World Famous Bushman
David Johnson aka The Bushman in August 2007
David Johnson, also known as the World Famous Bushman, (died February 23, 2014) was a man who had been scaring passers-by along Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco since 1980 up until his death in 2014. Johnson hides motionless behind some eucalyptus branches and waits for unsuspecting people to wander by. When they approach, he shakes the bush towards the unsuspecting tourists and startles them, sometimes making gruff "oogah-boogah" noises, while in-the-know observers giggle. Crowds gather to watch him work, often including those he has previously scared. The Bushman typically operates toward the western end of the Wharf (at Jefferson and Hyde Streets or thereabouts), well to the west of the Grotto.
Crowds usually watch Johnson across the street from where he usually sits, to see him entertain people.
In a "good year", Johnson claims to earn $60,000. However, he cited the same figure to one of his victims (after said victim chided him) in 1992. At one point, he employed a bodyguard to protect himself against attacks by the unamused, 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.
Although engaging in his street performance utilizing the bush as a prop, as of the mid 1990s, Johnson did not formally refer to himself as "The Bushman" until he was befriended by then Alameda residents John and daughter Alison Nowakowski, who would refer to him as such. Eventually, the name stuck and Johnson adopted the name as his formal street performing moniker.
A 2009 article in SFSU's Xpress Magazine says:
Many people are unaware that there are, in fact, two Bushmen. When Gregory Jacobs first came up with this gig, he recruited David Johnson, a man he met at Fisherman's Wharf. As they worked together they developed a close friendship. Johnson's deep voice scares those who unknowingly pass by the man-made bush. Back then, Johnson would hold the bush and Jacobs would tell the jokes, entertain those watching the action, and collect the tips. It has been about fifteen years, and now they are complete enemies. Jacobs accuses Johnson of running off with their money. Jacobs tries to avoid any conflicts with Johnson by not working where and when he is."
Greg Jacobs was featured in the video "Act (Diogenes)" by the artist Whitney Lynn. Jacobs is also the subject of a short film, The Bush Man. An article from 1999 makes it clear that Johnson is actually the relative newcomer to the act: "'I look after him,' says Gregory Jacobs, who recently joined the act as a full partner. 'I watch his back.' Gregory Jacobs died February 23, 2014 due to heart failure. He was 60 years old."
Bushman Holiday Video
- Rubenstein, Steve (July 17, 1999). "Bush League". San Francisco Chronicle. pp. A16. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
- Matier, Phillip; Andrew Ross (April 7, 2004). "Bushman of Fisherman's Wharf Gets the last Ugga-Bugga". San Francisco Chronicle. pp. B1. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- Zell C. "The Bush Man - North Beach/Telegraph Hill - San Francisco, CA". Yelp. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
- Edwards, Erica (April 2003). "Spookster more than a sidewalk spectacle". The Lowell. Retrieved 2007-02-16.
- Matier, Phillip; Andrew Ross (September 8, 2002). "'Bushman' wearing out wharf welcome". San Francisco Chronicle. pp. A21. Retrieved 2007-02-15.
- Pacis, Jasmine (March 9, 2009). "Fisherman's Wharf Bushman Fights For His Art". Golden Gate [X]Press. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- http://whitneylynnstudio.com/Act-Diogenes. Missing or empty
- [dead link]
- Rubenstein, Steve (1999-07-17). "BUSH LEAGUE / Street artist branches out to scare folks to their roots". The San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Happy Holidays from Heat.". YouTube. 2010-12-22. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
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