Tag: losses

Lo, it is a solemn day for lovers of religious-themed roadside attractions, for today one of the most recognizable of our nation's giant Jesuses is now nothing but a charred metal frame.

The 62-foot-tall "King of Kings" statue that once rose from the pond outside Monroe, Ohio's Solid Rock Church was struck by lightning last night and set ablaze. The figure, which many detourists lovingly nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus" or "Drowning Jesus," had little chance of survival due to its highly flammable plastic-foam and fiberglass construction. (Video below.)

Motorists are already feeling the loss. So many gawkers were stopping along Interstate 75 this afternoon that highway patrolmen were forced to begin issuing citations just to keep traffic moving. Reports indicate that some visitors were scooping chunks of molten Jesus from the pond as souvenirs.

Yet, the church has already announced plans to rebuild the iconic statue. "It will be back," said co-pastor Darlene Bishop, "but this time we are going to try for something fireproof." ... Continued

Weird Arizona fans should be well familiar with the decaying "meat rocket" that sat for years off Highway 69 in Prescott, Arizona. Purchased years ago by local Steve LaVigne, the 1950s-era rocket that once advertised Luer Quality Meats in parades across the country had been waiting patiently among a collection of vintage trucks and buses, its future up in the air.

On a return trip to Prescott for a recent book signing, I tried to get in touch with Steve to cash in on a promise to get a look inside the Luer Rocket and to find out if he had any new plans for the Space Age missile. Problem was, the contact information I had for him was out of date and I was unable to reach him.

However, by an amazing coincidence, Steve happened to be shopping at the Costco that was hosting the signing on the very day I was there, and spotted the image of the rocket on page 237 as another patron was flipping through the book. Once we each realized who the other was, we began to chat enthusiastically about the rocket, and that's when I learned the bittersweet news: the Luer Rocket was gone! ... Continued

Icon of the 1950s and cover girl for women's sexual freedom, Bettie Page has for generations been considered the quintessential pinup girl.

Even now, 50 years after giving up modeling, Page continues to inspire artists, models and performers with her free-spirited sensuality.

Sadly, Bettie Page passed away last night at the age of 85 after suffering a heart attack on Dec. 2. The Los Angeles Times has the story.

I just came across a mention that the remaining structures of Sea-Arama Marineworld, the long-defunct marine park in Galveston, Texas, were torn down in September-October. As I never got a chance to visit the remains up-close, I'm really disappointed to hear they're no longer standing.

I wrote about Sea-Arama for Weird Texas (p.271, where the title was inexplicably changed to Sea-Arama Marineland) after I discovered the park's ruins by accident while investigating the mysterious Kettle House (p.152). And when I found out what the unusual buildings were, I was informed by my parents that I had actually been there when it was open. I had visited with them back in the '70s, along with my grandparents and my older brother, when I was a baby.

Evidently, this was my first road trip, which of course makes Sea-Arama my first official roadside attraction. Since learning this, I've taken to researching the park's history and collecting old Sea-Arama souvenirs. Even though I don't remember the original trip, I've developed a special fondness for the place. ... Continued

I received some sad news today. Louis Lee, creator of the Lee Oriental Rock Garden, one of Arizona's most intriguing attractions, has passed away.

I was very lucky to have met Mr. Lee and his wife Esther on my first research trip to Arizona back in September. The Lees sat with me in the shade of their patio and talked with me about how their extraordinary rock garden came to be. Mr. Lee started it in 1958 with just a retaining wall, after which the elaborate assemblage of arches, partitions, shelves and walkways grew out of control over the course of nearly 50 years.

The Lees were very welcoming upon my arrival and were gracious enough to let me wander around the garden by myself for an hour taking photos. Although I've seen dozens of Arizona oddities since, my visit to the Lee home was one of the most enjoyable. It's strange to think now that the portraits I shot during that visit may well have been the last to be taken of Mr. Lee.

Louis Lee died on Tuesday, the 15th. He was 92 years old. Mr. Lee had lived a long and obviously productive life.

When will I learn my lesson? As soon as I discover a subject to photograph, I should go straight out and shoot it.

A few months ago, while getting myself lost trying to find who knows what, I drove right by the old Circle Inn in Dallas. I guess I had just never driven that particular block before, because it was the first time I had ever seen the old motel.

It was one of the most magnificent Googie signs I had ever come across — big, colorful, with a profusion of neon circles and a swooping, yellow arrow. I have a thing for old motel signs and this particular find was a real jewel. The place was obviously abandoned, so I took note of its location and recorded a reminder in my phone to return soon.

Thinking I might finally get around to shooting it tomorrow, I looked up the Circle Inn in the online newspaper archives for a bit of history. Turns out the whole thing was demolished at the beginning of January!

I couldn't believe it. I didn't even realize it had been that long since I first drove by the place. Was that really before Christmas?! ... Continued

I just found out one of my favorite stops in L.A. shut its buns late last year and vanished. If you've never heard of Tail o' the Pup, it's a hot-dog stand shaped like a giant hot dog, which has been around since 1946. I wrote about it a few years ago over at The Big Waste of Space. Back when I was living in Simi Valley for a couple of years, I'd try to hit this place whenever I could, especially when family was in town.

At the time, I think I liked Pink's better, but in retrospect I remember the Pup more fondly. The dogs were great and it didn't take 45 minutes to shuffle through a disorganized mob to place your order. Oh, and it was shaped like a giant hot dog!

Word got out about the closure from someone who overheard the owner talking to one of the Pup's patrons. The story hit the papers from there. Apparently, the Pup was on a month-to-month lease and the landlord gave the Blake family, who owns Tail o' the Pup, only 30 days' notice to vacate. The big frank was put in storage in late December. ... Continued

I discovered today that the legendary Don Knotts has passed away. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Knotts about six years ago at a book signing while I was working in the Los Angeles area. I'm saddened by his passing both because he was an American television icon and because he was a very friendly, warm-hearted man.

Also, in reading about the loss of Don Knotts, I discovered that the very funny Darren McGavin, probably most famous as the father in "A Christmas Story," also passed away. I mimic his excitement at uncrating his lamp every time I open a package marked FRAGILE.

"Ra-jee-lay ... Must be Italian!"

(And before anyone says it, I too once thought he said "Fra-gee-lay" with an F. But one day I realized what prompted his misunderstanding: on the crate, the stenciled F got cut off, resulting in RAGILE. Hence, his momentary and humorous confusion. I listened more closely and realized he was indeed saying "Ragilé!")

I've been researching the old Twin Arrows Trading Post today for Weird Arizona.

Even though it's been closed for several years now, it seems it's still a favorite stop for road trippers. As evident from the snapshots I've come across, people continue to pull off and take pictures of the big arrows. Being one of my favorite roadside icons (or is that two of my favorite?), I'm not surprised they're so popular.

The sad part is, as it now belongs to the State Land Trust, I doubt the site will ever be restored. But that's not the part that bothers me. Modern ruins are terrific; I just hate to see the arrows go. I seriously doubt they'll survive much longer. They've already begun to yield to the elements. Both arrowheads lie in pieces, most of which appear to be missing, and one arrow's feathers is only a partial frame. ... Continued

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo's graffiti-covered roadside icon, underwent a major change of coloration yesterday as each of the 10 vehicles was covered over with flat-black paint.

The stark change was in response to the recent death of Doug Michels, a founding member of Ant Farm, the artists' collective responsible for Cadillac Ranch's conception. Michels fell to his death on June 12 while climbing to a whale-observation point at Eden Bay, Australia.

Stanley Marsh 3, the eccentric millionaire who sponsored the creation of Cadillac Ranch, decided to paint the attraction black after speaking with Michels's father and friends. According to Marsh, they said flat black was his favorite color.

Marsh said the dark paint job is therefore not in mourning, but in memory.