September 1 is Chicken Boy Day

Today is Chicken Boy Day, celebrating the birthday of the fiberglass legend on September 1, 1969, or thereabouts. Official birth records are unavailable.

chicken boy day

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Twenty-two feet tall, referred to by many as the Statue of Liberty of Los Angeles, California, Chicken Boy stood atop his namesake restaurant on Broadway between Fourth & Fifth Streets for fourteen years, betraying no emotion regarding the dismembered, fried fowl that presumably filled the golden bucket he held before him.

When the restaurant closed in the autumn of 1983, Chicken Boy awaited a fate similar to that of his flesh-covered counterparts: mechanical separation followed by the discarding of his skeletal remains. Artist Amy Inouye, who had grown fond of the landmark since her move to Los Angeles in the 1970s, decided to save him.

While the owners may have been unsure of her sanity, they were persuaded by her sincerity. With permission secured, she made many calls to moving companies that started, “Can I get an estimate to dismantle and move a 22-foot-tall fiberglass statue of a man with a chicken’s head, also known as Chicken Boy?” Eventually, she convinced one that she was not making a prank call and the move was scheduled.

On May 4, 1984, Chicken Boy was removed and taken to the first of many storage facilities. Inouye sent letters to several museums, certain they would want to include the Los Angeles icon in their sculpture gardens. Only one or two responded that Chicken Boy was a sign and therefore did not qualify as art.

Inouye began to sell Chicken Boy t-shirts, then lapel pins, pens and mugs, among other things. She put together a souvenir catalog. The proceeds helped pay for storage. At its zenith, her mailing list boasted 14,000 names.

Of the phenomenon, Inouye says, “The legend of Chicken Boy grew far beyond downtown LA—it became obvious that his appeal was universal. In every person, it seems, there is a little or a lot of self-conscious awkwardness trying to accept those cards they were dealt—we are, in fact, all Chicken Boy.”

Despite mentions in Newsweek, Esquire, the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, air time on countless radio shows and a brief viewing at the underground Arco Plaza mall, Chicken Boy had no place to call his own.

In a film called Chicken Boy: the Movie, he comes alive due to the Harmonic Convergence of 1987, a Mayan/Hell/astrological alignment/power center prophesy even less believable than a fiberglass statue receiving the breath of life and learning to play the accordion.

chicken boy day

In early 2007,  Inouye found a small office building in Highland Park where she could run a small art gallery while Chicken Boy watched over Route 66 from his rooftop perch. The neighborhood of artists and musicians welcomed them both. She applied for and received a Community Beautification Grant.

Then, after eight months spent navigating the permit process, Chicken Boy was hoisted to his new roost atop Future Studio at 5558 North Figueroa Street. On October 18, 2007, after twenty-three years, five months and fourteen days, Chicken Boy was finally home.

chicken boy day

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Mel Brooks once said, “The whole word chicken is funny. The ch, the i, the k, put it all together, youʼve got the funniest word in the English language.” Maybe that explains the appeal of Chicken Boy. It definitely explains why we’ve used the word seventeen times.

Happy Chicken Boy Day! (Whoops, eighteen!)

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 21 is Sister Maria Hummel Day

sister maria hummel day

Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel

Today is Sister Maria Hummel Day which celebrates the birth in 1909 of Berta Hummel, a German girl whose family recognized and encouraged her developing artistic talent from early childhood.

She entered Munich’s Academy of Applied Arts in 1927, at a time when few German women were able to pursue higher education. After graduating in 1931 with top honors, she chose to become a nun in the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen and assumed the name of Sister Maria Innocentia.

She taught art at a school run by the convent and painted in her spare time. When the sisters noticed her portraits of children, they convinced her to let a religious publishing company print and sell them as postcards. Hummel later drew angels with gowns covered in slightly askew Stars of David and designed a symbol for the convent chapel in 1938 that united the Old and New Testaments by placing a cross behind a menorah.

In 1934, Franz Goebel, the owner of W. Goebel Porcelain Works, saw some of the postcards and was struck with the idea of rendering them in three dimensions. He approached Hummel, who didn’t want her work mass-produced as knickknacks. She acquiesced at the insistence of the convent, which gave Goebel sole rights to manufacture the figurines. Royalties from sales would help finance its good works for 80 years.

Goebel displayed them at the 1935 Leipzig Trade Fair, an international trade show. Goebel had rightly surmised that people weary of poverty and war would be attracted to sweet and innocent figurines of boys, girls, and angels. Ten years later, American soldiers would carry them home after World War II and make them popular in the United States as well.

One person who was most definitely not a fan of Hummel: Adolf Hitler. In 1937, she released a painting titled “The Volunteers,” which depicted two young, disheveled goose-stepping brownshirts with laceless boots, one of whom carried a rifle upside down. Under them, she wrote the caption, “Dear Fatherland, let there be peace!”

Nazi newspaper Der SA-Mann declared that the children Hummel painted looked like “wasserköpfige und klumpfüßige Dreckspatzen,” which loosely translates to  “hydrocephalic, club-footed goblins.” Although a more literal translation would be “water-headed, club-footed mudlarks,” we think you get the idea.

The sale of Hummel figurines was banned within Germany, but export was permitted to generate profits from foreign markets. Her publishers were denied paper supplies; galleries were forbidden to exhibit her paintings. In 1940, the sisters were kicked out of the convent so a troop of Nazi soldiers could quarter there.

sister maria hummel day

Volunteers, 1990

Forty of the 250 nuns were allowed to remain in a confined area with no heat. After three months at her childhood home, Hummel decided to return, with the blessing of the Mother Superior. Money earned from the sale of her artwork was the convent’s sole source of income.

In 1944, she contracted tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium for several months. Shortly after she returned, French troops liberated the convent. But her health worsened and she died on November 6, 1946, at the age of 37. She was buried on the convent grounds.

Although we can find no surviving print of “The Volunteers,” the story of Sister Hummel’s most provocative artwork did not end after her death. In 1990, the rifle was righted, the shirt color changed and her sad boys were cast, without irony, as cheerful patriots for a United States Desert Storm Edition.

We’re pretty sure Sister Maria Hummel would disapprove of that knickknack.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 14 is Underground America Day

underground america dayToday is Underground America Day, created in 1974 by architect Malcolm Wells. After designing the RCA Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair, which would be torn down only two years later, he came to the conclusion that every structure he built needlessly destroyed that which had previously lived in its footprint.

He described his epiphany this way: “I woke up one day to the fact that the Earth’s surface was made for living plants, not industrial plants.”

This led to his espousal of “gentle architecture,” construction in harmony with nature. He built his home and offices underground, wrote several books about environmental design and lectured at Harvard and elsewhere.

He had a great sense of humor about the day he’d created. “On May 14th each year, hundreds of millions of people all across this great land will do absolutely nothing about the national holiday I declared in 1974, and that’s just the way it should be, he said.

“It’s a holiday free of holiday obligations. You don’t even have to lose a day of work. But if you’re the partying type, here are some of the ways in which you can observe the big day.”

Wells died in November of 2009 at the age of 83. He penned his own obituary, which you can read here. It makes us wish we’d gotten the chance to know him. Happy Underground America Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Make Your Own Head Day

Today is Make Your Own Head Day. Grab anything: clay, a bar of soap, a roll of tinfoil, dryer lint, mashed potatoes, peanut butter—even ice cream, if you plan to work fast. If you’d rather put pens, paints, pencils or crayons to paper or canvas, that’s fine. too. The medium is up to you.

The object of this holiday is to have fun while exercising your creativity. How does Make Your Own Head Day fire your imagination?

While we’ve been unable to determine the origin of this holiday, we’re fairly sure it was dreamed up by a teacher. Make Your Own Head Day is popular in elementary school art classes, but it’s a great day for adults, too. We look at our faces every day in the mirror. What do we see? How will we translate it: is it realistic, trippy, round, flat, square? There’s no wrong answer. What could be better than that?

Fun fact: The weight of the average adult human head is about eight pounds. This butter sculpture carved of Minnesotan Dairy Princess Betty Holdvogt weighs fifty pounds and had been sitting in a freezer for four years before she hauled it across the country to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2007.
Make Your Own Head Day
Here are a few guidelines from Instructables to help you get the proportions right when sculpting your head:

1. The eyes are in the middle of the head. For real, the forehead and hair are the full top half. Fold a face in half and the eyes are right there on the crease.
2. If you fold that same face in quarters, the fold above the eyes is the hair line and the fold below is the bottom of the nose.
3. So now that you’re all into folding faces, fold it into thirds lengthwise. The eyes are in the middle of the two lines. The mouth stretches the middle third.
4. If you have two eyes (which most of us do), an imaginary third eye of the same size should fit between them.
5. Ears line up with the middle of the eye and the bottom of the nose.
6. In profile, the brow and chin line up, and the ears are in the middle of the head.

Or create your face in fondant using these handy directions:

What are you waiting for? Make your own head and share the results! We’d love to see what you’ve created! Have a happy and fun Make Your Own Head Day!

Copyright 2016 Worldwide Weird Holidays