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Occupy LA's Protesters Have A Long Way to Go to Catch Up With Those from Downtown's Past

By Eric Richardson
Published: Saturday, October 01, 2011, at 10:17AM
L.A. Times Picketers Profile L.A. TImes (Aug. 1, 1979)

An L.A. Times profile of colorful picketers from 1979 includes Eileen Anderson (center) and General Hershy Bar (right).

Several thousand people are expected to descend on Downtown this morning for the start of Occupy Los Angeles, a protest "occupation" in support of ongoing demonstrations in New York City.

They'll need some serious dedication if they want to catch up with some of L.A.'s protesters of past decades. The Civic Center has long been a scene for protest, and one that has spawned plenty of colorful characters like Jeremiah Pro Per and General Hershy Bar.

Perhaps the most colorful was Eileen Anderson, who spent decades at the corner of Temple and Main dancing and advocating for numerous political causes, mostly while wearing a green bikini.

Anderson was born to Irish and British parents, and was crowned Miss Liverpool in 1954. She made her way to Los Angeles later in the decade and took up modeling and acting. Her protests seem to have started in 1962, when she represented herself in a court case filed to get damages from being struck by a car several years earlier. She shocked jurors by dropping her robe to reveal what the L.A. Times reported as a "nearly backless, bright red bathing suit." Anderson pointed out scars she had suffered, then slipped back into her robe.

She won her case.

It was a decade later that Anderson took to the street corner, after having been seized by Secret Service agents for disrupting a 1972 campaign stop for Hubert Humphrey.

As time went by and Anderson continued to dance on her corner from 5 to 6:45pm every weekday, her message became less important than the protest itself. "Because I'm really hoping to become the first moving landmark in history," Anderson told the L.A. Times for the 1979 profile pictured above.

Over the years Anderson would run for Mayor 17 times. A 1993 obituary noted that her campaign that year had been based on using lottery funds to hire more police officers.

Anderson retired from her corner in 1988.

Could the current political climate encourage some new protesters to show Anderson's resolve? Downtowners who like colorful characters can only hope.

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