Sometimes it just pays to be at the right place at the right time. This is the story of one Bill Wyatt (owner of Los Feliz T-shirt and gift shop Y-Que Trading Post) and a beloved bright blue sign — the Happy Foot/Sad Foot as it is commonly known, which had been spinning along Sunset Boulevard since the ’80s. The sign marked Dr. Thomas Lim’s Sunset Foot clinic, but for locals, it’s always been more than an advert for local podiatry. Its magic to many projected one;s fortune and hence mood for the day, depending on which side faced you as you drove by, either the toe-bandaged morose foot on crutches or the healthy joyous one.
When Dr. Lim moved his practice to Filipinotown in August, frantic questions arose as to what would happen to the quirky landmark. After Wyatt showed affection for the sign via fan tees in his shop and even creating a movement to save it and have the area deemed “Hafo Safo,” the indie retailer has scored the honor of housing the precious art piece until a permanent location can be found to display it. “Dr. Lim thought that would be a good idea because it could stay local,” explains Wyatt.
During the removal, which occurred on Thursday, September 5, Wyatt says one of his major concerns was how to get it down in one piece. “I had worked on my sign recently,” he shares. “They’re about the same age and when I pulled it out of the slots, it fell apart. So I was worried about the [Happy Foot/Sad Foot] sign, thinking that if I broke it I’d be jinxed for life, have to leave L.A., and probably be killed by dumb fate.”
Given that plan, imagine Wyatt’s surprise when in the midst of a sandwich run to Café Tropical, he noticed a truck with a crane underneath the sign and some workmen attempting to pull it down. Initially thinking that he had happened upon a theft, Wyatt frantically approached the workmen to find out what was going on. They refused to speak to him or answer any of his questions. Wyatt ran back and forth from the sign to the motel and back to the sign again, finally camping underneath it, refusing to budge until he got some answers.
Turns out the property owners were just going to pull the sign down and probably place it in exile in some dusty scrapyard in the valley. “They wanted the sign out of sight and out of mind, before anyone had the chance to rally the forces in an attempt to have it registered as a historical landmark,” Wyatt says.
After 10 or 15 minutes, cooler heads prevailed, Dr. Lim was summoned and it was agreed that Wyatt would keep the sign at his store, where it resides presently on display, making for cramped quarters, but nonetheless fitting in with the shop’s wacky and weird merchandise, which includes toys and collectibles, accessories and other curios.
[By some not so strange coincidence, Y-Que — which means “And What?/So What?” in Spanish and has seen two owners before Wyatt — was the first job of L.A. Weekly‘s own culture editor Lina Lecaro. Read her take on the sign and the ever-changing neighborhoods of Silver Lake and Echo Park here].
Wyatt has turned Hafo Safo into a bonafide attraction with a spinning wheel game, fortune telling elements and loads of merch featuring the funny foot art. It remains to be seen if the sign will follow Dr. Lim to the new office eventually, but for now, it remains at Y-Que, with both sides displayed as two pieces against the entry-way walls, not unlike a step and repeat party backdrop. Shoppers can snap selfies and dictate their own moods now, and thanks to the jovial vibe of the store, it’s usually happy.
Y-Que Trading Post, 1770 N. Vermont Ave. (323) Check out Y-Que’s Instagram for more foot action.