Saturday, March 31, 2012

When Beasts Roamed Portland…For the Lottery

Sometime in the early 80s, King Kong attacked the Portland Building. Sort of…

If you look at cartoon postcards and comic maps of Portland circa 1985-1987, you may come across an odd site of giant gorilla in the city's architecture. As with many of Portland's quirks, the story behind this has been lost to the majority of the city.

The giant 84-foot tall inflatable gorilla was a promotional gimmick for the Oregon State Lottery. In fact, it was mascot for the very first lottery in the state's history. The "Go Ape!" tag line for the lottery was dotted around the state as people for the first time could purchase lottery tickets and gamble legally in the state.

The giant gorilla was one of those odd moments of Portland history in which some derided the gimmick and the state lottery system as a whole. Now with video gambling practically in every bar, it seems kind of comical that this was a brave and bold start to something so ubiquitous. 

King Kong would ultimately go away, and another giant figure would soon replace it on the Portland Building. 

While the people of Portland may have forgot about going ape over the lottery, we at least have a one of the world's largest copper statues, half naked, holding a trident, perpetually throwing dice at pedestrians and busses below. 

For further information about the start of the lottery, here is an interesting old article about the giant ape and the rally that got it all going.

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