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[whitespace] Fallon Statue
Statue of Limitations: The controversial monument is back ... sort of.

Notes From the Underbelly

Fallon On Hard Times

By Eric A. Carlson

"You can't believe half the lies people tell about him."

--Oscar Wilde

MAYOR GONZALES and the San Jose City Council released the Fallon Statue to desolate Pellier Park the other day, after years of imprisonment in a dusty Oakland warehouse. The statue was incarcerated because Thomas Fallon--the man--raised the American flag in San Jose during the war with Mexico in 1846. Which didn't seem like such a bad idea at the time.

San Joseans, perhaps unaware they were glorifying a warmonger, elected Fallon to mayor in 1859. If he had lived longer--and attended universities--he might have self-actualized and come to terms with his imperialistic nature. He was aware, actually, that he was a capitalist, because that was his listed occupation the last 20 years of his life.

An email from Sue Cam informed me that Fallon had landed, and that she was cooling a bottle of Schramsberg Champagne in anticipation of the unveiling ceremony on Sept. 20. (I prefer the effervescence of Veuve Clicquot.) I mounted my brutish Honda 919 and roared off to desolate Pellier Park. From sanitized Sunnyvale, I headed onto Coleman Avenue, to a smidgen of San Pedro and finally Julian Street. And there stands Fallon, looking elegant even in swaddling tarp. And no wonder. He was created by a master.

Robert Glen is the sculptor of the Fallon piece. Outside San Jose, Robert is celebrated as the world's foremost sculptor of African wildlife. He has completed two monumental statues in his life, the Fallon statue and The Mustangs of Las Colinas in Irving, Texas. The mustangs are nine horses, at one-and-one-half life-size galloping through a fountain. Do a search on the web for photos of this fine creation. Robert is currently living in Ruaha National Park in Southern Tanzania, sculpting wildlife. He is a hard man to pin down at the moment. But I have managed to contact Julia, his business partner, in Nairobi, Kenya.

It seems that Glen wasn't invited to the unveiling of his own statue. Julia gave me permission to quote from our email correspondence. "The mayor's office has not even had the courtesy to let us know what they are doing!" Julia says. And on hearing that $450,000 was allocated to the artist, she scoffs, "Someone is making money along the way. Robert got paid $200,000 for his work and for the casting." And she concludes, "They have probably even forgotten who sculpted this statue! Probably also lost the flagpole." Well, on Sept. 20, we shall see. A flying American flag is part and parcel of the statue.

In a recent Mercury News interview, Mayor Ron Gonzales relates, "I'm not a big fan of guys on horses, but this is another situation where I inherited a project from a previous mayor, and it's my duty to carry it out." While admiring the mayor's ability to insult two ex-San Jose mayors in one sentence--Thomas Fallon (guy on horse) and Tom McEnery (previous mayor)--one might argue that the Fallon statue is not just an ordinary "guy on a horse," but rather a monumental work by one of the world's finest sculptors. And it has the added distinction of representing an actual San Jose historical figure--not ice dancers, Bufano bears, feathers or Aztec Quetzal-snake gods.

Risking life and limb, I walked across busy St. James Street and stood before the Fallon statue, which was surrounded by two chain-link fences--for its own protection. I liberated a long strip of faux yellow police tape from the fence that read, "Aesthetic Crime Scene--Danger! Do Not Look." I took the tape home, scanned it and used it on a more deserving statue (www.sjunderbelly.com, click on San Jose, then Quetzalcoatl).

Former Mayor McEnery conceived the project not to be an added "duty" for future mayors but because he has a genuine interest in San Jose history. The Fallon statue is a boon to San Jose--everyone in San Jose. The statue will spruce up the area considerably. And rumor has it that San Jose will finally start taking care of Pellier Park. Which should make Leonard McKay smile inwardly at the sweet irony of it all.

Final Note: Not inviting the artist to the unveiling ceremony is conduct unbecoming.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the August 29-September 2, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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