Column: Pink plastic flamingos have been wiped out

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22

I&8217;ve never owned a plastic pink flamingo.

When I was a boy, my family shopped at Toys &8216;R Theirs.

Later in life, a plastic pink flamingo would have made a wonderful prom date, but it didn&8217;t work out that way. I didn&8217;t own a plastic pink flamingo and none of those I knew would date me.

I have never owned a plastic pink flamingo, but I have admired them from afar.

The plastic flamingos have a good sense of humor. They appear to be nice birds&8212;easy to keep. I grew up doing chores. I&8217;d feed an animal at one end and clean up after it on the other. The plastic pink flamingo seems to be a chore-free critter. I&8217;m told they don&8217;t each much.

A man told me that when he awakened on his 40th birthday, he found 40 plastic pink flamingos on his lawn. A flock of synthetic lawn ornaments. The plastic pink flamingos were posed feeding, standing and flying (with propeller wings). They frightened his lawn mower.

A friend, Cary Anderson, a professional photographer from Palmer, Alaska, told me of being on a ship and seeing a plastic pink flamingo on an island near Sitka. It caused him to chuckle his trip away.

There once was a man named John Chapman. He believed in the goodness of apples and planted apple trees wherever he could. People called him Johnny Appleseed. I&8217;ve thought about chucking it all and traveling this great country sticking plastic pink flamingos in lawns. I&8217;d be Johnny Plastic Pink Flamingo&8212;a vagabond bringing pink birds to those folks with substantial light crimson

ornithological needs. Or maybe I&8217;d just put their plastic eggs in an incubator.

The plastic pink flamingo has become an endangered species. The original plastic pink flamingo was produced by Union Products in Leominster, Mass.

Leominster was the home of Johnny Appleseed. Foster Grant sunglasses and Hula Hoops were once made in Leominster. The big pink birds were crafted from a design done by Don Featherstone in 1957. Union Products made 250,000 plastic pink flamingos each year. That&8217;s a lot of hatching. The company has gone out of business. No more fledglings. The original plastic flamingo might have sung its swan song. There is moaning and great gnashing of teeth. Please do not panic! I know there is someone running around the house screaming, &8220;No plastic pink flamingos! It&8217;s the first sign of the Apocalypse!&8221; Other companies

will continue to make knockoff versions of plastic pink flamingos&8212;cheap outfits like Gucci and Armani. The continued manufacture of the much-needed bird is one the keys to maintaining a free world.

Plastic pink flamingos came to symbolize bad taste. There is no accounting for taste. Baywatch, Designing Housewives and Survivor &8212; flaunting bad taste &8212;became hits, while the plastic pink flamingo signifies doofiness even more so than does Paris Hilton. The plastic pink flamingo became the avian equivalent of a velvet painting of Elvis. It is kitsch at its highest form. The flamingos have reached a cult status.

John Waters came out with a movie in 1972 called Pink Flamingos. It was a celluloid epic that celebrated a wide range of perversions and excesses. The plastic pink flamingo crossed the boundary between art and taste. It was a gazing ball with plastic feathers. Not all plastic pink flamingos were placed on lawns as a joke. Some were put there intentionally as homage to the arts and culture.

Plastic pink flamingos are tacky, whimsical Beanie Babies gone bad. They have surpassed chia pets, The Clapper, the ThighMaster, a tongue scraper and anything made by Ronco or K-Tel on the scale of tackiness.

Residential developments banned plastic pink flamingos from lawns.

The plastic pink flamingo is a tough, old bird&8212;mighty poor eating.

Lutefisk is the plastic pink flamingo of food.

Put a goose down jacket on a flamingo and it&8217;s set for the winter. Dress one like Santa Claus and your Christmas decorating is done.

Plastic pink flamingos are colorful and regardless of their nostalgic dorkiness, they do bring a smile to most faces.

I am trying to get a law passed requiring each yard in my neighborhood to have at least one plastic pink flamingo in it.

The abundantly pink plastic flamingos would look breathtakingly beautiful against a background of snow.

Tourists would flock in. We&8217;d all be in the pink.

If you love a plastic pink flamingo, let it go. If it comes back to you, it&8217;s yours forever. If it doesn&8217;t come back, your plastic pink flamingo has migrated to my lawn.

(Hartland resident Al Batt&8217;s columns appear &8212; in black and white &8212; every Sunday and Wednesday.)