by John Kelso
Former Austin City Council Member Max Nofziger suggests building a 200- or so foot-tall statue of Willie Nelson in the style of the Colossus of Rhodes to straddle South Congress Avenue at Academy Drive. One of Willie’s boots would be on one side of the street, with the other on the other side.
Max’s so-called Colossus of Willie would have to be that tall to be proportional, and so you could see the Capitol without Willie blocking the Capitol view corridor. With enough height, you could see the Capitol between Willie’s knees.
“It would have to be the biggest Willie in the world, I’ll bet,” said Max, who served on the City Council from 1987 through 1996, and was known as both a South Austin advocate and a former street flower salesman. “I don’t know of any others.”
That would be one big honkin’ Willie, all right — at nearly twice the height of the Colossus of Rhodes, and about three times taller than the 67-foot Sam Houston statue south of Huntsville. In fact, I can’t think of a single statue of anybody as tall as this one proposed by Max. This is so much bigger than the world’s largest jackrabbit in Odessa that it’s not even worth mentioning.
The global colossus shortage is one reason Max thinks a Colossus of Willie in the heart of SoCo would attract crowds.
“How many colossuses are there around?” Max asked.
He’s right. Probably the closest one is Snake Farm.
Max, who hasn’t talked to Willie about this, picked the SoCo location because Willie used to have the old Austin Opera House near South Congress on Academy, the old Back Stage bar on South Congress and a nearby music studio. Also, if he picked, say, Far West Boulevard, the neighbors would complain.
Max sees the Colossus of Willie as the St. Louis Arch meets the Arc de Triomphe — with a belt buckle.
Not that Max wants to get bogged down by the work it would take to push through the project and dig up the funding. Maybe he was just trying to get me to take him to lunch.
“It’s never been done before,” said Max, referring to a giant Willie statue, not him trying to get someone to buy him lunch. “I’m not going to dedicate my life to it. But there might be somebody who wants to do that. Maybe the French.”
Max points out that the big Willie “could have an observation deck, which would be belt-buckle high” to provide visitors a spectacular view of downtown. “You could put a stairway up his legs,” Max said. And with parking as rare as it is on South Congress, how about a parking garage in his buttocks?
“The tourism it’ll generate will solve the city’s financial problems,” Max said. “It’ll be bigger (financially) than Formula One, and it’s the real Austin. Given Willie’s popularity around the world, I think a million people a year would come to see it. Given the Chamber of Commerce calculator, and I don’t know what it is, but we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars.”