Busy Marquee
December 12, 2002 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Busy Marquee. "The idea behind Busy Marquee is very simple and yet very immature: find signs that have interchangable letters, bring your Scrabble skills, and rearrange omnipresent advertising to form Dadaist bits of landscape." My boner is screaming hello!
posted by mcsweetie (33 comments total)
Well hello, boner! These photos were taken here in Austin. I've never run across them in person ... I'll pay more attention from now on.
posted by kmel at 7:04 PM on December 12, 2002

I remember a story my sisters husband told me about changing the sign on a Southern Baptist church with like 3,000 members to say Pelvis, on saturday night at like 3 a.m. so that the congregation would be greeted with Pelvis in the morning, i thought that was humor at its best... still do
posted by sourbrew at 7:09 PM on December 12, 2002

The best part is there's no brazen politics in their work, just sheer silliness.
posted by UlfMagnet at 7:15 PM on December 12, 2002

This is a great old past time. Stuff I think most people did when they were younger. We were always too paranoid to take pictures though, lest we get busted or something (pre digi-cam days). My only complaint about the site, though, is that I wish they had before and after pics, so you could see what they had to work with and see if you could think of anything better.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2002

The Baskin-Robbins readerboard by my house has said "hungry for ream?" for several months now. I can't decide if the employees are in on it or just too lazy to notice/care. Either way, it makes me giggle.
posted by bizwank at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2002

It'd be nice if they could make a little interactive game with actual marquees, allowing visitors to rearrange them and then post them to see who can come up with the best.

yeah, it'd be a colossal waste of time, but hey.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:38 PM on December 12, 2002

for one glorious day in my misspent youth, the portable sign in the parking lot of the men's wear establishment up the street advertised "sport-o-cunt $69.95".
posted by quonsar at 7:57 PM on December 12, 2002

Excellent link.
posted by riffola at 8:08 PM on December 12, 2002

Okay, I confess; At 2:00 AM, after a night of drinking back in 1998, I changed the Reisterstown local volunteer dept's sign from "Help Suport Our Annual Fund Drive" to read "Help Support Our Anal Fun Drive". I had visions of a group of homophobic firemen, stumbling out into the daylight, seeing the sign and deciding it must be the work of those jerks over in Station 14! And the seeds of a crosstown fire rivalry were born...
posted by jonson at 9:52 PM on December 12, 2002

Ah, I thought of doing this a little while ago but never got around to it (yet, though this site is great inspiration). It's nice to live in a linear city of car lots and signs: plenty of canvases. Although I can't think of anything else that's nice about this place...

Also on the same web site, I enjoyed reTag, tagging a business with its own logo (e.g. spraypainting "Gap" on The Gap stores).
posted by Emanuel at 9:57 PM on December 12, 2002

This does bring back memories. One night at a Friendly's in darkest Chester, VA, we happened upon one of these small signs...already with some letters missing. We figured that they didn't care enough to keep the letters in place, so it ended up saying "Free Lunch With Flies And Slap".

My friend Keith then turned over the little promo flyer that was in the grooved holder on the side of the napkin thingy and wrote a very long, lunatic message beginning with "Welcome! And try our water! It no longer contains amphetamines..."

ah, misspent youth.
posted by Vidiot at 10:43 PM on December 12, 2002


For some reason, seeing absurd messages where there really ought to be seamless corporate or professional gloss is hilarious to me. For this reason, I find Leno's headlines way more funny than I really ought to.

I had a Bob Evans near my high school school where high winds and poor spelling caused indecipherable messages from time to time. My favorite, though, was the macabre (and properly spelled) WERE CHARBROILING - CATCH THE WILDFIRE . Ouch!
posted by tss at 10:46 PM on December 12, 2002

try dave thomas corpse. wow.

as a high schooler i would routinely rearrange baptist church signs. i still think that its one of the more honorable things a human being can do. that and vandalizing those "blah blah blah blah -- god" billboards.
posted by oog at 11:31 PM on December 12, 2002

One of the most famous incidents in a now-grizzled cousin's misspent youth was a sign change. The YMCA camp on the next bay over had one of those birch-twig signs, which is helpful because you can also dis- and reassemble individual letters. "SUNRISE MOUNTAIN BIBLE CAMP" was transformed into "SIN MOUNTS AT BIBLE CAMP." The police knew it was him, but were amused enough to let him off the hook.
posted by hippugeek at 11:48 PM on December 12, 2002

Oh. My. God. These are all from my neighborhood (South Austin, TX).

The very best sign hack I've ever seen, however, wasn't there. There was this porno theater called the Cinema West on South Congress. All the fine tightass citizens were up in arms about it. Finally, they drove the theater out of business, and a stupid dotcom came in. They renovated into some ugly-ass art-deco/post-modern atrocity, but keeping the cinema appearance.

When they busted out, somebody came by one night and rearranged the letters on the marquee. One side read:


The other read:

posted by chipr at 12:15 AM on December 13, 2002

The most interesting marquee I ever saw wasn't even a hack, just an accidental combination of two things, during the Gulf War, at a gas station not far south of Bangor, Maine.

The top line said "Support Our Troops" and the second line said "Fresh Bait."
posted by LeLiLo at 12:49 AM on December 13, 2002

My all-time favourite wasn't quite a marquee. It was a gas station that lost an "S" from their sign, and hence, were offering the most-intriguing "elf Service"...I kept meaning to pull in and see who offered to fill up my tank.

The best marquee I have personally seen was for a hair salon offering a sale on perms...Artfully turned into "sperm sale - 30% off".

Yeah...that made me laugh...Oh well, off to purchase some cheap sperm, and get the car gassed up by elves...
posted by Richat at 4:05 AM on December 13, 2002

Not quite the same thing, but I remember reading once about some practical joker stealing a "Jesus Saves" sign from in front of a church and putting it in front of a savings-and-loan association.
posted by alumshubby at 4:34 AM on December 13, 2002

Here in Manchester, NH, some lazy stoner keeps changing the "BINGO FRIDAY" to "BONG FRIDAY". If it doesn't read that way when my girlfriend and I go to the grocery store, it's a disappointment.
posted by yerfatma at 5:11 AM on December 13, 2002

My favorite -apparently intentional- odd marquee is the sign on a Mexican restaurant in Houston that said "food is so good" for what seemed like years.
posted by faustessa at 5:51 AM on December 13, 2002

some lazy stoner keeps changing the "BINGO FRIDAY" to "BONG FRIDAY"

On the contrary, that's a highly motivated stoner you have there. Just think, every friday the poor chump is actually going to the effort of climbing up out of the sofa, staggering from the house and changing all that lettering so that no-one sees them doing it. Just finding the energy to make a cup of tea can be bad enough, in that state ...
posted by walrus at 5:57 AM on December 13, 2002

Some marquees don't even need rearranging:

posted by Potsy at 6:24 AM on December 13, 2002

During a brief, part-time stint working for a movie theatre, I had the marquee reading:


A high school chum who worked for Long John Silvers posted "We have crabs."

I once changed the marquee of a flea market that sat on the main drag strip in my hometown to say "We love wookies"
posted by tolkhan at 7:43 AM on December 13, 2002

I had a client that ran a chain of stores called "Everything's a Dollar". Their slogan for a while was "Buck it!". You can imagine the reaction of the morning commuters when a large, bright orange billboard on the Virginia Beach expressway (or whatever that road is called) was changed overnight.
posted by Dick Paris at 8:05 AM on December 13, 2002

posted by mcsweetie at 8:41 AM on December 13, 2002

There's a decent Chinese restaurant nearby that went from HO'S DYNASTY to HO NASTY.
posted by NortonDC at 9:08 AM on December 13, 2002

I second the emotion of those who don't know why this primitive, juvenile and pointless genre is so damn funny. But it is.
posted by soyjoy at 10:52 AM on December 13, 2002

There was a spooky little church in my hometown that was located on the same street as several bars. Almost every Saturday morning we would wake up to find their letters rearranged from "Church of the Living God" to "Church of the Living God." I giggled every single time.

There's a great record called "GOD  LESS AMERICA" that shows a motel sign where the "B" fell off.
posted by elvissinatra at 11:42 AM on December 13, 2002

...letters rearranged from "Church of the Living God" to "Church of the Living God."

Gee. That is funny. *scratches head, wanders off*

Though on a related note, there's a Church of God in my hometown that uses such cheap stick-on capital letters on their sign that it looks just like CHURCH OF GOO.
posted by hippugeek at 12:17 PM on December 13, 2002

...letters rearranged from "Church of the Living God" to "Church of the Living God."

Gee. That is funny. *scratches head, wanders off*

You see, the "o" in "God" was switched with the "o" in "of." Very sophisticated humor - I'm not surprised you missed it.
posted by soyjoy at 1:15 PM on December 13, 2002

Bad scan, but fun little diversion in St. Louis Park, MN. If it hadn't been a quick strike, I'm sure we could have come up with something more amusing. We were too chicken to stay too long.
posted by gohlkus at 1:32 PM on December 13, 2002

*sneaks up, switches soyjoy's O's and Y's, dashes away giggling sophisticated-like*
posted by hippugeek at 4:04 PM on December 13, 2002

Gee. That is funny.

Doh. The pranksters actually changed the sign to "Church of the Living Dog."
posted by elvissinatra at 4:35 PM on December 13, 2002

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