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Mr. Pitts
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David Pitts
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I'm happy the tickets were dismissed Eric. Like Forrest Gump said, "that's one less thing". But I'm disappointed for you, and for San Antonio too. You were bringing something of quality to that spot. I'm sorry the lawyers I tried to get to look at your case ended up not working out.

I've learned a lot about how the city views busking over the last few years. I was one of the guys who was working Houston Street when Centro San Antonio and the city started the pilot program. At first, I was very excited about it. As you know, San Antonio absolutely didn't allow busking for a long time. After I moved here in 2001 I thought it looked like a great city for busking. Lots of tourists and foot traffic, especially right there around the Alamo. So, I thought I'd try to go about it the right way, ask about regulations, try to get permission or a permit. It became clear pretty quickly that the city only wanted busking during certain festivals, and then not really, no 'hatting'. Street performance was ok, sometimes, sort of, under very specific circumstances. So really, for all intents and purposes, busking just wasn't tolerated.

So, when it looked like they were going to give it a try, even encourage it, I was pretty excited. I signed up, got an assigned spot down on Houston across from The Majestic, I worked my shifts, collected my little stipend and thought we were really getting somewhere. I tried very hard to be dedicated, professional and as entertaining as possible. I got some positive press and mentioned the new city busking program in a very positive way.

Verbal hatting was allowed and so was amplification. I could even plug into city power with my little amp. Hats were small, because as a ventriloquist, I found a trickle show was what worked for me. If it weren't for the stipend, it wouldn't have been worth it. Their goal was to pull foot traffic down Houston, and they were promoting Tuesday nights. They softened up the city to the idea of busking (the funding for the stipend was from the city to begin with).

But ultimately, they had very specific ideas about what would be allowed, and how they thought it would work. They thought buskers would bring more pedestrians down Houston Street and also into Travis Park. I have learned both by experience now, and by talking to you and Jimmy, that's not how it works. Buskers go where the foot traffic is, not the other way around. The city saw buskers as sort of decoration, a controlled attraction, and enough to pull pedestrians down into quiet side streets and empty downtown parks.

And at the same time they made the busking ordinance official, the stipend went away. Also, in the same ordinance, they banned verbal hatting and amplification. These three things, no stipend, no verbal hatting and no amplification ran off all the performers from the original program. You just couldn't make it worth it in the quiet corners of downtown where they wanted us to work, without those things. I think, even after they pulled the stipend, I would have continued, but without amplification I really couldn't work effectively as a vent. Plus, half my jokes were about the hat. Once I took a good look at the new ordinance, it became clear that it wasn't designed to be great for buskers. Was this the result of ignorance on the city's part, or was it their intention, I don't know. But the effect is the same. We're hardly better off than we were when busking was specifically banned. I was told by Centro, when the ordinance went into effect, that the Ruins pitch was going to be allowed, but apparently, that isn't the case. I see no good reason for the city to ban that spot, but then, I'm not a city official and have no idea what their motives are.

I suspect that it may have to do with them having other plans for Alamo Plaza in the long run. The carnival atmosphere on that side of the street will probably be going away as the leases run out, because the city has bought up all those buildings. They've been talking about completely changing Alamo Plaza into more of a museum type space. I don't know how that's all going to play out, but I suspect that pitch won't be any good anyway in two or three years.

I'm sorry to see you go though. I drove by you doing your show at that pitch a handful of times, but by the time I parked and got back to the spot, you had vanished. I'm sorry I haven't been able to meet you and watch your show in person. I'm hoping you change your mind about leaving, actually, but I know you understand the business way better than I do, so I know you've got good reasons for whatever you do.

Let me know if you're in town and I'll try to catch up with you one of these days.

David Pitts
The Astonishing Mr. Pitts
Comedy Magician and Ventriloquist
Eric Evans
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Rio Grande
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Profile of Eric Evans
Thank you Mr. Pitts. I regret that chance wasn't more kind and that we might have met on that specific pitch. I feel so honored, as a performer, but much more, as a Texan, to have played that particular pitch. It is appropriate to be reverant and respectful on such hallowed ground.

After having spent the better part of 30 years putting together a show that I would feel comfortable performing in front or aristocracy, royalty, celebrities and most importantly, common street folk, I too feel that San Antonio missed an opportunity.

And yes, they (the city council) most assuredly want to turn the whole area into some sort of solemn museum.

Somehow I can't but help the feeling that they've (the city council) lost sight of why all those "Texians, Mexicans, and New Orleans Greys" fought to the death all those years ago.
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