Bringing The Tropics To Suburbia

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 30 2012 @ 8:46am


The plastic pink flamingo, first designed in 1957, caught on largely because of "the sameness of post-World War II construction":

Units in new subdivisions sometimes looked virtually identical. "You had to mark your house somehow," [sculptor Don Featherstone] says. "A woman could pick up a flamingo at the store and come home with a piece of tropical elegance under her arm to change her humdrum house." … That soon changed. Twenty-somethings of the Woodstock era romanticized nature and scorned plastics (à la The Graduate). Cast in flaming pink polyethylene, the flamingo became an emblem of what Nancy [Featherstone] delicately calls the "T-word"—tackiness. Sears eventually dropped the tchotchkes from its catalog.

(Photo: A flock of flamingos at the junction of Bee Caves Road and Capital of Texas Highway by Alan Levine. Update from a reader: "I hate to be a grammar dork, but a flock of flamingos is called a flamboyant. I have a three- and four-year old and live by the zoo so I get to learn all kinds of fun animal facts.") Another reader:

As a college student in the late '90s, those tacky pink flamingos also made for an excellent impromptu beer bong. Just slice off a bit of the beak and of the tail, and it could easily handle three beers (or any other libation of one's choosing). Though among my friends it was not enough just to do a round off the bird (we named ours Suzie), you also had to be able to "blow" the bird like a trumpet after. This required some real skill as to make any kind of sound out of the beast you needed to hum a certain octave while raspberrying your lisps.