The eternal Bobo: Seattle's favorite primate will go back on display

Dec 21, 2011

The beloved Bobo had Seattle gripped in a celebrity frenzy over the details of his life, specifically his sex life with Fifi, in the 1950s and '60s.

And, while some celebrities are honored with wax figures, after his death Bobo was stuffed and set up in the Museum of History and Industry. The question now is will Bobo make the cut and be moved into a prime location in MOHAI's new building next year, or will he be mothballed?

In June 2012, MOHAI will leave its Montlake location and a few months later reopen at South Lake Union’s historic Naval Reserve Armory. The old museum building, located just south of Husky Stadium in the University District, will be demolished to make room for the Highway 520 expansion.

And, MOHAI's new museum space will be outfitted with state of the art interactive technology. So the question is, Does Bobo still have it? Does the museum have space amid its new flashy exhibits for the once popular love-starved gorilla?

The museum's marketing officer Danielle Bias has the answer:

“Though we don’t have a specific date yet for when Bobo would go on display at the Armory,” said Bias. “Our plan is to have him as part of the rotating display in the area we’re referring to as 'The Grid,' which will feature some of MOHAI’s best-known and most popular artifacts.”

An iconic Seattle figure

The Seattle Website Crosscut perhaps put it best:

At one time, the gorilla of our dreams was Bobo, Seattle's biggest celebrity of the 1950s and '60s. Bobo lived at the Woodland Park Zoo and his life and love life was covered as if he was a Kardashian. Comedian Bill Cosby had a whole routine devoted to Seattle, highlighted by the city's obsession with Bobo's sex life, or lack of it.

Then Bobo died in 1968 and his remains were disbursed:

  • His bones were sent to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.
  • His skull went missing and created much controversy over the years ... then surfaced at The Burke.
  • His skin was stuffed and featured at MOHAI.


Bobo became one of the most popular exhibits at the museum for more than 25 years.

However, his popularity fell in the 1990s, partly due to the decline of his physical appearance – his hair became shabby, his skin lost its lady-killer glow, a few of his toes even fell off (not to mention the arsenic used in the taxidermy process back then).

However, in 2000 the original taxidermist from 1968 gave Bobo a makeover. The facelift was very much needed and Bobo went back on display.

Another makeover

Whatever the future holds for the gorilla one thing is for certain, “Bobo’s going in for some serious plastic surgery,” says MOHAI’s executive director Leonard Garfield.

"In our current 'MOHAI Moves History' exhibit here at Montlake, we ask visitors upfront what they would like to see most at the new MOHAI at the Armory, and Bobo is quite popular, as you can imagine,” says Bais.

Clearly, the public isn't over Bobo and looks forward to his return at MOHAI’s new location.

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