Monday, April 18, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours!

So, here's what I dig about blogging:  
You can write about anything your heart holds dear, no matter how esoteric or nerdy, and somewhere out there you'll connect with some kindred spirits who eagerly join in the nerd-fest right along with you.  Best of all,  those kindred spirits often hold clues to even more nerdy pieces of the puzzle.  You're my Holmes, and I'm your Watson! 

Last week's outpouring of love for rain lamps and Monsanto's Fountain of Fashion at Disneyland inspired a veritable oil spill of responses.  

Designer Mike Cozart salutes the FIBER FOUNTAIN (as it was named in the early designs) with some never-before-seen-by-me artwork on his amazing blog... including this fantastically rare blueprint:

See how the people in the vehicles (to show scale) are having a real hard time keeping their hands to themselves.  The allure of dripping oil was impossible to resist, and the show designers knew this even before the fountain was built!  Most thrilling of all was to learn that to access the fountain's interior display, you had to open a hatch in the ceiling and be lowered in like a jewel thief!  How cool!

Blog-reader Fred commented that I had neglected to mention the "grandaddy of all rain fountains" - that of Southern California's Topanga Plaza in Woodland Hills (1964).   I never saw this awesome fountain in person,  but Major Pepperidge of "Gorillas Don't Blog" shares these photos:  

Holy Hina, Goddess of Rain!   Not since Noah built the ark has there been such a downpour!  Three stories tall?  Maybe four stories!  Aaauugghh! I'm flipping out. 
The Major writes: 
 I think these have the Monsanto versions beat (look at the entranced shoppers in the first photo!) as far as size goes, although they lack the cool "tornado" effect. My grandmother used to take us clothes shopping at that mall when I was in high school, so theoretically I would have seen this fountain - but I don't remember it at all.

Fantastic!  If anyone can top this with evidence of  a bigger or equally spectacular rain lamp, we need to hear about it. 

Thanks to everyone wh0 wrote in to share memories and mutual affection for rain lamps, one of "Man's modern miracles" to rephrase the coin.   

Like the magic genie in a bottle, behold the elixir of illuminated ooze.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Monsanto's Fountain of Fashion

The mother of all rain lamps, Monsanto's Fountain of Fashion!

No vision on earth has yet been discovered that can so thoroughly hypnotize a person into an unblinking stupor as the drip-drip-drip of mineral oil cascading down a nylon thread. Sometime back in the 1960s - or maybe earlier - some genius somewhere combined illumination with precipitation and came up with a miracle we now know as the Rain Lamp.

If you've never seen a rain lamp, you're either too young or too tasteful for your own good. When I was ten I wanted a rain lamp for my bedroom with every polyester fiber of my being. The Sir George's Smorgasbord by our house had one suspended from a pole above the desserts and it was all my mom could do to prevent us kids from disrupting the never-ending chains of diamonds with our fingers.

Disneyland, as with everything else, had the biggest and most impressive rain lamp ever conceived by mankind. Stretching from floor to ceiling, Monsanto's Fountain of Fashion was the grand finale of an Adventure Thru Inner Space, and though the precise reason for its existence was lost on most people, the effect was unforgettable. 

Just out of reach...

Restrained by their lap bars - and possibly the admonishment of their moms -  Atommobile passengers had to fight off temptation to reach out and touch the forbidden strands of the Fountain of Fashion. Within a swirling tornado of a million oil droplets, faceless mannequins depicting a woman and a little girl on a swing wore clothing made from "Blue 'C' nylon and polyester yarns." At their feet, a bed of oversized white daisies gave a hint of nature in this unnatural place, while helping to conceal the oil intake reservoir. 

Maintaining the Fountain of Fashion must've been a flippin' nightmare.

I finally obtained a rain lamp of my very own by the time I was in my late twenties.  It had a gold-painted figure of a Grecian woman on a base surrounded by green plastic ferns. One time a fern came in contact with one of the nylon threads and a leaf conducted about 8 ounces of oil out over the edge of the basin, completely ruining the top of a bookcase below.  The greasy mess slightly diminished my enthusiasm for rain lamps, but seeing these photos of the Fountain of Fashion makes me want to give them another chance.

The Adventure Thru Inner Space attraction debuted in Tomorrowland on June 29, 1967.  In his opening day remarks, former Monsanto president Charles A. Thomas said about the ride: 
"At the end of the trip, of course, the visitor is exposed to 'a word from the sponsor.'  I think you'll agree that we have shown considerable restraint in this area..."

So the Fountain of Fashion and the Miracles From Molecules display was Monsanto showing restraint?  Good golly, just imagine what they would've come up with had they let loose!