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Nov. 20 2009 - 10:17 am | 117 views | 1 recommendation | 3 comments

L.A. Vandal Files: Who Is John Scott?

73-year-old L.A. vandal, and Internet self-promotionalist, John Scott.

73-year-old L.A. vandal, and Internet self-promotionalist, John Scott.

Last week, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department arrested 73-year-old John Scott for placing “slap tags” (i.e. stickers) on the inside of Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses. The stickers, emblazoned in orange and black, read: “Who Is John Scott?”

For the last seven months, deputies assigned to the Special Problems Unit of the Sheriff’s Transit Bureau have been trying to determine the identity of an “older” vandal who had been placing orange and black “Who Is John Scott?” stickers on buses in Baldwin Hills and other areas concentrated on the Westside of Los Angeles. via L.A. Times

What’s most intriguing about the case of John Scott is not so much his age, but rather the campaign he was waging. Like so many graffiti writers will profess, putting their name in the street is as much about the adrenaline rush as it is the fame. But Scott is not a graffiti artist, he’s just a man who is employing the same technics to achieve name recognition. In more blatant terms, Scott is a guerilla marketer who just happens to be shilling for himself instead of, say, Sony or Rockstar Games. He’s a self-promotionalist with an agenda that’s not entirely clear. Either that, or he’s a con man — a working class Clark Rockefeller. Or perhaps he’s a little bit of both.

sticker_whoisjohnscottTake a look at Scott’s website – www.whoisjohnscott.com — and it’s difficult to determine what he was trying to accomplish. Creating intrigue and drawing web visitors was no doubt part of the plan, but why? It may be as simple as money. After all, the primary content on Scott’s site is “Who Is John Scott?” branded merchandise. You can buy a t-shirt ($19.99), hat ($27), patch ($5.50), or sticker ($1) and your purchase will be mailed to you, along with information regarding the true identity of John Scott (which I assume is a Polaroid of him holding up his middle finger). His signature orange and black sticker even provides you with what may or may not be Scott’s social security number: “CLUE!! SS# 328-30-4064.” The site also includes a sort of manifesto for his campaign:

“Who am I? John Scott — world traveler, entrepreneur, producer, but, above all, mystery — an ordinary man with an extraordinary idea of himself,” read a description above a picture of a man dressed in black, his face hidden and a question mark over it. “A real person with a real history, he is also you and me, the face in the window, the voice on the bus.”

However, the most telling bit of information on Scott’s site appears on the main page, in what looks like a batch of testimonials he’s collected over time. A commenter named Stephen Garcia seems to back up my con-man theory when he writes:

I know exactly who you are John! I’m even thinking of getting one of those police sketch artists to do a picture. Then I’ll have it enlarged to banner size. Then since everyone all over town has seen your advertisements, I’ll stand on Crenshaw and Slauson with a milk crate and a bullhorn telling the world about you and your antics!!!

Whatever the case, Scott has succeeded, at least in attracting my time and attention.


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  1. collapse expand

    Your attention and that of some 46,000 others if that visitor tracker is accurate.

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    I am a writer, editor, and blogger who lives and works in the once-decaying heart of America's Rust Belt (i.e. Pittsburgh, PA). My work focuses on subculture, crime, mental health, race, class, and creativity.

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