Up close view of The Boy reveals some smoggy residue.
Up close view of The Boy reveals some smoggy residue.

Chicken Boy: Muffler Man

Field review by the editors.

Los Angeles, California

In Los Angeles, land of giant donuts and iconic neighborhood signs, it takes something spectacular for people to sit up and take notice.

Tributes inside Chicken Boy's building.
Tributes inside Chicken Boy's building.

It takes something like Chicken Boy.

This unique, mutant Muffler Man -- half-human and half-poultry -- stands on a rooftop overlooking a busy commercial district on Figueroa Street. Twenty-two feet tall, Chicken Boy has the head of a rooster, the biceps of a weightlifter, and his hands grasp a large, empty bucket.

He arrived on his current perch thanks to one woman: Amy Inouye.

Chicken Boy began life in L.A. in September 1969, atop the roof of the Chicken Boy restaurant, his bucket promising a cornucopia of fried wings and thighs. Amy, originally from the San Francisco Bay area, arrived a few years later. On her third day in the city, she told us, she saw what she would later call her "adopted kid." Amy already felt affection for a food-animal mascot on her home turf, the Doggie Diner head, and found in the chicken humanoid a reassuring presence.

Amy Inouye (X5) holds souvenir statues while the real Boy roosts overhead.
Amy Inouye (X5) holds souvenir statues while the real Boy roosts overhead.

"I felt comfortable, welcomed," she said. "He just made me feel good about being here. That's how it all started. I'd drive by late at night, wave at him, things like that. He became a thing to me."

Boy-inspired art.
Boy-inspired art.

When the restaurant closed in 1984, Amy, by then running her own graphic design company, asked the owners of Chicken Boy if she could save him from the demolition dumpster. "At that time I thought he was eight feet tall, because I can't judge these things," she said. It wasn't until the owners invited Amy for a closer inspection that she realized just how big Chicken Boy was.

Nevertheless, on the night of May 4, 1984, Amy led a team of artists and contractors up onto the roof to rescue the unwanted inter-species love child.

Amy believed that she'd only be a brief foster parent to Chicken Boy. "We thought, surely some sculpture garden, some museum, some public place is going to want him." But she quickly learned that it was easier to take Chicken Boy down than to put him back up. For the next 23+ years Chicken Boy lay disassembled in a succession of Amy's backyards and storage units, while she fruitlessly appealed to L.A.'s bureaucrats and arts officials, trying to convince them that Chicken Boy was, in her words, "The Statue of Liberty of Los Angeles," and that he needed to once again be seen.

Breakfast of Champions and Chicken Boy.
Breakfast of Champions and Chicken Boy.

Amy eventually moved her business into an old office building -- with a flat, sturdy roof -- in L.A.'s Highland Park neighborhood, which she later learned had the city's only commercial "preservation overlay zone." She also discovered that her block was once part of California's Route 66. Inspired, Amy decided to run the gauntlet of meetings and presentations again, with the goal of putting Chicken Boy on her own roof. This time she succeeded. Chicken Boy was installed on Amy's rooftop perch on October 18, 2007.

He wasn't welcomed by everyone. Officials fretted that Chicken Boy might inspire other businesses to erect giant old statues on their roofs (Amy found such fears laughable). Long-time residents of Highland Park viewed "Boy" -- as Amy sometimes calls him -- as a one-chicken vanguard of unwanted gentrification. Amy countered that Chicken Boy represented all Californians, a transplant like so many others. Her view found powerful friends. In 2010 statuesque Arnold Schwarzenegger presented Amy and the Boy with the California Governor's Historic Preservation Award.

The Statue of Liberty of Los Angeles on his rooftop perch.
The Statue of Liberty of Los Angeles on his rooftop perch.

Today, Chicken Boy has become an established L.A. celebrity. His image graces t-shirts, trading cards, and even the bodies of tattooed Angelenos. A shop in Chicken Boy's building sells his image on pins, patches, figurines, floaty pens, skateboard decks, coin purses, baby onesies, 3D postcards, and handmade sock monkeys. A vending machine carries a selection of Chicken Boy t-shirts.

To the east, Chicken Boy is partly blocked by a billboard, with only his head and feet exposed -- like a teasing Hollywood vamp behind a folding screen. But from the west he's fully visible, with a spotlight added for night viewing. Amy said that the Boy is cleaned regularly, especially after the Fourth of July, when soot from fireworks leaves him looking both feathered and tarred.

Amy once told us that Chicken Boy should qualify for monument status ("He's been around almost long enough, in Los Angeles terms.") But the Statue of Liberty of L.A., unlike his east coast counterpart, is not looking out at those yearning to breathe free (This is smoggy L.A., after all). No, Chicken Boy's goggly gaze is straightforward and slightly downward, toward his bucket, a symbol, perhaps, of the promise of California -- and its bottomless bounty of roadside razzle-dazzle.

Chicken Boy: Muffler Man

Address:
5558 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA
Directions:
Highland Park area, along Historic Route 66.
Phone:
323-254-4565
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Chicken Boy Sidewalk MuralChicken Boy Sidewalk Mural, Los Angeles, CA - < 1 mi.
Big DragonfliesBig Dragonflies, Montecito Heights, CA - < 1 mi.
LAPD MuseumLAPD Museum, Los Angeles, CA - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Music Box Steps - Laurel and Hardy, Silver Lake, CA - 5 mi.

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