Do You Want to See My Monkey?

By Brenda Huettner | STC Fellow

Magic Carpet Golf in Tucson, Arizona, was a local landmark for over 40 years. There were two 18-hole courses, each dotted with an amazing variety of concrete sculptures, including a giant bull, a Buddha, a serpent, an ostrich, some aliens, and a tyrannosaurus. There was a 9,000-pound alien named Goop, a concrete outhouse, and lots of gossip about shenanigans that might have gone on inside the two-story-tall tiki head. When the property was purchased by a car dealership, the sculptures were auctioned off with the condition that the new owners had to move them pronto to make room for a parking lot.

But the piece that caught my eye—the first sculpture visible from the street—was the giant monkey hanging from a concrete palm tree. Approximately 14 feet to the top of the tree, this monkey has eyes that light up and a tail that swings back and forth, designed to knock your golf ball off track. So I placed a very low-ball bid, and to my horror, had actually entered the highest bid. The monkey was mine!

The challenge was in moving him. It turns out, a sculpture that big, one that had been sculpted in place, is not easy to move. Not only did we have to dig him out of the ground (requiring a special giant concrete saw), we also had to cut him into pieces. We had a whole team of people with straps and boards and other supports, a huge crane, people from traffic control, media, and lots of onlookers.

huettner_monkeyBut moving him wasn’t the hard part. Once the pieces were safely in my yard (right near downtown Tucson), we still had to dig footings into the hard-packed caliche, get the crane back to lift the pieces, and then convince someone to get up on a ladder and weld everything back together. It required a lot of coffee and pastries.

Once the statue was standing up, a plasterer came to make repairs, and we sandblasted all the old paint off of him. A neighborhood artist painted him to look as natural as possible in his new home.

At one point, a woman I didn’t know came up to me and poked me with her finger. “Is that your monkey?” she asked. I couldn’t quite tell if she was pleased with this incoming neighbor or not, but I confessed that it was, indeed, my monkey. She gave me a big hug and said, “Thank you so much for saving a piece of Tucson history.”

I didn’t start out having a “thing” for monkeys, the way some people really like penguins or alligators or cats. But now I’m proud to be known as “the monkey lady.”

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