The worst qualities of Los Angeles — endless traffic and shameless self-promotion — collided in exasperating fashion Wednesday on the 110 Freeway in downtown.
It happened about 8 a.m. when a husky, shirtless man in underwear scaled an exit sign near 3rd Street, unfurled several banners and began vaping, dancing and shouting through a bullhorn as thousands of motorists looked on in various states of amusement, anger and resignation.
The spectacle shut down the freeway’s packed southbound lanes for roughly two hours and paralyzed much of traffic downtown as police officers and firefighters attempted to coax the man from his perilous perch.
By 10 a.m. officers had convinced the man to end his performance. He stood up facing the sign and did a backflip onto an enormous inflated cushion firefighters had placed below. As police escorted him away, he yelled to bystanders: “I love you all!”
Soon after, the man was booked on suspicion of delaying a police officer, trespassing on state property and failure to obey a regulatory sign. It was also revealed that the whole exercise was a publicity stunt.
Alexander Dunn, 29, an aspiring rapper who goes by the name Dephree, had been planning a big splash in advance of a music video that was supposed to come out Wednesday evening.
Footage of Dunn’s traffic sign antics will be featured in the video, according to his close friend and manager, King Graint.
Graint, who declined to give his actual name, told a Times reporter the act wasn’t all about self-promotion though. The performer also wanted to deliver a message about the environment.
“Dephree is truly, truly passionate about the environment,” Graint said. “He became a rapper and wanted to be a rapper to get a platform to talk about it.”
Among the banners Dunn hung from the sign were one that read “Fight pollution not each other,” and another that said “Give a hoot, don’t pollute.”
A third banner with graffiti-style writing simply had Dephree painted across it.
Initially, Dunn had wanted to scale a traffic sign at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland, but Graint said that was a non-starter.
“Dude there’s no way you’re going to fit,” he said he told Dunn. “You’re going to be too big. You’re going to break the thing.”
Then Graint was driving down the freeway and was struck with inspiration. The metaphor of shutting down the freeway — with all that smog —he said, was perfect.
Witnesses said Dunn was alternating between yelling about himself, love and God, and freestyle rapping. He also took breaks and would sit down and vape.
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