Frank Perdue was still doing a James Cagney-style mobster imitation on radio commercials yesterday, the day after a presidential commission on organized crime detailed the chicken king's connections with the Mafia.
But, by today, the chicken commercial will have been plucked from the airwaves.
Perdue -- whose motto is "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken" -- decided to drop the advertisement "because it is inappropriate at this moment," his spokesman, Richard Auletta, said yesterday.
The commercial in question begins with Perdue imitating Cagney's famous mobster routine. "You dirty rats. You shot my brother," Perdue says in an admittedly poor imitation of the actor. Breaking into a brief laugh, he quickly admits, "Imitations certainly are not my strong point. But if you think I'm bad, you should get a load of my competition. They do one of the worst imitations of my Frank Perdue Oven Stuffer Roasters that I've ever seen," the commercial says.
On Thursday, the President's Commission on Organized Crime released a deposition taken in September in which Perdue talked about his dealings with Mafia chieftain Paul Castellano Sr.
After an initial reluctance to do business with the Mafia family, Perdue eventually sold his poultry to the family's distributing company to gain a larger share of the New York market, Perdue said in the deposition. A few years later, Perdue met with Castellano to seek the help of the Gambino crime family boss in fending off a union effort to organize the workers in his nonunion domain.
The possibility that the commercials juxtaposed with the deposition might ruffle too many feathers among customers did not go unnoticed by Perdue.
"We will not be using it," his spokesman Auletta said. "The commercial will be pulled for the time being."