A pink flamingo
is a three-dimensional plastic figure
of the flamingo bird
, most often with metal stick
s for legs
, often seen in people
s. They originated in 1952
as a flat yard decoration
by Union Products; four years later, the company hired Don Featherstone to make three-dimensional versions of their flat decorations. The type he made first was made of foam
plastic and proved too easily chewable
for dogs and other animals, so a hard plastic version debuted in 1957
. He modeled their poses -- a pair with one bird's head raised and the other lowered as if feeding -- on photos in National Geographic
magazine. The birds became extremely popular yard ornaments, and Union Products manufactured three-quarters of those sold before 2006 when Union Products closed. (That brand
had Don Featherstone's signature under their tails after 1986
, and has a yellowish beak with a black tip.) In 2007, HMC International LLC bought the rights and the molds to continue manufacturing Union Products' flamingo.
In the 1970s, an attempt was made to give the birds more realistic yellow legs, but these hardly sold at all; the metal stick legs were brought back and even retained in a white version of the ornaments known as the "snowmingo."
The birds have gone up and down in popularity at different times, but they have a sort of kitsch
y cool now after more than 50 years, leading to all kinds of variations -- different not-found-in-nature colors and patterns (including a blue
flamingo intended specifically for neighborhoods that had prohibited having pink flamingos on the lawn), holiday
flamingo statues, lighted versions of the bird, and other flamingo products; even businesses such as "The Original Flamingo Surprise" and "Flamingos by the Yard," which specialize in surprising people by filling their yards with the statues. Don Featherstone wrote a tongue-in-cheek
1999 coffee-table book
about his creation called Pink Flamingos: Splendor on the Grass
; he had become the president of Union Products by that time, but retired the next year. The band Love and Rockets
have a song called "Pink Flamingo" and Rebecca Lynn Howard
has one called "Pink Flamingo Kind of Love."
Pink Flamingoes is also the title of a really freaky 1972 John Waters movie about two families competing for the title of "the filthiest people alive," featuring sexual acts with chickens and Divine eating dog shit. Presumably the movie uses the title to imply the tackiness some people associate with the lawn birds.