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Pop culture icons fill Lake Drive yard

Big Boy complements buried '55 Cadillac

April 15, 2009

A half-century-old, 7-foot-tall Marc's Big Boy statue sporting a wide grin and serving a cheeseburger is mounted on Rick Serocki's garage.

That's the latest addition to Serocki's property in the 4500 block of South Lake Drive in Cudahy, which is well-known for its less than ordinary lawn decor.

Among the novel and retro items scattered throughout the 56-year-old's yard are an oversized fiberglass skeleton, a snowmobile rider, pigs made out of propane tanks, an old telephone booth, a McDonald's Hamburglar and Captain Crook, an emergency call box, a tractor being operated by a mannequin and various hand-crafted metal art made by Serocki.

In memory of Elvis

One of the most noticeable items in Serocki's yard is a 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood that appears to be buried in the ground.

The life-long Cudahy resident said he got the idea from a man who owned "a Cadillac ranch" in Texas with several Cadillacs buried in the ground. The man's property appeared in a scene in the movie "Thelma & Louise."

Serocki said he chose a '55 Cadillac because that was Elvis Presley's favorite model.

Former City Attorney Robert Jursik gave Serocki the green light for the display. Serocki removed the motor, transmission, gas tank, rims and tires on the vehicle and propped it at an angle so it appears sunken into the ground.

Serocki will always remember the day - April 1, 2000 - he added the Cadillac to his collection of yard art.

He called the news stations and asked if they wanted to see a buried Cadillac, but no one believed him because it was April Fool's Day, he said. Once reporters realized it was not a prank, a story was aired on television and a story ran in a newspaper.

Shortly afterward, people were at Serocki's house to take photographs.

"I even had to close the blinds because people were coming and looking through the windows," he said. "It was nuts."

Nine years later, people still stop at Serocki's house on a regular basis to admire his extraordinary decorations. Some fans have purchased artwork from Serocki. One of his signature pieces is a "bikealope," an artistic metal antelope made from bike parts.

Eye of the beholder

But not everyone appreciates Serocki's yard.

After Serocki put out the Cadillac in his yard, a resident who lived a few blocks away began complaining to city officials, but nothing ever happened because of it, Serocki said.

Building Inspector Butch Loferski said some people view Serocki's lawn decorations as junk, but city officials have not taken action against Serocki.

"Bob Jursik ruled it wasn't junk, and that's how we operate," Loferski said.

Serocki's folder at the Inspection Department does not carry any recent complaints against the property.

City officials have not placed any restrictions on Serocki in terms of the number or type of items that can be displayed in his yard.

Yard work

The yard art requires maintenance.

Serocki said he spent roughly 100 hours cleaning, priming and repainting the Big Boy statue.

He has repainted his Cadillac twice since he put it out in 2000, and intends to repaint it next year.

"If you don't keep (your yard) up, the city will get on you," he said.

Sandra Schmidt, who formerly lived in the 4500 block of South Lake Drive, said Serocki's yard "was great."

"Everybody loved it," she said. "People would stop there from other parts of town."

But a current neighbor in the 4400 block of South Lake Drive, who wished to remain anonymous, objected.

"It's a disgrace that (the city) allows that," the neighbor said. "This is supposed to be a nice neighborhood. I think it's awful."

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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