Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Icon of Kitsch

 The past week was one that will go down in the history books of all times!  That's an understatement, if I've
ever written one.  Amazing experiences and solutions that I never thought I would live long enough to see in my lifetime.  People that are much better writers then I have written such beautiful things about the upholding of the Affordable Care Act law and the latest ruling by the Supreme Court, the upholding of people everywhere in America to have the right to marry whoever they choose.  Whew, it has been an amazing week.
But, in the midst of all the historical events, the loss of Don Featherstone must be mentioned.  In my heart, I believe that this man brought so much joy to people who loved flamingos and tacky things that he, to me is
an icon.

Of course I'm sure that when Don started making flamingos in 1957 as yard art, he couldn't possibly have imagined how much laughter, joy, silliness and consternation he would cause in the USA.  The consternation part being Home Owners Associations and uptight neighbors.  However, for the most part, those who loved the flamingo were brethern in kitsch.

Both of the above photos were taken from the internet on CBS News.  Somewhere in my photo archives in the zillion boxes of photos I have, are similar photos.  Let me share the story or stories.  Then you'll understand why I use the terms laughter, joy and silliness.

It began in the late 80's.  A lovely man who I dated for many years decided to send me on a Treasure Hunt for my birthday.  It was a doozy.  From going to a pet store to get a gold fish in a bowl, to then going to a tattoo parlor for the next clue and ending the day at Neiman Marcus for a few hours of pampering, with fish bowl in hand, everyone loved the story. 

The next year it was not as grand a birthday for me, but we really outdid ourselves for him with a stretch limo with a huge blowup of Godzilla hanging out of the open roof window.  A trip to a dinner club where many of his friends showed up to surprise him and then a trip, which he thought was going to be out of town, but wasn't.  It was closer,  to a nearby hotel.

But, for my birthday that year, it was quieter.  It didn't matter as people were coming up to me in restaurants and places in the Bay Area of Houston where I lived and asking WHAT kind of birthday I had had.  So finally I made up a story that I had been given a pet flamingo at a beach party in Galveston, but it was a rented flamingo that had to be returned the following day.  Except, the flamingo flew away from the beach and was never seen again.  People gasped when I told this story..........and then eventually I would confess that I had made the whole thing up.

One early Sunday morning, around 7AM or 7:30AM, I headed to the front door of my house in Nassau Bay to get the Sunday paper which was my ritual.  The paper, coffee and CBS Sunday Morning.  But, what to my wondering eyes should appear but something like the second photo.  My yard covered with 100's of flamingos.  Immediately I thought I knew who had done it and I stormed into the house, picked up the phone and called them.  Of course, waking them from a Sunday slumber.  Denial was on their lips, but I wasn't buying it.  For at least five years I assumed they were the culprits.

It was hilarious.  That morning I learned you can't carry a whole lot of those things at one time as I wanted to get them out of my yard, pronto, before someone from the Homeowners Association drove by and I got a letter.  Finally I got all the flamingos in the garage which was a darn long walk down the driveway, especially in bedroom slippers and robe. 

Then I began to plot how to get back at my friends.  Enlisting several friends, a few months later, the flamingos were plopped in the back of a pickup truck late at night and replopped in the front yard of the suspect friends' front yard in all kinds of erotic positions. 

We all laughed and giggled as we drove off in anticipation of their reaction in the morning.  They never said a word!  Fast forward to a surprise birthday party for me several years later at the League City Country Club.
There were birthday banners, a dais, and a large group of friends at the head table.  The entertainment was a "This is your Life" show.  All my kids were there too.  Whoa, at that time, a couple who I NEVER would have suspected admitted that they in fact had planted the flamingos in my front yard.  We all laughed til we darn near cried.  It was a really funny moment.  Of course everyone said the funniest part was the shocked expression on my face.  So, I was laughing at being "punked" as the kids say, and everyone else was laughing at me.

You can't make stuff like this up.  Later on, probably ten years later, a friend having heard these stories gifted me with a flamingo painted like a cow in black and white.  It had on a cape and a witch's hat.  Great for Halloween.  However, I became quite attached to that flamingo and had many little outfits that I made for it for other seasonal events.  Unfortunately, when selling everything to move to Mexico, Flo the Flamingo was sold.  I still miss her.

In my mind, other then great and silly friends along with family, I can't think of anything that has brought as much laughter and silliness to my life then Don Featherstone's flamingos.  He was only 79.

Long Live the Flamingo!


La Tejedora said...


Steve Cotton said...

It is nice to know that someone loved those pink pieces of plastic.

Babs said...

Steve, I guess since he was in business from 1957 til his death that LOTS of people loved those "pink pieces of plastic", myself included and many friends, obviously.

You too?

La Tejedora - Gracias!

jennifer rose said...

Anyone remember Divine and Pink Flamingos?

Barbara Lane said...

You have a divine sense of play. Not to mention fabulous friends - which of course means you're a fabulous friend as well. I always love your stories and must say this one is right up there as one of the best. I always think when something happens - whether it funny, odd, strange, or stressful...well...look at it this'll make a great story. And when friends and family are heading off on an adventure I always say, "Bring back stories!" Isn't it lovely how they feed us for years? And in turn you are feeding us in the telling. Thank you for sharing it.

Babs said...

Jennifer Rose, NO, tell me about that term, Divine and Pink!

Barbara Lane, thanks for your perspective. I have so many silly
stories that still make me chuckle. My life has never been dull.
I'm still great friends with many of the people in this post today.
I've written many times about Amanda and Patrick, who I stay with
from time to time when I'm in Texas. She is like a sister to me.
Love my friends a lot!

jennifer rose said...

Shannon said...

Great story Barbara. I didn't know who invented the front yard flamingo, but more power to Mr. Featherstone, may he rest in peace.