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The Return of The Pink Flamingos

I received a very sad e-mail a few weeks ago. Archie McPhee, who sells some of the most fun and useless stuff on the planet, informed everyone on their mailing list that the original plastic pink flamingos, the epitome of tastelessness and kitsch, were going out of production. The company that made them was closing down, and they had bought the last of them.

The birds have been around since the 50s, when pink was a popular color and Florida was a popular state. They’ve come to symbolize. . . well, whatever you want them to symbolize. They can be a statement to the world that you have no taste. Or that you’re making fun of bad taste. Or that you’re a John Waters fan. They’ve even been used for protesting. Residents of the Disney planned community “Celebration,” which has rules for everything, right down to the color of window curtains, protested by decorating their property with the garish creatures. The birds migrated from property to property in the middle of the night, and then, magically learned how to reproduce on the impeccably manicured lawns.

Like any successful product, the birds spawned plenty of cheap imitations. But they’re crap. They don’t come in the classic pose (one standing, one bending down) and are missing the signature of the sculptor, Don Featherstone, on their ass. The originals are a cheap imitation of real birds. A cheap imitation of a cheap imitation is just wrong.

But just as it all seemed hopeless, just as we were about to lament the demise of an American institution and watch the few remaining real fake birds fade in the sun while their wire legs rusted, HMC International, a company in Westmoreland, New York, announced that they had bought the original molds and all the rights to produce them. They’ll be authentic right down to the Featherstone signature.

Tacky comes and tacky goes, but it’s oddly comforting to know that at least one piece of tackiness, perhaps the tackiest of them all, simply refuses to die.

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