A Big But and an Even Bigger Dinosaur

Published On : 4/17/2012 12:49 PM
From : KVCR
Categories : Local, Science, State, Arts
David Fleming

A big But? Yeah. I know. I spelled it wrong. If that’s what you were thinking. I’m thinking of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. He had been dropped off at a roadside diner by Large Marge – a spectral truck driver. He was giving Simone, a waitress, some advice, and she said, “I know you’re right, Pee-wee, but…” He cuts her off with, “Everyone I know has a big 'But'. C’mon, Simone, let’s talk about your big 'But'”. Now, while they were chatting, they were looking out at the night sky – through the mouth of a large dinosaur.

They were IN the dinosaur. A T-Rex, to be exact. To be even more exact – the one in the picture above.

Over the last five years, I kept meaning to stop by this thing. I mean, it’s not out on some Hollywood tour. It’s just down the road about 30 minutes. Just out the 10 East at the far edge of Cabazon. So maybe we were placating a 4-year old. She got to see some big dinosaurs. Maybe we were slipping into a juvenile curiosity about “that place from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”! I know I was.

The T-Rex (named Mr. Rex) is actually one of two large (redundant?) dinosaurs on the premises. In 1964, Knott’s Berry Farm sculptor and portrait artist Claude K. Bell, began work on “Dinny”, using metal salvaged from the construction of the nearby I-10. From Wikipedia’s entry on the subject: 

Bell was quoted in 1970 as saying the 45-foot (14 m) high, 150-foot (46 m) long Dinny was "the first dinosaur in history, so far as I know, to be used as a building." His original vision for Dinny was for the dinosaur's eyes to glow and mouth to spit fire at night, predicting, "It'll scare the dickens out of a lot of people driving up over the pass." These two features, however, were not added. With the help of ironworker Gerald Hufstetler, Bell worked on the project independently; no construction companies or contractors were involved in the fabrication. The task of painting Dinny was completed by a friend of Bell's in exchange for one dollar and a case of Dr Pepper.

Now – Dinny was constructed to call attention to his café…as if a big sign saying EAT in the middle of the desert wasn’t attention-calling enough.

Bell was right, to the best of MY knowledge, that Dinny is indeed the only dinosaur in history to be used as a building. You don’t know this walking up. You generally assume that any dinosaur you see – if you were to see one – wouldn’t be used for a building. But then you see a door near the beginning of the tail…

...and then a staircase going up...

                                                                  ...turns out...it's a gift shop. Smile. You're on camera.

Now is the time to mention that the current owners seeeeeeeeeem to be of a Young Earth Creationist stance. A cursory glance at their website will show this. I only mention this because what you have now, in the middle of the gift shop, is a collection of items from various stages in the Earth’s evolutionary process – side by side with signs, and various forms of literature by leading Young Earth Creationists, explaining how the evolutionary process is completely impossible and un-provable. With all due respect. I truly find it a fascinating display to see these things side by side, and it’s well worth a look.

The same kind of fun continues if you pay the nominal fee to go into the Robotic Dinosaur area. The fun of having 4 or 5 mechanical dinosaurs tell you – actually say to you - with their little mechanical speaker-box, that evolutionary origin of life is impossible, and yudduh yudduh, yudduh…(I paraphrase). But again – truly – all due respect. No matter what literature you find at this little roadside attraction, no matter what their website says and points to, I don’t want to use this as a forum in which to compare anyone’s personal beliefs with that of something much more plausible. My purpose is to point out something kind of cool, about a minute off the highway.

Stop by. Give it a look. Buy something in the gift shop. It really is a kind of a cool experience. Really. It’s of a rather grand scale. Just in case you never saw Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, the person you see next to next to Mr. Rex's foot stands about 6'2". The little pink spot (we call her Lola) normally stands around 3 feet. If you're even SLIGHTLY into roadside kitsch - stop off for a few minutes.

And if you go in the Café…

...Tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya...

...I’m sure that this couldn’t possibly get old.

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