News item form South Carolina: A new group of Gypsies are targeting the area, according to the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office.
The groups offer to do work like roofing and paving for extraordinarily low prices, investigators say.
They ask for money up front, but investigators warn, they either do substandard work or none at all. If you are approached by someone like this, the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office asks you to call 911.
Another recent news item, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, concerned a Gypsy feud between families which resulted in a killing. The feud began over a broken engagement, police said. A marriage plan had been announced, but within days, the woman's relatives canceled the ceremony. The other family then demanded that the woman's clan pay $5,000 for their act of "disrespect" and threatened to harm a member of the clan if they failed to pay up. Then a home belonging to a relative of the prospective bride was burglarized.
In Gypsy society where disputes include fighting over bridal dowries and competition over fortune-telling, problems are expected to be settled in a communal tribune known as a kris. But instead of going before a kris, relatives of the prospective bride decided to go to the LAPD. That was a mistake.
A burning Molotov cocktail was thrown into the woman's storefront fortune-teller's parlor, setting her ablaze and leaving her with injuries that caused her death six days later. She was punished for going outside of the kris. A big no-no in the gypsy world.
The police say that many disputes occur when someone opens a fortune-telling business too close to someone else's business. "The most common rule of thumb is no closer than three blocks in any direction," a police spokesman said. "The three-block rule is pretty standard. Fortune-telling is probably the main income-generating function within the Gypsy community."
Judging from all the fortune-telling businessess which are cropping up around Southern California in the past few years, we must have an enormous influx of gypsies. Why? Is the demand for fortunes that great? Where are these Gypsies coming from? And here's the big question: why are they allowed to open up fortune-telling businesses in residential neighborhoods? They're all over the place, and not only in poor areas - I've seen their signs posted in front of big expensive-looking homes. So much for the concept of the "poor, homeless Gypies."
Remember the poem that the old Gypsy woman (played by Maria Ouspenskaya) chants to Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man?
"Even the man who is pure in heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms
And the moon is full and bright."
A lot of what I know about gypsies I learned from that movie. I learned that Gypsies travel around by horse-drawn wagons, tell your fortune, wear funny clothes and gaudy jewelry, and can tell you anything you need to know about werewolves. As a matter of fact, in that movie they actually brought the curse of the werewolf to the village. Oh, and they also danced around campfires at night banging their tambourines.
What I didn't learn from The Wolf Man I learned from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. That film taught me that Gypsy girls were named Esmeralda, danced seductively, owned smart goats and looked like Maureen O'Hara. When my folks threatened me with, "If you're not good, we'll sell you to the Gypsies," I figured if the gypsies look like Maureen O'Hara, how bad could it be?
But real gypsies don't look like beautiful Maureen O'Hara - they don't even look like Maria Ouspenskaya. They look like Ö well, like Gypsies. Not exactly glamorous. But according to English folklore, ever since the Romantic period Gypsies have had a glamorous image for writers and artists outside their communities, evoking ideas of freedom, exotic passion, mystery, and a life close to nature.
In folk tradition, however, the stereotyping is negative; Gypsies are seen as dangerous outsiders; they are likely to seduce respectable women, for example in the well-known song about the grand lady who left her husband and child to follow a Gypsy. They are suspected of cunning and dishonesty in their work as horse-traders, scrap merchants, and street sellers, and feared for their reputed power to cast spells, curse and bless-a reputation they themselves exploit.
In checking out the old dictionary, here is what it said. "Gypsy: 1. A member of a people that arrived in Europe in migrations from northern India around the 14th century, now also living in North America and Australia. Many Gypsy groups have preserved elements of their traditional culture, including an itinerant existence and the Romany language."
The dictionary went on to list two other definitions. "One inclined to a nomadic, unconventional way of life." And "A person who moves from place to place as required for employment, especially: a. A part-time or temporary member of a college faculty. b. A member of the chorus line in a theater production.
For our purposes we can ignore the latter two definitions. Let's just consider the real deal Gypsies - the ones who tell our fortunes and pick our pockets. I still don't know why all of a sudden there are so many of them in the Los Angeles area. As if we don't have enough troubles with the illegal immigrants from south of the boarder, now we've got Gypsy caravans coming in too. Wonderful. All we need now is an influx of locusts.
Uh, oh. There I go being nasty and intolerant to the poor lowly Gypsies. But until I see a Gypsy that looks like Maureen O'Hara, that's just the way I'm going to be. I don't want to be bitten by a Gypsy werewolf. Heck, I don't even want my fortune told.