The Doggie Diner heads embody San Francisco’s unique, weird, creative spirit. They are a symbol that intersects the post-WWII Bay Area small business, the 60’s underground comic scene, and SF Cacophony-inspired creative mischief that continues to this day.
Originally a local Oakland/SF fast food chain, the Doggie DIners peaked at about a dozen restaurants around the Bay Area and then succumbed in the mid-1980’s to competition from national chains like McDonalds.
Each of these epic canine cabezas stands 10-feet-tall and weighs 300 pounds, made of fiberglass and metal in the fetching shape of a dachshund’s head wearing a chef’s hat. They were giant signs for the restaurants, akin to the better known Shoney’s Big Boy, usually mounted on a pole 10-feet off the ground.
San Francisco artist Bill Griffith often drew talking doggie diner heads into his surreal comic strip Zippy the Pinhead carrying them into daily papers around the country as well as collections published by Last Gasp Books, San Francisco’s iconic purveyor of underground art & comic books.
And the Cacophony Society connection? Well John Law and a few other Cacophony folks worked in the commercial sign industry from the 1970’s on. Installing, maintaining and demo-ing all kinds of business signs. They watched first-hand as the number of doggies dwindled over the years.
John recounts in detail on the Kickstarter site how he acquired 3 of the monumental mutts. Here’s the short version:
Around 1990 when the last of the Doggie Diner heads were being hauled off to landfills, John Law and fellow tradesmen and artists managed to rescue a few of the last Dogs from what would have been a most certain death. Since then, these remarkable and historic icons have toured around the Bay. As a service to the community, for the last 25 years they have been dropping in free of any charge on hundreds of charity events, local music shows, parades, and important public happenings.
John’s loved to bring the doggies out for Cacophony and like-minded events, parked out front as a sign that something weird, wonderful and worthwhile was going on in the vicinity. As a key member of both the Cacophony Society and its predecessor The Suicide Club, John knew what was worth drawing attention to including St Stupid’s Day, Art Car Fests, and Laughing Squid events, amongst many many others.
As you can imagine the dogs got noticed. Everywhere they infatuated those just meeting them and brought back memories for those who grew up in the Bay Area.
Over 25+ years though the dogs have had some serious wear and tear, and that’s reason that John and friends set up this Kickstarter. They are half way to the nearly $50K needed to help the dogs look like new and be sturdy enough for the next quarter century of representing all the best things about San Francisco. With incentives that include Doggie Diner art by Ron English, Josh Ellingson, and Loid Mongoloid as well as Zippy the Pinhead himself. Also Cacophony books and your own personal adventures with John Law. , daredeveil-cyborg-raconteur-dogwrangler.
For the love of all that is San Francisco, please kick in a few bucks, and spread the word!! Follow John on Twitter for updates!
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