Melbourne is certainly filled with memorable characters, so we decided to give a shout out to some unsung heroes who have surely seen some stuff in their time—Melbourne’s venue mascots. From an ostrich wearing pearls, to a pig with a top hat, Melbourne’s bars, pubs and wiener shops all have a creature near and dear to their heart that has become nearly as famous as the establishment itself. Here’s cheers to Melbourne’s most loved mascots; if only they could talk, oh the stories they would tell…
Pink Elephants at the Windsor Castle
When Tracey Lester bought the Windsor Castle 14 years ago, it came with the three pink elephants on the roof. Apparently “seeing pink elephants” is a euphemism for a drunken hallucination, and while that may be amusing, Lester had every intention of removing the elephants before reopening. That was until everyone from pedestrians to neighbours to motorists demanded that they stay—there was even a petition going around signed by locals to keep the elephants on the roof.
So, the elephants stayed and have even been replaced when the old ones started to deteriorate. Elephants often symbolise good luck and prosperity, particularly in business, and elephants with their trunks up is meant to encourage success in business. Not one to turn down a bit of good luck, the pink elephants remain an essential part of the establishment.
Wally at The Carlton Club
While there is no shortage of weird and wonderful creatures at The Carlton Club, the designated mascot for the venue is unanimously Wally, the six-foot tall, pearl necklace-wearing ostrich who resides on the main level of the venue. Back in the 1980s, Wally was the face and mascot of a company selling stakes in a fake ostrich farm. Wally was the only real ostrich to ever exist within the scam company, and when the company was finally caught out, he was then moved into the liquidators office and finally into his home.
While Wally met some interesting characters during that time, including Pope St John Paul II, he finally wound up in an auction house that The Carlton owners visited. They couldn’t resist the majestic creature, and so they gave him a new home. Wally has had a few knocks during his time at The Carlton, mostly due to tipsy patrons trying to ride him. Thankfully Wally knows a great taxidermist for the odd touch up, and there is a replica Wally used for Christmas parties that people can sit on and get their photo taken with.
Gary the Peacock at Chiara
Gary the peacock is Chiara’s chief mascot and guest greeter, and giving such an exquisite creature a plain name also serves as a bit of a reminder to not take oneself too seriously. Gary is actually a nod to 19th century Tuscany, more specifically the Castle of Sammezzano, which was built in the early 1600s. Within the castle the most incredible room of all is an intricate mosaic of vibrant tiles and geometric patterns, aptly called the Peacock Room. It’s a hidden treasure with 365 rooms (one for each day), which was originally built by a Spanish noble and then became a luxury hotel after World War II.
Gary represents a piece of that exquisite Moorish castle, built over 400 years ago. He symbolises an era in history but his iridescent colours and great beauty make for a key feature within their dining room. Good one, Gary.
Richard the Leopard at Massive Wieners
If you’ve wandered in to Massive Wieners before it’s likely you’ve come across Richard the leopard, dutifully keeping guard at the door. Liam Magee tells us that Richard has led a pretty exciting life since becoming an integral part of the Massive Wieners family, and he was sadly “catnapped” and recovered in 2012.
Richard was missing for two months until fortunately one couple recognised him at a house party—he was doing his usual duty of holding the door open. The good Samaritans waited for the party to end and everyone to fall asleep before poaching Richard once more and returned him to his rightful owners. Massive Wieners also has two other mascots; a second leopard who is missing half of his head, and the horse in the painting behind the counter, Big Willy. The two leopards were found in the backyard of the original wiener shop, and Willy was sourced from an op-shop. We’re told all three mascots come alive at night and do their bit to watch over the shop.
Pickles the Pig at Fancy Hank’s
Pickles the Pig is one dapper pork chop. He goes about his business in a top hat and bow tie and a smile on his face. Pickles was designed by Tristan Ceddia from Never Now, and he features on a neon sign out the front of Fancy Hank’s BBQ, as well as on the labeling of their home made sauce bottles. Next time you pick up a bottle of Jalapeno Peach sauce to cover your delicious smoky meats with, say hi to Pickles. On the bottles the silhouette of Pickles is holding an axe, which we’ve been told is a reference to the locally sourced timber they use. While Pickles may look sharp, he’s no snooty piggy, as Kent Bell describes him as a “down and out in Paris and London” type, and that’s why they love him.
Limonito at The Robert Burns Hotel
Smith Street’s answer to Spanish dining in a pub setting has become well known for their mascot Limonito or “Little Lemon”. The bull’s head is the official overseer of frivolity at Robbie Burns, and when Limonito was attached to a body he weighed in at 531 kilograms. Limonito found his way to the Robert Burns Hotel via Peñajara’s animal husbandry, owned by Carlos Gallego in Zaragoza, Spain. Limonito arrived to Melbourne at the end of 2011, but he had to be quarantined for a few weeks first. Now, Limonito has the best seat in the house, overlooking the cosiest area of the pub, above the fireplace and the couches. Limonito was chosen specifically, as he is an authentically Spanish mascot to represent the Robbie. Many visitors like to take selfies with Limonito, even though it can be a bit of a challenge, but if you ever do manage, the good folk at the Robert Burns Hotel love to be tagged in them, so be sure to add @robertburnshotel #limonito next time you visit.
Image Credit: Wally the Ostrich—Nick West for The Urban List