Echo Park's famous cat, Room 8, has company in the celebrity-animal annals of the neighborhood. Like Room 8, who was featured in Time magazine in the late 1960s, Maria the Goose has done gone nationwide. First, there was the OK Go video -- and the attendant Facebook Page dedicated to Maria, AKA Orange Bill. Then, on February 12, the Wall Street Journal published a story about Maria.
The WSJ's reporter, Alexandra Berzon, an Echo Park resident, won a Pulitzer in 2009 for her investigation into the deaths of 9 construction workers in Las Vegas. Berzon is not the only Pulitzer winner to chronicle Maria. According to Dominic Ehrler, whose relationship with Maria is the source of her fame (much as Room 8's relationship to the students of Elysian Heights Elementary School was), Nick Ut was seen photographing Maria on the same day Berzon took a stroll with Dominic and Maria. Ut won the prize for the 1972 image you most likely have seen of several children, among them a naked nine-year-old girl, fleeing in Vietnam after a napalm bomb was dropped on their village. The AP photographer's presence on the Maria scene the day Berzon interviewed her was coincidental. Ut may have been captivated by the sight of the big goose in flight next to Ehrler as he rides his motor scooter. Sometimes they fly along Park Ave. from Lemoyne Street to the stop sign at Echo Park Avenue. Then Ehrler gives his pal a chance to rest and the fly back. (Click here to see an L.A. Times image of the flight.)
In any case, this past Saturday, the day the WSJ Maria story appeared online, Chicken Corner flew down to Echo Park Lake to join a group of Maria enthusiasts walk around the park with the bird and Ehrler.