Wednesday, December 09, 2020

The Return of Rocky and Bullwinkle!

From 1961 to 2013, the famous rotating statue of Rocky and Bullwinkle resided across the street from my favorite Hollywood haunt the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard. The statue and the pose was inspired by the short-lived larger-than-life rotating Vegas Showgirl that stood in front of the Marmont.

“Rocky and his Friends/The Bullwinkle Show” aired from 1959 to 1964 and eventually developed into a cult classic (we can ignore the box office disaster live-action version from 2000). The 14-foot, 700-pound came to be when the animated series switched networks in 1961; creator and producer Jay Ward felt that the event should be publicized, so he hired artist Bill Oberlin to create the statue and placed it outside the Jay Ward Productions offices at 8218 Sunset  Boulevard. Bullwinkle wore a Gay Nineties striped swimsuit, which parodied the cowgirl/showgirl statue across the street.

The statue was dedicated on September 24, 1961 by Jayne Mansfield, who unveiled Rocky and Bullwinkle for over 5,000 attendees. The shows' writers and voice actors pressed their elbows into wet cement around the base of the statue; Jay Ward asked for elbow prints instead of the usual hand prints so that no one would spill their martinis. Every time the spinning cowgirl's outfit changed so did Bullwinkle’s. The showgirl was taken down in the early 1970s (to be replaced by the Marlboro Man). By 1990, Jay Ward was dead and the motor for the rotation had ceased to work, but the statue itself remained until July 22, 2013 when it was removed from its Sunset Boulevard home. 

What had happened to the lovable duo? They were being restored by artist Ric Scozzari, with funding by 20th Century-Fox and Dreamworks, and donated by the Jay Ward family for the City of West Hollywood’s Urban Art Collection. After appearances in Beverly Hills at the Paley Center in 2014 and West Hollywood’s City Hall in 2016, the Rocky and Bullwinkle statue disappeared again. Ric and his team of plasterers, welders, fabricators, painters, and finishers continued their work, stripping off layers of paint, gunk, and rust, and studying old photos of the statue to get every original detail correct.

On February 29, 2020, Rocky and Bullwinkle finally returned to Sunset Boulevard, standing in a traffic triangle at Holloway Drive and Sunset Boulevard, about a mile west of their former spot. Ric said that the restored statue looks almost exactly as it did in 1961, down to the number of stripes on Bullwinkle’s suit and the seven hairs on top of his head. The only difference is that Rocky and Bullwinkle stand on a lower pedestal, and Ric lowered the gaze of Rocky and Bullwinkle's eyes so that they can smile at their fans.  

The day I saw it, the statue was not rotating.

Still, it was good to see this goofy piece of pop culture back again after so long.

See more Sunset Boulevard photos at my main website.


DBenson said...

A quick check reveals that the Bullwinkle balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade also debuted in 1961. I was always a bit puzzled by the balloon's old-fashioned bathing outfit. Now it seems they were following the statue's lead., although the balloon was certainly in the works well before the statue was unveiled.

My theory is that the Macy's designers thought the moose's shaggy torso -- a brown shape with a bunch of black lines -- didn't translate well into a giant balloon. At some point they were shown the design for the statue and adopted it.

Contrarily, Jay Ward & co. were shown a design for the balloon and adopted it for the statue because of the same issues in sculpting Bullwinkle's body. If they were already planning to parody the showgirl's pose, the swimsuit would be icing on the cake.

Fifthrider said...

That's a great explanation, and another piece of history I never knew. It makes total sense, too. Easier to make a striped bathing suit body.