Michael Linder Gives The Ball The Eye

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Acclaimed KNX reporter Michael Linder has a nice feature on the Save the 76 Ball campaign in his weekend blog. Click over to enjoy a very clever montage of images, or just read on. Thanks, Michael!

Pinhead to the rescue of giant 76 balls! You know — those orange and blue globes being uprooted from gas stations across the Southland while Los Angeles culture aficionados howl.

The branding switcheroo is fallout from ConocoPhillips purchase of Union 76. Flat signage in ConocoPhillips red is replacing the big orange balls which were designed by Ray Pederson for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. The spheres have taken on urban treasure status among cultural preservationists who regard them as historic Jet Age flashbacks — like the Jetsonesque theme restaurant at LAX which also made its debut in ‘62.

 This week, cartoonist Bill Griffith announced his “Zippy the Pinhead” comic strip is taking up the cause. Griffith’s passion for classic signs is legendary. We recently caught Zippy in print, chatting with the Felix Chevrolet sign at Jefferson and Figueroa. And, he’s got clout. Seen in over 200 newspapers, Zip’s strip is credited with saving the Bay Area’s Doggie Diner weiner dog signs from destruction.

Dogged determination by Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak is fueling the campaign. The duo publish The 1947 Project, one of our all-time fave explorations into Los Angeles’ colorful past. (Our KNX news story streams here.) More than 2,300 signatures from motorists threatening to boycott have been gathered at their Save the 76 Ball site. “If that ball goes, so does this customer!”

ConocoPhillips hasn’t backed down despite a steady stream of media attention to the cause célèbre. Even the BBC is onto gas station castration. Actor Michael Madsen (“Reservoir Dogs,” “Kill Bill”) told the Beeb, “There seems to be this driving force to tear down everything that’s a little old. These are things that were landmarks, a symbol that I remember from childhood.” Madsen says he tried to buy a ball but was told they are destined to be crushed. “What’s the point of smashing them and putting up flat signs?”

Indeed! Not to mention the way some of the balls magically morph into Halloween jack-o-lanterns every October. Three dollar gas, now this.