Al Balderas, The Orange County Register
ANAHEIM — The Anaheim Arsenal didn’t pull the only laugher at the Anaheim Convention Center on Monday afternoon.
Accompanying their NBA Development League’s 113-87 victory over Fort Wayne was the Famous Chicken, also known as the San Diego Chicken. It was his first appearance in Anaheim since 1994, when the then-Disney-owned Angels told him he wasn’t needed anymore.
Ted Giannoulas first donned the familiar yellow and orange chicken suit, with the blue shirt and blue plume atop his head, in 1974 while promoting a San Diego radio station. That was 34 years ago, and he hasn’t missed a beat.
The Chicken was greeted with cheers when he made his initial appearance midway through the first quarter of Monday’s contest. His strut-to-the-music walk took him to Fort Wayne’s end of the court, where the team was in a huddle. The Chicken pointed his hands and wiggled his fingers as if hexing the visiting team. He ended that routine with a one-legged salute to the Mad Ants, similar to what a dog would do to a tree.
|By the end of the quarter, he had enlisted the help of five young fans who wore baby-chicken suits and strolled onto the court with him. John Grasso, 4; Makena Dunn, 5; Alexandria Dunn, 7; McKenna Joe, 5; and Aiden Marino, 4, took turns patting Arsenal forward Terrence Crawford on the butt as they walked past the Anaheim huddle, following the lead of the “father chicken.”
“I knew the Chicken because of baseball,” said Jon Marino, Aiden’s father. “I knew that crazy Chicken was going to be here.”
During the course of the afternoon, the Chicken lost a dance contest to Barney — the dinosaur, not Rubble — and beat him up as a result. He later tried bribing one of the referees, dropping dollar bills on the court while wearing a trench coat, fake glasses and a mustache.
The Chicken also pulled down the pants of a Fort Wayne assistant coach at the end of the third quarter, only to have his own clothes torn off by the coach at midcourt. The assistant coach turned out to be one of the Chicken’s assistants and was chased out of the arena by the Chicken, who was left wearing nothing but yellow tights.
When he wasn’t on the court, the Chicken mingled with fans, threw high-fives, kissed hands, clamped his beak around kids’ heads and stopped to shine the head of one balding spectator.
While the Chicken’s appearance did raise the Arsenal’s attendance by about 400 fans, to 1,385, the arena was still pretty empty. Giannoulas was hoping for a bigger turnout, but that didn’t stop his effort to make people laugh.
“My energy level stays the same out there, and we don’t pull back any gags or routines,” he said. “I was really let down by the crowd size. I know the team had higher hopes as well. The fans that came out were fantastic. They were very, very warm.”
Giannoulas has been asked to perform for amateurs, All-Stars, Hall of Famers and even U.S. Presidents. He comes armed with a few scripted routines but is quick to ad-lib and make adjustments as they’re needed.
“When I started off, I thought it would just be one or two weeks,” he said of his career. “It was just a way to get into broadcasting. But it continued to snowball because people were laughing and having fun with it.”
The laughs haven’t been forgotten, nor have they stopped.
“I used to see him a lot of times at Angels games,” said Garden Grove resident Joe Siegel, who stood in line for almost an hour after Monday’s game to meet the Chicken. “He makes everybody laugh. It’s good, clean fun.”
– Al Balderas, The Orange County Register
(Photos by Joshua Sudock, The Register)