Goat-Man with a Wrench
Yeow! What the hell was that? How many visitors to Buford Ga have asked that question while whizzing north on Buford Highway? I know I did the first time I laid eyes on him. But "Chas" --as it says on his pocket-- is a local cast-iron icon and landmark. Most of the people I know who know of him just refer to him as Chas. He stands out front of R & R Auto-parts as he has for more than 35 years, waving with rusty fingers to all who pass by.
Standing over ten feet tall on an 18 foot base, what Chas is exactly, or who built him remains a mystery. I always figured there was a Rat-Fink/Weird-o's connection there somewhere (In fact, I was going to call this post "Ten Foot Weirdo"). However, Nick --the guy I talked to when I called R & R Auto parts-- officially described Chas as "A Goat-Man with a wrench" and gave me my title. He also told me that Chas had originally been a work comissioned by Bob Slack, (the owner of R & R back then) to give customers something to look for when they drove up the then-very-rural Buford highway. Nick said he still fields several calls a week about ol' Chas (he is NOT for sale, so don't ask) and that he was originally constructed and plunked out front of R & R in or around 1972 or '73.
That he was built in the early 70's explains a lot, actually. There was a lot of big figural stuff popping up everywhere in the southeast during that period of time.. It was as if a Panama City Beach mentality had rolled inland and washed over the landscape. On unassuming South Cobb drive (in my hometown of Smyrna) alone there was: an old Chevy out front of a garage that had been ironworked into a monster car with bloody teeth in it's hood and the legs of a mannequin pedestrian hanging out of it's "mouth", and just a mile or so down the road one of the best Goofy Golf courses I've ever seen in my LIFE. Comprised of no less than 3 separate 18 hole courses, the whole place had just recently been redone to include giant jack-o-lanterns, storybook characters, monsters and several 2/3rds scale Dinosaurs (including a few based directly on the then-brand-new Aurora "Prehistoric Scenes" kits). One hole even featured a two-chambered cave (also Aurora based) with a glowing large-scale Mysterious Island-type "Giant Bird" in the second chamber. It was so cool I often wondered if I might be in a coma and just living a dream. (Especially since these fiberglass Dinos happened to pop virtually across the street from Cobb Center mall, where I saw One MIllion Years B. C. when I was four, and later that year in the same parking lot, the FULL-SIZE 1964 World's Fair Dinosaurs visited when they toured the country on flatbed trucks with the matching 25 cent wax dinosaur makers.) Okay I digress, but my point is that all this was in just my little hometown! --All within about three miles of my folks' house! It was a golden age for this kind of crap. Too bad so much of it is gone, now . Progress has claimed much of the land, and fiberglass and sustained Sunlight are ultimately a poor mix. Lucky for us Chas is welded together, so he should be around for awhile to come. I think I first saw him 1983 he was really rusty and faded with this Texas-Chainsaw thing goin' on. His delapidated state actually made him considerably more sinister. By the end of the eighties he was a real fright! When he disappeared from his original 8 foot pedestal for awhile around 1991-92 we began to fear the worst...but he soon returned, repaired and repainted with a friendlier pallette, (though even that paint-job has now faded quite a bit) and re-mounted on a much higher, less-accessable pedestal --where he still stands today...
All That Chas
Naturally Chas has been an ongoing influence on a lot of local artists, myself included. Somewhere around here I have an Ed Roth-style Chas I did in the late '80's, driving a flame-spewing, rusty hot-rod complete with customary giant gear shift poking out of the roof. If I can dig that up I'll add it later -- but for now, here's a couple of other Chas art pieces.
...part of a pen & ink piece by Tony Aguirre
...And the spirit of Chas continues! Right down the road (literally about half a mile) some other folks are getting into the act with their own home-grown metal mascot. No name-tag on this guy so we just call 'im the Muffler Man. He say Howdy!
Are there some nutty throwback outsider-advertising "Junk-Men" in your town? Send me a pic and I'll run 'em in a follow-up piece!