Boosting business, having fun: the guy in the Statue of Liberty costume
Man tells pros, cons of working as costumed attention-getter for tax services
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Maybe you've grooved along with him as he did the Egyptian.
Or given him an unfriendly hand gesture.
Hopefully you weren't the one who smeared him with ketchup or shot a paint ball at him.
Chances are, though, if you drive up and down the Randall Road corridor any time during tax season, you've at least seen Tim Kelly or one of his co-workers waving at you from the side of the road.
Kelly is one of a handful of part-time employees at Liberty Tax Service centers in the area who don the flowing gown and foam crown each winter, posing as the Statue of Liberty in hopes of drawing customers into the tax preparation business.
Kelly, who waves for both the spot at Randall and Algonquin roads in Lake in the Hills and on McLean Boulevard in Elgin, has been doing the job for eight years.
He's usually out there on the corner waving shortly after the first of the year, and is there seven days a week until tax filing day.
While it might seem like the Statue of Liberty wavers are out there all of the time, they usually do four-hour shifts, and get a 10-minute break each hour — or more if needed — to warm up.
It's a job that Kelly, who dubs himself a natural performer and a goof, says is perfect for him.
"Once you get out there, you really enjoy it. You've kind of got a captive audience and you just have fun with it," he said.
While Kelly does use music to pass the time — switching between Christian rock and classic rock on the Loop radio station — he says he mainly entertains himself by interacting with the passengers in the cars.
Depending on what song is playing in his earphones and who is driving by, he has between 10 and 20 different moves that he does.
For police and firefighters, he'll usually bow down to them.
For older women — Kelly himself is 50 — he'll cross his arms and act like he's in love.
And for the younger crowd he'll do anything from the Egyptian, to pumping his fists, to raising the roof, to Three Stooges moves and more.
Most people react in some way, he said. They'll smile. Or they'll do the moves right back at him.
He gets the least reaction from men around his own age, he said.
Sometimes, of course, the reaction from others isn't what he's hoping for. He's been flipped off numerous times. He's been sworn at. He's had coins thrown at him.
One time, a car full of teenagers drove by several times. The first few times they gave him a high-five. The final time, they had a paper container filled with ketchup in their hands, which they smeared onto Kelly as he reached to give them a high-five.
"You're a target out there for sure," he laughed. "That time, I just had to laugh it off. I yelled to them, 'That was a good one. I wish I'd thought of it.' They were stunned. They didn't think I'd react that way.
"Usually I'm happy. And if they flip me off, I just say a quick prayer for them. Maybe they're having a bad day."
However, one time when a car full of hooligans shot a paintball at him, Kelly and the folks at Liberty Tax did try to track that car down and report it, he said. The majority of people he sees, though, he said, are nice.
One year, he tracked it — counting the number of times he received an inappropriate hand gesture versus the number of times he was blown kisses. He says for every one time he got the bird, there were usually seven or eight times he was blown kisses.
Kelly says he worked in behavioral health for many years, and that experience has helped him know how to react to different people and how to get them to react to him.
And their smiles are what make the job worthwhile.
One day, he was really getting into the job, acting goofy and trying to interact with the crowds. A woman turned around, drove up to him with tears in her eyes, and told him he'd made her day. She said she was having a horrible day until he made her smile, he said.
"It's all good," he said.
Even the temperatures don't seem to bother Kelly.
Under that statuesque gown and foam crown, he wears sweatpants, pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a T-shirt and a jacket. On his feet, a pair of socks covered in thermal socks, and then a good pair of outdoor boots works best, he said.
"You always bring an extra pair of socks and a T-shirt because if your feet get damp or you sweat, having extra of those will take care of it," he said. "Sometimes your fingers get cold, but it's not bad."
But usually, he said, he's moving around so much having fun he doesn't even notice it.
"It's been one of those jobs that has brought me a lot of joy," he said.
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