A Model Traveler

Whether in Fiji, South Africa or on the Web, Bud the mannequin takes relentless good cheer in meeting and advising people.

July 08, 2000|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

It is always about Bud. It was always about Bud. And it will always be about Bud. Good thing Bud is a dummy. And good thing he's such a happy dummy.

Otherwise Bud's wistful poker face, far-away eyes and stiff demeanor would try the patience of Job and anyone else who meets him.

And Bud, a professional tourist who lives to sightsee, has met plenty of people, all of whom he so thoughtfully calls his new friends. The guy gets around -- he's in a perpetual state of summer vacation. But if you think Rehoboth, Whack-a-mole and boogie boarding are Bud's idea of vacation, think again. Last week, he was in Fiji visiting sugar cane fields and then New Zealand admiring sheep and snowfields. This week, he's in Sydney, en route to Uluru, the world's biggest monolith in Northern Territory, Australia.

Imagine, Bud might have spent the rest of his days collecting dust in an attic, or even worse, residing in a dumpster!

A former Montgomery Ward mannequin approximately 35 in dummy years (14 in boy years), Bud was adopted by Baltimore artist D.S. Bakker after a dreary period languishing as an artist's model at the Maryland Institute, College of Art.

In 1983, Bakker whisked Bud away from all that. They drove cross-country to San Francisco, stopping en route at the Cadillac Ranch in Texas, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and other sightseeing meccas. Along the way, Bud -- at times riding atop Bakker's automobile -- made lots of friends and discovered that being a tourist was far more fulfilling than standing nude and anatomically incorrect in front of strangers.

Wherever Bud went, there he was, and more important, there was Bakker or another photographer willing to snap his picture in front of a famous monument or natural wonder. From the continental United States, Bud expanded his horizons to Paris, London and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

In 1986, he even received a works-in-progress grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, enabling Bud to travel to Alaska and Hawaii. Soon came trips to Africa, the Netherlands, Scotland, Canada, West Virginia and other destinations near and far.

"Bud is a tourist, and tourists need to travel," Bakker explains. "He loves to travel to new places and make new friends."

Starting small

Bakker first scanned "crude black and white images" of Bud's travels into a Mac computer in 1986. Two years later, the pictures became part of a traveling show, "Collecting, Organizing and Transposing," curated by Olivia Georgia, then director of Maryland Art Place. "When the Internet arrived, it was conceptually a very small step to put his travelogue out on the Web," Bakker says.

Bakker lives with his wife and two children near Lake Montebello and creates strange and haunting dioramas in his garage/studio. While very protective of Bud, he ordinarily never attempts to speak for him. Bakker, a cheerfully eccentric fellow whose off-beat creative expressions invite rather than threaten even the most mainstream of folk, firmly believes that Bud, himself a mainstream kind of guy, is his own best spokesman -- even if he does tend to speak in cloying, "golly gee" superlatives about the most trite matters.

Internet guide

As a result, this so-called dummy has become a prolific pen pal, tourist savant and a unique catalyst for world-wide communication with his Web site, "Bud's Travels" (http://hometown.aol. com/touristbud).

In an account of that early trip to Colorado, for example, Bud wrote:

"As Lewis and Clark and their guide, Sacajawea, made their way westward across the Rocky Mountains, they encountered primeval forests alive with wolves and grizzlies. Nearly two centuries later, these symbols of the frontier West still survive in the Rockies, along with lynx, wolverines, bison, pronghorn and elk. As Bud made his way westward across the Rocky Mountains, he encountered gas stations, 7-Elevens, miniature golf and Winnebagos."

Bud's site was a Yahoo! pick of the week last September, and since then about 30,000 people have visited, reading his journal entries, writing letters, venturing out on cyber links to countries and topics (Cypress Gardens, Elvis Presley, cave art among them) he has so thoughtfully provided.

Perhaps it is Bud's nonjudgmental ways -- or his relentless good cheer -- that explains why so many people confide in him and seek his wisdom on a bewildering array of topics. Bud is often asked to expound upon historical and scientific matters, ranging from the existence of Druids to the Coriolis effect, the force behind why water drains in the opposite direction in the Southern hemisphere.

And if Bud, typical teen cybergeek that he is, doesn't have an answer, he has a link, even for enthusiasts with the most esoteric of interests. One correspondent, for example, wrote:

"Hi Bud!

"Glad to have found your site -- I am a new collector of mannequins -- and have acquired a few in need of cosmetic repair-- was hoping you would know where I can find the correct paint for mannequins!

"Thanks -- Larry"

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