The man in the accompanying photograph is outside his chicken suit because the law says he cannot get inside it.
"I can't wear it," Ted Gianoulas says, "anywhere in the world.Ever again."
He is inside a paper bag because he believes it would he unkind to the spirit of the chicken suit for him to appear publicly, unsuited.
"I don't want the person underneath to supersede the chicken," Giannoulas says. "I don't want them to say, 'Hi, Ted, how are you?' I want them to say hi to the chicken."
Giannoulas, a pleasant 24-year-old former journalism student who has spent the last five years of his life as a large red chicken, has lost the first round of a legal battle against the San Diego radio station that hired him long before anybody suspected that he would one day cavort chickenly in front of Elvis Presley, Gerald Ford, the stands at San Diego Stadium, and the entire CBS evening sports television audience, which is a lot of people.
KGB, the radio station, said Giannoulas was running amok with his own self chicken-image.
They accused him of failing to perform his $50,000-a-year duties as a radio chicken, of appearing in public without the KGB call letters on his corn-flower-blue chicken vest. They accused him, in short, of ripping off the chicken.
They took him to court and got a temporary inijunction, pending trial. The injunction says:
Giannoulas may not wear a chicken suit, any chicken suit, in San Diego or the three adjoining counties.
He may not wear a chicken suit at any sporting event, inside or outside San Diego, that features a San Diego team.
He may not wear THE chicken suit - the KGB chicken - anywhere, from Riverside to Kuala Lumpur, including the privacy of his own bedroom.
"I just hang it up in my closet," Giannoulas says gamely. "Like Superman."
San Diego Superior Court Judge Paul Overton, who issued the injunction on May 29, was asked to differentiate between, say, the KGB chicken and a similar chicken who lives and works in Denver. Overton pondered. "For lack of a better way to say it," he said, "the eyes on exhibit C, the KGB chicken, are more appealing than the eyes of the Denver chicken. But that's very subjective."
Pressed for more explicit details, Overton described the forbidden costume: "Red in color, brown face, yellow break, yellow webbed feet, blue eyebrows - which I call eyelids - a blue vest with the letters 'KGB,' and a red feather on top of the head, which I call the comb."
So. No more chicken.
A great sorrow has descended on San Diego.
"Dear Ted," begins a letter from nearby Escondido, opened just as Giannoulas sits down to have his picture taken, "you certainly must know that the people of S. D. County love you and will accept no phony chicken."
KGB tried to introduce a new chicken at a recent Padres game, and the boos were loud enough to blast him back to the barnyard. An editorial in the San Diego Union suggested that last year, when Giannoulas turned down a highly lucrative job offer from Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner because "the intangibles of living in San Diego outweighed the money consideration," the chicken was on the verge of being drafted for mayor.
The chicken was a San Diego institution. The chicken was Grand Marshal of the El Cajon Mother Goose Parade, Honorary Band Marshal of the Maytime Band Review, Honorary Chairbird of Multiple Sclerosis for 1977-78, Mexican-American Foundation Amigo del Barrio 1976, and the subject of an official commendation from the state of California ("Whereas although the subject of numerous fowl jokes, he is truly the only known form of civic wildlife in San Diego and the nation . . ."
Several times a day, wearing the familiar blue vest over his scarlet chest feathers, the KGB chicken presented himself publicly and wooed, strutted, hugged, cheered, raged, or improvised to suit the moment. He got famous in San Diego and then he got famous outside San Diego, so much so that new and compelling possibilities began presenting themselves - coloring books, T-shirts, guest spots on national television. Who is that chicken? people would ask. It has great promise.
That was how the trouble started.
Nobody at KGB realized, exactly, that the chicken was going to turn into a civic institution. Five years ago, in the midst of an advertising campaign to promote the station's AM and FM bands, somebody thought it might be clever to put somebody in a chicken suit and have him hold one egg in each hand - AM egg, FM egg.
Giannoulas, then an undergraduate at a nearby university, was hanging around the campus radio station when a KGB man stuck his head in and asked if anybody wanted to go stand at the zoo in a chicken suit and hand out eggs. "You're the right size for the costume," the man said, looking at Giannoulas, who is not very big.
Giannoulas, then wearing a rather awkward papier-mache predecessor to the current costume, did his job. He was sent to a baseball game and told to buy a hot dog, see if anybody noticed. (They did.) He moved up to parties and supermarket openings. He was given a wonderful new light-weight foam rubber chicken suit made by a company in Salt Lake City and, thus liberated, began, as he put it, "giving the chicken even a deeper character and personality."
This is a touchy point. Giannoulas says he danced, mimed, gave the chicken its chickenness. KGB's lawyer, Richard Sandler, says Giannoulas got "quite a bit of input" from people at the radio station, which Giannoulas says is so much chicken feathers. (Sorry.)
Anyhow, the crowds loved it. "The sound of laughter from all those people at one sitting - anywhere from 10 to 50,000 people - what an incredible sound," the former chicken says.
"Holy cow, it just blows me away, I never heard it before, I never ever heard it before, and to think I had maybe 45 seconds to pull this off, a hundred thousand eyes may be watching and if it didn't come off you had egg on your face, so to speak. . . ."
Giannoulas was hooked. "No social life at all," he says. "Every waking moment was spent to the betterment of the chicken act, because I loved it so much. I became a mistress to me."
By fall 1978, after Ted Turner had offered him an Atlanta chicken job for a reported $100,000 a year, Giannoulas had negotiated a new contract with KGB, in which he acknolwdged - under pressure, he says - KGB's rights to the chicken suit. He wanted to market a chicken coloring book, but the station said no (they finally said yes but kept half the royalties). He wanted to make more out-of-town appearances.
When the Salt Lake City costume company offered to sell the rights to the suit, and KGB declined, saying they already had a California service mark guaranteeing them the rights, Giannoulas went to Salt Lake City and bought the rights himself.
Then the chicken showed up at a National Basketball Association All-Star game without his KGB letters on.
He was told never to do that again.
He showed up at a basketball game in Kansas City, again without his letters. He was suspended at full pay. Within a week, the chicken had appeared at a minor league baseball game in El Paso and an N.B.A. playoff game in Seattle, which was nationally televised over CBS.
The chicken was fired. KGB sued for $250,000, charging breach of contract, service mark infringement, unfair competition, and breach of fiduciary obligations. The chicken suit designer was named as a co-defendant.
"Talk about overkill," Giannoulas says.
"I would be shackled, career-wise, if I came across looking like a corporate chicken," he says.
Is it hard to face the world without his beak?
"I feel more comfortable when I'm inside that costume than I do in my own clothes," Giannoulas says. "The inhibitions are broken. The chicken can make overtures to women, for example.
"When I go out on the dance floor it's like John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever, the floor opens up and all the women take turns dancing with the chicken. I can say thing like, 'Hey, didn't I see you in my dreams last night?' and 'How are you, my little chickadee?'
"This is like wearing a lampshade on your head at a party, only on a larger scale," Giannoulas says. "There's no fear of rejection as the chicken."
So what happens now?
"I see it as a career," Giannoulas says. "I see the chicken as a career . . . Even at 74 years of age, Emmet Kelly would put on the makeup just one more time. I can see myself doing the same thing."
The telephone rings, which it does about every 12 minutes these days. A public relations lady wants to talk to the chicken.
"I'm in the process of trying to decide whether to come back reincarnated as some other bird or continue as the chicken, but if I continua as the chicken I have to leave San Diego," Giannoulas says into the phone. "Give me your name again? This is in Chicago?"
The lady is talking money and applause, and Giannoulas, even outside his chicken suit, is smiling. CAPTION: Picture 1, Ted Giannoulas and his alter ego, by Steven Kelly for The Washington Post; Picture 2, Ted Giannoulas in his chicken suit, shortly before the suit: "I hang it up in the closet now. Like Superman."