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Kitschy Pink Flamingos Face Possible Extinction

The pink flamingo -- a symbol of American leisure beloved by some but reviled by others as the epitome of bad taste -- is in trouble. Not the live, awkward cousin of the crane you see standing on one leg in a Florida swamp or theme park, but the plastic variety that adorns many a lawn in that southern state and elsewhere across the country.

Indeed, the plastic pink flamingo may be kitschy and fun to some, but it's a cultural embarrassment to others. That's all the more reason why some people stick one or two or three in their yards, just to tweak the sensibilities of stuffy neighbors.

More than 20 million of these gauche birds have been made since a young art student designed them in 1957. The science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research noted that "the public was never warned about the release of pink plastic flamingos into the wild" -- in this case, lawns and patios and miniature golf courses across the nation.

But the end may be near. The factory that has made the lifelike plastic birds since 1957 is going out of business. The owners of Union Products, Incorporated, in Massachusetts say the costs of electricity and the resin needed to make the garish lawn ornaments have risen beyond what they can pay.

So the pink plastic flamingo is on the Endangered List. But it's not dead as a dodo just yet. Union Products' owner says he might just sell the resin molds and machinery used to make the yard birds, in order to keep the tacky tradition alive. Or maybe someone in the elite part of town will buy the molds and break them!

For earlier essays in Ted Landphair's
Only in America series, click here