New York’s Lone Star Cafe at 61 Fifth Avenue (corner of 13th Street) featured country music acts from 1976 to 1989. A 40-foot polyurethane-and-steel iguana sculpture named “Iggy” was on the roof, made by Texas artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade. The iguana was controversial, and neighboring businesses unsuccessfully attempted to have it removed.
In 2010, Iggy found a new home in Texas, on the roof of the animal hospital at the Fort Worth Zoo. The sculpture was purchased from Wade by Fort Worth oilman Lee M. Bass.
Wikipedia: Lone Star Cafe
The Lone Star Cafe was a cafe and club in New York City at 61 Fifth at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 13th Street, from 1976 to 1989. The Texas-themed cafe opened in February 1976 and became the premier country music venue in New York and booked big names and especially acts from Texas, like Greezy Wheels, George Strait, Asleep at the Wheel and Roy Orbison. Willie Nelson, Kinky Friedman, Roy Orbison, Delbert McClinton, Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm and Jerry Jeff Walker, were among Texas musicians who frequented the Lone Star Cafe. Joe Ely and Billy Joe Shaver also appeared at the cafe. The words from Shaver’s 1973 song “Old Five and Dimers Like Me” were displayed on a banner in the front of the cafe: “Too Much Ain’t Enough.” Other national acts played the cafe, including The Blues Brothers, Clifton Chenier, and James Brown, who recorded a live album there in 1985.
The cafe sported a unique 40-foot sculpture of a giant iguana created by artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade on top of the building. Neighboring businesses did not appreciate the sculpture and sought to have it removed. Although a court battle determined that it was art, eventually it was removed. In 1983 with the support of Mayor Ed Koch, the Iguana was restored to the roof at a ceremony with Koch and then-Texas governor Mark White.
Wikipedia: Bob Wade (artist)
Bob “Daddy-O” Wade (born 1943) is an artist in Austin, Texas who helped shape the 1970s Texas Cosmic Cowboy counterculture. A retrospective of his work was exhibited at the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture in the fall of 2009. He is best known for his creating oversized sculptures of Texas symbols and for experimenting with hand-tinting black-and-white vintage photographs transferred to large photo-emulsion canvases. His 40-foot-long (12 m) Giant Iguana sat on top of the Lone Star Cafe in New York City in 1978.
22 December 1978, New York (NY) Times, “Notes on People,” pg. C30, col. 4:
What Price an Iguana?
“I was in my cups, I guess, so I said, ‘Sure, put it up,’” and that, says Mort Cooperman, was how he wound up with a 40-foot urethane iguana on the roof of his Lone Star Cafe in Greenwich Village. Al he id was help out his artist friend, Robert Wade, who needed a place to store his outside sculpture, but other businessmen on Fifth Avenue saw less art than eyesore, and for several months they have been trying to call it a night for the iguana.
New York (NY) Times
LOUNGE LIZARD’S COMEBACK
Funky Former Icon of Downtown Finds a New Lair
By BRUCE WEBER MARCH 4, 1997
But in 1989, the Lone Star closed and the iguana was sold at auction. Since then, it has been living in Virginia, for a while in retirement out of the public eye, but for the last year or so, in storage in a state of decrepitude. Recently, the woman who bought it sold it back to the sculptor, Bob (Daddy-O) Wade, who found an interested exhibitor. Sometime in mid-April, the newly refurbished but still fearsome-looking land lizard will be trucked up to the city, to be displayed—for a while, anyway—in TriBeCa, next to the Hudson River on Pier 25, by a community group called Manhattan Youth Recreation and Resources, which runs children’s programs on the pier.
Mr. Wade, now 54 and living in Austin, Tex., specializes in large installation art and has a fondness for southwestern kitsch. (There is a 40-foot-high pair of his cowboy boots adorning a mall in San Antonio.) He created the iguana in 1978 for Art Park, a state-sponsored art-in-progress exhibition in Lewiston, N.Y., near Niagara Falls.
In 1989, when the Lone Star succumbed to skyrocketing rent, it held an auction for its fixtures and ornaments, and the iguana was bought, for $17,500, by Lynne Allen and Stuart Fisher, a couple who lived on a horse farm in Keswick, Va., near Charlottesville. They stood Iggy, as Ms. Allen said the iguana came to be known, outside their barn.
10 December 1999, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Documentary at the Alamo follows Daddy-O Wade’s wild ride” by Shermakaye Bass, pg. F2:
Well, the Big Daddy is at it again. Only this time, artist Bob Wade is the subject of someone else’s art: that of filmmaker/ documentarian Karen Dinitz. In the 52-minute “Too High, Too Long and Too Wide,” which will premiere for one showing at the Alamo Drafthouse this evening, Dinitz follows the larger-than-life endeavors of Bob “Daddy-O” Wade as he pushes the boundaries between “high” and “low” art in his quest to create three-dimensional pop art with a Lone Star flair. An odyssey that spans more than 20 years, “Too High” includes documentation of Mr. O’s wild ride across Texas in his Iguanamobile, as well as a montage of film excerpts from his early monuments to Americana.
At the heart of the journey are Wade and Iggy, the 40-foot iguana that crowned New York’s Lone Star Cafe for years and later became part of a rolling tour of Texas to promote Wade’s 1995 book, “Daddy- O: Iguana Heads and Texas Tales.” For Wade, the book, the tour and the Iguanamobile brought together two of his favorite installations: the king daddy lizard and the artist’s Texas Mobile Home Museum, an RV museum featured in the Paris Bienniale in 1977.
2 June 2010, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Iguana airlift? You know Austin is involved” by John Kelso, pg. B6:
FORT WORTH - The lizard has landed.
People hooted, hollered and high-fived Tuesday afternoon when Austin artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade’s 40-foot iguana sculpture was lowered by helicopter onto the roof of the animal hospital at the Fort Worth Zoo.
New York (NY) Times
Attack of the 40-Foot Iguana!
By MICHAEL BRICK
JUNE 13, 2010 11:00 AM.
By force of sheer monstrosity, Iggy soon became the mascot of the tequila-swillingest, cosmic country-blaringest, 10-gallon hat-wearingest joint in all of New York. Poised above the legend “Too Much Ain’t Enough,” it gave silent witness to the sort of debauchery occasioned by performances from Willie Nelson, Kinky Friedman and Albert King.
“The iguana looked like most of us felt,” Mr. Friedman once said, meaning bug-eyed and out of sorts.
Through crime, weather and the Koch administration (Hizzoner was a fan), Iggy persevered. When neighbors complained, a court of law pronounced the sculpture a work of art, not a sign subject to regulation.
But after the bar closed in 1989, Iggy appeared in public only occasionally, including a year or so at Pier 25, before being acquired by the Fort Worth oilman Lee M. Bass. Even in Texas, appropriate venues for the display of a furious giant lizard have been hard to come by in recent years, so Iggy lingered in storage.
In 2007, the Fort Worth Zoo, of which Mr. Bass’ wife is a co-chairwoman, broke ground on a new herpetarium.
40-foot Iguana Arrives at Fort Worth Zoo
Fort Worth Zoo
Uploaded on Jun 1, 2011
Off the Grid (Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation)
Ladies Who Lunch, Cowboys, Condos, and Such
BY DREW – APRIL 13, 2012
POSTED IN: WEST VILLAGE
By the 1970s the restaurant chain was fading, and in 1976 the 13th Street location was replaced by The Lone Star Café. The Lone Star Café was Texas-themed club and eatery that featured live country music by some of the genre’s biggest stars.
The Lone Star café was topped by Iggy, a both beloved and reviled 40-foot iguana sculpture that was installed on the roof of the building in 1977 by artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade. Though still a success in 1989, rent increases helped shutter this Texan outpost on Fifth Avenue. You’ll be glad to know that Iggy was rescued by a Texas oil baron, and was installed in 2010 (via helicopter!) on the roof of the Forth Worth Zoo animal hospital.