The story behind our neighborhood’s most popular yard art collector

Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Not to alarm you, but there appears to be pirates in the neighborhood.

Or maybe that’s just Gary Isett’s yard.

You know the one: corner of Abrams and Trammel, flying the Jolly Roger next to a star-shaped flowerbed.

And, oh yeah, Big Boy’s home.

Admit it: Whenever you drive down Abrams, you glance over at Isett’s property, wondering if Big Boy is back. But, no, you spy him at the back of the property, relegated to a shady spot near the garage.

It’s now a closed chapter for Isett, but what was it like to live The Big Boy Brouhaha? How about his other creative, quirky choices of yard art?

And what will appear next?

In case you missed it — though how could you? — a 7-foot-tall Big Boy statue, he of Kip’s restaurant fame, appeared on Isett’s lawn in March of last year. Isett, who owns White Rock Landscaping, was on a job in North Dallas when he spotted it in a customer’s backyard, gathering dust. An undisclosed sum later, and the burger boy was headed east in Isett’s pickup truck.

Neighbors took notice before Isett had even finished installing the fellow. “About 30 people stopped and watched” as he carefully secured the statue, Isett recalls.

Gary Isett: Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Gary Isett: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Word spread, and soon folks were slowly driving by or even stopping, some taking photos.

“I’d estimate I’ve had over a thousand people stop by,” Isett says.

Alas, city code inspectors also noticed, and soon Isett, at the city’s request, moved Big Boy back from the street.

Big Boy’s appearance and abrupt disappearance apparently touched a nostalgic nerve in our neighborhood.

“Love it!” was a common sentiment expressed online when he first took his place on the corner.  “Fun is forbidden,” grumbled a commentator when the city intervened.

Isett admits with a smile that, yeah, the statue was creating a bit of a traffic situation. He says he’s more than happy to comply with the city and, after all, Big Boy is still visible on his property; he’s just not hoisting the burger on the highly visible and noticeable corner near Abrams.

For a while during the controversy, Isett’s doorstep became something of an altar to Big Boy. Folks left appreciative notes (“You are a Rock Star!”), platters of cookies, and Big Boy memorabilia such as tin signs and vintage matchbooks from Kip’s.

Quite a number have stopped by, knocked on Isett’s door, and asked him to take their photo with the statue. And one mom came by with a rather unusual request. Her son was about to turn 1 year old and the party theme, appropriately enough, was “Big Boy.” When she spotted the statue in Isett’s yard, she whipped in and asked if she could bring over the little party guests for photo ops with the star statue. But Isett did one better: On party day, he kindly and generously loaded up the popular icon in his pickup truck, and Big Boy made a guest appearance at the little boy’s home, much to the delight of the children and adults celebrating the birthday.

Big Boy may have been sent to the corner, but don’t count him out just yet. He might make an appearance around Christmastime when code restrictions relax a bit. Look for him to be wearing a Santa hat and holding a giant present, as he did last year. And he might once again ride a float in the St. Patrick’s Day parade down Greenville Avenue.

What to do when the big guy had to move? Replace him with another treasure Isett found at another customer’s place. In the middle of the star flowerbed — in honor of the Dallas Cowboys, by the way — now sits a Billiken. A what? Imagine a cross between a Buddha and a Kewpie doll, but up the creepy factor. It debuted in 1908 as a good-luck figure, oddly enough.

Isett paints the Billiken silver and blue during Cowboys season, then he pulls out the red and blue paint when the Rangers are playing. The rainbow hat atop his head? Just for fun.

So what’s up with the pirate flag? Is Isett a pirate?  “Only the Jimmy Buffett kind,” he laughs. “I just wanted something out of the norm.”

His latest acquisitions include a vintage Green Stamps sign (are you old enough to remember the Green Stamps store?) and a 9-foot-wide Dairy Queen sign, which Isett plans to mount on his garage wall with a bit of artful backlighting. Isett says he is always in the market for more “big statues” but is mum when asked about specifics or plans for more yard art. He simply smiles his easygoing smile and says, “Stay tuned.”


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