Join us as we talk about the first night that “Live-Action Billboards” came into existence. Like a lot of other things in life, it was neither planned nor staged. It just sort of happened. And it grew organically until becoming the phenomenon it is today. Indeed, you can’t travel far on our nation’s freeways and Interstates without being exposed to the wonderful, whimsical, enchanting, enlightening, illuminating and breathtaking displays. The Crimpanfortis family does things right, pulling out all the stops in getting creative and daring above our nation’s highways and byways

Live Action Billboards: How It All Began

Getting Creative above our Nation’s Highways and Byways

The concept of “Live-Action Billboards” came about quite by accident one stress-filled evening in the Duwamish tide flats south of Seattle. I had just screwed up royally as mascot for our high school football team. It was the conference championship and a real tight game that went right down to the wire. Lo and behold our halfback got sprung for a touchdown in the waning seconds of the game. I was so jubilant that I guess I stepped onto the field early or something. The refs threw all these flags at my kinked lion’s tail and the fans started booing something fierce. I thought my teammates were going to kill me. And they were some big dudes slotted for scholarships in the PAC-28.

Needing time to be alone and lick my wounds, I hitched a ride with some opposing fans on their way back to West Seattle to catch the Fauntleroy ferry. By the time they dropped me at the 509 cutoff, they were feeling pretty sorry for me. They wondered why I was venturing into no-man’s land in my bedraggled lion’s garb.

I didn’t plan on making it out alive. Bears supposedly hung out in these parts.

I watched the taillights disappear in the forest of blue spruce that swayed softly in the warm night breeze.

Then I looked up.

Getting a Wild Hair that Changed the Course of Advertising

Directly in front of me was one of Daddy’s massive billboards, It was an advertisement for car mufflers. Murph the “Muffler Prince” stood proudly with one of his products slung over a bare, meaty shoulder much like a cleanup batter in baseball heading from the on-deck circle to the plate. For reasons known only to Murph and the creative department, he wore nothing more than a fedora and diaper. His hairless pink gut prominently hung over the white cotton napkin fastened with a garish gold-plated safety pin. “Muffles,” his slobbering bulldog sidekick, also wore a fedora and diaper. He carried a miniature muffler in his mouth like a prized bone.

With nothing to lose, I clambered up the base of the enormous structure. I didn’t know what I was going to do when I reached the catwalk. I just figured I’d play it by ear.

The rest is history.

Just Doing What Came Naturally

I guess I had a lot of pent-up energy or something. Stripped to my ratty lion loins, I started hamming it up, doing wind sprints on the catwalk along with bizarre calisthenics and impressive handstands. I wasn’t really aware of anything, I was just blowing off steam, but I guess I soon started to attract a little bit of attention.

Well, actually . . . a lot of attention.

It didn’t take long before there was a full-blown incident in the works.

I had already stopped traffic on the 509 in both directions; local stations had started teasing their eleven o’clock newscasts with live cut-ins of me performing crabwalks across the catwalk. News vans assembled at the base of the monopole and helicopters hovered overhead. Blinding lights stabbed the succulent night sky in all directions.

And Then It Really Started to Get Insane

Let’s get something straight: I come from a family long on drama and short on patience. When it finally registered what was going on, members of my family leapt into action.

And of course overreacted.

Daddy, as usual, was on the road but nonetheless barked orders long distance. Mama, as usual, didn’t listen to Daddy and took matters into her own hands.

Then everything started happening all at once.

Dirkie Tirk, a stunt professional extraordinaire and old family friend, galloped onto the scene aboard his co-star palomino and attempted to lasso me on the planks.

Our licensed billboard workers, dressed like rodeo clowns (the moonlighting job from which they’d just been summoned), stormed the bulkhead and chased me around the billboard, across the catwalk, up the ladder on one side and down the other.

My high school marching band showed up and boarded the catwalk in formation, trying, through a brassy heartfelt serenade, to literally coax me off the ledge. They were followed by star members of the football team, some clad only in jockstraps, as well as the homecoming queen, who had just been applying varnish to the aft deck of her family’s yacht. She wore the tiara.

Referees brought up the rear, tossing an endless supply of bright yellow penalty flags.

Mama culminated the night when she repeatedly buzzed the billboard with a leased Pure Deluxe Barnstormer Special.

The Birth of the “Live-Action Billboard”

The publicity generated from that unplanned stunt was, needless to say, monumental. It got really insane the following week when some dude from outside Reno ordered five thousand high-performance, direct-fit mufflers. Daddy, who was definitely not born yesterday, sniffed out a real opportunity and the “Live-Action Billboard” was born.

The takeaway is this: if you want to grab people’s attention, you’d better let the message literally leap from the signage.

And oh, by the way . . . in the event you’re wondering: did I get any credit for developing this radical new form of advertising?

Not on your life. You really don’t know my family, do you?