“I don’t want guys to make perverted wiener jokes to me,” she said on a recent weekday in front of Famous Vinnie’s Hot Dogs in Fairfield.
They better not.
Because it’s in bad taste for one thing. And because she’s a veteran sign-spinner for another. And because she made it to the third round in tryouts for “American Idol.” And because she’s improved business for Famous Vinnie’s.
And because she’s a former zombie.
Yes, the Dancing Hot Dog Girl of West Texas Street is a former zombie – at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – whose boss is pleased with the uptick in business since she started performing.
“There have been positive results,” said Vinnie Vedella.
As they should be. Jamie Lyles, the soon-to-be-26-year-old woman who wears the hot dog costume and mask and spins a “Hot Dogs” sign isn’t a rookie. She started her sign-spinning career last spring working for Liberty Tax Service. Then she moved to a money-for-gold store, where Vedella saw her. The rest is contemporary West Texas Street hot-dog-sign history.
“I asked her if she wanted to work here,” Vedella said. She took the gig.
Now she holds the sign while wearing a hot dog costume for two or three hours daily, attracting honking horns, curious looks and new customers.
“I feel like this is better than flipping burgers,” Lyles said as she bounced her sign back and forth. “I don’t have to deal with customers.”
She worked as a waitress and didn’t enjoy it. She then held a series of positions – including as a zombie at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom last Halloween.
Yeah, she was a zombie. So keep those wiener jokes to yourself, bub.
The absence of fickle customers isn’t the only benefit. Lyles said holding the sign for a few hours a day helps build up her forearms, getting her closer to an elusive goal.
“One of my goals is to do a handstand,” she said. “My best friend can do one and I want to.”
She ultimately wants to be a singer, something she pursued by trying out for “American Idol” in San Francisco. Belting out Lady Gaga tunes, she made it to the third round – the fourth round is where singers appear before the famous television judges – before elimination. She has a smartphone photo of herself with the show’s “golden ticket.”
While “American Idol” didn’t work out, the sign-spinning gig is paying dividends for Vedella’s restaurant.
“I’ve had people say they don’t know we’re here,” he said. “It catches people’s eyes. If (they don’t come in) today, they might come in later.”
Lyles said she listens to Internet music – Lady Gaga and Kei$ha are her favorite artists – on headphones as she dances. She said the most frequent question asked by those who walk by is how much she gets paid.
It’s minimum wage, although she doesn’t do it just for the money.
She would like some shelter from the sun, though – a little less “hot” for this dog.
“I wish there was shade here,” she said. “Other places I worked had shade. But that’s not (Vinnie’s) fault.”
Vedella bought the hot dog garb online. It features buns, meat and a strip of mustard down the middle. And the mask, added by Lyles.
“I don’t want people to know I’m the hot dog – I feel like guys will say perverted jokes,” she said before finally being persuaded by a persistent reporter to reveal her name.
Here’s what I say: Don’t make snarky comments to someone who is helping a local business, tried out for “American Idol,” can almost do a handstand and wears a mask.
Especially when she used to be a zombie.
Just honk at her, pull into Famous Vinnie’s, buy a hot dog and give her the credit.
The Dancing Hot Dog Girl of West Texas Street deserves that much.
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.