Chango, The Baja Surf Monkey — Endangered Species

Sad days.  No. No, not politics, wars or pandemics.  Something much greater.  Chango the Baja Surf Monkey is endangered.  Borderline extinct.

Yeah, I know. 

Five years ago, an enthusiast-level primatologist who we’ll call T. Butcher (because that’s what I call him), sent me this photo of a small portion of his primate collection.  Last year, those same three pieces of art were stolen from his backyard.

Most everyone of my 8 regular readers recognizes Chango –  the painted ceramic surfing simian pictured above.  For the other 4 of you reading this who don’t recognize Chango, let me explain.

For decades, Chango was the ubiquitous Southern California Garden Gnome.  He’s a cheap, crappy, plaster-of-paris primate molded by the tens of thousands in Tiujana factories and was purchased at every border crossing for decades, by hungover gringos stuck in their cars for hours as they waited to drive back into the US.  Chango was displayed for miles in every direction — as far as one could see.  Every group of knuckleheads who road-tripped to TJ in the 80’s and 90’s bought one per carload on their way back and has their own blurry memories of a Tiujana trip associated with it. Remember when every boardwalk and carnival game prize in the whole country was a Spuds McKenzie stuffed animal?  Multiply that by a bazillion, for decades.  With your last $5, you could always count on getting a souvenir ceramic surf monkey and a pack of Chiclets on your way back.

I was hunting down some other rare monkey art pieces a few weeks ago in SoCal, when it dawned on me that I should easily be able to find a Chango for my collection and get an extra one to send to T. Butcher and surprise him.

“Odd,” I thought as I searched online.  “There aren’t any on eBay, Nextdoor, OfferUp or…. anywhere.”  [You know I was really thinking that, because it’s in quotation marks.]  “I can’t just walk out my door and get a Chango for my yard, and an extra one, to send to T. Butcher?”  This wasn’t supposed to be a project – just a minor errand.

Dig in.  Start exploring.  Going down the Baja Surf Monkey rabbit hole.  ‘Cause that’s what I do.

No surf monkeys for sale.  What the heck? Finally found a website with all things Chango!  It points me in the direction of West Coast Paddle Sports in Pacific Beach, San Diego, online store, “Our friend Bob at West Coast Paddle will ship you the monkey of your dreams! (He’s better at shipping these precious primates than we are).”

So, I ordered one online.  A few days later was contacted by WCPS and they said they don’t ship them anymore – they break too easily.  They have one left in the store, if I wanted to pick it up.  Of course I did!

I arrived at WCPS and as I walked in the front door, there sat an enchanted crimson-and-white-stripped Chango, welcoming me from atop a display.  Here is the photo of their store on the front page of their website — Chango, front and center.  Bob was actually in the store that day, and I picked his brain on the odd unavailability of a Chango tchotchke.  Wow,  what a story!  Chango actually disappeared for a while, and was resurrected by Beth Slevcove.  The story on Slevcove’s savvy saving of the endangered Chango chimp appeared in a 2012 article in the San Diego Tribune:

“After decades of ruling the waves at borderline shops, the surf monkey’s popularity began to diminish with the introduction of more contemporary plaster-of-Paris pieces like Bart Simpson and Dora the Explorer. Eventually, production of the statue had diminished, molds were lost, and Chango’s future remained uncertain until a local surfer and longtime Baja traveler, Beth Slevcove, got involved.”

San Diego Union Tribune

[I feel like there is plenty of room for Chango, Bart Simpson and Dora to peacefully co-exist on the acres of outdoor retail shelf space at the border, but I guess supply and demand is never wrong.  Sigh.  Millennials.]

She tracked down the Chango mold in a Tiujana factory and convinced the owner to sell it to her.  Apparently, Chango is still sporadically available in a few local San Diego surf shops. I love this next part. It seems that I (and my 8 regular readers) am not the only one with a passion for plaster primate pieces:

“By 2009, the Surf Monkey Fellowship was born and remains the only U.S. importer of the eight-toed plaster-of-Paris surf legend. …. Committed to preserving the 40-year-plus legacy of the surf monkey, Slevcove has learned a lot about Chango. Most notably, it’s actually not a monkey, but a chimpanzee (no tail). “This was confirmed by a primatologist,” chimes in Slevcove. “We take Chango very seriously.”

Beth Slevcove, as quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune

Chango ceramics are no longer available by the tens of thousands, however there is still a huge following and I think Bob and WCPS might be the only place left where these are sold.

PLEASE take your own Chango journey!  It’s fascinating!  Do an online search of “Chango the Surf Monkey”: article — Surf Monkey on Endangered List  You have to pour through every page of this site!!

2022 podcast with Beth Slevcove!!  “How did an icon of border tchotchkedom become nearly extinct?”

Chango Lives! – The San Diego Union Tribune

Surf Monkey Turns 50!

Spreading the Chango love!  “Chango–the best Friday the 13th ever

The Fourth Monkey

There was a Fourth Monkey?

This pulchritudinous primate piece portraying the proverbial principle “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” is sent to us by Millen, from New York City.  Very formal with their muted-red vests and bowties!  Fast thoughts: (1) odd for them to get all dressed up to take a bath together; (2) Why are they using a banana leaf as a boat? Where could they possibly be going?  (Probably getting the #@*! out of NYC these days!) (3) Hypothesis: this “3 Wise Monkeys” genre and the 1,200 year old origin of the proverb is not about wisdom, but was intended to be a public service announcement during whatever plague was ravaging the earth back at the time. Since they didn’t have surgical face masks, they just had to ask everyone to keep their hands over their eyes, ears and mouths when out in public? (4) The weirdest thing about it, has to be that Millen’s step-mom keeps that thing on her bedside table. Could you fall asleep with that next to you?

“Hey Dave, what are the monkeys names?”

Funny you should ask! When I started this piece, I did not know the monkeys had names. I really like monkeys, and I really really like funny stuff and it never even dawned on me that the monkeys might actually have names! While I was researching the origin of the proverb, lo and behold the monkeys have names! From left to right, Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru! Ha! That’s awesome. Can’t wait to bring that up in casual conversation, or need a name for a new pet, or …something. Like many great proverbs, this one is actually a Japanese play on words and a play on the names of the monkeys. Similar to the Swedish, “There’s no bad weather. Only Bad clothing.” “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder” See? It rhymes. A play on words — that’s where wisdom comes from!

“You’re still writing. You obviously want us to ask what else you learned about the 3 monkeys. …. So?”

This is GREAT! Our extensive research found that there is sometimes included a fourth monkey crossing his arms or covering his genitals or holding his nose. That’s a fact — I found it on the internet. SURELY that supports my hypothesis that the origin is more likely a public service announcement about being safe during a plague — cover your mouth, ears, nose and eyes (and …genitals?) when going out in public. It’s the 1,200 year old version of “wear a mask!” And, since there were no t-shirt iron-ons, local authorities made monkey statues to place around town to get the message out. Probably kiln-fired clay or chainsaw tree-trunk carvings.

There is even a book called, “The Fourth Monkey.” How great is that title?

“What about Gandhi? Surely he must have had something to say about the 3 Wise Monkeys?”

Per that same Wikipedia entry, “Mahatma Gandhi’s one notable exception to his lifestyle of non-possession was a small statue of the three monkeys – Bapu, Ketan and Bandar. Today, a larger representation of the three monkeys is prominently displayed at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where Gandhi lived from 1915 to 1930 and from where he departed on his famous salt march. Gandhi’s statue also inspired a 2008 artwork by Subodh Gupta, Gandhi’s Three Monkeys.”

“Wait!! WHAT!????”

Yeah, that’s what I said!! Gandhi had one possession. ONE! And it was this statue! Think about that!! Same statue as on Millen’s step-mom’s bedside table. Gandhi peacefully changed the history of the world against the largest empire on the planet with one monkey statue. Hmmmmm….. interesting. I guess the message is, we could all benefit from having a little more monkey art in our lives. Way to go, Millen’s step-mom!

The Wikipedia entry on the 3 Wise Monkeys is an enlightening and really interesting short read. And you can read all about the fourth monkey.

Big thanks to Millen in NYC for sending this in! Who knew the 3 Wise Monkeys had names? And the Gandhi thing! Mind = blown.

Learning from Mahatma Gandhi’s three monkeys

Top Five Hilarious Interpretations of Gandhi’s Three Wise Monkeys

It’s bigger than I thought.

 (That’s what she said! 🙂  haha! )

There are certainly a number of fascinating coincidences and synchronicities that we all experience in our lives.  Then there are occasionally these seemingly impossible, miraculous events that when they occur, they make you stop and realize that there is a much higher consciousness at work in the universe.

The ‘Monkey Pooping on a Toilet Bathroom Tile’ saga seems to be in that realm of the miraculous.  Rewind. My first encounter with the pooping monkey tile was when a friend of mine randomly sent me the photo from Florida that became the very first blog post on this site.  It was funny, hilarious and we had a few good laughs.  Then we all moved on to the next farcical piece of monkey-related art.  End of story, right?

Wrong!  I recently recevied this photo from reader Kevin Matsoni.  It is a tile he obtained from the Kringloop Ede thrift store in Ede, Netherlands.  He noted in his email that the tile was made in Greece.


Now, compare this to the original blog post pic:monkeyonpublictoilet

“Wow,” I thought. “That’s a real head-scratcher!” [Get it?  There was something curious about the similarity of the two tiles……. and also, one of the monkeys is scratching his head.  haha! I crack myself up sometimes.  🙂 ]

Initial research a few months ago after receiving the original (lower photo) tile revealed the bathroom tile masterpiece was inspired by a series of monkey images from the 1970’s that made their way onto posters and t-shirt iron-ons (when is the last time you heard the term, “iron-ons?”) with various hilarious slogans such as ‘Go Bananas.’  Some of the most famous include unfavorable comparisons of the U.S. Congressmen and other lawmakers to the banana-chewing primates-on-the-potty.  It was fun looking at all the creative ways these prime primate glossies were put to use, including (what I thought was) someone hand-painting one on a tile for some beautiful, unknown reason.

Then a few months later, I get the email from reader Kevin with a photo of a similar hand-painted tile with a different monkey image from that same series of photos from the 1970’s, and a note attached that says the tile’s origin is Greece and he found it in the Netherlands.  What the ____?  That certainly piques my curiosity.  Again, more research. Sure enough — there seems to be some kind of booming Greek cottage industry that hand-paints these images of a monkey pooping on a toilet onto actual bathroom tiles and exports them to all corners of the globe. Assuming that 60% of the time, 100% of what I read on the internet is true, I’ve found that several Greek restaurants have a tile like those above, in their bathrooms.  Some kind of national pride thing for the Greeks?

Back to my original thought.  If ever there was a doubt about the infinite intelligence of the universe, the nature of consciousness or the consciousness of nature, this blog post about two bathroom tiles of monkeys pooping on toilets, from completely different parts of the world somehow coming together and finding a common ground on my laptop screen surely puts that to rest.  Think about it. The confluence of ridiculous events that needed to take place for those two images to appear above, next to each other, is no less than an absolute and deliberate miracle.

Either that, or I have attracted a really odd subset of global citizens as readers.  I’d prefer to go with ‘miracle.’ 🙂

Big thanks to reader Kevin Matsoni for that pic and the info!  Hand-painted greek tradition and global phenomenon.  Who knew?



Go Cubs Go!

In timely fashion for the World Series, a reader sends us a pic of a Chicago Cubs sock monkey.  Judging from the adjacent pillows and the stemless wine glass, this pic is apparently from someone who is a Cubs fan, a real “baseball guy,” and also a person who has aspirations to someday be a “wine guy” (cute, but baseball guys should probably stick with baseball and boats — wonder what box of pinot they were serving?).  It is also obvious from the attention to detail on the pillows and the cushion piping that there was a world-class designer involved in creating the interior of this boat.  Love both this nautical craftsmanship and devotion to primates. Go Cubs Go!!!

Cubs Sock Monkey

Pic sent to us from Newport Beach, CA.

It’s not about the monkeys.

Dear Ms. Wryman,

We are thrilled that appropriately, is foremost in your thoughts and deeds and that you used your work computer on company time to write to us!  The story you submitted is about a real monkey.  While we unequivocally advocate reading stories about monkeys during work, at WDLM, our focus is on the socially important, politically powerful and intellectually cutting-edge world of “monkey-related” items  — not real monkeys.  

 A SCULPTURE that depicts a monkey on a toilet has depth, inspires, and could theoretically end world hunger or change the outcome of an election.  A photo or video of an actual monkey on a toilet is more for Facebook or other things people do at the office.  For more on our editorial standards, please visit The Tao of WDLM

If the real monkey story you submitted was about a talking monkey that wore human clothes and had a human job somewhere for a decade and no one noticed it was an actual monkey and not just a hairy short person who excelled at his job in senior management yet still brought the same thing for lunch everyday….well…then… yeah… THAT we’d publish.  The story (link below) about a real monkey —  maybe submit it to Ranger Rick magazine?

Thank you for your continued devotion to WDLM! 


Though we would never publish anything like this, the above story was provided by one of our more brilliant readers, Krim Wryman in MA.

Michael Jackson and Bubbles life-sized porcelain statue. Not joking.

Michael Jackson and Bubbles the monkey statue

This photo sent to us by a reader in Manhattan Beach, CA, during his recent trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of art.  Are you kidding me?!  I can’t believe my eyes or what I’m reading about this statue. I have to “break the 4th wall” for this blog entry…..

Do any of you know about this piece?!

This WDLM site is all about being ridiculous.  It’s fun to be ridiculous for a few hour each week.  But….. are you kidding me??  This is actually a serious piece of $5.6 million art (and that was 15 years ago)?   There is nothing that I could write that would be more entertaining than what has already been written in the wikipedia entry describing this statue. No way you could make this stuff up:

Dave, I don’t feel like reading the whole wikipedia entry.  Can you just give me the Cliff’s Notes version?

“Bubbles was Jackson’s domestic animal [he bought] from a Texas research facility in 1985. It has been claimed by the media that he was Jackson’s best and faithful friend who even joined the singer on his world tours and helped in the household.”

I didn’t make that up.  Really.  Those are true sentences about Michael Jackson and his chimpanzee.

“[The] Michael Jackson and Bubbles [statue] has also been read as a symbol of the human desire for self-discovery….The assimilated chimp on his lap underlines this aspect of self-exploration. He is a traditional symbol in fine arts which serves to mirror human nature. But meanwhile the plastic [surgery] demonstrates the tragic impossibility of this attempt. The material’s aesthetic and Jackson’s aura of transcendence show how unnatural the results of this self-exploration must be.”

Hilariously brilliant. I can’t stop laughing or re-reading that. If I spent a year working on a satirical paragraph about this sculpture, I couldn’t have said it any better than that. Or this:

The American artist Paul McCarthy created some sculptures relating to Michael Jackson and Bubbles by Jeff Koons, e.g. Michael Jackson and Bubbles (Gold) from 1997 to 1999 or Michael Jackson Fucked Up (Big Head) from 2002.

True dat.

Sometimes life is more ridiculous than fiction.  And they say “art imitates life.”  So, there you go.

I can’t believe that’s a serious piece of art. (heavy sigh)

Keep those photos and stories coming!  🙂

Scooter’s Sock Emporium Portrait in Legos

Scooters Sock Emporium

This masterful objet d’art sent to us by a reader on a family trip to Legoland in Florida.  Legoland really ensuring they live up to their tag line, “Awesome Awaits” with this dedicated display of a classy and handsome portrait of everyone’s favorite sock-specialty-store simian, Scooter.

This is a period piece dating back to mid-1900’s. Scooter and his Sock Emporium flourished during the heyday for both socks and emporiums – 1894 thru 1897.  Scooter’s grandson, single-handedly crafted this homage to his legendary grandfather out of the Legos he received as a birthday gift around 1940.

Scooter got his start in the world of hosiery retail not in an emporium but on foot, working the tropical beaches frequented by Americans, Europeans and Australians, selling socks and sunglasses out of a back-pack.  His real name was Michael Murphy, and he earned the nickname “Scooter the Sock Simian” with his style of quickly scampering from person to person, hawking his wares up and down the beach from from dawn ’til dusk.  When Michael left the beaches of the tropics to start his emporium in the USA, his nickname was shortened to just “Scooter,” because most people in the US didn’t know what “Simian” meant.

Dave, that sounds a little far-fetched.

You guessed it.  That’s the story that Michael’s family would like you to believe.  Legend has it that Michael fancied rum.  Early in his beach-merchant days, he leveraged his evolutionary advantage of having opposable thumbs on his feet and a prehensile tail to sneak into the tiny thatched-hut beach bars and help himself to bottles of rum, 3 at time.  Everyday, the bar staff could be heard up and down the beach shouting “Shooo!” and “Scoot! Scoot!” (because that’s what people yelled back in the 1800’s to shoo away animals) as they waived their arms in a sweeping, broom-like manner to scoot Michael out of the bars.  Thus, the name “Scooter.”

Scooter’s Sock Emporium Portrait in Legos can be seen at Legoland, FL.

Monkey Holding Dual Lamp Shades

1606 Lamp Monkey

This monkey looks societal pressures right in the eyes, smirks and then gives it the double “long bamboo stick,” if you know what I mean. 😉  😉  Conventional wisdom says a tall, skinny monkey should avoid a one-button blazer —unless he is wearing a vest.  Dual Lamp Shade Monkey has so much confidence and presence that he made the decision 70 years ago to wear a one-button blazer despite being tall, and he is probably the trend-setter responsible for that style making a comeback in recent years.  Normally, the tall skinny guys wear at least 3 buttons.  The matching hat is a nice touch and I hope that makes a comeback soon, as well.

It kind of look like he’s wearing a monkey-vest under his blazer, doesn’t it?

Some of you may argue that if you look closely directly underneath the bottom of the blazer, the top two buttons on the white material clearly imply the presence of a vest underneath the blazer and that this monkey is much less daring than I have credited him.  The counter-argument to that line of thinking is that when wearing a blazer, the most critical portion of the vest is the part that shows above the blazer-button line and below the neck-line.  No vest showing up there, so that comment is moot, regardless of the 2 buttons below the blazer possibly signifying a vest or more likely a fashion-foward, untucked, cool monkey shirt of some sort.  Probably an early version of John Varvatos.

Monkey Holding Dual Lamp Shades was sent to us from a reader in Minnesota.  (We are killing it in MN!)  The pic is from Dixie’s on Grand Ave., in St. Paul.

Monkey Bar Drain Drip Tray

2016-05-26 18.43.27 copy

Me neither!  I’ve never heard of Monkey Shoulder.  Judging from the footer text on the tray and the context, easy to figure its an adult beverage of some sort.  Very odd set of monkey-related coincidences within 24 hours of each other, finds me sitting at a bar directly in front of this drip tray with monkeys on it.  I never heard of “bar drain drip tray” either.  I wasn’t sure what to call that thing.  “Bar drain drip tray” is the result of 15 seconds reading search results on the interweb.   ‘Monkey-related coincidences’ is a story for another time.

According to the Monkey Shoulder website: “Some say it tastes just like riding bareback on the wild moors of Scotland with a flame haired maiden on Christmas morning.”  

Does that sound appetizing to you?

At first, I thought this quote meant it was like riding a horse without a saddle.  My parents always told me I was part Scottish, but that doesn’t sound inviting to me.  Riding a horse bareback sounds painful, not mouthwatering. I don’t care how many flame-haired maidens are riding with me.  Having a 2,100 pound horse repeatedly pound its spine into my testicles over and over and over for any length of time is not how I would like to spend Christmas morning.  Though, knowing the Scotts that probably does sound like fun to them.  They’re nuts! [pun intended]

Upon further review, the quote doesn’t actually say anything about a horse.  Maybe they are just riding flame-haired maidens bareback.  That sounds like a much better way to spend Christmas morning, and something worthy of buying a bottle or a case.  I like the thought and excellent use of the ‘double-entendre.’  Well done, Monkey Shoulder VP of Marketing.   Well done.

This picture was taken at the bar at Driftwood Kitchen, Laguna Beach, CA.

Shower Curtain Monkeys and Chapter 1 of WDLM lore: where the name came from

1605 shower curtain

Yeah, this is the shower curtain I have in my house.  Actually, this is a .jpeg image file from an online Bed Bath and Beyond catalog for a monkey shower curtain that they offer for sale.

The above paragraph is much funnier if you read it, with this movie quote in mind:

High Macha Of Rashpur: [displaying a printed floor plan] “This is Shepherd Wong’s house.”  Phil Moscowitz: “He lives in that piece of paper?”  High Macha Of Rashpur: “No, you idiot. He’s got a regular house!”

[I’m guessing there are only 3 people in the world who will get that reference.]

So, where did the name for your website come from?

Glad you asked.  Part 1 of the story:  I dated a girl last year and we progressed all the way to the, ‘she will drive over to my place, and we will go to dinner from there’ stage.  As I was showing her around the many rooms of my 900 sqft of my house, we stuck our heads in the bathroom.  She looked at my shower curtain, paused for what was probably 3 seconds (but felt much longer) and in a eureka / big-revelation type of exclamation pronounced, “You like monkeys!” as if she had just uncovered a deep dark secret from my past.

My reaction then created that uncomfortable pregnant pause moment, and with a confused look and in a somewhat defensive (condescending?) manner, I spouted “Who doesn’t like monkeys?”

And, so we stood there for the next 20 to 30 seconds, pretty sure that the other was a little weird.  Like in that way Republicans and Democrats think, “how could the other person possibly think the way they do?”

That’s where the phrase “Who doesn’t like monkeys?” comes from.  I know.  I’ve got some issues.  But I really don’t think that “liking monkeys” is one of them.

Why the website?  I’ll get to that at some point.  Check back soon.