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Echo Park's Happy Foot/Sad Foot Sign: 'Non-Internet Meme'?

The hi-low advert has captured the mind of several cultural standard-bearers including author Jonathan Lethem.

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.

Wes May 05, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Patch, this is in Silver Lake. Dividing line is where Sunset cuts through the hill
Anthea Raymond May 05, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Isn't the dividing line maybe right at this intersection? I'd like to hear from people on that one.
Will Campbell May 05, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Since there's not yet a Silver Lake Patch (or at least I don't yet know of it) I don't see any need to adhere to dividing lines or outright ignore items that are Echo Park adjacent, but if ECP is really intent on staying within its literal and figurative boundaries, the official Silver Lake street sign on westbound Sunset Boulevard indicates the line of demarcation exists midway between Coronado Terrace and Benton Way.
Becca Dorman May 05, 2011 at 07:22 PM
This sign is the best! I had stopped noticing it after seeing it all the time, but my visiting sister's reaction to its spinning glory was enough to remind me how awesome it is to live in an area with such unique landmarks (good to know so many others feel the same) :)
Anthea Raymond May 09, 2011 at 06:19 PM
I'm with you Will on this one. Echo Park adjaent is okay with me--and to my mind it includes Silver Lake, Frogtown and, even, sometimes downtown LA, Atwater and Los Feliz. Hi-Fi and Elysian Valley are, of course, givens. What do other folks think?

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