Poor Ken Bannister: He owns a collection of 17,000 "banana-themed artifacts." That alone is enough to earn our pity. But now the museum he started to house them is being shut down. Let's meet this sad banana man.
Former Gawker intern Mary Pilon spent some time with Ken Bannister, founder of Hesperia California's International Banana Club and Museum. And she wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about it. The "news peg" on which this story is hung is that the Hesperia Recreation & Parks Department is kicking Bannister out of the city-owned space his Museum has inhabited since 2005 to make way for a new exhibit. But the real story is evergreen: The story of madness' small beginnings.
In 1972, a secretary gave Bannister 10,000 Chiquita banana stickers. He handed them out at a conference he was attending. Maybe this would have been the end of it, but people started flooding him with banana artifacts. He embraced them, and now this is his life:
A banana golf putter, banana beverages, and a gold-sequined "Michael Jackson banana." Mr. Bannister organizes the goods into "hard" (brass, lead, wood, plastic banana wares) and "soft" (stuffed bananas, banana beach mats, banana tents). He estimates the effort has cost him over $150,000 over the years.
$150,000! Bannister calls himself "Top Banana." He speaks in Banana. ("I guess it's time to split," was his reaction to the eviction notice.") His wife organizes "banana-themed picnics and parties." He is so delusional that he put his collection for sale on eBay for $45,000 and actually called it "bargain price."
Here is the question: Was Bannister's madness always lurking within him, and it just happened to manifest itself in the form of banana obsession? Or is there something inherently maddening about the banana itself? If it is the former, we can read Bannister's story with bemusement. But if it is the latter, we should be very afraid. 17,000 pieces of banana-themed paraphernalia are about to hit the streets. Bannister's fate could end up being our own.