Fame eludes those who walk it every day

Confessions of a Superhero

on November 15, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson

Superheroes don’t smoke.”

“Except Ghost Rider. He’s made of fire.”

This exchange, between Christopher Dennis, aka Superman, and an unidentified protégé, aka Ghost Rider, at once captures both the silly humor and the serious business in Matt Ogens’ portrait of the aspiring actors who pay the bills by donning costumes and greeting tourists in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd.

There are rules in this line of work, both written and unwritten. The characters don’t work on tips—they “accept” them. They’re not supposed to approach tourists, and they can’t name amounts. Officers on patrol give pop quizzes on where private property ends and public property begins. There have been arrests.

But, while the audience is rightfully tickled at the sight of Mr. Incredible and Elmo cuffed in the back of a black and white, the truth is there are real people behind those masks, and getting to know them, along with the poignant incorporation of the snapshot aesthetic that’s such a part of their lives, is where Ogens excels.

Dennis was among the first to pace the Walk of Fame in tights and a cape 16 years ago, parlaying his avocation into a clinical obsession with the Man of Steel. Hardly ever seen out of costume—even at his in-person appearances at AFI—Dennis has amassed a collection of Superman memorabilia that swathes the floors, walls and ceilings of the Hollywood apartment he shares with girlfriend Bonnie. A Ph.D. candidate in psychology, she has unique insight into his psyche.

Also profiled is Maxwell “Batman” Allen, a dead ringer for George Clooney whose difficulty getting screen work has less to do with the fact that the industry’s isn’t looking for look-alikes, as he claims, than his temper and tendency to exaggerate his history with the mob. And capturing moviegoers’ hearts are Jennifer “Wonder Woman” Gerht, a Southern transplant who experiences a Las Vegas marriage and Hollywood divorce over the course of the film, and Joseph “Hulk” McQueen, who shows the camera the alley where he used to sleep when he was homeless for four years before landing a part in a legitimate movie.

Both touching and amusing, these four embody the spirit of Hollywood, “a place where dreams are made and dreams are broken.”

Distributor: Arts Alliance America
Cast: Maxwell Allen, Christopher Dennis, Jennifer Gerht and Joseph McQueen
Director: Matt Ogens
Producers: Jamie Patricof, Charlie Gruet and Matt Ogens
Genre: Documentary
Rating: R for some language
Running time: 92 min.
Release date: November 2, 2007 NY/Austin, November 16 LA, November 21 Denver

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