Venetian ‘statues’ capitalize on catatonia

May 9, 2005 12:11 AM

Have you ever met someone who stops the hands of time and makes you wait? I did. Now it’s your turn. Meet Michael Scott, a "living statue" at The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian.

It’s easy to get confused about the distinction between a statue, mannequin and a mime. "There’s not much difference between a mannequin and a statue, but a mime uses props and movements, whereas a statue is a stable entity," Scott explains.

Scott is well-equipped for his adventures as a living statue. A native of San Diego, he and his brother did a dancing act that involved "popping." For those who’ve long forgotten or slept through the 1980s, popping was a precursor to break-dancing. Years later, BestAgency, a creative company in Las Vegas, snatched Scott from the planet of popping and positioned him as a clever and charismatic living statue.

Don’t kid yourself, it takes a great deal of patience and physical stamina to perform as a living statue. After three years, Scott knows how to handle a maddening cramp, sneeze or itch.

"I try to never break character, but you by no means get used to the pain," he said.

He handles the discomfort through "mind over matter," as well as interacting with the crowds. However, if it’s a slow day the discomfort can be more pronounced.

Scott entertains for two hours, takes a 20-minute break and is on again for another couple of hours. A living statue can’t talk or move much, so does Scott must mentally amuse himself during those frozen moments.

"I listen to classical music, it helps the time pass and keeps me in a certain mental state," he said.

You’ll never see any electronic gadgets plugged into his ear, though. Scott is well covered in white from head to toe, with a hood covering part of his face.

Clown makeup is applied to the face. "I take a big glob, put it on my face and then apply powder," he said, adding that getting it off is just as easy — a little baby oil and cold cream, and Scott’s back to the real thing.

Spectators don’t affect Scott. "Nothing ever annoys me or surprises me ”¦ people will try to scare me, but I stay in character," he said. "They want you to react, to get out of character."

Some of the stranger things people have tried are eye-to-eye staring contests, in which Scott always wins.

A spirited female fan has even flashed him, but Scott was steadfast and kept his composure. Of course, there’s the usual child’s play of poking and poking back. You’ve got to admit, amidst poking, jabbing and flashing, this could be a really fun, albeit slow-moving, job.

"It’s really fulfilling, it’s amazing how people sit and watch for an hour," he said. "It’s like a suspension of disbelief."

There are some difficult moments, however. According to Scott, striking a balance between the joy of the job and the pain of striking a pose that’s frozen in time can be thorny. Scott does occasionally shift, through subtle, but unblemished body movements that startle the best of them. When eye contact is made, Scott is perfectly still, but as soon as you look away, he’ll move prompting hysterical laughter from onlookers.

People visiting the Venetian can be kind, financially speaking, to a living statue.

"Initially, there were no tips, people just started doing it, and we had to get a bag to collect," he said.

The statue brigade is not your average collection agency, though. It’s a dynamic cast of visual artists from the medieval Renaissance period, which includes jugglers, an Artist Del Artee (vocalist) and the showstopping opera singer, Donna Lucrezia.

They merrily scoop up generous amount of dough from various denominations. Generally, tips are very good, but Scott adds, "We don’t encourage or solicit such instant gratification."

For those fascinated and considering pursuing posing as a living statue by profession, you’ll need to pass the audition test with Gwyn Lloyd-Hughes of BestAgency, a creative company in Las Vegas. Whether or not you land the gig will depend on the audience. Scott’s best advice is to "Always think of it as a statue coming to life, and not as a person trying to be a statue".

The human statues are on display between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Just watching them is an unspoken lesson in tolerance, humility and the value of time and silence.