In my June cover story on the tax incentives that states provide movie studios in an effort to attract film production, I mentioned the film "Whip It." Set in Austin, Texas, but filmed in and around Detroit, it's a great example of how one state's generous tax breaks can lure a film crew away from another state. ("Whip It" was originally supposed to film in Texas, but Michigan's 42 percent tax break for movie productions turned out to be too good to pass up.)
Anyway, in describing the filming, I mentioned the Oink Joint:
In the film -- actress Drew Barrymore's directorial debut -- Bliss stares wistfully across the desolate Texas plains while killing time during her waitressing shift at the Oink Joint, the local barbecue dive that sports a giant pink pig on the roof and a sign touting its signature menu item, the "Squealer."
It's quintessential small-town Texas. Only it's not. [...] The Oink Joint was actually Ken's Diner, a shuttered restaurant in the little town of Birch Run, north of Flint. (Thanks to the increased local notoriety, Ken's has since been reopened and rechristened the Oink Joint. The giant pink pig, however, remains in storage.)
Well, unfortunately, I got a call last week from someone at the Michigan Taxpayers' Alliance, alerting me to the fact that the Oink Joint actually closed (again) several months ago, near the beginning of this year. A call to the Birch Run Chamber of Commerce confirmed that the Oink Joint was no more.
I know what you're thinking: "But what about the giant pink pig???"
The pig, it turns out, lives on.
According to Jessica Standen, development director at the Birch Run Chamber of Commerce, when the movie studio packed up and left town in 2008, they left the one-ton Styrofoam squealer behind. So the 22-foot-long porker sat in storage, until it ended up in the hands of an area construction company. Moving the giant pig requires a large truck and a crane.
Now, the pig makes random appearances around town. For a charitable donation, residents can prank their friends by having the super-sized swine deposited on their yard in the middle of the night. The victims then must make another donation to charity in order to have the pig removed. (You can see some photos here.)
Birch Run's village manager, for example, awoke on Valentine's Day to find the pig sitting in front of his house -- decked out in festive red garland.
"You never know where you're going to see it," said Standen. "You'll just be driving around town and, 'Oh, there's the pig!'"
It's too bad about the Oink Joint, but using the pig for charity seems like a nice way to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
(Image via Flickr from bcfoxtrot79)