NEW YORK – He won't say his name, hides his face, and he hands out cash to anyone who asks in the middle of New York.
The mystery benefactor known only as Bailout Bill sat Wednesday behind a counter in the heart of Times Square giving money to hundreds of people waiting in well-below-zero temperatures.
From a window marked "Bailout Booth," Bailout Bill gave everyone at least 50 dollars, sometimes a lot more. He was dressed in wraparound black glasses and had a wool hat pulled low over his head.
Many of the people waiting for more than five hours were victims of the severe US economic downturn. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs in New York alone.
"I'm very appreciative. I might give some to my mother," said Leon McNeil, 25, after being handed 50 dollars. He was laid off by troubled department store Macy's last December.
Bailout Bill's giveaway aims to raise publicity for a website where you can advertise unwanted possessions.
He also wants to help ordinary people in the same way that the government is bailing out banks and other corporations, a spokesman, Drew Tybus said.
All people were asked to do Tuesday was tell their problems to an assistant standing in the street with a microphone and camera.
"My mother is dying in bed," said Mario, a frail man who wore cowboy boots and carried a walking stick.
"Let's see what Bailout Bill says," the assistant replied, hugging Mario.
Bailout Bill announced: "Today I'm going to give 150 dollars."
This was the "Bailout Booth's" second and last day in New York. Next it goes to Washington, DC, Boston and Philadelphia, said spokesman Drew Tybus.
Tybus said Bailout Bill would distribute 500,000 dollars before he's finished.
"Bailout Bill can't tell you his real name. We assume there's too much of a risk. Everyone knows he's got money, so, well, something could happen," Tybus said.
But for anyone thinking of taking the money-for-nothing concept a further and robbing that cash-filled booth, Tybus had a warning.
"Those guys standing around here and also in the booth -- they're off duty cops. And they're armed."