I’ve been writing newspaper columns in Livingston County for going on 30 years now, and like many newspaper columnists, I’ve tried to use my soapbox to advocate for some causes that I feel are truly important.
Some columnists use their positions to push for things like social justice or ending world poverty or putting an end to international conflicts. Not me. I’ve chosen instead to tackle the things that are REALLY important.
Specifically, I’ve taken on these two crusades in the past three decades:
Getting a Taco Bell for Howell.
Getting the Ugly Naked Guy moved away from the Mill Pond in Brighton.
That first one took me years to accomplish. I began my crusade in 1984, when I called the world’s attention to the fact that it was wholly unfair that Brighton had a Taco Bell, while Howell did not. After six years of non-stop berating, the Taco Bell people finally relented and built a restaurant in Howell. Two decades later, I’m still getting thank-you notes.
My second crusade – which began about three years ago – concerns the little statue of an ugly naked guy that’s been sitting in front of the Brighton Mill Pond since then.
The statue was brought to town as part of something called the Brighton Biennial, which was a wonderful project designed to fill the downtown area with pieces of outdoor art.
Some of the pieces were cool, some of them were rusty pieces of junk, and some of then were little ugly naked guys. The statue’s official name is “Decision Pending,” and I’ve never been sure what “decision” it is that’s “pending.” Perhaps the decision to put on some clothes. I don’t know.
When “Decision Pending” was first unveiled, it was one of the most controversial pieces in the Brighton Biennial. A lot of people thought it was ugly and disgusting and borderline obscene, so, naturally, the Brighton City Council responded to the outrage by doing two things:
Giving it a permanent home at the most prominent place in the downtown area – right in front of the Mill Pond.
Way to listen to your constituents! Well, I’ve been on a crusade against the Ugly Naked Guy ever since then, because I feel that if you’re going to have something sitting in front of your downtown area’s crown jewel – the Mill Pond – that something shouldn’t be a statue of an ugly naked guy.
And I consider it one of the great accomplishments of my life that I’m the one who coined the term “Ugly Naked Guy,” and now, it appears to be part of the daily lexicon in Brighton. When the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus did a story about the statue last week, they referred to the statue as the “Ugly Naked Guy.” I was so proud, I could have cried.
In any case, the reason they were doing that story about the UNG is why I’m writing about it today. In case you missed it, the Brighton City Council voted 4-3 recently to move the statue to another spot in the city.
And now, I can die. My life’s work is complete.
This all came about because the City Council received a complaint that the Ugly Naked Guy was too close to the World War II memorial that also sits in front of the Mill Pond. Some people don’t think it’s very respectful to have a statue of a little naked feller so close to the war memorial.
Never mind that both the UNG and the War Memorial have been sitting side by side for the past few years. Once the council members got this complaint, they apparently decided it was finally time to find a new home for the Naked One.
I wasn’t at this meeting, but from the account in the newspaper, the debate on this topic was just shy of turning into a UFC cage match. The discussion apparently got quite heated, and in the end, a bitterly divided council voted 4-3 to move the UNG.
At this point, of course, the story becomes downright comical. According to a story in the Daily Press & Argus, a former Brighton City Council member named John Tunis has begun circulating a petition to keep “Decision Pending” in front of the Mill Pond.
Evidently, Mr. Tunis feels that in order for a town to truly be great, it needs to have a statue of a grotesque nude man resting in a place of great prominence. Amen to that.
And then, to further bolster his case that the Ugly Naked Guy need to stay where he is, John Tunis offered up the greatest rationale of all: The people honored by the World War II memorial would have wanted it that way.
“I believe those men gave their lives so we could have freedom of expression,” he said.
Well, doggone it all, it’s hard to argue with that logic. When our boys in World War II were fighting at places like Normandy and Bastogne and Guadalcanal, they weren’t fighting to oppose Nazi aggression or Japanese imperialism. Oh, no. They were fighting so that small towns in Michigan could put up statues of ugly naked men.
Ah, well. I don’t know if Mr. Tunis’ petition will go anywhere, but for now, I’m happy that the Ugly Naked Guy is being moved away.
Which brings me to my newest Livingston County crusade: Howell’s teeny-tiny roundabouts.
If we can bring a Taco Bell to town and get rid of an Ugly Naked Guy, getting those things torn down should be a piece of cake, right? Who’s with me, people?