All the media hoopla over the Pope has excluded other important deaths from the pages of our newspapers. Last week, one of the most iconic American figures of the late 20th century passed away, with hardly any mention in the press.
I speak, of course, of Frank Perdue.
Mr. Perdue was born in 1920, the result of an early eugenics experiment involving humans and poultry. His mother, known as Fritzie (below right), was a Jersey Giant. His father is unknown, but is thought to be a family member of former New York mayor Ed Koch (below left).
He was raised in seclusion, out of the prying eyes of the public, and under the watchful gaze of scientists. He was not told of his parentage until he was in his late teens. Sadly, he despaired at the news and his self-identity curdled. He escaped from the fortified compound where he was kept and moved to Maryland, where, in a perverse twist, he founded a chicken farm.
The business thrived, thanks in part to a popular series of TV commercials that began running in the 1970s. In the most famous of them, he thrust a plate of sizzling chicken at the camera and appealed: "Eat me." The commercials grew increasingly outlandish throughout the decade, ending in an strange bit in which he dressed up like chicken and invited viewers to give him commands. While consumers at the time were turned off by this odd spectacle, Burger King revived the campaign online last year, to great success.
Perdue died after a short fight with avian flu. According to his wishes, he will be breaded and fried in a small, private ceremony.
CORRECTION: Sorry, Fritzie the chicken is on the left, Ed Koch on right.