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For our Q&A last week, we chatted with Ted Giannoulas, the man who plays the Famous San Diego Chicken, and it included photos of him only in costume. He doesn’t photograph out of costume, he’d told me.
But after the Q&A ran, a reader emailed me and said Giannoulas was photographed out of costume during a lawsuit. The radio station, KGB, that had originally hired Giannoulas to wear a chicken suit sued to prevent him from working in a chicken suit after they fired him. The reader also said that Giannoulas appeared in court in costume too.
Giannoulas said he did wear the costume in court because he wanted to demonstrate, in practical terms, how different the new chicken suit he had was from the old suit he’d worn for the radio station.
Giannoulas, of course, won the right to work in a chicken suit, as you can see in our photos of him at Qualcomm Stadium.
I could only fit so much from my conversation in the Q&A we ran last week, so here are a few more kernels:
Is it weird to not get recognized?
Oh I don’t mind it at all. There have been many opportunities. I’ve even turned down TV commercials where I would be photographed out of character. I would rather let the Chicken get all the attention and I’ll stay low profile. I didn’t want myself competing for attention with the chicken character. But if people came up and started asking for autographs, I wouldn’t mind.
How do you keep your routines fresh?
I try to think what is topical, what’s current, easy to satirize. One time a few years back there were all kinds of cheating scandals in baseball, players were using sandpaper to scratch up the baseball, batters were putting cork in their bats. I did a bit where I took the bat (from) somebody coming up to the plate and I would break it over my knee and show it was a fake bat, it’s got cork in it. Umpire would look at it, throw the guy out of the game. Even the umpire was in on it.
What advice would you give to people trying to break into the mascot field?
I would say be creative, be energized, know the sport, try to not to step on any toes if you can, have a stick-to-itiveness and success will find a path to your door.
How many costumes have you gone through?
Over all these years… gotta be over 100. My mom used to make the outfits until she passed away. Now I have a company up in North Hollywood make them for me. A lot of times I would recycle the outfits or give some away. There’s one in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and there’s another one at Hall of Champions in Balboa. And there are a few sports bars that had the head stuffed and mounted over the bar. For the most part over the years, I’ve gotta say it’s the body suit that wears out and I can try to keep the head intact. I go through … maybe two or three outfits a year. A lot of what I do is very physical.
Were you the mascot at Hoover High School when you were there?
Never was. I remember thinking, I’m too cool to ever do anything like that. There was a vacancy one time for the mascot job. At a pep rally: “We don’t have a mascot for Friday night’s game or for the rest of the season, we need somebody to dress up.” My friend said, Ted that’s something you should do. “Man I am too cool for that. I’m too hip. I would never do that.”