01 November 2006

My symbol might be endangered!

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The pink plastic flamingo, an icon that has
been reviled as kitschy bad taste and revered as retro cool, is dead
at age 49.

The pop-culture symbol met its demise after its manufacturer, Union
Products, of Leominster, Mass., was socked with a triple economic
threat — increases in costs of electricity and plastic resin combined
with loss of financing. Production ended in June, and the plant is
scheduled to close Nov. 1, according to president and CEO Dennis
Plante. Union Products made 250,000 of its patented plastic pink
flamingos a year in addition to other garden products.

Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University,
paid tribute to the infamous bird that has been immortalized
everywhere — from the John Waters' movie "Pink Flamingos," to bachelor
parties and lawns across America.

"Let's face it," he said. "As iconic emblems of kitsch, there are two
pillars of cheesy, campiness in the American pantheon. One is the
velvet Elvis. The other is the pink flamingo."

The birth of the plastic pink flamingo in 1957 coincided with the
booming interest in Florida, Thompson said, making it possible for
those in other parts of the country to have a little piece of the
Sunshine State's mystique in their yard.

By the late '70s, according to Thompson, the pink flamingo became a
symbol of bad taste. It was considered trash culture and embraced by
folks with a wise-guy attitude. They knew better (wink, wink) but
embraced the iconic symbol anyway.

By the late '80s and early '90s, he said we learned to make fun of
pop-culture items such as the pink flamingo as well as appreciate

"The pink flamingo has gone from a piece of the Florida boom and
Florida exotica to being a symbol of trash culture to now becoming a
combination of all we know — kitsch, history, simplicity and
elegance," Thompson said.

Plante is hoping for a resurrection. Plante has been seeking another
company to buy the molds. So far, two companies in the United States
and one in Canada have expressed interest.

"I am hoping that someone will come forward and save the plastic pink
flamingo from extinction," Plante said.

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