- The Washington Times - Friday, July 10, 2009

Unemployment may be at a 26-year high, but there are plenty of jobs available for leprechauns, Super Mario look-alikes and professional cactus cleaners.

Those are just three job openings advertised on OddJobNation.com, a Web site that features links to Craigslist.org’s most interesting job offerings. The site, which calls itself a “resource for the laid off,” shows that jobs are out there if you look hard enough.

“It’s very rare that there are no jobs in an industry. You just have to get more creative with your searches,” said Jeremy Redleaf, founder and chief executive officer of OddJobNation.com.

The 25-year-old New York filmmaker said he got the idea for the site when his friends started getting laid off and asking him for help finding work. Their situation inspired him to write a comedy series about people who have lost their jobs and find random work on Craigslist. Then, he created a Web site that helps real people do just that.

Many of the online job postings seek people to fill a very specific niche. Talya Tacosa, sales manager at the Lucky Buddha bar in Richmond, is seeking a “dwarf/little person to participate in a fashion show event in August” that will feature a Willy Wonka theme.

“We [want] the little person, [dressed] like an Oompa Loompa, to escort our models. It will just be a freaky night,” said Miss Tacosa, who will pay an Oompa Loompa $200 for two hours of work. Miss Tacosa said she has had the ad up for two weeks but hasn’t received any responses yet.

Miss Tacosa’s posting is one of several seeking to hire a little person on Craigslist. One man from Virginia Beach put up an ad titled “need dwarf for a personalized telegram.” The post states, “I need a small person to hand deliver flowers and a note as surprise to my girlfriend,” and that he is “trying to find a professional who can dress as a leprechaun.” The job pays $125.

One freelance casting director said Craigslist is the fastest way to find actors for low-budget movies. Mary Fry of Los Angeles recently used the site to find a “Mexican man, 35-60 … with black hair and black mustache” to play a non-speaking role in a romantic comedy for $50. She said she got offers almost immediately, looked through the photos to find the right person, and finished the film last Friday.

Ms. Fry said her 13-year-old son found a role in an upcoming film featuring Danny Glover and Snoop Dogg, “Por vida,” by searching the site. Although she acknowledges the potential dangers of connecting with people this way, she said there are simple ways to make it safer, such as typing a person’s e-mail address into an Internet search engine.

“You can find court cases; you can find their own blogs where they reveal a lot,” Ms. Fry said.

Like Ms. Fry, Patrick Tilsen of St. Paul, Minn., looked to Craigslist to find someone with a specific look: a “portly Italian” to play Mario, of Super Mario Brothers fame, to help celebrate his 21st birthday. He’s seeking a “mid-height, overweight, but not obese man with dark hair and capable Italian accent.”

Mr. Tilsen said he will provide the Mario impersonator with the signature red overalls and a fake ID card with his picture and Mario’s name.

“And he can hand it over to the bartender and say, ‘It’s me, Mario!’ ” Mr. Tilsen said, in his best Mario accent. “Then Mario could hang out and drink with me all night.”

Mr. Tilsen said he has received two serious replies, but that one hasn’t gotten back to him and the other doesn’t look enough like the character. He is still accepting applications for the July 26 celebration, and will pay the actor a negotiable fee as well as free drinks for the evening.

The odd jobs available on the Internet are not limited to the entertainment industry. People need help with everything from assembling a pool table to irrigating an ear.

Britt Arnesen of Anchorage, Alaska, posted last month that she thought she had something stuck in her ear, “like a piece of Q-Tip fuzz,” and needed someone to wash it out “with a syringe and lukewarm salt water.” Her post explains that she does not have health insurance and cannot afford to go to the doctor for this procedure, but would pay $20 to anyone willing to help her. She hasn’t had any offers yet, but she is confident she will get one.

“I’ve had a lot of experience in the past where if I need something that’s really strange or out of the ordinary, this seems to be a really good way to find it,” Ms. Arnesen said. “Somebody out there knows how to [irrigate my ear] and will respond, I’m sure.”

Ms. Arnesen said she has sold everything from a potted pineapple to her home on Craigslist. She also used the Web site to connect with the Food Network, which produced an episode of “My Life in Food” featuring her fishing with her son.

Like Ms. Arnesen with her ear, many people trust Craigslist to help them in their time of need. A student from Jackson, Miss., is looking for a sitter for her “pet Pekin duck, Maverick” because she will not be able to bring him to college with her. She promises duck food and reasonable pay, but prefers that Maverick live “at a place with other birds, as he is a very friendly, social duck.”

Although the Internet offers a wide range of opportunities, Mr. Redleaf encouraged people seeking employment to check their social network first. In fact, to help fund his Web site, Mr. Redleaf sells T-shirts with people’s resumes printed on the back because “you never know who is going to stand behind you in line.”

However you find them, Mr. Redleaf thinks odd jobs can be excellent career opportunities and hopes to erase the social stigma associated with them.

“There is no reason why you shouldn’t pick up some extra cash and meet some new people, and you never know what it’s going to lead to,” he said. “Some of the most random events in my life have led to the most significant gains.”

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