Featherstone, with partners, later came to own the firm. He retired in 2000. In 2006, “a victim of rising expenses for plastic resin and electricity, as well as financing problems,” according to the Buffalo News, Union Products announced it would close.
Flamingo fans freaked, and prices for authentic Featherstones soared. Mike Smollon, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported, immediately bought 11 pairs, and then sought out their creator for an autograph.
Featherstone, who keeps 57 of the birds (in honor of the year of their invention), emerged from his home affable as could be and carrying a pen, garbed along with wife Nancy in “matching pink shirts adorned with green flamingos.”
Fortunately for the flamingos, rescue was at hand. Another firm bought the molds and rights, and pink flamingos were again in the pink.
The rescue was fortunate as well for society as a whole. Kitsch they may be, and camp and in poor taste—but they bring people together.
“You know, they bring a smile to your face,” University of South Carolina geography professor Susan Cutter told the Christian Science Monitor during the flamingo crisis.
In Corbin Palms, a Los Angeles neighborhood of Palmer & Krisel-designed mid-century modern homes, neighbors have thrown ‘flamingo parties,’ publicizing them by arranging the birds in front of whichever home would play host.
Similar parties occurred years back at Eichler’s Fairhaven neighborhood in the city of Orange. “There was a flamingo out nearly every night at somebody’s house,” Craig Opsahl recalled.
The flamingos do their job well.
“I don't want it to be just a joke,” Featherstone said of his birds in 1997. “I'll bet 90 percent of the people who buy them just really like them. They feel like I do, that an empty yard is like an empty coffee table—it cries out for something.
“And I'll tell you something about people who put out flamingos—they're friendlier than most people. Remember, they don't do it for themselves—they're doing it to entertain you.”
Photos: David Toerge, Joey Parsons; and courtesy Don and Nancy Featherstone
• For a photo-heavy ride through the world according to Don Featherstone, look for ‘The Original Pink Flamingos: Splendor on the Grass’ (Schiffer Publishing) by Featherstone with Tom Herzing