|A pair of Phoenicopterus ruber plasticus birds feed among the vines next to my backyard goldfish pond. The Pepto-Bismol colored birds are favorite objects of backyard decoration kitsch among many gardeners, including myself. Every time I sit by my pond, contemplating my garden, and see the flamingos looking back at me with their beady black eyes, they make me smile.|
The Phoenicopterus ruber plasticus is a late addition to the planet's fauna. It emerged full-grown from the mind of sculptor Don Featherstone in 1957. He was a recent art-school graduate at the time and, in a tough job market, he took a job with Union Products, a maker of plastic lawn ornaments. It was for them that he created the pink plastic flamingo and as soon as they hit the stores, they started flying off the shelves. The rest, as they say, is history. It has since, as The New York Times wrote recently in their obituary for Mr. Featherstone, "been flaunted in front yards by the millions; feted in films, on television and in song; and held up as an object of impassioned pride and equally impassioned prejudice."
The popularity of the birds must have been a pleasant surprise to Mr. Featherstone and his employers. They had created a cultural phenomenon, and, even in the twenty-first century, it seems in no danger of going on the endangered species list. And how many people get to say that they have accomplished such a feat in their lives? Mr. Featherstone died last Monday, but his birds live on.
R.I.P. Don Featherstone and thanks for giving us the bird!