The Chicken Boy statue that Amy Inouye saved and mounted in 2007 atop her Figueroa Street studio in Highland Park gets cited as a prime example of the Muffler Man phenomenon of highway advertising figures. The cite is in a new article in Westways magazine that marks the "50th anniversary of the creation of these strong and silent giants, who, with their behemoth height, are some of the largest examples of American roadside kitsch."
The first Muffler Man was a hulking broad-shouldered 20-foot-tall Paul Bunyan, created by Bob Prewitt in 1962 for the PB Café on Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona. Wearing a wool cap and sporting a heavy black beard, the figure had massive hands, one turned up and the other turned down, positioned to hold an ax. The positioning of the hands is one of the key signs to identifying a genuine Muffler Man, says Doug Kirby, cofounder and publisher of RoadsideAmerica.com, a website dedicated to offbeat roadside attractions.
In 1963, Prewitt sold his company, Prewitt Fiberglass, to California businessman Steve Dashew, who owned Inter-national Fiberglass, a company that primarily produced small outboard-powered boats. Soon after, Dashew sold a Paul Bunyan to an American Oil gas station in Las Vegas, whose business doubled overnight as a result. A trade publication picked up the success story, and Dashew’s new business took off from there.
“I never considered for a moment that we were creating something that would become iconic,” Dashew says. “We were just building a business, having fun in the process, and poking fun at the establishment."
Other local examples mentioned include Mulligan Man at the Dominguez Hills Golf Course in Carson and the sombrero and serape-wearing Salsero atop a La Salsa restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.
Bonus after the jump: Chicken Boy at Yosemite Falls