It's hard to take a place seriously that bills itself as “the hoppiest place on Earth.”
But when it comes to keeping my preteen daughters happy, entertained and out of prison, I'll take anything seriously.
I am all about high culture and stuff like that. So a few weeks ago, I decided to introduce them and a couple of their friends to some of the more highfalutin' sites near us. But since we're on the restricted list at most of the traditional museums — who knew the caveman diorama at the Natural History Museum wasn't scratch-and-sniff? — I had to search for something off-the-beaten path to enlighten them.
That's how I found — somewhere on a list between the Los Angeles Police Museum and the Museum of Death — the Bunny Museum.
You'd think a museum devoted to all things bunny would either be a joke or the subject of “Hoarders Gone Wild.” But it is neither. Curators Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski have taken a sweet, personal sentiment and turned it into an ever-expanding phenomenon.
Since it's in their Pasadena home, it is a “living museum,” and visits are by appointment only. I called and luckily was able to get in the same day.
“Have a hoppy day!” chimed Candace when we hung up. And I know she meant it.
It's not hard to find, just look for the enormous shrub sculpture of a bunny on the front lawn, remnants of a Rose Parade float. After handing over five “bunny bucks” per person and getting a brief introduction to the museum's history and rules, we were free to roam the hallowed — and cluttered — halls.
When you cram nearly 30,000 bunny-related collectibles — plush toys, ceramics, marionettes, chocolate… anything — into a modest-sized home, floor-to-ceiling, there's not a lot of wiggle room. That's what happens when the gift-giving of sweethearts multiplies like, well, rabbits.
The collection started 21 years ago. “Steve gave me one (a bunny gift) on Valentine's Day,” said Candace, who speaks with the readiness of a tracked rabbit. “Then I gave him one at Easter. Then it became every holiday.”
And so on until they were giving each other a bunny gift every single day. Still do.
This keeps the museum well-stocked. They began showing the collection to friends, family and the curious 14 years ago. At first, it was open only on holidays. When the demand grew, they opened every day of the year and now accommodate between two and 200 visitors daily.
“The largest group we had was 300 at one time,” Candace said about a group of teachers from Phoenix University. “We've had two Harley-Davidson groups, and they were 50 each.”
Their visit made for interesting parking in their quaint neighborhood, she added.
They've had visitors from almost every state and more than 43 countries.
The museum was recently featured on the Science Channel show “Oddities,” and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for Largest Collection of Rabbits (Bunnies).
But perhaps most notably, you know you've made it when you are visited by Huell Howser. The late, great seeker of all things “amaaaazing” in California taped a 2007 episode of “Visiting… With Huell Howser” at the museum. The episode was selected as one of the top 18 visits to be shown at a tribute to Howser after his death in January.
Everything in her brood is equally loved. But Candace will point out a few notable pieces if you ask nicely, such as the Elvis “Parsley” bunny water pitcher, the White House Easter Egg Roll commemorative eggs and MooDoo and ZooDoo, rabbits made from organic material.
“These are garden fertilizers. Made of poo… They mold it, you stick it outside and when it rains they dissolve.”
According to Candace, the entry fee used to just be veggies to feed the museum's living rabbits. But people started bringing whatever was rotting in their fridge, brunch leftovers and the mashed detritus left in the bottom of a Jamba Juice smoothie cup.
Visitors are still encouraged to bring food for the bunnies though.
“Just no carrots. Everyone always brings carrots,” Candace said.
They eat carrots, but have plenty. Cilantro, parsley and spinach are bunny favorites.
And when one of the live rabbits dies, it too becomes a part of the exhibit. Freeze-dried.
Visit their website (www.thebunnymuseum.com) for more information and you'll even see a series of web commercials featuring actor Elijah Wood. And if you rub your lucky rabbit's foot, you might even find yourself interviewed by Candace for their weekly web show “Hop on Over.”
It's what's hoppening.
Yeah. I said it.
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