a set begging location. It’s a regularly scheduled program of sorts that by now everyone is well aware. Tammy Russell, the local mail carrier, said she never has to wonder what day it is when out on her route.
“He’s pretty well become a landmark at this point.” Tammy said, “I’ll even stop if he’s not where he’s supposed to be and make sure he’s just taking a bathroom break or something before I move on with my day. I wouldn’t be able to think of anything but where he could be if he wasn’t in one of his regular spots.”
There are many types of beggars and panhandlers out there for many different reasons but Chappy is undoubtedly the first to be subsidized by the NEA as an art project. I’ll bet some of you might even be wishing you had thought of this before he did. The National Endowment for the Arts has been giving out grants since 1965 and this is the first of it’s kind. And yes… he does pocket any cash he pulls in on the job too. If that isn’t double dipping I don’t know what is. But still, they love him.
Turns out this previously failed actor/LA waiter extraordinaire, had a crazy plan that paid off, and paid well. He’s now the third highest paid person in Sweetwater. With but one MLB retiree and one “Dot Commer” ahead of him on the pay scale, he is doing pretty damn good for himself. But why do they love him? I can hear my father in law’s blood boiling at this “preposterously lazy exploitative expletive”. After following Chappy around for a couple of day’s, making barely a dollar an hour, I soon learned that most days were really a bust, it was actually the annual Rattlesnake Roundup in town where he “earned” the majority of his charitable wages. The town swells in size with visitors spending money on all sorts of crazy stuff, and Chappy is there to pick up the change, and a good deal of it at that. When all’s said and done, the roundup accounts for pretty close to half his yearly take while the regular trailer truck traffic and endowment grant account for the rest. But that still doesn’t answer why the town folks more than tolerate him.
To put it short… although this guy hasn’t saved a dime, through his local gym membership, regular status at the Corner Bar, tenant at one of the nicest houses in town, volunteer as referee for the local High School football team, and constant dining out, his subsidy has become the town’s. In a quick few months when his three year endowment comes to an end, all they’ll have left of him is the documentary he’s been piecing together. He’s calling it “Bum Bites, How To Not Work and Still Eat Out All The Time”.