2. Robin Byrd
Who she is: A former porn actress who has hosted a late-night cable access show that’s been running since 1977 featuring local strippers. It’s only on in Manhattan public access, and has been in reruns since 1998.
Her national fame moment: Cheri Oteri impersonated her on a Saturday Night Live sketch parody of the show.
3. Dan Smith (who will teach you guitar)
Who he is: A guitar teacher.
5. Cat head guy
Who he is: a guy who walks around with a cat on his head.
Only true New Yorkers know: He’s a total asshole. If you’ve ever encountered him, you probably witnessed this scene: A tourist tries to take his photo and he demands they pay him for the photo. Buddy, you’re walking around with a cat on your head — stop playing coy.
10. The Naked Cowboy
Who he is: Robert John Burck wears underwear and a cowboy hat and plays guitar in Times Square. What’s more to know?
Most absurd moment: In 2010 he announced he was running for president for the tea party.
11. Jim Power, the Mosaic Man
Who he is: a Vietnam vet and artist who makes the mosaics on telephone poles around the city.
Why the city loves him: Although he’s technically defacing public property, the city allows him to continue his art project, and in 2004, Mayor Bloomberg signed a proclamation thanking Power for “beautifying the city with distinctful, artful mosaics.”
12. The “It’s showtime!” subway dance troupes
Who they are: There’s more than one troupe out there that break-dances and does flips on the subway, but the best is the sibling act where the oldest brother tosses the little brother in the air while he’s doing a flip.
How you’ll know they’re coming: “What time is it? It’s showtime!” The words every New Yorker knows to mean fear of an accidental kick to the head.
[This gif is from a hilarious video by Keith Haskel where some “dorks” dance battle the subway dancers. Please enjoy it.]
13. The Quarter Guy
Who he is: Quarter Guy hangs around Union Square and environs, asking people if they have a quarter. Always just a quarter. He looks like a normal, non-homeless person, so his panhandling catches you off guard. It’s an interesting social phenomenon how we react very differently to a well-dressed person asking for change than a homeless person. His gambit was especially effective back in the days of pay phones because you assumed he just needed to make a phone call.
What’s his deal? Quarter Guy’s real identity is unknown. Bob Smith has been cataloging the weirdos of Union Square in his project “Amazing Strangers” and has had several weird run-ins with Quarter Guy, who does not want to be photographed.
15. Jimmy McMillan
Who he is: perennial candidate for mayor/senator/governor/whatever from the Rent Is Too Damn High Party.
Greatest moment: In the 2010 gubernatorial race, he appeared on the televised debate with Cuomo wearing black gloves. He was parodied on SNL by Kenan Thompson that week.
16. The Bedford Avenue Mystic
Who he is: some crazy guy who looks like a Mystic who hangs on on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg constantly.
Why he’s famous: He’s always, always around. Rumor is he previously was the Thompkins Square Park Mystic before moving to Williamsburg.
18. Jimmy Webb
Who he is: The manager of Trash & Vaudeville, the famous punk clothing store on St. Marks.
How you know him: Even if you’ve never set foot in the store, somehow Jimmy is the most famous retail worker in the world. He always ends up on TV whenever “punk fashion” is involved. He’s got that crazy high nasally voice and always has midriff showing, and is a beautiful shining beacon of Only in New York-ness.
19. Mike Francesa
Who he is: WFAN sports radio talk show host.
Sleepiest moment: When he fell asleep on air while interviewing someone over the phone (GIF above is the moment he woke up at the mic). Francesa is adamant he didn’t fully fall into slumber, but you be the judge based on that startled head bop.
20. Reverend Billy
Who he is: Conceptual performance artist Bill Talen leads the Church of Stop Shopping as “Reverend Billy,” an over-the-top preacher character who warns of the excesses of consumerism.
Where you’ll find him: He’s one of those New York people who is kind of just everywhere. Any whiff of a good protest like Occupy Wall Street will bring him out.
21. Andre J
Who he is: former employee of Patricia Fields and current night club promoter-scenester who is recognizable for his beard, long hair, women’s clothing, and heels.
Why you’d recognize him: He doesn’t exactly blend into the crowd. Next time you see a beautiful black man with a beard, chiseled physique, and sexy womenswear, it’s going to be him.
22. Moire Johnston
Who she is: the woman who goes around topless in the East Village.
Why she does it: Well, technically it’s not illegal for women to be topless in NYC; anywhere it’s legal for men to be shirtless, women can be shirtless. Johnston is raising awareness of this issue.
23. Curtis Sliwa
Who he is: founder of the Guardian Angels, a vigilante crew in the ’70s to patrol the crime-ridden subways. Silwa has been a talk radio host since the early ’90s and appears on NY1’s political talk show Road to City Hall.
Deadliest moment: In 1992, he was shot in a taxi cab. John Gotti was brought to trial on charges, allegedly ordering the hit because he was mad at something Sliwa said on his radio show. The charges against Gotti were dropped after a jury failed to convict him.
24. Elegant Elliot Offen
You may know him as: the guy who jogs in women’s lingerie around midtown and the Upper East Side.
Claim to fame: A long time member of Howard Stern’s “wack pack,” Offen has been on the show dozens of times espousing his theory that women’s lingerie is more comfortable to jog in that regular clothes. He was voted the “Most Hated Guest of All Time” on the show due to his extremely argumentative tone and rapid-fire way of speaking that’s impossible to interrupt.
27. Wendell the Garbage Man
Where you’ll find him: Hanging around Union Square looking like this.
What’s his deal? Bob Smith writes about Wendell on his Amazing Strangers series (it’s really excellent — PLEASE check it out, you will love it):
“He’s not insane but pretends to be. He’s got nothing to say, but tries very hard to look like he does. He’s a magnet for newbies to the park who are eager to befriend ‘weird New York’ but have no idea what they’re really getting into.”
28. Roscoe the Bedbug Dog
Who he is: a lovable beagle who sniffs out bedbug infestations employed by Bell Environmental pest control (don’t you just love a dog with a job?).
When you’ll see him: Let’s hope you never have to meet Roscoe in real life, only in the TV ad where everyone says, “Where’s Roscoe?!” Because if you meet Roscoe, that means you have bedbugs and your life is basically fucked.
29. De La Vega
Who he is: James De La Vega is an East Harlem–based street artist who is best know for his murals and kind of schmaltzy chalk aphorisms on sidewalks.
His Upper East Side moment: He collaborated with Tory Burch on a handbag collection (a portion of the proceeds for the line went to charity).
30. Funkmaster Flex
Who he is: Hot 97’s most popular DJ who does the weekend night shift. I’ll go ahead and say it: He’s the most important broadcaster in hip-hop, and one of the top radio talents out there. The new artists Funk Flex plays blow up a month later, and he gets the best interviews and guests. Notably he had the first interview Lil Wayne made from inside prison.
And you shall know him by: the air raid sirens, constant yelling, and his penchant for starting the exact same song over three times in a row when he knows it’s a really good song. He’s pretty much the greatest.
31. This crazy guy who yells a lot in midtown
Who he is: No idea about his real identity.
Where you’ll find him: When you least expect him and least want him.
Correction: A previous version of this post stated Jimmy Webb was the store owner instead of manager.
- Sixteen people died after a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in Texas Saturday.