Paul Bunyan and other fiberglass advertising giants ride again at Bell Plastics in Hayward California

Before we had several tiny screens to entertain us on road trips, we were confined to but one: the window. Imagine being stuffed into the back seat of your mom’s gold Plymouth Duster, rolling through endless miles of dust, fields, and mountains, your eyes feeding your brain a never-ending litany of “tree….tree…cow….tree….rock…rock…tree…” and then, “…Paul BUNYAN??”

Beginning in the early '60s, a brethren of Colossus began to fan out across the American countryside. These 14-to-25 foot tall fiberglass giants stood sentry outside tire shops and cafes, designed to act as a homing device for the family station wagon. Though they were known collectively as “Muffler Men,” they also took the form of Paul Bunyan, space men, pirates, cowboys, bikini babes, an Alfred E. Neuman look-a-like, even a chicken or two. A company called International Fiberglass in Venice Beach, CA produced about a thousand of these advertising giants during their heyday, transforming small roadside businesses into landmarks worthy of an ogle.

The proliferation of freeways and uptight city zoning laws contributed to the decline of Muffler Men. All of the original molds were destroyed when International Fiberglass closed in 1976. Though a few can still be spotted in the wild, many now belong under the stewardship of private collectors.

One such collector, the Bay Area’s Bell Plastics, is refuge to what is perhaps the world’s largest conglomeration of original muffler men. Once a year, they invite the public into their warehouse for a unique opportunity to wander amongst various advertising giants, including the rare Uniroyal Girl (a bikini-clad female “Muffler Man” who is said to be modeled after Jackie Kennedy), two of San Francisco’s beloved Doggie Diner heads, a slightly demented Santa, a pair of industrious car washing octopi, and other oversized company shills. Read the rest

Massive boulder that rolled onto Colorado highway is too expensive to move, will now be a tourist attraction

On Memorial Day weekend, this 8.5-million-pound boulder rolled off a cliff and destroyed part of a highway between Cortez and Telluride, Colorado. Blowing it up to clear the way would cost the state $200,000 so instead Governor Jared Polis turned the bug into a feature. Read the rest

Florida's Weeki Wachee attraction seeks new mermaids

One of the most magical places on Earth* is hiring. Weeki Wachee in Spring Hill, Florida is auditioning for new full-time mermaids.

The Tampa Bay Times reports:

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is an attraction in Hernando County located near the intersection of State Road 50 and U.S. Highway 19. The attraction that opened in 1947 features performers dressed as mermaids and an underwater theater.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park will hold auditions Jan. 13 for what it hopes will be several new additions to its world-famous mermaid squad. Currently, the squad has 17 performing mermaids and three princes.

The Weeki Wachee mermaids perform underwater year-round in 72-degree spring water from the head of the Weeki Wachee river. The mermaid show debuted on Oct. 13, 1947, in the theater built of limestone and submerged six feet below the spring’s surface.

The park expects at least 50 women to come for the first, and most physically demanding, part of the audition...

On the first audition day, aspiring mermaids must complete a timed, 300-yard endurance swim, where they swim both with and against the water’s current. If they finish that successfully, candidates must tread water for 10 to 15 minutes...

Candidates will perform underwater ballet moves, like flips, a few feet below water in the park’s submerged mermaid tank that faces a 400-seat auditorium. The underwater audition shows how "comfortable" or "panicky" a candidate looks behind the glass...

Then, after the new mermaids are chosen, they must go under a year's worth of training. Read the rest

Joss Whedon's extracurricular Much Ado About Nothing gets a release date

That Shakespeare movie that Joss Whedon shot in 12 days (during some spare time while shooting The Avengers) has gotten an official theatrical release date: June 7, 2013. Filmed in glorious black and white, Much Ado About Nothing features several Whedon favorites, like Fran Kranz (The Cabin in the Woods) as Claudio, Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as Benedick, Amy Acker (also Buffy) as Beatrice, and Clark Gregg (The Avengers) as Leonato. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions stepped up to give this movie a chance in theaters so people could actually see it, because poor Joss Whedon is going seriously unrecognized for his cinematic efforts these days. (photo via Ginsberg Libby) Read the rest