Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Manhunt On For Missing Sombrero Man
For nearly a decade, Lloyd “Sombrero Man” Hamilton has wandered the streets of Oakland, begging for money.
Unlike other panhandlers, he is a beloved figure in the community. His festive costumes and “have annnnnny change?” mantra have impelled thousands of people to plunk spare change into his cup. But, for the last three months, Hamilton has been noticeably absent from his usual post outside the Eckerd on Forbes Avenue, leading many people to fear the worst – that Sombrero Man has gone to that big soup kitchen in the sky.
Peter Tooley, a Pitt senior and frequent contributor to Hamilton's cause, was reluctant to believe the hype.
“In Oakland, rumors circulate faster than a bong in a frat house,” Tooley said, “so when I heard that Sombrero Man had died, I wrote it off as bullshit. But, now I’m beginning to suspect foul play.”
Last month, Tooley and his roommate, Ben Kramer, formed the Center for Missing and Exploited Panhandlers (CMEP). With the help of volunteers, CMEP operates a 24-hour “tip” line and routinely canvasses the city of Pittsburgh with MISSING posters. By next week, they hope to have Hamilton's face plastered on every 40 oz. sold in the state.
“We didn’t think milk cartons would reach our target demographic,” Kramer explained.
Despite its anti-panhandler policies, the University of Pittsburgh is also helping CMEP in its quest to find Hamilton. From now until the end of the semester, students can dump their change into the enormous sombrero-shaped bank located on the William Pitt Union lawn.
“I can go without clean laundry for a few more weeks if it means bringing Sombrero Man home,” said sophomore Elizabeth Steinberger. “As annoying as he sometimes is, I really miss that Mexican hat-wearing son-of-a-bitch.”
Tooley and Kramer are optimistic that the vagabond will be back on his street corner by Christmas.
“Just yesterday we got a call from this guy who said he saw Sombrero Man at bar in West Virginia,” Tooley said. “Turns out is was just a Jose Cuervo spokesman, but, ya know, it got our hopes up.”
If you have annnny information, please contact CMEP at 1-800-LOOSE CHANGE.