Chicken McNoggin, Hold the Fries

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 1, 2000; Page C01

It starts when an office worker says, "Hey, did you hear about the Chicken Head?"

No, you say. C'mon, you gotta see this, he says. At least he doesn't want to talk about the recount--again.

He clicks his mouse. A female news anchor appears on the screen:

Fried chicken head allegedly found among McDonald's wings
Katherine Ortega holds the fried chicken head she found in her box of chicken wings from McDonald's. (Sangjib Min - The Daily Press via AP)

TV report from LNC in Hampton Roads. You must have RealPlayer.

"A family from Newport News got more than they bargained for when they bought chicken wings from McDonald's last night."

Behind her, an icon appears. It is a picture of a chicken head. Underneath the picture is the caption: CHICKEN HEAD. It looks like a parody of the evening news. Easily, George W. Bush's or Al Gore's picture could have been behind that newscaster.

"Take a look at this," the anchor says.

Then, you see a close-up of a hand poking around in a box of fried chicken. The hand grabs something and slowly pulls it out: It's a fried Chicken Head! Aeeeeii! It's disgusting: Everyone around your buddy's computer gapes in amazement. Then they start guffawing.

Because it's an entire chicken head: comically parted beak, eyeballs, even a little red comb peeking through the batter.

This nation is currently trying to extricate itself from a political tar pit; it wallows around like a bellowing mastodon. What we need more than anything right now is one good sustained belly laugh.

Thank you, Chicken Head. Please scurry to every cubicle across this chad-weary nation.

The story: On Tuesday afternoon, a Newport News woman named Katherine Ortega took her 5-year-old son to a McDonald's, where they bought a box of fried chicken wings (a special promotion). As she passed them around her dinner table, she realized that one of the wings wasn't a wing!

She called WVEC-TV, Channel 13 in Newport News. They thought it was a hoax until they dispatched a cameraman to Ortega's home.

"Our cameraman called in and said, 'The batter on the chicken head is the exact match of all the rest of the pieces of chicken,' " reports WVEC news director Jim Tellus.

Now, the facts of this story could have been blandly reported: That Ortega and the McDonald's franchise owner met yesterday to discuss the situation (translation: "How much do you want?"); that the owner issued a sober statement promising a "thorough investigation" and that Ortega didn't return a call seeking comment; that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investigating.

But that would have been wrong. Because the beauty of the Chicken Head story is it's a burst of pure and happy absurdity in a time of tedious, orchestrated absurdity.

Thank you, Chicken Head. For an exhausted nation, your timing could not have been batter, er, better.

Click on You must have RealPlayer.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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