What’s with all those flamingos ? And Why Fine Art Flamingos ?
??? What is with all of those flamingos ??? And Why Fine Art?
What is your best memory of that flock of infamous Austin plastic pink flamingos and especially your memories of the brouhaha with the City of Westlake back in ‘93?
Our version ? (yours might be better) .... It started when we had a customer back in 1987 or so, who asked for a pair of plastic pink flamingos. Of course we didn't have them in stock - no one did back then - but told them we would order a pair for them. Thought that was a fun idea, so we ordered 2 pair, one for them and another pair for us to put out front - for fun. And, Dern if that other pair didn't sell as soon as we put them out! So we thought, lets put 10 pairs out - it would be fun. Ordered em in...Sold em. Ok, 100 pairs, yep, sold em, and folks were really having fun with them, so ..... 1000 plastic pink flamingos out front ... now that would really be fun. We had the flock out there for lots of years. Made them migrate away in the winter, started having a lone "Scout Bird" show back up, randomly on no certain date - but often around Valentine's Day each year - we thought it would be fun to announce that the Flock was coming back soon and so was Spring. Folks were having fun with them. For years. They were fun. Some folks even sat out in the front lawn in lawn chairs with binoculars next to the 'Scout Bird', watching for the Flock to show up. A flamingo Watch Party. Another year we had an early freeze before we were able to remove the flock for the winter, it instigated another fun idea, we knocked them all down... and had a mass bird kill... the freeze killed em... one year we painted them black and white ... Cow Birds.... Giant Plastic Hearts that lit up, around Valentine's Day.... Giant Plastic Easter Eggs among the flock around Easter each year, and other escapades with them. We're proud to say that we were definitely weird in Austin, before all of the T-Shirts. This was all before the internet... yet word spread... folks drove by to see the flock, tour busses drove by showing them off to tourists... it was fun... Then .. one morning out of the blue...got a call from the city inspector... " you have to remove the flamingos".... Stunned.... we asked ...."Danny what are you talking about ?" He replied simply that your flamingos were breaking the sign ordinance and we would have to get rid of them. Told him, we would do whatever the city said, but that they were making a mistake. Went out into the shop to tell our folks to take the flamingos down..... and The Statesman was there....waiting.... they knew we were getting that call and wanted our comments. AND Luckily.. really Luckily... there was a Crazy Man - Bob Cook - and His Girlfriend (our Heroes) who had driven all the way from Houston, just to get some of those infamous Austin plastic pink flamingos. They were wearing flamingo shorts, flamingo shoes, socks, sunglasses, and we suspect flamingo undergarments. They came to have fun. Fortunately Bob had experience dealing with the press. He told us: DO NOT REMOVE THOSE FLAMINGOS.. he chatted with the Statesman reporter, then left and said he would be back in about an hour. In the mean time we called the city back , asked them what would happen if we didn't remove the flamingos. He said the council was gathering on Thursday 8/12/93 to have their final meeting about banning the flamingos and that we could come give our two cents worth, but it would be useless, because.. "The Powers That Be don't want them there". Bob Cook returned, he had been to all three TV stations and reported to them about this travesty . He formed the organization S.A.F.E.(society against flamingo extinction) and kept things stirred up. So we kept them out there in the front lawn…. at least until that Council meeting. In the mean time, we put up a little sign out front, in the flamingos, that read: "Honk if you want us to keep the flamingos". We also bought a tiny, little, two line add in the weekly Westlake Picayune that read: "The City of West Lake wants us to get rid of the flamingos. This is their phone # and this is their fax #, please let them know what you think." It went Viral....before the internet, it went viral. Every TV Station in town had a Flamingo Update at every news hour.... for, it seemed like weeks. The AP and UPI wire services picked up the story ..... every newspaper in the country carried the story, often with a pic of the flock out front...often on their front page. Radio hosts ‘Sam & Bob in the Morning’ called, expecting us to be riled up and angry. and ready to sue ... but we stayed calm and told them, nope-we would remove them if the City said we had to.... that was just fuel for the fire for those two ornery guys. Sam & Bob rode the story....again seemed like for weeks (thank you Bob Cole ..we sure miss Sammy) ... Jim Swift's Out On The Porch (thank you Jim Swift), Kelso... man, he was a man on a mission, reported on it in his column repeatedly (said it was his #1 story of the year for 1993- miss that guy). NPR Morning edition had audio of constant cars honking because of the little sign we had put up out front in the flock. A Local well known Professional Environmental Company sent the city an official Bound -Endangered Plastic Pink flamingo Environmental Impact Study - pages and pages- about the plight of the nearly extinct flamingos - literally pages and pages of data…thick ….. citizens were sending flamingo cakes to the City Offices (which they were afraid to eat), phone calls and faxes essentially shut the city down for days (thank you if you called). Finally, We went to the meeting on 8/12/93, and with no orchestration by us, there were something like 300 folks who showed up, all dressed in pink in support of our flock. And TV cameras. The meeting room held only about 75.... We told the council our two cents... no.. we did not think that the flock was a sign... the flamingos were just Fun... The TV Cameras Zoomed in on the City Attorney... a sweat bead rolling down the side of his face, he reported The Council had found an Exemption in the Sign Ordinance for Works of Fine Art... and they were officially Declaring our flamingos Fine Art... and for us to leave the City alone. Afterwards we almost pulled off creating the Flamingo Fine Arts Festival (thank you Rene Harbison for working on that so hard.. so sorry we did not make that work) maybe we should revisit that? We also had a Flamingo Five K. (thanks Joan Marie Grable for helping with this) So… What is your version of the story? Would love to hear your comments. Fun Times. And .....be vigilant, rumor has it, the flock might show up again, seems there is a street out near Lakeway, off of hwy 620 called Flamingo Drive. Might make a great place for a Zen like - in the moment - traveling Art Installation ? No?