Golden Babies: The Final Chapter?

golden baby hanging from electric line, Pittsburgh, PA

Golden baby #4 (aka “Clement Baby”)

Almost as soon as this blogger’s index finger migrated January’s More Golden Babies! post from “draft” to public record even more tips on the mysterious street art/prank started rolling in. Three of them, in fact, one right after the other. Another golden baby had been spotted just off Main Street in Bloomfield/Lawrenceville, a second over on The North Side, and yet a third down in the 10th Ward on Butler Street. That last one turned out to be duplicate report of Butler Baby (golden baby #3), but, as a famous realist–and entrée–once said, two out of three ain’t bad.

silhouette of baby doll dangling from electric line over row houses, Pittsburgh, PA

Golden Baby #5 (aka “Sampsonia Baby”)

Oh, you can believe that chops were licked and hootenannies kicked into high gear to confirm these reports. Orbit readers who’ve already perused the included photographs will note that we were not let down in our pursuit.

Golden Baby #4 is (still) dangling from the electrical infrastructure on tiny Clement Way, just off Main Street, right next to The Shop and Liberty Beer. Golden Baby #5 was caught hanging loose in the Mexican War Streets on the very block where both The Mattress Factory and City of Asylum houses are. In both cases, the baby dolls seem to perfectly match their siblings: same gold paint, same white onesie, same dangle by the ankle.

The jump across the river for #5 was especially interesting as it meant our perpetrator(s) may be, you know, “city-wide,” rather than concentrated purely in the Penn and Butler stretches of the East End. How many more would there be? We’d just have to hang back, wait, and see what else turned up.

golden baby hanging from electric line over brick building, Pittsburgh, PA

Golden baby, blue sky. Clement Baby

Well…the calendar turned from February to March, we ate a bunch of fried fish and mac & cheese, and now we’re half way into April and there’s been nary a peep from any more golden babies (or their spotters). The 1-800-ORBIT-ME hotline sits silent, phone bank operators idly twiddling their well-intentioned thumbs. We can’t get a grainy cell-phone baby photo tweeted at us to save our lives. Sigh.

Is this it? Is this the way it all goes down? If so, that’s O.K.–we had a good run. I’m tempted to say, like a famous minstrel–and heartbreaker–once did, don’t do me like that. But, you know, that ain’t how it is. No, Mr. or Ms. Golden Baby dangler, you did me pretty good. Yeah, you did The Orbit pretty darn good.

golden baby, electric lines, and sky, Pittsburgh, PA

Upside-down you’re turning me. Sampsonia Baby

More Golden Babies! [or] A Golden Baby Boom!

Golden baby hanging from power lines, Pittsburgh, PA

Off-kilter: Golden Baby #3 (aka “Butler Baby”)

It started innocently enough. That is, if a baby doll, its flesh painted gold and wearing a white onesie, suspended by a wire on its ankle and dangling upside down from a set of power lines counts as “innocent.” A couple weeks ago The Orbit spotted golden baby #1 near the corner of Penn and Main Streets, roughly in front of Constellation Coffee in Lawrenceville. We wrote about our amused and bemused impressions of it in these very annals. It was a fun little piece of street art (?) or possibly a goofy prank (??)–maybe a little bit of both–but that seemed like the last we’d hear from the golden dangling baby.

Then the tips started rolling in. First, reader Meredith reported a second golden baby, strung in the same manner, farther up Penn Avenue, at the corner of Winebiddle Street–she even included a photo. Another golden baby? we thought–we hoped–we fantasized. Where there’s two, there’s got to be more! Everyone knows that golden babies don’t arrive in pairs!

Golden baby hanging from power line, Pittsburgh, PA

Look out below: Golden Baby #2 (aka “Winebiddle Baby”)

As a gloomy daylight broke over that first post-tip Saturday, this blogger took the bicycle on a chilly mission to cruise Penn Avenue in search of other babies–golden or otherwise. From 40th Street all the way to East Liberty we went–slowly, block-by-block, eyes in the wires–scanning for lofty abandoned newborns. Stop honking you jagoffs! I’m reporting here! We found the little lost soul Meredith had tipped us to and snapped some pictures, but that was it. Otherwise: bupkis.

This one had a marked difference from Constellation Baby, though. Not in appearance–the size, shape, gold paint, white onesie–heck, even the unclipped tag–were identical. No, Winebiddle Baby just looked a lot easier to install. First of all, he’s mere feet from the second-floor fire escape of the brick building on Penn. Anyone with access could easily hang this baby right off the landing. Second, the power line is much closer to the ground than Constellation Baby’s. The perpetrator didn’t even have to get up on the fire escape–he or she could have just stood on the roof of a car–or set up a stepladder–to reach the low wire.

Golden baby hanging from power line near brick building with fire escape, Pittsburgh, PA

Winebiddle Baby [note the easy access from the fire escape]

Two golden babies found, but the trail had gone cold. That is, until we happened to run into reader John one cold morning on the 93A heading to Oakland. Imagine this blogger’s eyeballs ka-boinging out of their sockets as John casually dropped the news “you know there’s another one of those golden babies down on Butler Street, right?”

No, John, we didn’t! And it’s lucky it snowed or my ass would have been on the shoe leather express frustrated that only two golden babies have been found instead of riding this bus talking to you! This is why tip lines exist!

Golden baby hanging from power lines, Pittsburgh, PA

Hang in there, Butler Baby!

John’s willingness to come forward with evidence may be suspect, but his information is spot-on. Right there, in the wires above the 5300 block of Butler, dangles golden baby #3–and what a beauty she is! Glistening in an impossibly perfect deep blue January sky, gracefully spinning in the softest of breezes, Butler Baby is at peace with the world. Content to let the afternoon sunlight illuminate her golden skin, impervious to the cold weather, she’s lifted, weightless, and totally blissed-out. If only she’d let us know if–and where–she has more golden siblings similarly drifting through the ether.

Golden Dangling Baby!

dangling baby silhouette w wires

The vigilant blogger must learn to look for inspiration anywhere and everywhere. These stories don’t grow on trees! [Well, actually they might grow on trees.] Maybe Mayor Peduto has enough clout to order the D.P.W. into creating brilliant street art, but The Orbit has yet to wield that kind of influence. Until then, we’re at the mercy of fate, jonesing for goofballs, and always on the lookout for the next score.

And indeed it was fate–an extra cold morning (too cold for the bicycle), a missed bus, a re-routed walk to work–that led this blogger to receive what we’re considering a kind of divine inspiration. Yes, at the moment when we needed it most–mere hours (err…a couple days) before deadline–today’s story literally fell out of the sky at us in the form of one suspended baby doll, dangling by his right foot from the telephone wires along Penn Avenue.

We’ve seen a lot of things hanging from wires in our day–banners and debris, vines and living creatures, and of course the ubiquitous pairs of sneakers–laced, eulogized, and interred in the sky as a final loving tribute. But until now, Pittsburgh Orbit has never encountered a dangling (falling? flying?) baby doll high in the utility infrastructure. This one is new to us.

dangling baby vertical

Though not parents ourselves*, hanging the next generation from telephone wires may be understandable–hell, there might still be time to string up the Millennials! In any case, it’s a questionable form of child care for a newborn and likely not recommended by “real” parents.

How the baby doll got up on those wires is a mystery. Getting a laced pair of sneakers up there seems like a simple enough task–you stand on the sidewalk and keep throwing them over head until they catch. But this baby doesn’t have any counter-balance, no obvious hook to snare the electric line on the trip up. That, and these wires are a good twenty feet in the air and not terribly near any windows on the Penn Ave. buildings. How did it get here?

There is one more interesting tidbit. Though it is not at all apparent in these backlit morning light photographs, the baby has had its flesh painted gold (you’ll have to take The Orbit‘s word for this–or better yet, go see for yourself). This should allay any possible suspicions that the baby reached the overhead wires of natural causes. Uh-uh. Not buying it. This card-carrying amateur detective wanna-be knows the work of someone on the prankster-street art continuum when he’s standing under it…and he likes what he sees.

To you, Golden Baby Dangler (whoever you are), thank you for making one blogger’s day.

dangling baby w Penn Ave facades

* That we know of

Post No Bills

brick wall painted with "Post No Bills" message plus print-outs of famous Bills taped to the wall, Pittsburgh, PA

It’s a cheap visual joke. The self-consciously retro POST NO BILLS painted in big white block letters on the black brick wall of the former Joe Mama’s Italian restaurant in Oakland. Right next to it, jokesters have taped–nay, “posted”–a slew of pictures of famous people named Bill. There’s Bill Murray and Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Bill Maher, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and the wall’s most arcane inclusion, Buffalo Bill Cody. Bill Cosby makes a de rigueur appearance begging the question: is it bad taste or mockery to include a disgraced Bill in one’s (relatively benign) act of prankdom?

It’s a sad state of affairs when one gets a nice chuckle out of some college kids’ first nights back jape and then we jump immediately to skepticism. This is probably a thing–maybe it counts as a “meme,” I think to myself, something somebody thought of and now folks do as a cliche, like adding love locks to the nearest bridge, or “this gum tastes like rubber,” or flossing.

So off to the Internet I went, and sure enough, Google Images was stocked with variants on this joke. Color copies clipped to a chain link fence; Xeroxes stapled to plywood; Clinton, Gates, and Murray as Run-DMC; and nice, spray-painted stencils on plywood of the same group (plus Cosby) at various urban construction sites. A template clearly exists and the canon established.

So, what would it take to make this bit more interesting? If this prank-loving blogger was going to have at it (and he’s not) he would at minimum throw out all the obvious candidates. Pittsburgh young people: make it your own! Here then, for anyone considering a future rendition, are a handful of Orbit suggestions for great Pittsburgh “Bill”s that you could use, without getting into the Post No Bills rut. Make us proud.

William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham

William “Bill” Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham

William Pitt: A guy who liked Pittsburgh so much he named himself after the city. Hold it. No, it was the other way around. And maybe the city didn’t get any choice in the matter. Whatever. “Ol’ Bill” is the namesake of both Pittsburgh and Chatham College/Chatham Village and a host of other places all over the country. Tell me the image of William Pitt’s ridiculous powdered white wig wouldn’t look great wheat-pasted to the side of Joe Mama’s.

Two photos of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto: one in a suit, one in disguise for the television show "Undercover Boss"

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in both mayoral and “Undercover Boss” guises

Mayor Bill Peduto: This one is pretty obvious. Even if you’re a student here in your first semester, you should be aware of your mayor. You’ll likely even have the opportunity to vote in the next mayoral election, so you should pay attention. Though Mayor Peduto probably would not condone vandalism (even if it’s only committed with photocopies and packing tape), I’ll bet even he would get a little kick out of being in the Order of the Bills.

Bill Mazeroski's 1960 World Series-winning home run over the New York Yankees

Bill Mazeroski, 1960 World Series

Bill Mazeroski: “Maz” gets credit for one of the most dramatic moments in Pittsburgh sports history: a walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series over the New York Yankees. You might not be able to pick his face out of a Post No Bills line-up, but this iconic photo of the ecstatic game-winning stride around the bases will resonate with even the casual Pirates fan–there’s even a bronze statue of it at PNC Park. Oh yeah: and this all happened at Forbes Field, which is now Schenley Plaza/Pitt campus.

Pittsburgh television/radio personality "Chilly" Bill Cardille, from his time hosting "Chiller Theatre"

Chilly Billy Cardille in the “Chiller Theatre” days

Bill Cardille: This blogger didn’t move to Pittsburgh until the 1990s, so I missed out on Chiller Theatre, Pittsburgh’s entry in the bygone era of local hosts introducing late-night B-movie features on broadcast television. But I still know of it, so you should too. Cardille is equally famous both for his role as a TV news reporter in Night of the Living Dead and as a longtime radio host on (former) “music of your life” station WJAS (R.I.P.). I don’t know how many dozens of times I heard him spin “Theme From a Summer Place” or “Close to You” while I patched plaster and sanded floors. Those tunes, just like Cardille’s bedroom baritone, never got old. The patching and sanding, on the other hand…

A poem titled "Lynn Cullen" from the newspaper classified ads by Billie Nardozzi

One of Billie Nardozzi’s weekly classified ad poems

Billie Nardozzi: As Pittsburgh’s (unofficial) poet-laureate, Nardozzi published his verse weekly in the Post-Gazette classified ads for at least a decade. Every Tuesday, you’d get the same photo of himself with some rhyming, quoted “words” of “wisdom” on subjects like kindness, true love, loneliness, home cooking, etc. You make yourself a spray paint stencil of that mug with that mullet and the people of Pittsburgh will “lose” their “minds.” Guaranteed.


Honorable Mentions. Other great Pittsburgh Bills:

  • Billy Conn: Professional boxer, mostly known for the oxymoronic title of World’s Light-Heavyweight Champion (1939-1941) and for taking on (and, yes, losing to) Joe Louis, who was a weight class above him. There’s a Billy Conn Boulevard in Oakland (actually just a ceremonial section of Craig Street) and a line of photos up at Hambone’s, some of them with googly eyes stuck on the glass. Make it happen.
  • Billy Strayhorn: Jazz composer, arranger, lyricist and Duke Ellington’s right-hand man. Just try taking an ‘A’ train or living a lush life in some small dive without him.
  • Bill Bored: Drummer for the late great new wave weirdos The Cardboards and star of Stephanie Beros’ Debt Begins at 20. That movie contains a ton of great shots in Oakland and Bloomfield of places that don’t exist anymore. I’m dying for an Orbit interview with Mr. Bored!
  • Bill Cowher: He of the most-noteworthy mustache, beard, and flying saliva–oh, and he coached a football team, too. Another person with features so strong they scream out to be abstracted into two-tone.
  • Billy Buck Hill: Obscure sub-neighborhood of the South Side Slopes. Yes, this counts as a “Bill.”

brick wall painted with "Post No Bills" message and retro Coca-Cola advertisement, plus print-outs of famous Bills taped to the wall, Pittsburgh, PA