The funkiest UFO in the galaxy is about to land in Chocolate City.
The Mothership — the iconic stage prop made famous by legendary funk collective Parliament-Funkadelic — has been acquired by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture where it will help anchor a permanent music exhibition when the museum opens its doors in 2015.
“I’m about to cry!” Parliament-Funkadelic frontman George Clinton said over the phone from his home in Tallahassee on Wednesday. “They’re taking the Mothership! They’re shipping it out! . . . But I’m glad it’s going to have a nice home there.”
It isn’t the original Mothership. This 1,200-pound aluminum spacecraft was built in the mid-’90s — an indistinguishable replica, Clinton says, of the smoke-spewing stage prop he first introduced to slack-jawed funk fans in 1976.
But by 1982, Parliament-Funkadelic’s towering debts forced the group’s Washington-based management company to trash the Mothership in a Prince George’s County scrap yard. And what happened next has become the stuff of myth. Was it stolen? Did it burn in a fire? Is it still floating around somewhere in the cosmos?
An April 2010 Washington Post storyabout the Mothership’s disappearance sent the Smithsonian searching for it. Kevin Strait, project historian for the museum, didn’t get very far. “All signs pointed to the fact that we weren’t going to find the original,” Strait said. “So that’s when we essentially put our attentions toward the new one.”