Have you ever been curious about that funny-looking, inflatable man? You know the one. You see him on duty at the door of your local car dealership or in the middle of the car lot during big sales. He’s waving at you to check them shiny cars, and, admit it, sometimes it works!
He dances in weird, undulating motions because of the roaring fan at his base. If you haven’t seen him personally, you’ve probably seen him on TV when he got his own car commercial. Haven’t you ever wondered about his side of the story?
What follows is the transcript of an interview conducted with the Tall Boy himself, the inflatable tube man. His is a story that begins in the Summer Olympics, a career in retail advertising, and even trouble with the law.
Interviewer (I): Good morning, Inflatable Tube Man. Do you have any other names, because Inflatable Tube Man seems a little wordy?
Inflatable Tube Man (ITB): Well, I’ve got a lot of names actually. [Chuckles] Yeah, Inflatable Tube Man is more like my street name. One of my creators, the guys who gave me my big break, liked to call me Tall Boy, but the other one prefers Fly Guy. But you can call me Tube Man.
I: So you just mentioned your creator, and your “big break.” Care to elaborate on those things?
ITB: Of course! I was created by a partnership between artists Peter Minshall and Doron Gazit. Minshall is this terrific artist from the Caribbean, known for his work on Carnival parades. Gazit was an LA-based artist who loved working with inflatable sculptures. The organizers for the ’98 Summer Olympics wanted them to make something for the closing ceremony.
I was much bigger back then: 60 feet tall, two legs and separate arms. They were going to use me during the closing ceremony. Of the Summer Olympics. [Whistles] I was really nervous, but I got out there and I wiggled with all I got. Man, that was amazing.
I: The ’90s were really your heyday.
ITB: Oh yeah. I danced in the background for Ricky Martin in ’98. Then I made an appearance in the Superbowl halftime show the same year.
I: So when did you switch from sports events to promotional appearances?
ITB: Hmm, I think around the early 2000s? It was because of this falling out between Minshall and Gazit over patent rights for my two-legged form. Gazit got to patent my original Fly Guy form, with two arms and legs, but other people could use the single-tube form.
I: What can you tell us about your promotional phase?
ITB: That was a really busy time for me. I mean, I could be dancing around in front of an electronics store or a supermarket. Anyone who wanted to venture into an auto franchise opportunity wanted to use me to help drum up sales. It was a really wild and busy ride. I was everywhere, amusing and attracting people.
I: Isn’t that what got you in trouble with the law?
ITB: [Groans] Yeah. The law’s got it out for me. Cities, like Houston, banned businesses from using me to attract attention because I’m distracting and apparently an “eye-sore.” Which, I have to admit, hurts a little bit. They’re really gunning to keep me out of places, but I’ve got a new gig lined up. Sort of a retirement plan.
I: Oh really? Do tell what the great Inflatable Tube Man plans to do during retirement.
ITB: I’m going to try out my green thumb and help farmers and vintners. Apparently, I’m a really good scarecrow. [Laughs] They call me “Air Ranger,” which is really cool. The birds can’t predict what I’m going to do next, so I’m very good at keeping them away from orchards and farms. I like the work, it’s honest and no one’s complaining that I look bad. I really look forward to this new part of my life, helping our nation’s agricultural sector.
[End of Interview]
Inflatable tube men have gone from being spectacles at cars shows, sporting events to scarecrows. Perhaps you can learn a lesson on resilience and inventiveness. These things keep people dreaming, businesses booming, and lets inflatable tube men dance the days away.