Last week our feathery friend talked to us about his regrets and his FEW appearance at Petco Park. As we draw closer to the end of the series, we discussed with Ted about the career he left behind for chicken feed and his opinion on other mascots. That led to his story about his one-on-one shtick match with the Phillie Phanatic.
REBECCA: So after all these years, if you weren’t The Famous Chicken, what would you be doing? What do you think you’d be doing?
TED: I’d probably be writing sports. I have a journalism degree from San Diego State. I’d be writing sports. So, I’d be in journalism or sports reporting probably. Something aligned with probably a sports field itself. I know when I was, in the ‘70s, going to college and high school I wanted to be a comedy writer. And so maybe would have led to something like that. I don’t know. Fate takes you in strange ways. I certainly didn’t think I’d be wearing a chicken suit after 40 years.
REBECCA: Well besides yourself, who’s your favorite mascot?
TED: Well the one I really like is the University of Florida Gator, Albert. I sit on that couch sometimes and when I see the football games, the guy just makes me laugh, okay? He can lip-sync the national anthem with that snout.
TED: And walking around with that long tail.
REBECCA: That’s got to be challenging, huh?
TED: And that turtleneck sweater. But I remember one time he starts pantomiming trash-talking to the camera. You know how players would do trash talk.” We’re number one. We’re going to get in your face.” And he was doing that same kind of gesticulating, trash-talking into the camera. And his wife Albertina would come by and settle him down a little bit and try to calm him down from his school spirit. I just thought it was a very funny, very funny moment. And CBS went on to use it a little bit as a TV commercial promoting their college games. But I thought it was funny. There was something inherently funny about this dorky-looking alligator walking around with that long tail and turtleneck. So that guy. And I know it’s kids just taking turns dressing up in it. But I always found it funny.
REBECCA: That’s cool.
>> Of course, Ted is … “The Most Interesting Chicken … “
TED: Yeah. And on the professional level back in the day, and I don’t think he’s doing it now, the Kansas City Royals had a really good mascot. They really did, a guy named Slugger. And he was very creative, very good.
REBECCA: And they still have someone that plays that part.
TED: Right. I think they’ve changed. But the thing that really gets under my skin sometimes, when I see mascots trying to steal my gags. You know, cherry-picking my best ideas and then trotting them out as their own and then hearing the announcers laugh, “Oh, that was hysterical,” and saying, “That’s my joke.” That’s my gag, my sketch. How can somebody just carjack it for themselves? Walk around thinking, “Hey, I’m doing it for us.”
REBECCA: It’s probably pretty hard to copyright that stuff though, huh?
TED: No, I do copyright them though. And I let the teams know when I see and I say, “This is how I make my living.” I can’t go do a Bruce Springsteen song in some Ramada Inn lounge and not hear from him and say, “Hey, you owe us for that.” So I don’t know how this is any different. But my gags and my routines, I have to let them know gently. And so we get an understanding when it does happen.
>> With his resume, it’s no wonder he copyrights his shtick!
WAYNE: Have you ever had any of the mascots call you and say, “Well there’s a bit that you’ve done. Could I use it in a performance tonight?”
TED: They haven’t asked that, but they’ve called me and asked for advice. And I give them. And I spend time on the phone with them and I try to tell them. And I even tell them for their own sake, try to be original and creative in what your suit allows you to do because you don’t want to do something where then even the guys in the press are going, “Well, that’s the San Diego Chicken’s bit. What is that? What’s up with that?” If you want to endear yourself to an audience then be creative. You have to come up with your own gags that work for your particular outfit, however your outfit is. Some are very bulky.
Some are ten feet tall, as you know, and won’t be conducive in doing certain gags. And conversely, I can’t do some things that some of these mascots can do. For example, they got these big 50-foot balloons where they could turn on their head and jump up and down. Well I can’t jump up and down on my head in a costume as I have it. But that’s a funny bit where it looks like this big balloon can turn on its head.
REBECCA: Yeah, that’s funny.
TED: And just start dancing on its head.
REBECCA: Well, and I have to tell you. He laughs at me, but I love mascots. And he always teases me. We went to the all-star game, the only time we’ve ever been, two years ago, once in Phoenix.
REBECCA: And my favorite part of that whole experience was the mascots because they were all there. And they were all just walking the concourse.
TED: Oh, is that right?
REBECCA: Before the games. Our favorite part was we always, always get to the ballpark the minute we’re allowed to get in. That’s just our routine, right? And so early birds. Let me tell you, the mascots were all there and they’re walking around. We got pictures with all of them. To us, that was the best part of the all-star game. We got to see all the mascots.
WAYNE: The only one we missed was the Phillie Phanatic. We tried to catch him. And we’re guessing that must have been his break, because we walked up this area and there was no way for him to get by us and he was gone.
TED: Yeah, the Phillies where the only team, the Phillies and the Mariners later on in the ‘90s or late ‘80s, but the Phillies back in the ‘70s called me and asked me to consult with them. And I spent many hours on the phone with Frank Sullivan who was a former relief pitcher who worked in their marketing department who since passed away and telling him what to do, who to look for, how the suit should be. He was asking me, “Does it have to be a real animal? Can it be a fake animal like a cookie monster or something?” And he was asking me, “Does it have to be team colors?” This and that, and “What kind of guy should we get for the outfit?” and all that sort of thing. And I was trying to coach them through it. So it’s on one of the things that people don’t know, how the Phillies relied on me so heavily for the creation of their character.
TED: He gets a lot of hype, there is no doubt. He gets a lot of hype about it. But I remember in ’78, they brought me back. The Phillies asked me to come back and said, “Can we have a summit?” I say, “Oh yeah, great. Okay, we’ll come back.” I’m thinking, “Yeah, I helped these guys. It’ll be all good.” You know, I go in there and I pick up the paper and go in the next day. The day before, we fly in, the day before. I pick up the Philadelphia Daily News and there in the sports section is like a tail of the tape. And they’ve made it look like it’s a boxing match. It’s east versus west. It’s Chicken versus Phanatic. And I was, “Oh no.” Knowing Philadelphia, I said, “This is going to be a…”
REBECCA: This is going to be bad.
TED: And the first moment I go out on the field for the Phillies, and they’re playing San Diego that night so they brought me in with San Diego, they had a huge turnout for this. Double what the Padres normally averaged, I remember. And my first foot I set onto the field at the old Veterans Stadium, the crowd gets up and they boo me. Boo! Boo! “Unbelievable,” I said. It was like an “Aha!” moment for me. I said, “I haven’t done diddly.” I’m not on field five seconds, they’re booing me. And I said, “I was going to be nice tonight.” I said, “No.” I was going to be nice in deference to their Phanatic. I said, “I helped this guy!” This was almost a protégé of mine. I helped them put this character. And the audience starts booing me. I said, “Okay, I’m going to a material. I’m going to blow your little boy away and he ain’t going to be standing at the end of the night. Hate to do it to you, but you don’t do that.”
WAYNE: Ooh, yeah.
TED: And I remember I turned to my assistant and he was like, “I can’t believe Phillie!” I say, “Hey, I knew they had a reputation. I didn’t know it was like this.” And they were insulting. First the Philly fans, I went right to the A material. Boom! And they laughed. Grudgingly, they gave it up. But they had the laugh. And I went to the game. I didn’t want to blow off their guy. It wasn’t my intention. But I said, “I got to go.” My pride has been called out.
I got to go for the jugular vein. Sorry. Okay. It’s because they built it up like east versus west I think, “Okay, maybe they’re just joking around.” The fans took it seriously.
>> Couldn’t locate a video of The Chicken vs. Phanatic but here is one with Barney!
We do have one. We’ve passed through and had their cheesesteaks. And yeah, you’d get a sense of the chemistry of the town real fast. Philly is the only, of all the new stadiums, the only ones that actually have jail cells built down in the basement. They have so many outbreaks and so much violence…
WAYNE: I believe it.
TED: Like at Lincoln Field. They arrest people and they have holding cells down in the bowels of the Stadium. They keep them there. And they have a judge there as well.
WAYNE: Oh my, gosh.
TED: Saves time. Charges are brought up. Bail is set. Can you set bail? No? Then off to jail you go, the bigger jail.
Come on Padres – has it really been 4 years since you’ve invited the Chicken to Petco?
A question from “The Famous Chicken Baseball Quiz Book”
Who hit the last home run in Jersey City’s Roosevelt Stadium when it served as the Dodgers’ “home” park for some games in 1956 and 1957?
Answer next week!
Of course, we can’t leave you hanging from last week – here is the question and answer!
Who holds the record for most positions played by one player in a game?
Answer: A player playing all nine positions in one game has happened only twice. Bert Campaneris, while with the Kansas City A’s did it in 1965 and in 1968 Cesar Tovar of the Minnesota Twins did it again. There have been players, however, who over the course of a season played all nine positions. In fact, it has been done seven times, the first time occurring in the season of 1899 by Lewis McAllister of the Cleveland National League Club.
>> Accurate as of publication date: 1984 … any new records?
Be sure to join us next week!