On September 24, 1961, a gigantic revolving sculpture of the cartoon stars Rocky and Bullwinkle was erected across the street from the world famous Chateau Marmont Hotel, in front of the studios of Jay Ward Productions. It was a parody of the Sahara Hotel billboard, which featured a revolving Cowgirl. What else could you expect from a city built on whimsical novelties? Long after, the Cowgirl was replaced by an even larger and more imposing Marlboro Man billboard, but Rocky and Bullwinkle hung on for dear life, and for more than 50 years, they were the Statue of Liberty of the Sunset Strip.
In fact they continued to rule the strip in the hearts of locals and tourists alike, even after Jay Ward Productions shut down in the '90s. They made appearances in dozens of movies and commercials (including this clip from the film Mondo Mod), taking second billing only to the Hollywood Sign, and they were seen in printed L.A. souvenir tour guides for decades. I can’t think of another object that made more of a California statement, and was more beloved, than this statue.
I live in the city of West Hollywood and enjoy evening walks. My usual destination? The Sunset Strip—Rocky and Bullwinkle were basically my GPS points. One of my earliest memories is of Jay Ward giving me a balloon at his eccentric gift shop, which was just east of the statue and named The Dudley Do Right Emporium (where Pinches Tacos is today), after my mother purchased a “Super Chicken” cell for me. I thought of that every time I passed my favorite Moose and Squirrel on foot. Even though it had been painted over several times, and experienced bad weather conditions and various earthquakes over the years, I never imagined it would one day be gone.
Rocky and Bullwinkle being taken away
On July 22, 2013, Jay Ward must have been rolling in his grave. The statue had vanished! Vintage Los Angeles broke the news after an Instagram video was taken of the statue’s jarring removal (captured on camera by Tristan James Butler). There was no explanation or reason announced about its removal. Were Boris and Natasha operating the crane? When I posted the video, thousands of concerned and sentimental Vintage Los Angeles followers demanded answers. On the day Rocky and Bullwinkle disappeared I called The Sunset Strip Association and the Los Angeles Conservancy, but nobody had any information. The people I spoke with were just as surprised to see the statue go as I was.
VLA has been tracking this story ever since, and all kinds of rumors have been circulating. I’ve heard that it may be getting restored for the DreamWorks Animation's upcoming film Mr.Peabody and Sherman. There’s also continuous chatter about it being placed at Santa Monica and Doheny or the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Who knows, maybe it will wind up next to Paul McCartney’s stolen Sunset billboard head. Nothing has been confirmed. All I know for sure is Dreamworks removed the statue after the owner of the property noticed it had a severe crack. Apparently it was too expensive to maintain and it will not be returning to its original location.
I’ve tried contacting Dreamworks, but they have yet to release an official statement about the statue’s whereabouts, their plans for the its future or its current condition.
That’s where Vintage Los Angeles comes back in. A week ago the mystery photo below was posted on VLA with this message: “The end of a chapter or the start of a new one? The staff shop, Warner Brothers Studios.”
I’m pleased to think we haven’t seen the last of Bullwinkle yet. If the city of San Francisco can refurbish and relocate a Doggie Diner head then surely Rocky and Bullwinkle deserve the same. Here’s hoping they don’t end up in a storage unit like the Tail O’the Pup.
To be continued...
Alison Martino is a writer, television producer and personality, and L.A. pop culture historian. She founded the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles in 2010. In addition to CityThink and VLA, Martino muses on L.A’s. past and present onTwitter.
If anyone has any updated information on Rocky and Bullwinkle, please let VINTAGE LOS ANGELES know. You can also leave a message here or email me @ AlisonMartino@gmail.com
VINTAGE LOS ANGELES: FISH SHANTY AND THE KOOKY WONDERLAND THAT WAS RESTAURANT ROW
La Cienega and Beverly Boulevard used to be a playful pocket of themed eateries, amusement parks, and nightclubs By Alison Martino
Established in 1950 by the Smith Bros., the Fish Shanty was classic West Coast kitsch. Located at the intersection of La Cienega Boulevard and Burton Way, it was known to Angelenos as "the restaurant that swallowed you whole,” and nothing thrilled me more as a child than walking through the jaws of the Shanty’s whale façade or hiding under his fin, which was made out of thousands of tiny, ocean-blue, midcentury mosaic tiles that sparkled during sundown like the crest of an effervescent wave. (It will be forever preserved on film after being used as the entrance to a British club in the 1965 black comedy, The Loved One.)
Photographs of the La Cienega Smith Bros. Fish Shanty restaurant interior. Handwritten descriptions by Birdie Smith in the Margin.
For our July issue of Los Angeles Magazine we explore how the 1980s fundamentally changed L.A. It was the era when colors were bright, hair was big, and punk and new wave fashions ruled. With the help of movies, music, and something called the 1984 Summer Olympics, the city and its fashions became the center of the universe. I am thrilled to have been selected to write about Melrose Ave for a two page spread on pages 110 and 111. The issue is now available on stands. This is a further and more extended look into that colorful ave that helped define the '80's in Los Angeles.
Robin Young and friend taken by Suzan Colon, former writer at "Star Hits Magazine".
By 1984 it was the pinnacle of the
trendy punk rock influence and new wave scene in Los Angeles stretching from
Fairfax to La Brea.
Dozens of off beat independent businesses and forward thinking boutiques
dominated the Avenue and over night these old rundown…
What’s changed—and what hasn’t—about Santa Monica’s outdoor mall by Alison Martino
This modernist outdoor space was once home to Sears and Woolworth’s ($11.98 for a pair of Wallaby’s!) plus dozens o mom-and-pop shops, which made it unique. The list of smaller businesses included Kress’, Lerners, Hartman’s, Bartons Candy Store, Leeds", The Smuggler, The Silver Cup Diner, Nana’s, Texas Records, the Music Box, Apollo Electronics, Out of The Past, Muskrat, The Midnight Bookstore, Bay Music (which sold musical instruments) and Ralph’s market, which later became “Europa,” where my mother purchased the most beautiful lace curtains. When I became older, it was all about the "3 2 1 Club". Good times! (Still trying to hunt down a photo).
"Chuck's Bike O Rama" and the Magic Shop from the film
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