Vanity fair

An ex--Wall Streeter charges passersby $2 to rate their appearance. And-surprise!-New Yorkers do care what a total stranger thinks.

Photographs: Francesca Magnani

For Gill Bumby, honesty is not the best policy. It’s the only policy. The former trader (a job which he describes thusly: “Imagine a prison cafeteria, but with more screaming”) has been selling “fair and honest appraisals” of strangers’ appearances ever since he saw a similar stunt at a frat party in 2006.

Donning a bandito scarf or a Michael Jackson mask—“It doesn’t matter what I look like, I’m judging you,” he tells one inquisitor—Bumby (not his real name) sets up shop around Union Square and other busy ports of call, and waits for customers to approach him. His evaluations are typed on index cards, and tend to err on the merciful side.

Bumby says his project provides access to “pure honesty”—something lacking in New York. In practice, it’s proven to be a conversation starter, a hook-up tool, a source of legal trouble (Bumby was arrested after a turf war with another Union Square vendor), and according to one Williamsburger, “the best reason to be late for band practice, like, ever.”

We joined Bumby on a recent Wednesday night to find out just how well New Yorkers handle the truth.

Photograph: Francesca Magnani

Rowan Tuckfield 45, coffee roaster

Gill on Rowan: “You look like an Eastern European assassin…a man that works for the gov and solves problems. But more like you espouse the tall and dark style that New Yorkers are known for. The cigarette just further backs up my idea of you as a hit man. I don’t want to run into you in a dark alley. Style at its best nonetheless. Overall rating…8.”

Rowan on Gill: “It’s so much more than I’ll ever be. I can’t trust my mum or girlfriend, obviously. He’s like a priest, and it’s like I’ve just been to confessional.”

Photograph: Francesca Magnani

Andrew Paul Fitzsimmons 28, actor

Gill on Andrew: “Did you need a few drinks to work up the courage to do this? You look a little tanked. That hair, and that deep look you shot me, are dashing. That beard is alright [sic] now. Just don’t let it get any longer, unless you wanna start looking homeless. Overall rating… 9.2.”

Andrew on Gill: “I shaved yesterday, and I haven’t had a drink in years. Regardless, this guy seems very intuitive; he’s possibly a Pisces.”

Photograph: Francesca Magnani

Claudia Nagy 57, artist

Gill on Claudia: “You look like the aunt that I always wish I had. The one that would have shown me good things to listen to, and would have smoked pot with me for the first time. Maybe in another lifetime. Overall rating…7.8.”

Claudia on Gill: “I have warm feelings toward him now, even though I can’t see him…and I don’t need to see him. Apparently I’m not motherly, but I’m aunty. I’d love to be his aunt!”

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