It's given name was The Epicentral Shrine to the Helping Hand Vehicular, but one look at Conrad Bladey's beloved art car made it immediately clear why everyone knew it as Handy.
A 1990 Pontiac Grand Am, Handy was covered front-to-back, but especially on top, with dozens of mostly bright-red fiberglass hands. No one who saw it on the streets of Baltimore, or hitting the road in its northern Anne Arundel County home of Linthicum, will ever forget the sight.
Handy always made quite an impression.
"It's amazing -- when you drove that car, people got animated and started to dance," said Bladey. "It just had this amazing effect on people."
But sadly, like all things mechanical, Handy's pistons were not destined to fire forever. On Aug. 30, it died of what Bladey labeled "massive terminal electronic failure." Handy was 24.
"No mechanic can fix it," Bladey lamented. "I've put $5,000 into it. That's as far as I can go."
Commissioned for First Night Annapolis in 1999, Handy proved a big hit on the art car circuit, winning the Daily Driver Artcar award at Houston’s Orange Show Artcar Weekend in 2005. Besides being a presence on the streets of Baltimore and its environs, Handy was also a fixture at Artscape's annual Car Show. It also appeared at parades and events in Houston, Louisville, Providence, R.I., and Newark, Del.
It even appeared on the cover of a CD from Big Blow and the Bushwackers, appropriately titled "Handy."
Handy is survived by Handy Truck, a vehicular successor that already has become home to many of Handy's arms and hands. It is also survived by its creator, Conrad Bladey, as well as his wife, Mary, and their daughter, Margaret.
A "celebratory art car wake" for Handy, featuring a performance from Big Blow and the Bushwackers, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Bladey Art Environment, 402 Nancy Ave. in Linthicum. Those wishing to attend should RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 443-370-4011 no later than Sept. 12.
In lieu of flowers, the survivors ask that doll hands and mannequin hands be donated.
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