Big wings, big thighs, big breasts, oh my!
Antonelli's Poultry Company, 62 De Pasquale Avenue, Providence
Nothing calls attention to your business better than a freakishly large fiberglass animal.
This fantastic fowl originally graced the sidewalk in front of Sollitto's Liquor Mart at 905 Narragansett Boulevard beginning around 1969, when, at the suggestion of his brother, Domenic Sollitto bought it at an auction for $200.
It was stolen at least twice, once in the early 1970s by a Brown University fraternity that employed a pickup truck to make off with the bird, and once in the late 1990s by less-resourceful Johnson & Wales students who tried to drag it away on foot. The Brown students reportedly got caught because a postman saw them muscling the ungainly 150-pound cock into their dorm, and reported the sighting to Sollitto. The safe return of the rooster was brokered by the dean of students a few weeks later. Supposedly a case of bourbon was suggested as ransom, but whether that was the dean's idea or the students', we don't know. The J&W kids didn't do nearly as well. They were spotted by patrons of a nearby bar who gave chase as the students humped the statue down Indiana Avenue. Thinking only of their own interests, the kids dropped the chicken, leaving a minor crack in its skin. As a result of these shenanigans, the bird was subsequently brought inside the store each night to remove the temptation to larceny.
The rooster has a name. When Sollitto's held a naming contest in 1988, Luis from Cranton offered up the winning entry: Brewski McFowler.
The rooster became a booster for belligerent American patriotism sometime after 911, with the painted admonition, "USA, LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT." Prior to that, it bore the harmlessly capitalistic and far less jingoistic "SPIRITS LOW, SEE SOLLITTO."
The rooster was featured in a Zippy the Pinhead cartoon on May 30, 2006, which poked fun at the idea of a barnyard fowl spouting outdated messages of narrow-minded patriotism. Zippy pointed out that chickens are more closely identified with cutting and running than with stolid, staightbacked, clear-eyed dedication to cause, and the rooster agreed that "Cutting and running [is] the new patriotism!" Maybe the punchline hit home for Sollitto, because a year or two later the bird had been rendered messageless.
Sollitto's closed in 2013 and the rooster was sold to Antonelli's Poultry on Federal Hill, marking a sharp shift in the bird's promotional career. The connection between fresh poultry products and an eight-foot clucker are obvious in retrospect, and forty-four years of shilling for booze are easily swept under the henhouse, especially with the aid of a fiberglass restoration and spiffy new paint job by Bob Connell, Jr., of Nick's Auto Body.
A second giant rooster once stood in a prominent spot at Wright's Farm Restaurant in Burrillville. A comparison of photos shows that Sollitto's and Wright's roosters appear to have hatched from the very same clutch of fiberglass eggs. If not brothers, they are at least close cousins. Wright's rooster can still be seen, but it's somewhat hidden on the roof of a shed at the back of the restaurant complex.
Are two big roosters enough for the Biggest Little? No, there was a third that used to hang out at Kiddie Land at Rocky Point Park in Warwick. It was purchased at auction by Chris Gasbarro of Gasbarro Liquors who, in 2007, donated it the Tomorrow Fund, which refurbished it and auctioned it off at their annual fundraiser on November 3, 2007. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.
All three roosters were likely manufactured by International Fiberglass of Venice, California, in the 1960s. According to Wikipedia, "boatbuilder Steve Dashew established International Fiberglass in 1963 by purchasing and renaming Bob Prewitt's workshop, Prewitt Fiberglass. The oversized fiberglass men, women, and dinosaurs began as a sideline. Increases in costs to deliver the lightweight but oversized figures proved problematic and business declined with the 1973 oil crisis. International Fiberglass was sold and closed permanently in 1976. The moulds for the figures, originally worth thousands of dollars each, were not retained and are now lost."
You may well wonder, given their residence in Rhode Island, if these statues are of the famed Rhode Island Red breed of chicken. They are not. In fact, try as we might to find a picture online of a living rooster with a white body and a red tail, we came up empty handed. Perhaps, and this is just a guess, the paint scheme for both roosters was informed by depictions of the Warner Brothers cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn. The 2008 version of the rooster at Sollitto's bore a green wattle and legs. You can't tell us that ever occurs in nature. In any case, these fiberglass roosters are found all over the country, and given that they've probably been painted many times since their manufacture, they share remarkably similar color schemes. See Debra Jane Seltzer's page of Giant Roosters, Chickens and Turkeys for more compare and contrast fun.
Update, May 2018: Another rooster was spotted at Pizza and Chicken on Fire, 369 Douglas Avenue, in Providence. But when we went back for pictures, it was gone!
Update, July 2019: We captured this different rooster at World of Wines, 650 Branch Avenue, Providence.
Other Big Things in Rhode Island
- Big Blue Bug
- Big Coffee Mug
- Big Handtruck
- Big Ice Cream Cone, Lakewood Ice Cream, 140-152 Chambly Avenue, Warwick
- Big Milk Can
- Big Paint Can, True Value Hardware, Route 44, Greenville, Smithfield
- Big Rosary Beads, Jesus Savior Church, 509 Broadway, Newport
Hours: Antonelli's is open Tuesday to Saturday, 8am-5pm.
Time required: Allow one minute to gawk, more if you're shopping for dinner.
Directions: from Route 95 take exit 21 to Atwells Avenue. Go under the pinecone arch and turn right onto Dean Street. Turn left onto Spruce Street. Park. Antonelli's is located in De Pasquale Plaza, a small pedestrian plaza on the left.