Sign of the times

A man holds a sign and tries to attract attention to a new

Gilroy
– Do a double-take, if you must, but it’s not going to look any
different the second time. Yes, that is a man sitting on an
ostrich, waving at cars as they pass.
In an advertising world full of gimmicks, the latest is the
dancing ad. Sometimes they’re people standing on a street corner,
doing a jig while holding a sign for a new housing development.
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – Do a double-take, if you must, but it’s not going to look any different the second time. Yes, that is a man sitting on an ostrich, waving at cars as they pass.

In an advertising world full of gimmicks, the latest is the dancing ad. Sometimes they’re people standing on a street corner, doing a jig while holding a sign for a new housing development. Around Christmas, they were snowmen, reindeer and Christmas trees who did the twist and directed customers to a Christmas supply store.

Johnny Garcia sits on the back of an ostrich.

Googooli, a hair salon for children, hired Garcia a month ago. He and the ostrich – named “Goose” – can be found around town nearly every day, weather permitting, with a Googooli sign and brochures.

Friday afternoon, Garcia and Goose perched outside Chuck E. Cheese’s in the Pacheco Pass Center east of Highway 101 as a little brown-haired girl approached. She held her father’s hand and stared, wide-eyed, at the ostrich. Garcia greeted the pair and pulled on the ostrich’s reins to make its head bob. The ostrich stamped its feet, and the girl started and jumped a few feet toward the restaurant. Then she smiled.

“That looks like the picture at my school,” she said, as she walked up to pet its brown fur.

Garcia’s job is much more fulfilling than might be expected for a man who dresses up like an ostrich.

“I enjoy seeing the smiles that I’m able to give to people,” Garcia said. “It’s real funny to see the kids wave and smile, even if I’m out there at 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning.”

The 28-year-old works shifts of three to four hours, at different times of day, at various locations frequented by children. He generally stands on the sidewalk, unless a business such as Chuck E. Cheese’s gives him permission to be there.

“I’ve had people take pictures of me with their camera phones. I’ve had a volleyball team come and take their picture with me,” Garcia said. “Kids come pet me or touch my legs. They think it’s a real bird until I move it’s feet.”

The legs hanging over the back of the ostrich are actually fake and Garcia’s legs are covered by the costume to look like they belong to the animal.

Ladan Ghajari, Googooli’s owner, said she picked the ostrich costume to attract kids’ attention, and it seems to be working. Its design, with an uncovered top half, also means Garcia can stay cool, even in Gilroy summers. The salon does other advertising, but tried out this dancing sign and kept it because people took notice.

Garcia, a Gilroy resident, says he never really gets bored during his shifts. Sometimes he’ll change locations every hour or so, which keeps things interesting.

“I listen to a Walkman, that’s what gets me to dance,” he said. “I’m pumping my fists, I’m just going with the flow of the music.”

Usually, it’s raps by 2Pac that get him moving.

Garcia earns $10 an hour, which allows him to support a wife and 10-month-old son.

“It is a job and I’m doing it for my son,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I’m able to be the responsible man I need to be. It gives me the opportunity to buy diapers.”

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