By day three of being confined to his hotel room for quarantine, David Marriott was getting bored. Then the television commercial art director’s lunch arrived in a brown paper bowl. He thought: “Aha. That’s a hat waiting to happen.” The paper cowboy was born.
The reason behind Marriott’s quarantine stay in Brisbane, Australia, is somber. His dad, Harry, passed away in London. Marriott flew over from Australia for the funeral. Like other Australians returning home, the law required him to quarantine at a hotel for two weeks.
Hotels consider quarantine guests possibly infectious, so staff delivers food in disposable containers and plates. Packaging from quarantine guests is usually discarded rather than recycled. Marriott found the waste a bit annoying. But with his newfound adventure, he says he’s barely thrown anything out since his stay began. Plus, he’s only needed to order in a few extras like sticky tape and clingfilm.
Marriott has been making props his whole life. As a kid, he used to get in trouble for breaking his dad’s tools.
Using the bowls, boxes, and bags his lockdown food arrived in each day, Marriott began fashioning an entire Wild Western Outback outfit. He added a brim to his hat. He soon fashioned a waistcoat and chaps. Next? A horse, of course.
Marriott found an ironing board in his cupboard and tied on a desk lamp for the neck and head. He covered this “skeleton” with bags too. Coffee pods became the eyes and nostrils.
He named his trusty steed “Russell” after an old joke: “Have you heard about the paper cowboys? They were caught and hung for rustling.”
Marriott says Russell can also be a sparkling conversationalist. “It’s . . . quite philosophical,” he says. “Like, why are we here? What are we doing?”
The creative world Marriott made inside his hotel room became more elaborate each day. He added storylines in video clips and posted them online. The Clingfilm Kid became the villain, out to steal Russell while the cowboy was sleeping.
Marriott has given the Rydges hotel staff a laugh by asking that Russell be taken for walks. Proverbs 17:22—“A joyful heart is good medicine”—has certainly proved true in the paper cowboy’s case.
“It’s been cheering everyone up,” he says. “The hotel staff, they’re in hospitality but they have all these guests that they can’t see or interact with.”
When he left on Saturday, Marriott took Russell and his other creations with him. He says there’s been interest from a film center. Officials there want Russell in an art show.
“He’s a bit of superstar now,” Marriott says. After all, the paper cowboy can just fold Russell up, pop him in his bag, and ride off into the sunset.
(David Marriott poses with his paper horse “Russell” in his hotel room in Brisbane, Australia, April 1, 2021. David Marriott via AP)