Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
She became a widely recognized fixture in Toronto on Bloor Street between Yonge and Bay where she would beg behind a hand-lettered cardboard sign reading, "PLEASE HELP I AM VERY SICK I WILL PRAY FOR YOU THANK YOU". With her shabby clothing, cane, and apparently uncontrollable full-body trembling, she became known as the "Shaky Lady" and was regarded as a wretched object of pity.
Local residents and police became suspicious of Bangova when they noticed that she would stop shaking completely at the end of the day and spryly walk away with her earnings. In March 2002, local journalists Mike Strobel and Alex Urosevic began secretly observing Bangova. In a series of articles in the Toronto Sun, they claimed that she typically employs two burly bodyguards to watch over her while she shakes and begs for a five-hour shift. She then suddenly gets up and, without a hint of the uncontrollable trembling she uses to elicit handouts, swiftly walks around the block to a waiting car. She is then driven to her east-end apartment which has leather furniture, a big-screen television, and a computer. Based on their observations, Strobel and Urosevic estimate Bangova pulls in $2500 per week from her panhandling.
Strobel later discovered a Czech television documentary on Gypsies who had emigrated to Canada. Bangova is featured prominently in the show, appearing healthy and wearing "classy" clothing. When she is interviewed she claims to be very happy and well-fed and urges other Gypsies to emigrate to Canada.
After the publication of Strobel's first article, he and photographer Ernest Doroszuk travelled to Bangova's apartment to request an interview. Strobel claims they were invited into the apartment but were soon recognized and beaten by Bangova and her husband.
One week after the Sun printed the stories, Bangova retained the services of lawyer Leonard Hochberg and held a press conference. Hochberg, speaking of behalf of Bangova, insisted that his client trembles because of a medical condition and panhandles to supplement her disability pension of $900 per month. He claimed that Bangova's income from begging is usually no more than $40 to $50 per day.
Bangova has found it difficult to continue panhandling in Toronto since her media coverage there. She has since taken to travelling to nearby cities to beg, being spotted in Niagara Falls, Orillia, Ottawa, Hamilton, Detroit, and Montreal.
The exposť of Bangova was quick to draw criticism from the public and from other journalists. Many were unhappy with Strobel's treatment of Bangova, claiming that she was serving as a convenient scapegoat and deflecting attention from the real causes of poverty. Toronto's legitimate homeless panhandlers reported a significant decline in donations and handouts and blamed Bangova and/or Strobel's articles for inciting public distrust of beggars.
Other Toronto residents, especially those who had personally given money to Bangova or seen her apparently healthy and physically active during her off hours, expressed appreciation for the media coverage. Some people said that the articles proved how difficult it was to distinguish con artists from people with legitimate problems, and urged others to donate to homeless shelters and other recognized charities instead of giving money directly to panhandlers.
Bangova has never been formally charged with criminal misconduct for her begging tactics because panhandling is not a crime in Toronto. Instead, police officers occasionally warn residents and tourists not to give money to Bangova.
In July 2002, Bangova was recognized by local resident Doreen Willcocks, who tried to dissuade a man about to give her $50. Bangova responded by attacking Willcocks with her cane; she was subsequently charged with and found guilty of assault.
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