It Takes A Tough Man To Make A Tender Chicken Dance.

6 Jun

June 6, 2011

GEORGE: Do chickens have individual personalities?
KRAMER: I don’t care.
GEORGE: If you had five chickens could you tell them apart by just the way they acted? Or would they all just be walking around? Cluck, cluck, cluck? Because if they have individual personalities I don’t think we should be eating them.
           –Seinfeld, The Dinner Party

Any of you guys coming to NYC? If you are coming to the City the best part of the City to visit is Chinatown, and the best time to visit Chinatown is the 1970′s. So hop in your hot tub time machines and travel back with me to the era of the ABA, roller-disco, and dancing chickens.

Yes, dancing chickens. And this time I mean it.

But you’ll have to wait a minute for it.

Remember the show That’s Incredible? It was on in the air in the early 80’s. It was sort of a modern take on Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and was hosted by the scary-talented Fran Tarkenton, whose impressive TV resume includes playing in some football games televised on Monday Night Football. With him were John Davidson, whose hair was tailor-made for television, and Cathy Lee Crosby, whom I am still not sure why she became well-known.

I think John is farting.

The show was a hit, and if you wonder what the ratings were, don’t bother. You know you are talking about a hit show when you can find this in its wikipedia entry:

The show has been cited as an influence on hip-hop culture in New Zealand, where much television programming in the 1980s was American. In 1983 the show featured several dancing crews, giving youth of Pacific Island and Maori heritage, many of whom were interested in hip-hop culture and dance, a sense of connectedness to global youth culture. The Floormasters hip hop dance crew appeared on the show in 1983.

But since I found this on wikipedia, which I stubbornly refuse to capitalize, that could simply be someone’s idea of a joke. I watched every episode of Flight of the Conchords and they never once talked about That’s Incredible.

I never really watched the show but I did have some of the books, at least the first three. Each volume had sections on some incredible people or things, like knife throwers or the world’s fattest midget.

It was in those pages that I read about the Dancing Chicken.

The Dancing Chicken lived in my neck of the woods, New York City. Specifically, it lived in Chinatown, and outside of Colonel Sanders’ backyard a more dangerous spot for a chicken to live you’d be hard-pressed to find. I already knew about the Dancing Chicken and his friend, a chicken of mystery whom I will reveal in due time. In fact, I had already seen them a few times.

Now, how you feel about the Dancing Chicken depends on how you feel about animal cruelty. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being a chicken left out in the rain, and 10 being a chicken getting sodomized by a wolf, this falls in at about a 2.5. If that offends you, and you are still reading after “a chicken getting sodomized by a wolf” you may want to skip ahead a few paragraphs to the mystery chicken.

The chickens lived at the sadly gone Chinatown Fair, an unofficial landmark and a great place to play video games and pinball, but an ever better place to get robbed and pick-pocketed so you had to watch out.

Hey, what word is missing below dancing? Hmm...

The Dancing Chicken was not far inside the front door. These chickens were major attractions. If I am not mistaken, they were both easily visible from the street.

Straight from YouTube, here is The Dancing Chicken of Chinatown

What made it dance? A mild electrical charge on the floor. Hey, it was the 70’s. New York was the Wild West and if some poor chicken got its feet tingled, then tough. If a respected military man like Col. Sanders, who  retired from a lifetime of campaigns and trench warfare, never said boo about chicken abuse, who was there to argue?

See what New York has come to? You can’t smoke outdoors, you can’t drive in Mid-Town, and you can’t electrocute a chicken. Thanks Mayor Bloomberg.

The Dancing Chicken’s mystery friend (so to speak- in reality they were fierce rivals) was the Tic-Tac-Toe Playing Chicken. You may have even seen one yourself. Although it was less cruel than the Dancing Chicken it was more fun. You got a chance to play a game against a chicken, and who hasn’t dreamed about that? You’d put in a quarter and the chicken would walk over to its “thinking booth,” a screen behind which he would make his move. The chicken always went first, and if you know tic-tac-toe you know that is a big advantage because the first to move usually wins. The chicken had one other advantage- he wasn’t really playing. A computer was making the moves.

What happened was that when you put in your money a piece of corn or barley or whatever chickens eat dropped into a slot behind the thinking booth. The chicken walked over and took the food and had to peck a certain button. It was always embarrassing to lose to the chicken and there was a ton of jeering. Every once in a while someone would overcome great odds and heroically win but those wins were few and far between.

These games still go on today.

That is a pretty lucky chicken. Most don’t get that level of respect.

“Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it’s tuna, but it says ‘Chicken of the Sea.’” – Jessica Simpson.

8 Responses to “It Takes A Tough Man To Make A Tender Chicken Dance.”

  1. JRD Skinner June 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Part of the problem is that I read these nogoodniks on my phone’s RSS reader, which doesn’t provide the ability to comment for some reason.

    I encountered blurbs on both the dancing chicken, and his tic-tac-toe compatriot, many times in my youth, including on That’s Incredible. They’re definitely part of the fabric of mythical New York, to me.

    Oddly, my other strong memory from That’s Incredible is of the little girl who had amazing muscle mass – she was… 8? 9? – surely no older than twelve – and she was constructed in such a way as to make Monge weep in envy.


    • bmj2k June 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

      Oh, I really hope you don’t think my lack of feedback comment in any way had anything to do with you. Since sunday morning there’s been a sort of communications blackout surrounding all things bmj2k. There are plenty of people I know who do read this stuff and never have to leave a single comment, though I confess I do wait up on Saturday night to see what Mac has to say about the Saturday Comics. Again, don’t think this was about you (or any of the regulars in the comment section.)

      The muscle mass kid just reminded me of an old MySpace blog that I never moved because it was all pictures, but now I have to find it and post it.


      • JRD Skinner June 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

        Yeah understood. I think we’re just swinging into the Summer-traffic doldrums. Even if I don’t comment on them too often, I too greatly enjoy reading Mac’s replies to the Saturday comics. (Which is a feature that only seems to get better every week.)

        Looking forward to whatever monstrosity of a post my memories might have inspired.


        • bmj2k June 6, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

          Oh man, next Saturday Comics is my lazy “write 3 sentences and here it is” post. (Which is what SC was always meant to be but I fell into the trap of putting too much effort into it. Sneak Peek? Same thing. Those were meant ot be my easy weekend blogs and now they give me the most work!)


          • JRD Skinner June 7, 2011 at 10:55 am #

            Yeah, I certainly know that feeling. Still, even with the commentary removed, I find your selections pretty interesting (as I usually haven’t even realized there was a comic strip version of whoever the topic is for the day.)


            • bmj2k June 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

              I ended up writing a bit more than I wanted to on the next one because I think this week’s strip needs some explanation to those who are unfamiliar with the program. This whole thing started out as a “here’s a funny comic I saw” and quickly got as out of control as Anthony Weiner’s twitter account. On the other hand, it has a good beat and you can dance to it so it’ll be around on the Bandstand for another week.


  2. The Hook June 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Awesome flashback!



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    […] week I blogged about That’s Incredible, the show where average everyday people who were struck by lightning got their fifteen minutes of […]


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