Behind the crazy costumes of Santa Cruz's street performer "The Great Morgani" is a fashion lover and community representative.
Known as “The Great Morgani” by the Santa Cruz community, Frank Lima, 69, has been performing as an accordion extraordinaire for 15 years.
“People want to see the spectacle,” said Lima. “Oh what shoes is he wearing now? I have to create a fashion monster.”
Playing the accordion to entertain others is Lima’s hobby, and he is often spotted on Pacific Avenue, or at farmers markets. With 42 accordions, 130 costumes and over 1,200 songs, every performance is different.
One of Lima’s favorite parts of being a street performer is seeing the crowd react to his songs and his all-out costumes.
“I always feel that the crowd is entertaining me,” he said. “I love watching peoples’ reactions.”
Lima isn’t just like any street performer. Standing atop a mini-stage on Pacific Avenue, Lima dons a full-body costume of crazy patterns and intricate accessories.
“I just wanted to have this look and get more elaborate,” he said. “I have a lot of creative energy.”
Covered with about 100 cones, his “making a point” costume that he made for a Santa Cruz fashion show is one of Lima’s most memorable. The cool colors – turquoise, cobalt blue and magenta – react to fluorescent lights.
Although they sometimes take up to 100 hours of work, Lima said, “My passion is the costumes. The music is very easy for me.”
On Saturday at the Willow Glen Farmers Market, Lima wore his “Flower Powered” outfit, featuring a coral hibiscus flower fabric that covered his body and accordion as well as a bike.
As a kid, Lima learned how to sew by watching his mother who was a great seamstress, he said. His mother upholstered his U-shaped couch that has about 32 cushions.
“Her stitches were so fine you could wear it inside out,” said Lima. “But you don’t want to see the backside of my costumes.”
Lima loves the Santa Cruz community just as much as they love him.
“Could I get away with this in Fresno, CA? Or would I want to? I don’t think so,” he said.
Santa Cruz is ripe with artistic minds, expressing themselves in any way possible. When tourists come, Lima said they give him the strangest looks. In the eyes of tourists and locals alike, Lima hopes to represent Santa Cruz in a positive light.
“I want to do the best I can performing,” said Lima. “I feel that I am representing myself as a musician, but I’m also representing Santa Cruz. I want to do something positive. I don’t want to be scaring little kids.”
Even though Lima is not a kid person himself, he likes to entertain them and leave smiles on their faces.
“Little kids, I see their eyes get really big and I think they’re going to cry, so I try to wave at them. I try to establish trust,” he said.
Four years ago when Lima was performing, a 3-year-old girl named Emily showed up with a little accordion and started playing next to him. When her father asked Lima to come to Emily’s birthday party, he showed up to a room full of 4-year-olds with their own accordions. To this day Emily comes to perform with Lima.
While the newer generation only knows Lima as a completely covered performer, those that watched Lima during his first three years of performing remember the face behind the stretchy fabric.
Even though Lima doesn’t cover his face for private parties, he said he wishes that his face had been covered the entire time.
Currently an owner of 42 accordions, Lima started performing with one white pearl accordion with blue accents in 1939. Purchased from the San Jose flea market, the accordion had “J Morgan” engraved on it since name engraving was common.
Because he always loved the name “Julio,” Lima was known as “Julio Morgani” for a while – that is until he was named “The Great Morgani.”
Lima has been playing the accordion for 60 years. Back in 1951, he intended to learn the guitar. However the salesman who went door-to-door selling accordions convinced his parents that an accordion would be easier for him to learn since he is left-handed.
The little boy learning how to play the accordion turned into a talented street performer that stops many in their footsteps.
Lima will be performing at the Aptos Farmers Market on July 28, August 4 and August 11. He can also been seen on the weekends on Pacific Avenue in Downtown.
He wrote a book titled The Great Morgani: The Creative Madness of a Middle-Aged Stock Broker Turned Street Musician which provides an inside look into the street performer’s life and costume design.