To Stay In
- By Jack Murphy-
sports editor, The San Diego Union
There was a time when the law
dealt harshly with chicken thieves. But the KGB Chicken is a
broke the news gently to Ted Turner late yesterday afternoon. The Chicken has come home to roost. The Theater of the Chicken,
also know as San Diego Stadium, is keeping its star attraction.
Fowl play was averted
when Ted Giannoulas, The Chicken's conscience and spokesman,
notified the owner of the Atlanta Braves he is declining a reported
offer of $100,000 annually to fly the coop.
"I feel very good about it," clucked The Chicken.
"Ted was upset, he told me I was making a mistake, but
he was very understanding. I decided there are things more important
than the dollar: happiness, peace of mind, my family, my friends,
and home. There's no place like home."
Thus, a city in crisis relaxed. It was the worst trauma San Diego had experienced since C. Arnholt
Smith sold the Padres to carpetbaggers in Washington, D.C.,
The Chicken will benefit from
the community's anxiety. There will be increased chicken feed
from his sponsoring radio station, plus a $10,000 bonus from
Padres owner Ray Kroc.
"KGB made an adjustment,"
he said. "I hadn't had a raise for a couple of years anyway. It's not nearly what Ted was mentioning, but money wasn't the
Can Accept Fees Elsewhere
The Chicken's new handshake
agreement with the station will allow him to accept fees when
he appears in New York, Philadelphia and other cities. Heretofore,
he received only expenses and applause. He's in demand.
Within minutes after closing the
henhouse door to Turner, he was tempted again by the Seattle
Mariners. An owner of the Mariners (Danny Kaye) is a fellow
who appreciates comic talent.
"They talked about a three-year
contract and work on television," said Giannoulas. "But
I told them I've made my decision, I'm putting it to bed. I'm
only 24, maybe the ring will come around again. "
The Chicken was hatched four and
a half years ago as an Easter promotion by a KGB executive. Giannoulas
has made the Chicken a presence and beloved character in San
Diego. He has given The Chicken a vivid personality, he has refined
his art and gotten so deeply into his character that Turner terms
him a genius.
He's a scene stealer. When the New
York Mets were in San Diego the TV camera turned away from the
ball game to watch the Chicken attack an armored car parked beneath
the stadium's message board.
"Comedy is the bottom line,"
says The Chicken.
No Pictures Without Costume
Giannouulas declines to be photgraphed
without dressing up in his chicken suit. The costume weighs 15
pounds, and most of the weight is in the head and tail.
"I like that Batman mystique," he explained. "
I have two lives. I can go where I want without being recognized."
Naturally he gets his good looks
from his mother, Helen Giannoulas, a seamstress, makes him four
chicken suits each year.
The Chicken has the soul of a poet,
and he's not the lush some of his beer drinking admirers at the
stadium want to believe.
He'll take a beer when it's offered,
he makes a show of emptying the bottle. But he's really a wholesome,
All-American chicken, the chicken next door. You might want your
daughter to marry the Chicken.
"I never bought a beer in my life,"
cheeped the Chicken.
He loves San Diego Stadium. "It's
the perfect stage for me, it was created for a chicken act. The
aisles are wide, the sight lines are terrific. No, it isn't perfect. There are no dugout roofs like in most ballparks. I like to work
on the dugout, it gets me close to the people.
"The Chicken looks so vulnerable
sitting there. "
The Chicken is irrepressible. Sometimes
he lifts his leg on an umpire.
"In New York, everywhere I
go, the dignified general managers ask me to be sure and lift
my leg on the umps. "
He's an embryo Charles Chaplin in
chicken feathers. He says he gets his inspiration from the Three
Stooges, from old Popeye cartoons, from Groucho Marx and other
One of his best routines mimics Pete
Rose running around the bases. The public is enchanted when he
slides into third base, then does it again in slow motion replay.
The act suggests
his genius. "I had no plan but I heard the laughter and a
thought spawned in my mind. I thought, 'it's time for a replay. '
I was surprised the public picked it up right away. "
His popularity delights and astonishes him. He never dreamed he would be a famous chicken and one day be nominated
for the Chicken Hall Of Fame.
thought it was a two-week job and here I am in my fifth year. It's really incredible. Now I'm wondering how much I can develop
the character. I wonder if The Chicken can go national. Heck,
I became a chicken because I fitted the suit."
But even chickens want to play Hamlet.
"I don't plan on making The
Chicken a career. I figured on a couple of years at most, but
the laughs seem to get bigger by the month. I wonder about getting
into a more professional frame of comedy. "
The Chicken is a graduate of San
Diego State University who majored in journalism. When he was
just a chick, he longed to become a sports broadcaster. But he
has heard laughter and applause, and it has a nice sound in his
"San Diego is an enticement. Being The Chicken has a real joy. Why blow a good thing?"
When I go to other cities people congratulate me on my act and
on my good luck in living in San Diego. "
He's one smart chicken.