'Weed Man' and 'Beer Man' in NYC panhandler brawl

The growing tension between buskers recalls Times Square's bad old days.

By Jonathan Berr Jun 25, 2013 5:20PM
Sneakers next to coins & 'Thank You' sign (© Fuse/Getty Images)What doesn't New York City's $34.5 billion tourism industry need heading into the busy Fourth of July weekend? Headlines about a "clash of panhandlers" in Times Square.

The dispute between Weed Man in a Box and Beer Man, recounted in The New York Times, may bring a chuckle to even the most hardened and cynical of New Yorkers. It certainly shows that if you can make it in the cutthroat world of tourist hustling in New York's Times Square, you can make it anywhere. All it takes is a gimmick, which is precisely what Weed Man in a Box, also known as Weed Head, has discovered.

According to the paper, Weed Head, whose real name is Dwight Laird, began wondering around the New York tourist mecca six months ago with a cardboard box on his head and a sign over his chest that said: "I am the weed man. I'm too sexy for you to see me."

Tensions escalated between Laird and fellow panhandlers -- particularly one named Wayne Semancik, or Beer Man, who carried a sign requesting "spare change for pot, pizza and beer."

Semancik took umbrage to Laird's statement to the media that his rivals were drug addicts and con artists. Then Laird hit one of Semancik's friends in the head with a frozen water bottle. Laird reportedly spat at Semancik, and, in return, Semancik to hit him.

Laird allegedly retaliated by using a pen to stab Semancik five times in the head and chest.

Tourists are only asking for trouble if they engage with these Times Square characters who specialize in what the Times delicately refers to as the "busking" business.

At least New York officials can take comfort in knowing that this panhandler story didn't involve the man known as "Evil Elmo." That character operated in Times Square before being locked up on charges tied to a bizarre extortion plot involving the Girl Scouts.

--Jonathan Berr is a Philadelphia kind of guy. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

More on moneyNOW

Jun 25, 2013 5:31PM
how about they both get a name change: men in jail
Jun 26, 2013 9:32AM
This story exhibits exactly what is wrong with America.....too many shysters and free loaders that want a hand out and don't want to work for anything.
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