Reward announced for the return of Rialto Row's missing dolphin

Want free sushi and to give a dolphin a name?


Local thieves wonder if producer Wolfgang Zimmerman can tuna fish - JAMES HYNES
  • James Hynes
  • Local thieves wonder if producer Wolfgang Zimmerman can tuna fish
A friendly, nameless dolphin is believed to have been stolen and a group of local creatives mean to find some answers.

If you've ever seen the old-school Rutledge Cab Co. sign just below the I-26 on-ramp from Mount Pleasant Street, you may have also gotten a glimpse of the blue dolphin that once hung from the petite billboard. Measuring at about 5.5 feet-tall and 2.5 feet-wide, the dolphin always wore a smile as it gently rocked in the freeway breeze.

  • James Hynes
She wasn’t just any ol’ mammal — she was the beloved mascot of Rialto Row, the studio-art complex that includes Wolfgang Zimmerman’s recording studio The Space as well as Todd Anderson’s Charlietown Prints and, of course, the old Rutledge Cab billboard. Though the Rialto dolphin went missing at the end of December, on Sat. Jan. 20 it became clear foul play was to blame when, on the studio steps, two cans of tuna along with a note reading, “We have your dolphin” were discovered.

So why was there a dolphin there in the first place? Rialto Row CEO James Hynes says that he came across her one day and had to take her in.

“I’d gone to an antique warehouse when we moved into Rialto,” he says. “And Wolfie loves dolphins, so I saw this dolphin at the top of this big shelf — she was a beaut — and I was like, I gotta get that. The guys with me asked why we needed a dolphin. I just said, 'I don’t know, but I’m gonna know.’”

Months passed before Hynes realized the dolphin’s place was meant to be in the air, displayed for all to enjoy. “It just made everybody really happy,” he says. “And she was up there wigglin’ in the wind and always had a great attitude. She’s real special to all of us.”

Being a hostage isn’t the dolphin’s first tango with hard times. She was also victim to the fate of wayward winds back in the fall. “Irma came and everyone was at a bachelor party in Myrtle Beach, so I stayed here to take care of the studio,” Hynes explains. “I was like Lieutenant Dan, screaming at the sky, and Irma was beating the dolphin up pretty good. I was looking at her and she winked at me and took flight — it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen in my entire life. It was majestic — she really sailed.”

But Hynes found the dolphin soon after, albeit minus a fin. “She’s very resilient, so we reattached the fin and got her back up there and the world was all right again,” he says. “And then — the first thing I do when I get here is check the dolphin — she was gone.”

Weeks passed. Hynes was sure she’d been “jacked” but friends assured him he was hallucinating. Then on Friday after Justin Osborne of SUSTO went live via Instagram at Rialto during the removal of the old Rutledge Cab sign (Band of Horses’ Creighton Barrett is creating pieces of art to replace it), the case of the missing dolphin resurfaced, culminating in the current DolphinGate.

Hynes considers the tuna cans a declaration of war. “Somebody has really committed a senseless crime,” Hynes says. “An unprovoked one, too. I thought it was some sick individual but the ‘we’ in the note tells me it was a gang of thieves."

Hynes shakes his head despairingly, “That thing wasn’t bothering anybody.”

The Rialto Row crew is clueless at this time as to who the perpetrators could be. “I’m relying on the kindness of people in the community to bring the dolphin back,” Hynes says. “No questions will be asked and we’ll get you a good sushi dinner at Locals. And you can name the dolphin if you get her home safely.”

When asked what he would say to the dolphin in case she’s reading, he says, “We’re saving your spot for you, and we look forward to getting you wiggling in the wind again ASAP. There’s no other creature we’re ever gonna put up there — there’s only one thing that’s gonna wiggle in the wind there, and it’s that dolphin.”

If have any details regarding the missing dolphin, please contact And stay tuned for Barrett’s billboard in the coming days.

UPDATE I: The Royal American ups the ante with a $100 reward in Royal American cash.
UPDATE II: She was returned anonymously on the evening of Mon. Jan. 22. Zimmerman posted this welcome-home pic to Instagram with the dolphin home safely with Hynes and musician Johnny Delaware. 

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Add a comment