The Sunset Foot Center sign has long stood at the southwest corner of the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Benton Way, the badlands between Echo Park and Silver Lake.
It's forever revolving, flashing first a heathy, happy foot; then, a crabby one on crutches.
Everyone knows the sign. But not everyone knows the reach it has--far beyond the corners of its host minimall.
Authors Jonathan Lethem and now David Foster Wallace may have written it into novels. Musician Beck has talked about its influence on his life when he lived nearby. The sign has even inspired an animated short.
And now--with the release of Wallace's The Pale King--Salon's Laura Miller is writing about its status as a local prognosticator: happy foot equals happy day; sad foot equals not so.
In the article she also quotes former Brooklynite Lethem:
"When I was researching my novel," he said, "I visited L.A., and at one point I was driving down Sunset Boulevard with someone who'd agreed to be a source on the area. I laid eyes on the sign, and asked about it, and that's when the Happy Foot/Sad Foot lore was unfolded for me. I was aware when I used it that I was keying into a Silver Lake meme--a non-Internet meme, that is. Later, a friend met a guy who had a Happy Foot tattoo, and got a photo of that for me."
Lethem now teaches at Pomona College, where ironically, David Foster Wallace was teaching when he died.
Some say the mood-swinging foot has also given rise to a name for the area surrounding it: HaFo SaFo. Get it?
For Curbed LA's take on the story, click here.