Last week Ted shared one of his favorite stories about dancing with the King – Elvis Presley. This week, Ted wraps up our interview with some parting words for all of his fans and how much they mean to him and to his character …
Padres360: So, we’re out of questions – is there anything you’d like to conclude with at this point just say to the countless fans that you have that will eventually read this?
TED: Well, I can say if there’s anything that was born, bred, and made in San Diego, it is the San Diego Chicken, if I say so myself. Because I was only inspired by one thing and that was the laughs in the stands. Now you think about it. If they didn’t’ laugh, I wouldn’t be around very long. And it’s amazing the aura laughter can create in a ballpark, in an atmosphere, in a culture. In a culture. And if there really is fun at the ballpark, this is what it’s all about. Now since the advent of The Chicken, obviously it’s gone worldwide phenomenon where even the Olympics make a big deal. But back when we started, in the mid-70s, this was guerilla marketing at the time. The idea of advertising something in the marketplace in a persona, albeit a feathery persona, it resonated. And it resonated for one thing. It was comedy oriented. And it listened to laughter and it worked. Really, it could only have worked in San Diego in its incubation period as it did. Why? Because San Diego had this laid back Jimmy Buffet style attitude about itself.
Padres360: Beach town.
TED: Yes. In LA, it would not have been chic enough.
TED: In New York, it would have been tra — they only want the finished product in New York. There’s no work in progress in New York. It would not have been tolerated. Go to Chicago. As great as those fans have been in the past, the weather would not have tolerated somebody going out there every day.
Padres360: San Francisco, you couldn’t have done it either. Freezing cold in Candlestick Park
TED: Oh, I’ve been up there. And you’re absolutely right. Like Mark Twain said, coldest winter I ever spent was at July in San Francisco.
TED: But San Diego was conducive for a lot of things. And if there’s anything that has a San Diego signature to it, it is The Chicken and it’s only because of one thing and one thing only. That was the laughter of the people who sat in those seats and allowed themselves to be entertained with it and gave it a halo to grow out of. And it’s a San Diego landmark if I have to say so myself. And I’m not the only one to say it. Others have said. So basically, I’m just stealing their line. But as I reflect back over the years, yeah San Diego fans’ laughter put it on the map. Just consider if they didn’t laugh. Just think if they weren’t amused by it at first. It would have ended real fast.
Padres360: Well that’s what happened to the mascot that took over for you afterward, the one that the Padres brought in: The Blooper.
TED: I didn’t even know about him. Somebody told me.
Padres360: That freaky-looking thing and it was just sort of a desperation thing. The Friar’s much better than Blooper. The Friar makes sense and he’s pretty good.
DENISE: He’s not funny though.
TED: Yeah, you’re right…
TED: It’s a very bulky outfit from what I could tell.
Padres360: He’s more spirit-oriented than funny.
TED: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.
DAVE: I like that better than the idea of some made-up creature.
Padres360: Yeah. At least the Friar fits well.
DAVE: He’s one of my favorite MLB ones, just on looks alone, really.
TED: Do they still have the Petco pets at Petco?
Padres360: Yes, Blue Mew and Red Ruff.
TED: Oh, they still have them.
DAVE: But are those Petco characters?
Padres360: From somebody that grew up here – my first ballgames were in 1974 – and to meet you after all these years is wonderful. I promise you, as I’ve been looking at you this entire time, that I’ve been erasing what you look like so it will not…
Padres360: If I’m abducted by aliens or if Denise prods me down later to try to get an image, it won’t be there.
TED: Yeah. I just decided during my KGB days that, because I was a big fan growing up as a kid of Batman, I figured, “Oh nobody knew who Batman was.” And then it dawned on me, “Well I could do the same thing here.” It’d be great for my ego. And believe me, I’ve been pitched many, many times so come out of character, many times to come out of character. And I haven’t. I’ve been even offered money to come out of character.
Padres360: Because we cannot see it. But’s appropriate, because the end of your book, I want you to sign that to the owners of 50 barrels.
TED: [Laughs] Okay.
Padres360: Well number one Denise, because you want the Burt Reynolds half-naked picture.
Padres360: But the end of the book is appropriate, because he does come out of costume at the end of the book. Because you were bugged through all that time. Requests, what do I look like without this? What do I look like without my outfit on? And he did it.
TED: That was an idea of Joe Stein to use this in San Diego Union Tribune at the time. And he edited this. I wrote it, but he edited it. Albeit I’ll say this, that Joe wrote. They did a passage in there about the zoo. And I didn’t know what to write about the zoo. And the reason they wrote a passage in there, a chapter about the zoo, is because the wanted to sell it in the zoo gift shop. And so I say, “There’s nothing I can really write about the zoo.” Okay. I started there. That was my first gig, giving away candy, Easter eggs there. So that’s the only thing Joe Stein, he’s passed away now, that’s the only thing Joe Stein wrote at the time, was the chapter for the zoo. Everything else, I did write. Because he was supposed to ghost write it and he showed me the first chapter that he wrote. And I said, Joe, I might be able to do a little bit better. So I asked Larry Lusitania, the publisher, “Do you mind if I take a crack at it? You just look at it.” He said, “Yeah. Try it,” So I wrote a few chapters, handed them in. And he said, “Oh alright. Do it.”
Padres360: He’s good.
TED: And I write much better nowadays. I cringe a little bit when I see it now.
Padres360: No. it is really good. That’s why you need to write another.
TED: That was just over the first three years. A lot has happened since. There is so much to talk about since then.
Padres360: I’m curious. Do you have controlling interest in the book? I mean, in other words…Do you still get royalties? Could you get it reprinted and then sell it yourself on there?
TED: Oh I didn’t even think about that.
DENISE: You should write another book.
Padres360: Because I found this through Amazon. I originally, when Padres Public did the interview with you, I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh,” and I wrote one of the guys. I told him. I remember that whole story I told you about, see you being carried out after a game. And I started thinking back with all the times I remember seeing you. And I thought, I’m trying to remember what you looked like in the KGB Chicken outfit. So I started doing research. And that’s why I found the book. And I found it on Amazon. And it’s just hard to find good copies. I think people will really enjoy that and the fact that you wrote it. And if it makes you a few dollars, well my gosh. Especially people, San Diego. Because like you said, you’re not The Famous Chicken, you’ll always be the San Diego Chicken.
Padres360: Well, should we have another glass of wine…
TED: Well, I’ll suit up.
Padres360: Suit up? Awesome!
After the interview, Ted took about 15 minutes taking picture with the 3 of us in the room, all the time people were walking by outside and seeing The San Diego Chicken posing in different positions.
He signed Denise’s book, a bottle of wine, several cards and a baseball. We thanked Ted for his time and headed home. We sat down for a half hour talking about Ted. Denise was happy to have been there to have heard all of the stories he told. We were blown away by his kindness and his sincere appreciation for his fans. I was beyond happy and for a short time, I felt like the 8 year old kid who first saw him at San Diego Stadium making people laugh with his antics. It was 2 ½ hours I will never forget.
A big thank you goes out to Ted and Dave for taking time out of their schedule to talk to us. We will be sending them the entire transcript of our interview. Thanks to Brian Vitek and Brent and Denise Wells for allowing us to use their winery for the interview. Thank you to Denise for being there the entire time and for being an excellent hostess that night. Her pictures from that night are on the wall at 50 Barrels Winery autographed by our feathered friend.
Come on Padres – has it really been 4 years since you’ve invited the Chicken to Petco?
Of course, we can’t leave you hanging from last week – here is the question and answer!
Which of the follow players hit the most home runs at age 40?
Answer: Yaz hit 24 homers in 1979 to lead the pack of 40 year olds. Williams led the group with a .328 average the year he turned 40 while Yaz led in RBIs with 87.