As we left the airplane in San Francisco, the flight attendant told us to watch out for the Bushman. We did not know about she was referring to but told her we would. On our first day we encountered the Bushman, this is his story.
David Johnson, known as the Bushman, is a homeless man who has been scaring passers-by along Fisherman’s Wharf since 1980. Johnson hides motionless behind some eucalyptus branches and waits for unsuspecting people to wonder by. When they approach, he shakes the bush towards the unsuspecting tourists and startles them. Crowds gather to watch him work, often including those he has previously scared. Crowds usually watch Johnson across the street from where he sits, to see him entertain people. In a “good year”, Johnson claims to earn $60,000. At one point, he employed a bodyguard to protect himself against attacks by the people who are not amused, to distract his targets and to alert him to the approach of elderly people so he could avoid scaring them. The police have received a number of complaints about the Bushman and Fisherman’s Wharf merchants have tried to shut him down. In 2004 he was charged with four misdemeanors, but a jury cleared him. The District Attorney subsequently dropped several remaining public nuisance complaints.
If the flight attendant had not mentioned the Bushman, we would not have thought the that the bush on the sidewalk was a little strange. Looking closer, we noticed there was a person behind the bush, so he didn’t “get” us. Later while waiting for the streetcar, he came walking down the street with his bush.